Colorado Democrats agreed to several concessions to end Republican filibuster

A roughly 18-hour GOP filibuster lifted around 4 a.m. Tuesday, the penultimate day of the legislative session, when Democrats agreed to weaken significant portions of their agenda.

According to a half-dozen state representatives, the Democrats agreed to the following concessions:

  • Gutting SB22-23, a bill meant to prevent police from lying to children to secure guilty confessions and other information
  • Killing SB22-138, a bill meant to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and require various private and governmental actors to better assess risks related to climate change
  • Narrowing SB22-230 in a way yet to be determined; the bill provides new labor rights to some county government workers and had already been substantially gutted
  • Killing a Democratic resolution meant to limit the amount of time spent each session on having bills read at length, word-for-word — a common stall tactic for the minority party
  • Removing a line from SB22-153 mandating election official training includes sections on combatting misinformation and disinformation
  • Advancing a Republican resolution that apologizes to Coloradans for the state’s COVID response
  • Passing the School Finance Act, HB22-1390, without key wording some liberals had desired concerning the replacement of school mascots rooted in Native American stereotypes
  • Passing SB22-53, a Republican-initiated bill designed to encourage medical facilities to ensure patient visitation is permitted during health emergencies

This deal allowed legislative business to resume as normal in the early hours Tuesday.

Asked whether the deal guarantees peace in the House until the end of the session, Republican state Rep. Shane Sandridge of Colorado Springs told The Denver Post, “No, no.”

“Will things flow? No, they’re not gonna flow. There’s a lot of bad bills ahead. We did get a deal but it was a temporary deal to get through the night. Maybe we’ll get another deal.”

Added state Rep. Rod Pelton, a Cheyenne Wells Republican, “Some of us members feel better about it. Some of us feel it’s not enough.”

Democrats have a huge majority in the House — 41-24 — and a 20-15 edge in the Senate. Being totally out of power, Republicans have few tools to stop liberal legislation. But the majority gave them an opening by leaving hundreds of bills in need of resolution in the final week of the session. Democrats on multiple occasions declined to call the House into work on weekends — days they could have used to move their calendar along.

A challenge for Democrats, however, is that the House GOP is fractured between flanks right and far-right. It is difficult to negotiate with the caucus because of this split, as one must make different concessions to satisfy each side.

The concessions in the 4 a.m. deal might have been avoided with different management of the agenda, and that’s tough for Democrats to swallow, said state Rep. Judy Amabile.

“People are really angry and sad,” said Amabile, a Boulder Democrat. “We got to this point, we had this huge majority. And we had to concede?”

It’s not clear that all aspects of the deal will stick. For example, state Sen. Julie Gonzales, a Denver Democrat sponsoring the bill to thwart police lies to children, said she plans to work to undo the House’s gutting. It’s just one of many unsettled storylines in the final days of session.

Also remaining to be seen is how much Democrats get out of their concessions to the GOP. Like Sandridge,┬áRepublican Colorado Springs state Rep. Dave Williams said he’s ready to keep fighting. That approach could imperil not only Democratic bills, but also bipartisan bills related to uncontroversial and in some cases basic operations of state government.

“I think it was first good step,” Williams said of the deal. “And, if the majority doesn’t want to concede on some of those issues, then we’re more than happy to continue running out the clock.”

Minority Leader Hugh McKean, R-Loveland, using the collective bargaining bill SB22-230 as an example, said part of the fight was ensuring the Republican minority was heard. He likened the leverage his caucus used to a kid in an ice cream store — happy for your dessert, wishing you got the other flavors, and wishing you had some more. He likewise predicted more “interesting conversations” in the final hours of the session.

“At some point you kind of have to stick up and say, hey, we’re over here,” McKean said.

The Senate is humming along and on pace to finish its work with time to spare before session’s end. The much more fragile, bleary-eyed House got back to work at 11 a.m. Tuesday.

At 11:14, Republican state Rep. Ron Hanks of Fremont County forced a bill to be read aloud, word-for-word, ensuring more delays.

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