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Colorado inched closer toward fiscal sanity today. Budget reform bill 228 passed the Senate this morning after roughly three hours of back and forth on the chamber floor, where GOP senators renewed the same objections they voiced to no effect during the vote held two weeks ago — objections that the bill is unconstitutional and will lead to greater taxes and big government, et cetera.
After more than a week of delays and backstage negotiation, today may be the day controversial Colorado budget reform bill SB 228 passes out of the Senate and makes its way to the House. If the last few weeks are any guide, the bill will likely spark legislative fireworks on both sides of the aisle. Depending on the Senate schedule, the bill's sponsor, Sen. John Morse, D-Colorado Springs, and a growing list of supporters are planning a noon rally at the Capitol either to send the bill off to the House with a bang or to bolster support for its passing in the Senate. Outspoken Republican Rep. Don Marostica, R-Loveland, who sits on the Joint Budget Committee, is SB 228's House sponsor and plans to attend the rally with Morse today.
How does it shake down when Colorado's Republican senators are forced to choose, for the record, between protecting the rights of individuals and the prerogatives of business?
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.
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.