I was supposed to have a spa day Saturday. You know, a little treat to get me through the last week of the session.
However, lawmakers, legislative staff, lobbyists and your humble correspondent have begun to cancel their personal plans because for the first time during a regular session since 1990, at least one chamber of the General Assembly is expected to meet this weekend to catch up on work.
(Lawmakers did work one weekend in 2006 during a special session on immigration. However, lobbyist Mike Beasley told me to tell you that doesn’t count.)
Legislative leadership has threatened such a move in the past in the hopes of getting lawmakers to focus during semi-normal working hours. You know, like at 11 p.m. or 1 a.m. weeknights. And it’s still possible they could get cold feet. But this time it appears Senate leadership is serious.
There are just eight calendar days before the clock runs out on lawmakers to accomplish everything they set out to do. Despite fewer bills making their way through the system, as of the start of the week, lawmakers were further behind compared to last year, according to an analysis by legislative legal services.
The holdup has generally been in the state Senate, where Republican Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg wanted to get into the weeds of how recycling plants operate during a hearing on the polystyrene bill, according to colleague Anna Staver. “It just baffles my mind how it works,” he said at 7:39 p.m., as people waited to speak on four other bills on the committee’s agenda. “I guess I’ve kind of drifted off here because it’s fascinating to me.” And on Wednesday the gifted orator Bob Gardner, a Colorado Springs Republican, talked about doggie lifeguards.
To be fair, the Senate was able to clear more than three dozen bills off its floor calendar earlier this week, including 26 bills getting a floor debate on Tuesday. But it’s nowhere near the pace necessary to get through the backlog of Senate bills and the never-ending avalanche of House bills.
For what it’s worth, no one is floating the possibility of a special session — something you often hear this time of year. Several lawmakers, aides and lobbyists have confirmed my suspicion that the reason no one is talking about it is because everyone is over it and ready to get out.
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Eight days until the legislature adjourns; 13 days until Denver’s election; 101 days until the Iowa state fair
Your political digest
- Colorado paid family leave plan scrapped for this year in setback for Democrats. Denver Post
- Colorado lawmakers’ sexual harassment bill finally surfaces at statehouse. Denver Post
- Calling teen vaping an epidemic, Polis proposes new tobacco tax. Denver Post
- Colorado has one of the best election systems in the country, but Democratic lawmakers want to make it better. Denver Post
- Trump to address Air Force Academy graduates May 30 in Colorado Springs. Denver Post
- Colorado’s congressional Democrats stop short of seeking Trump’s impeachment despite “damning” evidence. Denver Post
- Super Tuesday in Colorado: State’s Democratic primary may play big role in choosing 2020 presidential candidate. Denver Post
- “A lot of sleepless nights”: TABOR gets the blame for Jeffco fight over jail budget cuts. Denver Post
- Former Colorado Secretary of State Gessler has paid his ethics fine. Colorado Politics
- We asked Democratic activists who they’re backing — and who they’d hate to see win. FiveThirtyEight
- Meanwhile, the Louisiana Senate unanimously approves a bill targeting veggie meat and cauliflower rice. The Advocate
Polis ranks as 37th most popular governor
During his first three months as Colorado’s new governor, Democrat Jared Polis has set his baseline for job approval — and it’s a mixed bag, according to one major nonpartisan national survey that releases quarterly ratings for all governors.
Among registered voters, 44 percent said they approved of Polis’ performance in the survey by Morning Consult, while 26 disapproved. A big chunk — 31 percent — said they didn’t know or didn’t yet have an opinion. That was a larger portion than for most other governors, perhaps because Polis is still new.
The poll ranked Polis 37th among all 50 U.S. governors in job approval.
The top 10 governors were all Republicans, lead by two who lead Democrat-leaning East Coast states (Charlie Baker in Massachusetts, Larry Hogan in Maryland).
Polis took office just as Democrats gained control of both chambers of the Colorado General Assembly. He just passed his first 100 days, and Republicans are wasting no time trying to rally opposition to what they portray as a far-left agenda. A nascent recall effort — one that admittedly would be tough to pull off — is building steam.
Morning Consult says its Colorado results have margins of error of plus or minus 1 percentage point for the overall figures, and 2 points for subgroups. But it didn’t specify state-by-state samples, saying only that it surveyed 472,802 registered voters nationally between January and March. Pollsters say they weighted their samples using November 2012 data based on gender, age, education and race. — Jon Murray
Overheard on the Senate floor
You hear the darndest things on the Senate floor — and we’re not talking about state Sen. Bob Gardner’s latest filibuster.
One Democratic lawmaker told another: “Hey, will you do me a favor and file a recall petition against me?”
And another said, just moments later: “I told someone this was going to be the wildest week of my life. They said I needed to get out more.”
Bills on the move: An education legacy edition
The state House unanimously approved a bill to create a pilot program to increase the number of students taking advanced, honor or accelerated courses. The bill also honors the legacy of a former lawmaker.
