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Politics and Government

Colorado Senate Democrats violated state constitution with computer reading of 2,000-page bill, judge says

The ruling is unlikely to have major impacts on lawmaking at the Colorado Capitol this session, but is a political win for statehouse Republicans

Senate President Leroy Garcia, a Pueblo Democrat. (Kathryn Scott, Special to The Colorado Sun)
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A Denver judge has ruled that Colorado Senate President Leroy Garcia and the chamber’s secretary violated the state’s constitution when they let several computers read a roughly 2,000-page bill at an “incomprehensible” pace to combat GOP efforts to slow down legislative work.

The decision by District Court Judge David H. Goldberg dictates that Garcia and Secretary Cindi Markwell must “read legislation in an intelligible and comprehensive manner, and at an understandable speed.”

Goldberg’s preliminary injunction, which can be revisited, is unlikely to have major impacts in the Colorado General Assembly but is a win for Republicans who have been crying foul at the pace Democrats have been moving bills through the Capitol.

Read the ruling.

“We’ve heard from constituents — from Pueblo to Greeley and from Sterling to Montrose — who are disappointed in the hasty speed in which legislation has been driven through the process,” Senate Minority Leader Chris Holbert, of Douglas County, said in a written statement. “And Colorado’s Republican Senators will continue to be their voice and utilize our Constitutionally-derived powers to ensure those voices are heard loud and clear.”

Garcia, a Pueblo Democrat, decried the decision.

“The people of Colorado lost today. I have a deep respect for the process and the opinion of the court, and will uphold their decision; however, the reading of this 2000 page bipartisan bill means that our work trying to improve the lives of millions of Coloradans grinds to a halt,” he said in a written statement of his own. “I respect my Republican colleagues, but I will not stoop to using obstructionist tactics and will continue to keep my caucus above the political gamesmanship demonstrated by those on the other side of the aisle.”

The issue dates back to March 11, when Republicans asked than the 2,000-page House Bill 1172, a non-controversial measure, be read at length in protest of Democrats’ moving fast on a slate of controversial legislation, including the omnibus oil and gas regulation bill.

House Bill 1172 was then read at length, but by computer, over about six hours. The reading was nearly impossible to understand.

Republicans cried foul and the next day secured a temporary order from Goldberg blocking the practice until he could issue a more in-depth ruling following Tuesday’s hearing.

Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg, a Boulder Democrat, said that House Bill 1172 doesn’t have to be read again in the legislature and can be laid over until the session ends in May. That would effectively kill the measure — and likely prevent the issue from arising again.

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