DENVER (CBS4) – From liquor sales in grocery stores to presidential primaries, the fate of several key issues facing Colorado will likely be decided by voters this fall. That’s because compromises on many big issues are falling apart as the legislature heads into its final hours, and the decisions will soon fall on the voters in November.

A bill slowly changing Colorado’s liquor laws is still alive, but several other major pieces of legislation — ranging from affordable housing to transportation funding — are dead.

“Quite frankly very seldom do I see good policy come out of this gold dome that is introduced in the waning days of session,” said Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling.

A late bill to resurrect Colorado’s presidential primary was among the casualties. It comes as supporters push ballot measures opening primaries to unaffiliated voters.

A long line at a Democratic caucus on Super Tuesday (credit: CBS)

A long line at a Democratic caucus on Super Tuesday (credit: CBS)

“None of us like to legislate with a gun to our head, and that’s exactly what we’re trying to do, is legislate with a gun of ballot initiatives to our head,” Sonnenberg said.

He urged a Senate committee to make the bill a study.

“The fact that we’re here today talking about, ‘Let’s do a study,’ doesn’t speak to the underlying issue or concern about access to political process in Colorado,” another lawmaker said.

The bill died, leaving it to voters in November.

A House committee passed a bill to allow grocery stores to sell full-strength alcohol over the next 20 years, requiring them to buy licenses from liquor stores. Two ballot measures would make it happen next year.

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

“Let’s say the ballot initiative passes and this bill passes, what happens?” asked Rep. Dan Pabon, D-Denver.

It would be a statutory debacle, according to Rep. Alec Garnett, D-Denver, who echoed Sonnenberg.

“I don’t like legislating with gun to my head because big business has decided to sidestep the Legislature to go to the ballot because the Legislature refuses time and time and time again to address issue,” Garnett said. “Timing issue? Yeah. This is not ideal, I will grant you that, but we have a 120-day session, and granted we’re in 119, but we have one more day.”

Transportation funding may also be decided at the ballot. A bill regarding transportation bonds died, as did one reclassifying a hospital fee to free up money for roads. And legislation on construction defect lawsuits — a factor in the lack of affordable housing — also failed on Tuesday.

The liquor law bill remains alive for now with less than 48 hours to go in the session.


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