“It was always a priority of my late husband John to help students grow and succeed in their academia. I am honored to bring forward a bill that continues on his legacy and also helps kids realize their full potential,” said Rep. Janet Buckner, an Aurora Democrat who joined the House after her husband, Rep. John Buckner, died in 2015.
John Buckner served as the chair of the House Education Committee prior to his death. Chalkbeat reported at the time: “Buckner had a long career in education, including as a principal, before being elected to the House in 2012. During his time in the Cherry Creek School District he worked at Laredo Middle School and Smoky Hill and Overland high schools. The gym at Overland is named for him.”
If the bill becomes law, a grant program would be created that will provide support for schools that want to automatically enroll students in advanced courses in subjects in which they have demonstrated a high degree of proficiency.
Republican Reps. Colin Larson and Jim Wilson offered an amendment to rename the bill after John Buckner. It was unanimously approved.
A bipartisan and cross-denominational miracle
On Monday evening, I found state Sen. Rachel Zenzinger on the Senate floor frantically calling priests. She needed one who could deliver the last rites to her fiance’s best friend who was in the hospital and suffering from a 103-degree fever.
She had tried every one she knew, including her own parish and Catholic Charities, where she used to work. At a certain point in the evening, she came across state Sen. Nancy Todd and Shannon McNulty, the wife of former Republican House Speaker Frank McNulty, who is also Catholic.
Shannon McNulty sprang into action. As Zenzinger tells it, she reached out to Jeff Hunt, who leads the conservative Centennial Institute at Colorado Christian University.
Hunt, in turn, reached out to former Republican Gov. Bill Owens, who called the archbishop. A priest was soon on his way.
“They think he performed a miracle,” Zenzinger smiled Wednesday night recounting the story. On Tuesday morning, her fiance’s friend was sitting upright and his fever had broken.
Later, when Zenzinger ran into Frank McNulty in the Capitol, she gave him a big hug.
There is a lot of animosity between the two political parties in Colorado, now more than ever. But this is the kind of story that can give you hope that not all is lost to partisanship.
Tweet of the week
The Capitol celebrates Take Your Child to Work Day
Gov. Jared Polis had a very different kind of gathering in his office Thursday morning. It was Take Your Child to Work Day, and Polis invited all the kids — even the reporters’ children — to a party with balloons, coloring and snacks.
About two dozen kids joined the festivities, including one of the governor’s two small children. My 4-year-old loved the tic-tac-toe game. She was less sure about the first dog, Gia. — Anna Staver
Colorado in Washington
Gardner-Trump rallies coming to Colorado
U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner has been traveling around Colorado during this congressional break with relatively little fanfare and none of the protests that have dogged him at other times. Local press has stopped by a few small events, and a Politico reporter has been following him around.
And from Politico came a Denver dateline on Wednesday. In the story – headline: “Mueller fails to detonate for endangered Republicans” – Gardner said he would gladly campaign with Trump in Colorado next year. It’s an interesting decision considering Trump’s unpopularity in the state.
“Look, it’s clear there were no merit badges earned at the White House for behavior,” Gardner said of the Mueller report. “You have to focus on the heart of this conclusion, which is there is no collusion, no cooperation.”
Democrats, always eager to link Gardner to Trump, were quick to pounce. Andrew Romanoff’s campaign sent a fundraising email with the subject line, “Happy to campaign with Trump.” The Colorado Democratic Party, which hired a communications person solely to focus on Gardner, said his willingness to campaign with Trump shows his re-election prospects are in deep trouble.
Hickenlooper heads to California, Nevada
Presidential candidate John Hickenlooper is heading West. According to his campaign, his first stop is at the Commonwealth Club, the nation’s oldest and largest public affairs forum, in San Francisco on Friday. Then he’s attending two labor events in Nevada, including the SEIU’s and CAPAF’s “National Forum on Wages and Working People: Creating an Economy That Works for All.”
Hickenlooper’s campaign stops come after he made a big hire in Iowa this week. According to the Starting Line, a progressive politics news organization that tracks the caucus, Hickenlooper hired “Kimberley Strope-Boggus as their state political director. She’s been heavily involved in nearly every major Democratic event and campaign in the Polk County area for several cycles now. Strope-Boggus has extensive connections with top activists in the state’s largest county, and should be able to pull in some good Democratic leaders to Hickenlooper’s operation.”
Bernie’s big day in Colorado
While Hickenlooper is in Nevada, Bernie Sanders’ campaign has big plans for Saturday. The campaign is holding a National Organizing Kickoff with more than 4,500 events across the country, including 120 events in Colorado. Writer and campaign staff member David Sirota, who is also the husband of state Rep. Emily Sirota, is scheduled to headline an event in Denver. According to the campaign, the Denver event featuring Sirota, which starts at 5:30 p.m. at Skylark Lounge, is expected to be one of the largest in the country.
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