This past week started off normally enough; however, the week took a turn on Wednesday when an East High School student shot two administrators. On Thursday, East High School students flooded the Capitol asking legislators to support the gun bills working their way through the legislative process. This was the second time in two months that East High School students marched to the Capitol to ask legislators to do something about gun violence. Last month, it was in response to one of their classmates being shot in front of their high school. The student later died of his injuries.
On Friday, the temperature was turned up even higher when Denver Public Schools cancelled classes district wide for a mental health day and students, teachers, and parents from all over the district showed up at the Capitol for a “Show Up to End Gun Violence” rally. Then on Friday afternoon, the House took up the three gun bills currently in the House – SB 168 Gun Violence Victims’ Access to Judicial System, SB 169 Increasing Minimum Age to Purchase Firearms, and SB 170 Extreme Risk Protection Order Petitions. When debate started House Republicans used the only tool the minority party has – delay – and began filibustering. As a result, by the time the House adjourned around 11 pm Democrats had been unable to pass even one of those bills on second reading.
On Saturday, the House returned around 9 am to continue debate. By Saturday evening, House Democrat leadership had had enough and invoked the rarely used House Rule 14 which some consider to be the “nuclear option.” House Rule 14 allows the ruling party, with a simple majority vote, to limit debate on any bill on second reading to no less than one hour. In this case, House Democrats voted to limit debate to one additional hour each on SB 170 and SB 168. By the time the House adjourned about 10:45 pm they had passed both SB 170 and SB 168 on second reading.
On Sunday, the House returned around 9:30 am and by approximately 5:30 pm had passed both SB 168 and SB 170 on third reading. SB 168 passed 40 to 22 with three Democrats joining all the Republicans in voting no. SB 170 passed on a 44 to 19 party-line vote. House Leadership then moved to limit debate on SB 169 to four hours on second reading. However, after the sponsors substantially amended the bill, SB 169 passed second reading about 7 pm.
With only 42 days left in the legislative session there are still a lot of high-profile bills outstanding. In addition, to the gun bills discussed above that need to go back to the Senate to consider House amendments, there is the assault weapons ban (HB 1230) that still has not been heard in its first committee, a number of abortion-related bills that still need to go through the House, and a number of affordable housing bills that need to go through both the House and the Senate. In addition, the budget will be debated in the Senate this week and the House next week. We can all expect legislators to work a lot of late nights and likely at least a couple of weekends between now and sine die.
So far, there have been 512 bills introduced – 263 in the House and 249 in the Senate. Only 42 days until the General Assembly is required to adjourn sine die.