By Shaun Boyd

DENVER (CBS4) – As state lawmakers wrap up one of the strangest legislative sessions in recent memory, they are taking it down to the wire on some significant issues.

Copter4 flew over the state Capitol (credit: CBS)

They have until midnight Wednesday to reach agreement on PERA — the public employees’ pension system — which funds the retirement of 560,000 Coloradans.

The Colorado Civil Rights Commission — which investigates workplace discrimination — also hangs in the balance. It will expire in a year if lawmakers don’t reauthorize it.

Steve Lebsock (credit: CBS)

In addition to election-year politics, lawmakers also dealt with sexual harassment allegations this session. They expelled one member for the first time in 100 years, and attempted to throw out another.

“I would say the theme for this session is expect the unexpected,” said Rep. Jonathan Singer, a Democrat from Longmont.

He points to his bill to help struggling families. It passed the House almost unanimously, but failed in its first Senate committee.

“And then the senator that killed it wrote an apology letter to say he didn’t mean to vote against it,” Singer said.

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There were good surprises too, like $1.3 billion in new money. Schools got the biggest bump in funding in a decade including $30 million for school safety.

It was a bill sponsored by Rep. Patrick Neville, a Castle Rock Republican and Columbine survivor.

“We had a lot ideas where we wanted to go obviously with the bill I’ve run year after year that would authorize those who want to conceal and carry to protect their children,” Neville said. “Democrats didn’t want to go there, but we were able to carve out the funding and pass a bill with huge bipartisan support to actually secure our kids and protect our kids in school.”

Transportation also got a boost — $650 million over the next two years.

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Rep. Polly Lawrence, a Republican from Douglas County, said the legislature could have done more. It hasn’t invested any significant money in transportation in two decades.

“I would probably say that transportation was the biggest achievement and the biggest disappointment. We had the opportunity to make a very significant investment… and we took a baby step,” she said.

Rural Colorado saw some love too. Bills to fund rural broadband and increase the number of rural teachers passed. Sen. Rachel Zenzinger among those who carried bills to help rural schools.

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“We do have teacher shortage, and if we didn’t start to make some steps toward addressing that crisis, we would find ourselves in a world of hurt,” Zenzinger said.

Maybe the most emotional debate of the session was whether to take guns from people who are mentally unstable. It failed.

Rep. Alec Garnett says he’s not giving up.

“We know there’s going to be another mass shooting. We know there’s going to be another deputy who loses their life because the legislature failed to lead,” he said.

Lawmakers also passed bills to increase safety in fracking, provide more transparency in healthcare and address the opioid epidemic.

Shaun Boyd is CBS4’s political specialist. She’s a veteran reporter with more than 25 years of experience. Follow her on Twitter @cbs4shaun.


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