Last-minute legislation rush leaves lawmaking to final days

As I write this, there are three days left in the legislative session and a ton of bills that have not even been heard in committee much less gone through second and third readings on the floor of the House. We will adjourn the session at midnight on Wednesday and some bills will die on the calendar. Legislators will be tired and tempers will rage.

My goal will be to stay ahead of the game as much as possible, anticipate bills that will be calendared and be prepared by having proposals already studied. I have an advantage over some legislators in that I am an early riser; I live within one half block of the Capitol; I don’t watch television except for a little news in the mornings as I get ready for the day; I rarely go out in the evening; and my home is 350 miles away so family, business and civic events are not a deterrent from studying. I am well-acquainted with the night and early morning cleaning staff members.

Two of my bills are still working through the process. House Bill 1357, which allows the Capital Development Committee to locate and spend leftover money from certificates of deposits for controlled maintenance projects, was passed out of the House on Friday, but still has to get through the Senate. I suspect that it will be successful.

This bill will help Fort Lewis College and Western State College because, even if they don’t get any of this money, it gets some of the other schools that have a higher prioritization out of the way, so that our local schools will move up on the list when other money becomes available.

Senate Bill 116, which makes the addictive drugs commonly called “bath salts” illegal to manufacture and distribute, passed out of the final House committee Friday, and I’m hopeful will be heard and adopted. SB 116 was amended in the House, so it will have only one day to go back to the Senate for approval of the amendment and re-passage. The timing may be close on this bill, but it can be done.

An important bill for Southwest Colorado is the annual water-projects bill. This bill includes the final payment for the Animas-La Plata County water and state match money for cloud seeding. It could get it final reading as late as today. The bill that puts into law the makeup of the Parks and Wildlife bill, House Bill 1317, has the same schedule.

The most contentious bill still to be decided is Senate Bill 2, civil unions. It is frustrating and unfortunate that a bill of this magnitude can be held up by the Senate leadership until we are pressed for time, fuses are short and our mindset is not at its best.

J. Paul Brown represents House District 59 in Colorado’s General Assembly. The district encompasses San Juan, Archuleta and La Plata counties and parts of Montezuma County. Contact Brown by phone at (303) 866-2914 or by email at jpaul.brown.house@state.co.us.