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Senators cast votes in the final hours of 2022 legislative session. (Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun)

A record number of bills became law in Colorado for the second straight year, and a majority of the 39 Republicans in the statehouse voted in favor of 56% of them, according to a Colorado Sun analysis of legislation considered at the Capitol in 2022.

Of the 657 measures introduced, 507 were signed into law, up from 504 last year

The Sun examined final votes on all 507 bills approved by the legislature that became law, excluding two pieces of legislation that referred questions to the November ballot. The Sun defines final votes as third-reading votes, readoption after an opposing chamber’s amendments and readoption after a conference committee report.

There were 67 measures, or 13.2% of all bills, that were approved unanimously, and nearly 96% of the bills that became law had the support of at least one GOP lawmaker. Only 14 bills that became law passed with only a single Republican “yes” vote. 

And only 17 bills, or 3.4% of the bills that became law this year, were approved on a straight party-line vote by Democrats, who control the House and Senate. 

State Sen. Kevin Priola, of Henderson, voted “yes” on bills more than any other Republican, backing 86% of the measures that became law. He led the GOP in “yes” votes in 2019 and 2021, as well. Last week, Priola announced that he is switching parties to become a Democrat. But the votes he cast in 2022 were as a Republican.

This is the third year The Sun analyzed votes on bills that became law. Republican support in 2019 and in 2021 was similar to this year.

House GOP divisions evident in voting patterns 

All 41 Democrats in the House voted “yes” on 95% of the 407 bills that became law this year. Two Democrats in the chamber — House Speaker Alec Garnett and Rep. Leslie Herod, both of Denver — never cast a “no” vote on a bill that was signed into law.

Herod said her unanimous approval of legislation and that of other Democrats might be the result of thorough negotiation as bills made their way through drafting and the committee process, often being amended along the way.

“As someone who is in leadership, and who negotiates every bill, I vote on bills once the amendments that I need to see are made,” said Herod, who sits on the Joint Budget Committee and chairs the House Appropriations Committee. “Otherwise, the bill doesn’t make it to third reading.” 

She pointed to a measure that would have allowed physician assistants to operate with less oversight from doctors that was withdrawn from third reading and ultimately failed as an example. When it was returned to second reading, the preliminary vote on bills in the House and Senate, Herod voted against it. 

The Sun’s analysis includes only bills that become law.

A majority of the 24 Republicans in the House voted “yes” on nearly 61% of the bills that became law. And at least 14 of the GOP representatives in the chamber voted “yes” on at least 50% of the bills that became law.

Ten members of the House GOP members voted “no” on at least half of bills that became law.

The division in voting among House Republicans reflects the deep philosophical split in the caucus over the past two years. Ultra-conservative members of the caucus have often battled their more moderate counterparts. 

“We have different people from all different districts,” said House Minority Leader Hugh McKean, R-Loveland. “Certainly you have a really big divide on how we use public funds, how we spend money.”

McKean voted “yes” on bills that became law about 57% of the time. And he acknowledged that his caucus had “certain members who prided themselves on voting ‘no.’”

“My one request for my members is that they serve their districts,” he said. “It should be, ‘Are we voting our districts? Are we representing constituents that elected us?’”

Only one of the 10 frequent “no” voters in the House GOP caucus, state Rep. Stephanie Luck of Penrose, will potentially return to the Capitol next year. The nine others — Reps. Tim Geitner, Andres Pico, Mark Baisley, Kim Ransom, Kevin Van Winkle, Ron Hanks, Dave Williams, Patrick Neville and Shane Sandridge — are term-limited, resigned or ran for higher office.

Rep. Dan Woog, R-Erie, voted “yes” on 56% of the bills that became law in 2022 compared with his first year in the House, when he voted “yes” on about 42%.

Rep. Dylan Roberts, D-Avon, cast 27 “no” votes on legislation that became law, the most of any Democratic lawmaker. Roberts is running in November for a state Senate seat.

Senate voting patterns were less divisive

The 20 Democrats in the state Senate voted “yes” on 98% of the bills that became law. Five voted “yes” 100% of the time.

Only one Republican, state Sen. Paul Lundeen of Monument, voted “yes” on less than half the bills that became law. Six of the 15 GOP senators voted in the affirmative 75% of the time or more.

Lundeen, who is in line to become the Republican leader in the Senate next year, voted “yes” on only 46% of the measures that became law. He said he’s often following his core ideological principles when he votes.

