Colorado's special session, which begins today, is earning nationwide attention for Governor John Hickenlooper due in large part to the civil unions legislation whose death largely inspired it. But in conversation with the net's Candy Crowley (see it below), Hickenlooper avoided espousing same-sex marriage and stressed that this issue and civil unions aren't synonymous.
When Crowley mentioned President Barack Obama, whose statements last week in favor of same-sex marriage brought the subject to the top of the nation's conversational agenda, Hickenlooper launched into a pro-Obama address that credited the POTUS with everything from preventing an economic depression to killing Osama bin Laden. But when she asked about his position on same-sex marriage, he insisted that Colorado is focused on the sort of equal rights that civil unions would confer. He also made the this-isn't-gay-marriage argument in a de facto pitch to House Speaker Frank McNulty, who has the power to sideline the civil unions bill again, and has hinted that he may do just that.
The civil unions topic is also cited in a release sent early this morning by the governor's office several hours prior to the special session's scheduled 10 a.m. start time. But Hickenlooper's statements are broad enough to encompass six other pieces of legislation he urges legislators to consider, including a THC driving bill that the Medical Marijuana Industry Group would like to replace with a new measure featuring a new, more generous impairment standard and limits on a range of other Schedule I and II drugs.
Look below to see Hickenlooper's CNN segment, followed by the aforementioned release:
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Special session starts today to address unfinished business
DENVER -- Monday, May 14, 2012 -- A special session of the General Assembly begins today so lawmakers can address a variety of legislative issues that died last week without adequate debate in the House of Representatives.
"Transparency, accountability and the virtues of good government are compromised when the legislative clock is used to avoid consideration of important legislation," Hickenlooper wrote in a letter to the General Assembly. "We owe it to the people we serve to do better."
It is customary for the governor to address the General Assembly at the beginning of a special session, but Hickenlooper opted instead to send a letter so critical work can proceed without unnecessary delay.
"Each year the regular legislative session undertakes the people's business," the letter says. "Legislators introduce bills, vet them through the committee process, and, if passed out of committee, debate them and vote on them on the floor so that a majority in each chamber is given an opportunity to work its will."
This year, the governor wrote, procedural efforts short-circuited that process to prevent debate and a vote on Senate Bill 12-002, commonly known as the "Civil Unions Bill." The full Senate and three House committees approved the bill, but all House members were not afforded the opportunity to debate or vote on the merits of the Civil Unions Bill. Procedural delays also stalled action on a number of other pieces of significant, bipartisan legislation calendared for second reading on May 8.
"Although efforts were made to pass as much of this legislation as possible on the final day of the legislative session, it is clear that even tortured efforts to place important bills under irregular titles could not finish the work that needed to be done," Hickenlooper wrote.
The seven specific subjects that should be considered in the special session are:
• Funding of Colorado Water Conservation Board projects.
• Penalties for persons who drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
• Authorization of civil unions.
• Administration of the unemployment insurance program to stabilize unemployment insurance rates, facilitating the issuance of unemployment revenue bonds and accelerating the creation of the Division of Unemployment Insurance in the Department of Labor and Employment.
• Creating "benefit corporations" in Colorado.
• Registering Special Mobile Machinery Fleets.
• Submitting to the registered electors of the State of Colorado an amendment to the Colorado Constitution repealing provisions deemed obsolete.
"We include in the call legislation that advances good government, enhances public safety, and addresses a fundamental question of fairness and civil rights," Hickenlooper's letter says.
The governor said Coloradans, at a time of enormous skepticism about the federal government and state legislatures across the country, have come to expect something different from their General Assembly.
"You passed a budget this year with 86 votes, improved early childhood literacy, and expanded the mission of the Colorado Energy Office," he wrote. "You approved comprehensive personnel reform, made it easier for military spouses to gain employment, improved payment methods in Medicaid, and restructured fire and emergency response. That record is worth celebrating and reflects legislative work that is fair, transparent and collaborative. We respect and applaud the good work you have already done, and, in that spirit, wish you success with a special session that efficiently, thoroughly, and fairly resolves the business of this call."
The General Assembly determines how long the special session will last. The cost of the session is $23,500 per day. A maximum of 15 days is already budgeted in the current fiscal year.
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More from our Politics archive: "THC driving bill on special sessions agenda: Does that mean Hick will sign it?"