When analyzing this year's legislative session with only one month left, it would be foolish to say this year was just like any other. Between sexual harassment scandals, the hyper-partisanship and enough campaign drama to fill a (less than lustrous and pretty wonky) episode of "House of Cards," this session has been an exciting one.
Both chambers for the first time in weeks were not dedicating their floor work to the budget. The Senate had sent their final version back to the House. The House members promptly rejected all Senate amendments and asked for a conference committee, just like the Senate did with the House version. The Joint Budget Committee (JBC) then met to resolve the over-expenditure in both chambers' versions and came up with a bipartisan solution that still protected $495 million for transportation, over $200 million to support the state pension plan, and around $18 million to pay for an investment in higher education.
Sounds relatively tame? Well, that was just the beginning of the week. A few hours passed and things started to spice up again.
Sen. Vicki Marble (R-Fort Collins) was charged with an ethics violation for allowing a company to sponsor a town hall event for her constituents on her behalf.
Congressman Doug Lamborn (CO-R) was in court on Tuesday afternoon as a result of a lawsuit filed the week before asking - a judge to remove the Congressman from the 5th Congressional District's GOP primary ballot. Plaintiffs, five Republican voters from Colorado Springs, alleging petition circulators hired by the Congressman did not meet legal requirements to gather signatures for his campaign.
This scandal also throws a wrench into former State Treasurer Walker Stapleton's bid for governor.
Kennedy Enterprises, the firm that was hired by both the Lamborn and Stapleton campaigns apparently employed people who became Colorado residents and registered Republicans primarily to do the work, has been operating in the gray area of the state's residency requirements for signature collectors.
The judge sided with the Lamborn campaign this week, but the case is being appealed to the Colorado Supreme Court, so it is still to be determined as to whether Congressman Lamborn will be facing four Republican primary challengers, including two others who have already made the ballot and two whose petitions are under review by the Secretary of State's (SOS) office.
Those challengers are El Paso County Commissioner Darryl Glenn (who ran for Senate against Sen. Michael Bennett (D) in 2016) qualified for the ballot by petition in late February, and state Sen. Owen Hill (R-Colorado Springs) won a spot at the Republican district assembly a few weeks ago. Retired Texas state judge Bill Rhea and former Green Mountain Falls Mayor Tyler Stevens have submitted petitions.
Stapleton, who is said to be the Republican primary front-runner, actually qualified for the ballot but withdrew his petitions Tuesday when he discovered potential fraud by signature collectors that were used for his petition effort. This last minute tactical shift has drawn criticism from opponents because now his only option is to peel commitments from delegates at the state party assembly this Saturday. At this point in the game, the criticism is likely welcome because it is the only option for the candidate to make the ballot.
The Denver Post reported on an analysis of the 19,214 signatures that Stapleton submitted, indicating that more than two-thirds were collected by circulators who came from out-of-state and filed paperwork to meet Colorado residency requirements. According to the review by the state Democratic Party, chaired by former state Sen. President Morgan Carroll (D-Aurora), there were at least two dozen signature collectors who listed hotels or group homes as their addresses, attesting to their transient nature in the state.
Looking forward, it is most likely that Stapleton will make the ballot. He has very high name recognition and has appealed to the more right wing members of his party, including former Congressman Tom Tancredo (R) and Congressman Ken Buck (R) who both endorsed the former treasurer this week.
Republicans are not the only ones who are facing condemnation about candidacy though. This week, the rumor surfaced for a second time that Rep. Donald Valdez (D-La Jara) is no longer living in his district. Despite dissent at the multi county assembly, which was held on Friday afternoon, Rep. Valdez is the only Democrat whose name will appear on the ballot in House District 62. This move by Democrats in the San Luis Valley could make the seat more competitive in the general election. Rep. Valdez has been in the paper recently for filing and ethics complaint against his colleague, Rep. Jovan Melton (D-Aurora) for bullying him on the House floor.
Next week should be a busy week. More than a hundred bills are still awaiting introduction, dozens sit in each chamber's appropriation committees, and many have been delayed for a floor vote for weeks. There are only 18 working days that remain and many impactful issues like the School Finance Act have not only not been addressed, but bills to address them haven't even been introduced. After this weekends state assembly, we can hope for more clarity on which legislators will be moving on and subsequently, which bills will moving on.
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