General Assembly

The collapse at the end notwithstanding, a reasonably successful legislative session

The farcical conclusion of the state Legislature’s 2012 session got all the attention last week, and rightly so. The General Assembly’s descent into partisan bickering was unseemly and important legislation was ignored.

Overall, though, this session was fairly successful. That needs to be recognized as well.

Overshadowing all else, of course, was the budget. A (slowly) recovering economy helped out with that, and after the last few years even minor improvements to state revenue are cause for rejoicing. In that climate, lawmakers approved a bipartisan budget that avoided slashing key programs, reinstated some benefits, kept per pupil K-12 funding at current levels and minimized cuts to higher education.

In an otherwise testy political climate, just about everyone was happy. Not bad for the biggest, most potentially controversial topic the Legislature faces.

The Colorado READ Act was another win. Aimed at boosting reading proficiency by the third grade, it brings parents, teachers and reading specialists together to work with students falling behind in the early grades. Best of all, the bill was greatly improved by bipartisan efforts to address concerns about some of its original provisions.

After considerable effort, state Sen. Ellen Roberts, R-Durango, managed to get her bill passed doing away with an onerous bonding requirement for tow-truck operators. She was also instrumental in restoring severance tax funds to local governments.

State Rep. J. Paul Brown, R-Ignacio, had a bill outlawing the dangerous drug sold as bath salts. It was killed in the end-of-session crossfire. Brown managed to get the bath salt ban passed as part of another bill at the last minute.

Besides civil unions, perhaps the biggest failure was in denying otherwise qualified students lower tuition because their parents brought them to the U.S. illegally. Colorado gains from educating all our youths.

The failure of telecom reform to boost rural broadband development was another missed opportunity.

Still, nobody bats 1.000. And even with the drama at the end and the frenzy of an election year, the Legislature did some good work.