Governor delays decision on special session

John Hickenlooper at his 2017 State of the State address. (Photo by Allen Tian)
Gov. John Hickenlooper at his 2017 State of the State address. (Photo by Allen Tian)

Gov. John Hickenlooper’s spokesperson this morning said the governor would not be making an expected announcement today on whether he would call lawmakers back to the state Capitol for a special session.

Hickenlooper told reporters last week he had advised lawmakers not to make vacation plans in May. Despite calling the recently concluded legislative session the most productive in his time as governor, Hickenlooper has said there are at least three issues that need further work: finding more money for transportation needs, renewed funding for his energy office and greater expansion of rural broadband. As the health care debate continues, the governor is also looking for measures that make the costs of using free-standing emergency rooms more transparent, require hospitals to open up their books expenses and revenues, and provide more transparency on pharmaceutical costs.

Spokesperson Jacque Montgomery did not say when the governor would make a final decision. However, most successful special sessions already have key deals in place before the session starts, so the delay could mean he doesn’t have a deal on the most critical issue: how to fund a larger portion of the $9 billion wishlist developed by the Colorado Department of Transportation of transportation projects over the next decade.

A bill passed on the session’s last day to save rural hospitals included $1.88 billion for transportation, but only $1.1 billion of that would go to CDOT’s list. A transportation bill pushed by Senate President Kevin Grantham of Cañon City and Speaker of the House Crisanta Duran of Denver sought voter approval for a sales tax hike to fund $3.5 billion in transportation projects, with much of that for projects along I-70 and the Front Range I-25 corridor. That measure failed in Senate committee in April.

The last special session was in 2012, after House Republicans, who were then in the majority, ground the session to a halt over a bill to allow civil unions in Colorado. That delay, on the second to last day of the 2012 session, not only killed the civil unions bill but at least a dozen others, including some that were necessary to allow state government to function, including the annual water projects bill.

If the governor does call lawmakers back, a special session would last at least three days, the minimum required by law to move a bill through both the House and Senate. In 2012, the last time a special session was heard, the tab to taxpayers was about $23,500 per day.

Photo of Gov. Hickenlooper by Allen Tian

has been a political journalist since 1998. She covered the state capitol for the Silver & Gold Record from 1998 to 2009 and for The Colorado Statesman in 2010-11 and 2013-14. Since 2010 she also has covered the General Assembly for newspapers in northeastern Colorado. She was recognized with awards from the Colorado Press Association for feature writing and informational graphics for her work with the Statesman in 2012.