2001 legislative session moving smoothly | CraigDailyPress.com

2001 legislative session moving smoothly

Gun storage laws, delayed divorce out

DENVER (AP) Gun storage and mandatory divorce counseling are out. Road improvement money is restored. Some conservative issues are not even up for debate.

It has been a calmer, more productive environment for lawmakers this year, despite the divided political control of the two chambers. The number of bills has dropped significantly, the issues are more moderate and the debates have remained mostly civil.

Depending on which politician you ask, they grade the Legislature’s performance at the halfway point as a B or an A.

Assistant House Minority Leader Jennifer Veiga, D-Denver, said more conservative bills, like posting the Ten Commandments in schools and recognizing covenant marriages, won’t fly this year.

”We’re seeing less-extreme legislation on both sides than last year and focusing more on some of the more prevalent issues like growth and education and reaching more compromises than in past years,” she said.

”The consensus among a lot of folks is that we seem to be playing much nicer this year.”

Republican Gov. Bill Owens said: ”I have seen some good examples of bipartisanship. I also have seen some examples of partisan action, but I think overall the session is going pretty well.

”I think there will be some long nights and some fairly spirited debates yet to come.”

Still ahead are the critical issues: education, growth and the budget.

For the first time in 40 years, Democrats took control of the Senate this year, which halted last year’s dominance by the GOP. The Democrats streamlined committees and adopted a consent calendar that has the chamber on schedule for the first time in years.

Both parties said the biggest test has been passage of House Bill 1267 to get the state back on track for major road projects. The bill uses a cash reserve fund to avoid a one-year delay in some highway construction projects approved two years ago by voters.

The measure was designed to restore $212 million to the state Transportation Department that was shifted to public schools as a result of Amendment 23, which set aside part of the state’s tax surplus to improve public education.

Owens and Senate Democrats clashed over the amount of money available, but the governor eventually signed the bill.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Thiebaut, D-Pueblo, said Senate Democratic relations with Owens have been strained but cordial.

”I think he needs to understand how to deal with a divided government. He’s so used to having his way with his party so long, it’s uncomfortable for him,” Thiebaut said.

Senate Minority Leader John Andrews, R-Englewood, said he would give the Senate Democrats a B-plus for management and an F for setting the political tone. He cited the furor over a political consultant hired by the Democrats to advise them on their agenda.

Andrews said the real test will come when lawmakers get to the budget.

”The Democrats are overspending in the school funding bill. They want to cut prisons which puts dangerous criminals back into the community. We still have some real head-breaking still to go,” Andrews said.

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