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Politics and Government

Judge rules Democrats can’t use computers to combat GOP efforts to slow Colorado Senate

The order comes after the GOP requested Monday that a 2,000-page bill be read in full as part of efforts to gum up work in the Senate in protest of a major oil and gas bill

Senate Bill 181, Democrats' omnibus oil and gas regulation bill, is heard Tuesday, March 12, 2019, in the Colorado Senate. (Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun)
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A Denver judge gave Republicans in the Colorado legislature a victory Tuesday, ordering that Democrats in the state Senate and the chamber’s clerk be barred from reading legislation in an unintelligible way.

The temporary order came after the GOP on Monday requested that a 2,000-page bill be read in full as part of efforts to gum up work in the Senate in protest of a major oil and gas bill.

In response, the legislation — House Bill 1172, a non- controversial but extremely long measure — was read, but mostly by a computer. The reading was nearly impossible to understand and took about six hours to complete.

Republicans protested that Democrats were not following the Colorado constitution, which allows a bill sponsor to request a measure be read at-length, because the reading was “gibberish.”

“This idea that (several) computer programs at 625 words-per-minute each could be reading is not permitted under the temporary restraining order,” said state Sen. Bob Gardner, a Colorado Springs Republican.

The order, stemming from a legal action filed Tuesday morning, comes amid an increasingly chaotic atmosphere at the Colorado legislature as Democrats try to push a bold agenda and the GOP resists. It’s sure to add another complicated element to rising tensions surrounding the oil and gas legislation and other Democratic policies that have been introduced in recent weeks.

MORE: Chaos and conflict brewing at the Colorado Capitol as Democrats push a big agenda and the GOP resists

The temporary order, which names Senate President Leroy Garcia and Senate Secretary Cindi Markwell as defendants, will be reconsidered at a hearing March 19. Gardner said he hoped the ruling would be made permanent.

“Senate Republicans have decided to employ unprecedented partisan tactics, abuse taxpayer dollars and waste time that could be spent working for the people of Colorado,” Garcia, a Pueblo Democrat, said in a written statement. “This political gamesmanship is more fitting of Washington, D.C. than Colorado — we are better than this.”

Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg, a Boulder Democrat, said Republicans were acting “Trumpian.” He brushed off the judge’s order as inconsequential.

He said that the 2,000-page House Bill 1172 could be now laid over until the end of session and that it doesn’t have to be read again — or passed.

But Senate Minority Leader Chris Holbert, a Parker Republican, said a point had been made by Tuesday’s order, and that it could impact future efforts to have other bills be read at length.

He declined to say if it was something that would be used for every piece of legislation that comes up going forward.

“I’m not making that threat or promise at this point,” Holbert said. “It’s the one constitutional tool we have.”

The oil and gas bill is being heard in the Colorado Senate on Tuesday.

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