Civil Unions Dies in House Stalemate

Listen Now
1min 34sec

[Photo credit: Jim Pullen]

The effort to establish civil unions in Colorado died in the state House last night. Lawmakers never got to debate the measure. Instead, procedural fights between Republicans and Democrats ended up in a stalemate that also killed more than two dozen other bills.

[The following is a transcript of Megan Verlee's report]

REPORTER MEGAN VERLEE: Democrats went into the evening debate worried that Republicans would try to filibuster the civil unions bill past a midnight deadline. And their fears seemed realized as one conservative after another stood to debate the minutia of other measures. But when Democrats tried to turn the tables and force lawmakers to move ahead with the agenda, Republicans called foul and suspended all work. After several hours of failed backroom negotiations, House Speaker Frank McNulty declared the civil unions bill dead.

Rep FRANK MCNULTY (R-Highlands Ranch): "These things happen. It is unfortunate when they do happen, but the timing is such that we’re simply not able to work through that impasse."

REPORTER: As McNulty finished speaking to the press, backers of civil unions began chanting from packed galleries above the House floor.

CROWD: “Shame on you! Shame on you! Shame on you!”

REPORTER: While the civil unions bill caused the standoff, it wasn’t the evening’s only casualty. A number of other high profile measures also ran out of time last night, becoming collateral damage. One authorized 20 million dollars in water projects. Another would have made it easier to charge people with driving under the influence of marijuana. And a third would have reformed school discipline policies. Democratic Representative Sue Schafer, said the legislature failed the public last night.

Rep SUE SCHAFER (D-Jefferson County): "I’m in my fourth year, I have not seen anything like this before, and I’ve talked with the lobbyists who’ve been for 40 years, they haven’t seen anything like this."

REPORTER: With the legislature wrapping up its session today, many are questioning whether Governor John Hickenlooper will call a special session to address any of the bills that ran out of time. So far the governor has downplayed that possibility.