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Civil unions go before "kill committee" that could give pot bills new life

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A bill to legalize civil unions and two bills dealing with marijuana have been assigned to be debated this afternoon in the House's State, Veterans and Military Affairs committee, which is likely to reject civil unions but keep the latter measures alive. Today is the first day of a special legislative session called by Governor John Hickenlooper to address a total of seven bills: the civil unions bill and six others that died when they got caught in the crossfire.

That committee is scheduled to meet at 3:30 p.m. today.

There are four bills on its agenda:

HB 1006 is the civil unions bill, formerly known as SB 2. Advocate Jace Woodrum of GLBT-rights organization One Colorado says he's "shocked" that Republican House Speaker Frank McNulty assigned the civil unions bill to this particular committee.

"State Affairs is a well-known kill committee and we are really shocked that the bill would require a different committee one week after it was assigned to the Judiciary," Woodrum says. He adds that McNulty "promised to give us a fair hearing, and it looks like today, he went back on his word."

McNulty released a statement this morning that says, in part: "While Republicans focused our efforts on putting Coloradans back to work, Governor Hickenlooper and his Democratic allies in the legislature brought these efforts to a grinding halt by pushing a last-minute, divisive attack on our traditional views on marriage for short term political gain."

It goes on to say, "Hickenlooper has called this legislature into an expensive special session for the sole purpose of dividing Coloradans. Instead of using his authority and his bully pulpit to unify Coloradans behind a pro-growth agenda of economic recovery and job creation, he is using his authority to tear Colorado apart. Again."

HB 1004 was formerly known as HB 1358, a bill to shift $7.7 million in medical marijuana registry fund money to the struggling Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division. Medical marijuana activists are opposed to the measure. "The MMED was sold to the community as a self-funding entity," attorney Rob Corry told Westword. "This is a violation of the promises made at the very beginning about MMED funding itself."

HB 1005 is the THC driving bill, formerly known as SB 117. The bill would establish a per se THC impairment limit of 5 nanograms per milliliter of blood. Activists and MMJ patients are also opposed to this one, partly because THC tends to linger in the system of users. When our medical marijuana reviewer, William Breathes, tested his THC level while sober last year, he registered at nearly triple the proposed limit.

HB 1007 was formerly known as SB 182. It would create "benefit corporations," which would essentially be hybrids of for-profit and nonprofit companies.

This is the first time the State, Veterans and Military Affairs committee will hear any of these four measures. Stay tuned. The special session is expected to last three days.

More from our Politics archive: "Video: John Hickenlooper says civil unions aren't marriage on CNN."

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