DENVER (AP) – With the hours winding down, Colorado lawmakers had a number of big-ticket items to consider before the end of the session on Wednesday, including marijuana legislation and tax aid to homeowners devastated by floods and wildfires.
Lawmakers previously passed a $23 billion state budget – the only thing they’re required to do – and it has been signed by Gov. John Hickenlooper.
Other bills that lawmakers have approved and await the governor’s signature include measures to finance an aerial firefighting fleet, overhaul decades-old telecommunications laws, and regulate Internet ridesharing companies such as UberX and Lyft that connect riders to drivers of private cars through cellphone apps.
Still on the agenda are:
– Whether to forgive the property taxes of people whose homes were destroyed during last year’s floods and wildfires.
– How to spend more than $24 million in marijuana taxes.
– Whether to create the world’s first financial system for the marijuana industry, a banking alternative for the largely cash-only industry.
“It’s been a very productive session,” said Sen. Pat Steadman, a Denver Democrat who sits on the budget-writing Joint Budget Committee. “I’ve been kind of amazed at our ability to pay for some things with some pretty hefty price tags here at the end.”
That includes nearly $20 million to acquire an aerial firefighting fleet that includes buying two spotter planes to identify wildfires more quickly and contracting for the use of four helicopters and four single-engine air tankers.
Lawmakers are also budgeting $17.6 million to compensate victims of the Lower North Fork Fire, which grew out of a state prescribed burn in 2012.
“Thank goodness the economy is in recovery and there was some money to work with,” Steadman said.
Republicans were claiming victory, too, buoyed by the session that came after the Democratic majority in the Senate was narrowed. Two Democratic lawmakers were recalled last September after supporting gun-control measures, and voters replaced them with Republicans.
The change helped foil Democratic plans on proposals such as banning any state regulation involving reproductive decisions such as abortion and contraception, and making it easier to take guns from people suspected of mental illness. Both proposals faltered in the Senate.
“The numbers changed, the votes changed, and it changed some outcomes,” Senate Republican Leader Bill Cadman said.
– By Ivan Moreno, AP Writer
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