Civil unions stalemate: Fallout affects small businesses, poor, others

The Republican House leadership's successful effort to block passage of a civil unions bill yesterday, orchestrated by Speaker Frank McNulty, could well have aftershocks stretching to the fall elections. And lawmakers who opted for inaction may be facing much more than the wrath of liberals and activists committed to the civil unions cause.

A short time ago, Governor John Hickenlooper called for a special session to address the measures left in limbo, and there's no shortage of them. Depending on what frantic amendments can be made in today's last session, the standoff doomed between 25 and 35 other bills that were on the brink of final action. As Michael Roberts noted in an earlier post, one of the casualties is Senator Steve King's controversial THC driving bill. But dozens of other well-traveled proposals, the result of endless hours of scrutiny, nurturing and debate, got the ax, too -- with no consideration of individual merit or public impact.

The most significant, in terms of projects across the state, is probably Senate Bill 165, which would have authorized more than $60 million in water projects administered by the Colorado Water Conservation Board. But plenty of other measures that would arguably make a positive difference to struggling businesses and individuals in a tough economy were also dragged down. They range from a bill to promote broadband in rural areas and one that would have reduced unemployment taxes for businesses to a modest effort to extend Medicaid dental services to low-income pregnant women.

State Bill Colorado offers a complete list of the bill kill. Those who believe government does best by doing least won't mourn, and one can certainly find a lot of deadwood among the collateral damage -- proposals to establish a commission to conduct a study to determine if more study is needed, that kind of thing. And astonishingly bad ideas aspiring to be made law (like cutting off severance tax funds for local governments that dare to try to restrict oil and gas drilling in their back yards). And stuff that was already neutered in committee, such as the now-toothless drug sentencing reform measure.

Still, the waste of time and money involved in toting all these initiatives through the legislative process, just to scrap them wholesale on the eve of adjournment, marks a new standard for statehouse futility. And now, the special session will cost extra, too -- according to the Legislative Council, $23,500 per day.

More from our Politics archive: "Civil unions bill: Pat Steadman calls measure's killing a disgusting spectacle."

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