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State Rep. Mike Lynch, R-Wellington, in front center, and other republicans answer questions to the media during the first day of the 2023 legislative session, Jan. 9, 2023, in the Colorado State Capitol in Denver. (Hugh Carey, The Colorado Sun)

Banning abortion. Restricting transgender athletes’ participation in school sports. Slashing state revenues by cutting the income tax rate. 

A wave of bills Republicans are introducing in the Democrat-controlled Colorado legislature reads like a list of hot-button GOP talking points. And that’s not by mistake, even if they have no chance of becoming law. 

House Minority Leader Mike Lynch, R-Wellington, said the measures — some of which are highly controversial — are “statement bills” that show Coloradans what Republicans’ priorities are and how they would lead the state if they were in charge. 

“I think if we were suddenly to be in the majority, you’d see a whole bunch of really drastic right-wing legislation,” Lynch said. “But I think that’s largely a factor of the fact that we’ve been out of the majority for so long. We’re trying to fix these things that have piled up over the last 10 years.” 

The legislation may only be sponsored by a handful of Republicans, but they reflect on the entire caucus. Senate Minority Leader Paul Lundeen, R-Monument, urged people not to necessarily lump the entire GOP together. 

“The Republican caucus is an intellectually diverse caucus. It brings an array of perspectives,” he said. “One or two people have a strong conviction of this specific nature and there may be other perspectives.”

Senate Minority Leader Paul Lundeen delivers opening day remarks at the Capitol, Jan. 9, 2023, in Denver. (Hugh Carey, The Colorado Sun)

Democrats are running into the same political conundrum, including when it comes to a bill that would let local governments enact rent control policies and another that would legalize safe-injection sites, where people could use illicit drugs under medical supervision. The governor, whose signature is vital for any bill to become law, has signaled he’s skeptical about both. Democrats introduced them anyway. 

Each legislator is permitted to introduce five bills, and each one must get a hearing. That’s different from in Congress, where leadership can shelve legislation they don’t like. 

In other words: Democrats are effectively powerless to stop controversial GOP measures from seeing the light of day.

The day of a committee hearing for several Republican abortion-related bills — including a total ban on the procedure — Democrats said statement bills aren’t new.

“It is important that we take them seriously and that they are heard,” said House Speaker Julie McCluskie, D-Dillon. “We will still honor this institution by making sure that every piece of legislation is heard in committee in a fair way and then our public has a moment to share their voices and perspectives.”

Here are 10 bills introduced by Republicans in the legislature this year that have been rejected by the Democratic majority — and were always likely to meet that fate.

Restricting school sports participation based on biological sex

House Bill 1098: This bill, sponsored by Reps. Lisa Frizell, Brandi Bradley and Sen. Byron Pelton, would have required that student athletes only participate in sports based on their biological sex at birth. It was rejected 8-3 along party lines by the House State, Civic, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee on Feb. 13 after an hour and a half of testimony. 

Reduction of state income tax rate

House Bill 1063: Introduced by Rep. Scott Bottoms of Colorado Springs, this bill would have reduced the state income tax to 3.5% from 4.4% beginning in the ​​2024 tax year — slashing the state’s general fund by billions of dollars. It was rejected 8-3 along party lines by the House State, Civic, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee on Feb. 9 after more than an hour of testimony. 

Dissuading enforcement of federal firearms laws

House Bill 1044: From Rep. Ken DeGraaf of Colorado Springs this bill would have created a civil penalty for enforcing federal laws that are deemed to have infringed on the right to bear arms. It was rejected 8-2 along party lines after two hours of testimony Feb. 6 in the House State, Civic, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee. 

Abortion ban

House Bill 1119: This bill, also brought by Bottoms, would have abolished abortion in Colorado by including any fetus in the definition of “person” as it relates to things like homicide and assault. The House Health and Insurance Committee heard three hours of testimony and then voted 8-3 along party lines to reject it on Feb. 17. 

Voting systems wireless connections

House Bill 1055: This bill from Rep. Rod Bockenfeld of Watkins prohibits the use of voting systems that are capable of establishing a wireless connection beginning in 2024. It was rejected 8-3 along party lines by the House State, Civic, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee on Feb. 13 after nearly two hours of testimony.

Carbon dioxide as a pollutant

House Bill 1163: Another bill from DeGraaf that would have prohibited state and local governments from classifying carbon dioxide as a pollutant or enforcing regulations on the chemical compound that deem it a pollutant. It was rejected 8-3 along party lines by the House Energy and Environment Committee on Feb. 23 after 45 minutes of testimony.

COVID-19 vaccine requirements for minors

House Bill 1029: A bill that would have prohibited requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for minors, administering vaccinations without guardian consent and discriminating against unvaccinated minors was introduced by Bradley and Sen. Mark Baisley. It was rejected  8-3 along party lines by the House Health and Insurance Committee on Feb. 7 after two and a half hours of testimony. 

Immunity for business owners using force

House Bill 1050: Introduced by Rep. Ty Winter of Trinidad, this bill would have expanded immunity of business owners, employees and customers from criminal prosecution and civil liability in a situation in which they use physical force to protect themselves or others against an intruder. It was rejected 8-2 along party lines by the House State, Civic, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee on Feb. 6 after about two hours of testimony.

Eliminating caucus and assembly process for primaries

Senate Bill 101: This bill from Sen. Barbara Kirkmeyer, R-Brighton, and Rep. Mary Bradfield, R-Colorado Springs, would have eliminated the ability of candidates to qualify for primary ballots through the assembly process. It was rejected 4-1 by the Senate State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee on Feb. 16 after about an hour of testimony.

State fees on retail deliveries

House Bill 1166: This bill would have repealed a 27 cent state fee on retail deliveries and was sponsored by House Assistant Minority Leader Rose Pugliese of Colorado Springs and Sen. Perry Will of New Castle. It was rejected 9-4 along party lines by the House Transportation, Housing and Local Government Committee on Feb. 21 after 10 minutes of testimony.

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Elliott Wenzler

Elliott Wenzler is a reporter for the Colorado Sun, covering local politics, the state legislature and other topics. She also assists with The Unaffiliated newsletter. Previously, she was a community reporter in Douglas County for Colorado Community Media. She has won awards for her...