(CBS4) – Both Colorado lawmakers and taxpayers got some good news in the final hours of the legislative session.
The sponsors of a bill to provide early refunds under the Taxpayer Bill of Rights say the state will generate even more tax revenue than expected. That means taxpayers will get at least $500 instead of $400 this summer and couples will get at least $1,000.
That bill was among more than 150 still making its way through the legislature as the session draws to a close, and the final days aren’t complete without a little drama. Republicans deployed stall tactics on Monday aimed at forcing amendments to bills they oppose. The House didn’t adjourn until after 6am and then reconvened at 11am. Among the final bills to get approval were several major funding measures including $150 million to increase the state’s housing stock, $50 million to make childcare more affordable, and $10 million to improve access to rural health care.
Lawmakers also approved more funding to recruit and retain police officers and decrease air pollution along with $600 million to reduce the deficit in the Unemployment Trust Fund. Meanwhile, bills to ban flavored tobacco, increase school bus safety and make it illegal to talk on your cellphone while driving all died.
“This has been one of most productive sessions I have seen. It has been very straightforward, very bipartisan, very much working together on huge issues,” said Speaker of the House Alec Garnett.
He remained upbeat despite Republicans efforts to run out the clock on some of the most controversial bills of the session by demanding they be read at length.
“We want make sure that we are either being able to amend bills, being able to do something with them that says allright, our ideas deserve spot on the table,” said House Minority Leader Hugh McKean.
Among the most contentious legislation still left are bills that would require businesses pay for a statewide recycling program and make it easier for county workers to unionize.
“The bills that are of most concern right now are the ones that add costs to families,” said McKean.
Garnett insisted Democrats have introduced bills aimed at doing the opposite.
“We’ve been laser focused on saving people money all session, he said.
The fate of two major criminal justice bills — addressing catalytic converter thefts and the fentanyl crisis — hung in the balance Tuesday night along with bills to provide help for fire victims who are under-insured and recruit and retain more teachers.
Lawmakers won’t get through every bill but the School Finance Act — which funds K-12 education — is one they are constitutionally required to pass or go into special session. McKean said he didn’t expect that to happen.
“I think we’ll finish tomorrow but I also think it will be a headlong run right to the end,” McKean said.
Garnett said he too expected the session to wrap up before midnight Wednesday.
“I’m confident that when comes to these very important pieces of legislation we’re going to get them across the finish line,” Garnett said.