“It’s rooted in economics, it’s rooted in the founding vision of this nation,” Lundeen said. “The best way to do that is you don’t let government get bigger and bigger and take on more and more responsibilities.”

Priola, of Henderson, voted “yes” more often than any other Republican in the legislature. 

“I just look at the policy,” Priola said. “I read the bill and I think, ‘Does this have merit? And will it work?’ And then I don’t really care what party has taken credit for it.”

Despite his support for a large chunk of Democratic legislation, Priola was also the sole GOP “no” vote in the Senate on four measures that became law, including digital license plates for motor vehicles. All four bills were sponsored by lawmakers from both parties. He said his fondest solo “no” vote was on a bipartisan bill in 2018 to ask voters to allow 18-year-olds to run for the legislature.

“Then that was on the ballot and it got crushed at the ballot box” by 64% of voters, he said. “So I was like, ‘Yep, my gut told me that was not a good thing.’”

The 17 bills that became law without a single Republican vote

Bills that became law this year without a single Republican vote include:

  • House Bill 1060, which placed contribution limits on donations to school board candidates
  • House Bill 1112, which deals with notices of workers’ compensation injuries
  • House Bill 1157, which requires state health officials to expand the demographic data they collect
  • House Bill 1259, which expanded and made changes to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program
  • House Bill 1279, which codified the right to abortion and contraceptive access in Colorado 
  • House Bill 1287, which aims to grant protections to mobile home park residents
  • House Bill 1317, which prohibits certain post-employment agreements
  • House Bill 1346, which requires that the state conduct compliance checks on apprentice supervision for electricians and plumbers
  • House Bill 1348, which implements additional regulations on chemicals used in oil and gas production
  • House Bill 1359, which created a household financial recovery pilot program
  • House Bill 1367, which updated Colorado’s employment discrimination laws
  • House Bill 1389, which created a program to provide people receiving housing assistance an escrow-like savings account and to ensure they get personal financial training
  • Senate Bill 69, which prohibits K-12 student test scores from being used for teacher evaluations for the 2021-22 and 2022-23 school years
  • Senate Bill 160, which created loan programs for mobile home park residents
  • Senate Bill 161, which deals with wage theft
  • Senate Bill 174 on sunset review hearings
  • Senate Bill 230, which gave some county employees the right to attempt to collectively bargain

Another 14 measures received a sole Republican “yes” vote. They include:

  • Rep. Janice Rich, R-Grand Junction, on House Bill 1061, which modified state law when it comes to not-guilty-by-insanity pleas
  • Priola on House Bill 1131, which deals with studying services and prosecution of children ages 10-13
  • Sen. Rob Woodward, R-Loveland, on House Bill 1133, which implements Colorado’s new paid family and medical leave system
  • Sen. Bob Rankin, R-Carbondale, on House Bill 1191, which extends a reproductive health care program
  • Priola on House Bill 1244, which aims to protect the public from toxic air contaminants
  • Priola on House Bill 1322 on water quality regulation 
  • Priola on House Bill 1355, which creates a statewide recycling program that will be paid for by fees on producers
  • Priola on House Bill 1362, which aims to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from buildings
  • Priola on House Bill 1377, which provides grants for programs responding to homelessness
  • Priola on Senate Bill 153, which aims to address insider threats to election security 
  • Priola on Senate Bill 154 on safety at assisted living residences
  • Priola on Senate Bill 193 on air quality improvement investments
  • Priola on Senate Bill 206 on disaster preparedness
  • Priola on Senate Bill 211 to create a residential facility for the homeless at Watkins’ Ridge View Campus

Two ballot measures drew little GOP support

Voters will decide in November whether to approve two measures referred to the ballot by the legislature. 

House Bill 1414 placed an initiative on the ballot asking voters to approve free school breakfasts and lunches for all students, which would be paid for by eliminating some tax exemptions for households earning more than $300,000. Three Republican senators — Don Coram, of Montrose; Dennis Hisey, of Colorado Springs; and Cleve Simpson, of Alamosa — voted for that measure, along with two Republican House members — Reps. Mary Bradfield, of Colorado Springs, and Janice Rich, of Grand Junction.

Senate Bill 222 placed a measure on the ballot asking voters whether more detailed information should be more prominently provided to them about the effects of income tax rate changes. Democrats were unanimous in their support of the bill, while Republicans unanimously opposed the measure.

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Sandra Fish

Special to The Colorado Sun Twitter: @fishnette