DENVER (AP) — Colorado lawmakers concluded work for the year well in advance of their midnight deadline. But the final hours weren’t without the usual legislative drama and touching farewells.
The Senate concluded work on a student-testing measure and a red-light camera ban. But then the chamber descended into squabbling when Democrats walked out over a dispute over representation on a state panel advocating for consumers.
Majority Republicans prevailed, but there were some hurt feelings among Democrats.
Lawmakers then sparred over a nonbinding resolution encouraging Colorado’s members of Congress to take a hard line against Iran.
But as the final moments ticked by, lawmakers shared laughs and hugs and all stood to welcome a former senator who came to visit.
Student testing was the longest-fought battle of the legislative session, but lawmakers finally agreed on a measure Wednesday. The final compromise bill retains mandatory tests in language arts and math in 3rd through 9th grades.
Lawmakers debated until the final hours whether to further cut required statewide standardized tests. Some wanted the testing cut to federal minimums, meaning the tests would no longer be required in 9th grade. But most lawmakers agreed with Gov. John Hickenlooper to retain those tests, at least for now.
The compromise does end some mandatory testing in early grades and late in high school. It also gives local school districts the opportunity to craft their own student assessments, if they oppose the tests being given elsewhere in the state.
A separate testing-related bill headed to the governor ratchets back mandatory social studies testing.
Lawmakers sent the governor a measure that requires local governments to get voters’ permission if they want to use red-light and speeding cameras.
The House approved the bill on a 38-25 vote. A Senate bill also seeks to restrict the use of automated traffic-enforcement cameras by requiring a vote by municipalities.
Lawmakers have tried for years to prohibit the devices but they’ve never sent a bill to the governor. Prior attempts were outright bans and didn’t ask for voters’ input.
Lawmakers have sent the governor a bill making it harder to pursue citizen ballot initiatives. But not before some last-minute theatrics.
The Senate defeated HB1057 by a single vote, but Republican leaders used a legislative “do-over” to take a second vote. They persuaded Sen. Chris Holbert, R-Parker, to change his vote, clearing the measure by a vote of 18-17.
The bill had opponents and supporters in both parties. It would require the state to prepare “initial fiscal impact statements” for proposed ballot measures. Supporters say the requirement would help voters understand the possible cost of considered ballot measures, such as new limits on oil and gas drilling.
Opponents call the new rule little more than an extra hurdle to people trying to use the citizen initiative process.
The measure narrowly passed the House, also with supporters and opponents in bioth parties, and is now headed to the desk of Gov. John Hickenlooper.
The House and Senate have both passed bills described as compromise measures to reduce statewide standardized testing.
The bills cut some tests in the earliest grades and late in high school, but retain test in language arts and math in 9th grade. Those 9th grade tests proved a major sticking point in debate.
Lawmakers needed to rectify small differences in HB1323 and SB257 and agree on a single bill to send to Gov. John Hickenlooper.
To a smattering of applause from members of the public watching the vote, senators passed HB1043 on a vote of 34-1.
The vote concluded work on the measure to create felony penalties for habitual DUI offenders, a measure that has repeatedly failed in recent years because of concerns about increased costs to courts and prisons.
Lawmakers are making final adjustments to a pot tax measure that proved one of the most complicated of the year.
HB1367 isn’t controversial, but it is so complicated that it’s required intense scrutiny.
The bill proposes another state ballot measure to tax recreational pot. It’s intended to correct an error in the 2013 pot tax measure that means the $58 million in pot taxes collected last year will have to be returned to voters.
Both chambers have passed bills to compel local municipalities to seek voter approval for red-light camera enforcement.
The bills are seen as attempts to ban the unpopular cameras. But cities and counties have vigorously fought similar efforts for years.
The debate faces more than legislative approval Wednesday. The governor is on record opposing a red-light camera ban as an infringement on local control, and it’s unknown whether any ban would meet a veto.
Lawmakers are finishing work on a package of bills to increase oversight of law enforcement.
Legislators are working to rectify differences on a bill to encourage the use of officer-worn cameras by creating a grant program for departments that want to use them.
Another law enforcement bill revamps police training by adding classes aimed at improving community relations.
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