Colorado Lawmakers To Return For Special Session On COVID-19 Relief

November 16, 2020
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Flags fly at half-staff in front of the dome of the Colorado State Capitol while it is illuminated in red light to remember the more than 1,000 people in the state who have died from the new coronavirus, Friday, May 15, 2020, in Denver. Buildings across the state were lighted red to coincide with a moment of silence at 7 p.m. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Two Democratic leaders at the state legislature confirmed to CPR News that Gov. Jared Polis is preparing to call a special session to bring lawmakers back to the Colorado Capitol to address COVID-19 relief funding. The Democratic leaders said it’s not yet clear when the special session would occur.

The governor’s office did not immediately confirm those plans. But Polis’ office issued a joint press release with the state legislature's Democratic leadership Monday evening.

“Legislative leaders and the Governor’s office have been having productive conversations on how we can step up to help provide additional relief to Colorado businesses and hardworking families during these challenging times. Coloradans continue to wait for Congress to act, but we are committed to doing what we can as a state.”

The state legislature is scheduled to begin its regular annual session on Jan. 13, 2021.

Leaders in both parties are still trying to figure out the logistics of how to safely bring lawmakers back to the Capitol, in addition to staff and members of the public, with the numbers of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations spiking across the state. It’s also not clear how the special session would be conducted.

When the legislature met over the summer, some lawmakers were allowed to work remotely. Lawmakers were encouraged but not required to wear masks inside the Capitol, and a number of Republican lawmakers regularly chose to not wear masks. Lobbyists also voluntarily agreed to mostly work remotely.

Republican Rep. Patrick Neville of Castle Rock, who has been critical of the governor’s earlier stay-at-home order and overall response to the pandemic, said on Twitter that a special session was in the works.

“Let me get this straight… Polis says you can’t have Thanksgiving but he can call 100 legislators from 100 different families together,” he tweeted.

The move comes on the heels of most state government employees working remotely and the state encouraging local governments and small employers to do the same.

Others were supportive of a special session.

“When Coloradans are in need it is our responsibility to do everything we can to help,” said Democratic state Sen. Faith Winter of Westminster.

Democratic Sen. Dominick Moreno of Commerce City, chair of the Joint Budget Committee, said a special session makes sense.

“For the types of relief being considered, a special session probably provides the safest way under state law to make policy changes and get financial support to families and small businesses.”

Polis has said helping the state recover from the pandemic and boosting the economy are his top priorities for the coming months. On Oct. 28 he signed an executive order to provide more economic relief to Coloradans who earn less than $52,000 a year and have filed for unemployment benefits during the coronavirus pandemic. Polis said the one-time payment of $375 would go out to more than 400,000 people by early December. He said the payments became necessary after it was clear Congress was unlikely to pass another COVID-19 relief package soon.