The Colorado Independent,2020
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At roughly 10:30 p.m., in the waning minutes of the all-day Republican filibuster against Colorado budget reform bill SB 228, Minority Leader Josh Penry, R-Grand Junction, threw an elbow. The Democratic majority wouldn't budge or break. After 10 hours, partisans on either side of the floor had clearly read into the record all the campaign trail fodder that could be transcribed. They were tired and getting sloppy.
Senate Bill 228, Democratic Senator John Morse's controversial budget reform legislation, received key preliminary approval late last night after a 10-hour Republican filibuster that, for all its passion, never seriously threatened passage of the bill. Senate members on both sides of the aisle agreed SB 228 was among the most important laws they would consider and would have ramifications on Colorado governance for years to come, amounting to a "sea change," as state Sen. Keith King, R-Colorado Springs, described it, in the way tax revenues would be spent.
Republican senators in Colorado are going all out today to stop a bill that would end automatic tax revenue allocations for roads and capital construction. Threatening long debate in the capitol tonight and a "barrage of amendments" to cripple the bill, the senators have now turned to Democratic Governor Bill Ritter to join them in defeating legislation they say would "gut" both highways and the constitution.
Heated exchange preceded today's debate on Colorado Senate Bill 228, which seeks to repeal the the so-called "6 percent solution," the long-established and controversial cap on General Fund growth. The new bill would give lawmakers increased flexibility to decide how to allocate Colorado's shrinking state budget. Animated members of the Republican minority trolled the speaker's podium this morning, taking turns calling out House Majority Leader Brandon Shaffer (D-Longmont) on his decision to move debate on the bill to later in the day and for threatening to invoke procedural gag rule 9-C, which would limit discussion to five hours.
On Wednesday, the Colorado Senate Finance Committee approved Senate Bill 228 — legislation that seeks to provide greater flexibility to lawmakers in deciding where to spend the state's shrinking revenues. Sponsored by Democratic Sen. John Morse, the bill would eliminate the so-called Arveschoug-Bird provision, which restricts the state's General Fund to 6 percent growth per year and allocates any surplus specifically to transportation and construction projects. Morse's bill and the problem it seeks to address are tongue-twisting and arcane, yet the small corner room of the Capitol where the hearing took place was filled with laptop jockeys, community leaders, a webcast crew and a buzz that hung in the air when it became clear that SB228 was going to clear its first public hurdle.
Even in these catastrophic economic times, it's difficult to imagine the kind of fresh politics it would take to successfully loosen the corseted Colorado budget. Yet that's what we were treated to Thursday in Denver.
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