What You Need To Know About Colorado’s Special Legislative Session On Oct. 2

Originally published on September 30, 2017 9:25 am

On Oct. 2, members of Colorado’s legislature are set to gather for a special session.

Gov. John Hickenlooper has been clear on why he thinks a special legislative session is needed. Some tax revenues, he said, are not going to places like the Denver Zoo and museums because of a mistake in a bill he signed earlier this year.

But Republican leaders don’t believe the problem is urgent and said the special session is unnecessary.

At issue is Senate Bill 267, the expansive bipartisan measure to prevent cuts to rural hospitals. The bill inadvertently prevented eight special districts from collecting sales taxes on retail marijuana, taxes already approved by voters to help fund everything from museums to transit. 

Hickenlooper said special districts are losing about $600,000 each month, and while it’s not impacting operations for places like RTD, he believes it’s only fair lawmakers allow them to collect the sales taxes they’re owed as soon as possible.

“Why should the special districts have to wait three months and lose over $2 million in revenue for the convenience of those of us who made the mistake?” he said.

Republicans want to wait to fix the problem until lawmakers come back to the Capitol in January for the regular legislative session. They were not happy with the $75,000 price tag for a three-day special session.

The special districts said they were fine waiting until January, but they also offered to cover the cost of a special session.

“Out of the goodness of their hearts, they’re saying take it off the top as the first money begins to be collected,” said Hickenlooper.

But that move had only further angered Republican leadership, who also felt that the session was called prematurely and they weren’t adequately brought into discussions.

"Having interested parties pay the cost of a special session has to be one of the worst ideas I’ve ever heard from this governor, coming in close second to his baffling and botched decision to hold an unnecessary special session without doing the pre-planning and consultations required to improve our chance of success,” said Republican Senate President Kevin Grantham.

Hickenlooper said he does bear some responsibility for the communication breakdown.

“Hey I accept that, miscommunications happen. That’s not a reason to say we’re not going to do this,” said Hickenlooper. “The special districts in no way caused this, and they’re being penalized. No-one can explain to me why they’re being penalized.”

To further complicate matters, other Republicans Like Sen. Tim Neville of Littleton are ideologically opposed to any tax changes or fixes and said since changing the bill would bring in more revenue, the question must go back to voters. 

Capitol Coverage is a collaborative public policy reporting project, providing news and analysis to communities across Colorado for more than a decade. Fifteen public radio stations participate in Capitol Coverage from throughout Colorado.

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