COLORADO SPRINGS – Judging by the numbers, the 2019 Legislative Session was both challenging and productive for Democratic state lawmakers who held majorities in both chambers despite efforts by Republicans to slow things down. Preliminary figures from the Office of Legislative Legal Services indicate 598 bills were introduced this session, 460 of them passed.
The Office compiles statics each year in a report known as the Digest of Bills. The 2019 Digest will not be released for a few more weeks.
Comparing the preliminary numbers with the historical record, lawmakers introduced the fewest bills this session since 2012. Yet the 460 bills that passed are the most since Bill Ritter was Governor in 2010. The 77 percent pass rate also suggests the Democrats were closely unified on their agenda.
“It’s not surprising that they would pass so many,” said UCCS Political Science Professor Josh Dunn.
He pointed out that single-party rule is going to be more efficient. The key for Democrats is the substance of the bills they passed.
“The centerpieces, for instance, the all-day kindergarten, those things that were really key to the Democratic agenda,” Dunn explained.
He expects Governor Jared Polis and Democrats in the House and Senate to campaign on those legislative victories in 2020. He also thinks they will avoid introducing polarizing and controversial bills like the red flag bill, the national popular vote and the new oil and gas restrictions in the next session in 2020.
“You really don’t want to be pushing the most controversial things or the things that could really generate significant political blow-back during an election,” Dunn said.
As the minority party, the main objective for Republicans was to slow the pace legislating as much as possible. Their legal battle with Senate leadership over the procedural requirement to have bills read aloud at-length was well publicized.
Senate President Leroy Garcia and Secretary Cindi Maxwell used five computers to read a 2,000-word bill at 650 words per minute. Senator Chris Holbert sued and won. While they can claim success for slowing the process, Dunn said it may be a hollow victory.
“They might be able to take some comfort in being able to stop some pieces here or there, but overall, the stuff that they were most concerned about still made it through,” he said.
The lawsuit over reading the bills aloud could play a role in overturning at least one bill this year. Minority Leader Patrick Neville joined with the lobbying group Rocky Mountain Gun Owners to sue Governor Polis seeking an injunction to prevent the red flag bill from taking effect on January 1.
Their main complaint is that House leadership prevented the bill from being read aloud at-length after Republican Representatives Dave Williams and Lori Saine requested it. Majority Leader Alec Garnett and Rep. Jovan Melton told News 5 at the time that Williams did not properly form his motion and that Saine’s request was not actually a request. Polis signed the bill on April 12.