One Democratic state senator accused of blocking a vote on a proposed firearms tax

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Democratic state Sen. Kyle Mullica at the Capitol, March 1, 2023.

Democratic state Sen. Kyle Mullica is facing pressure from fellow Democrats who say he is blocking a vote on a proposed new excise tax on firearms.

The measure would put a question on the November ballot, asking voters to impose an excise tax on gun and ammunition purchases. The money would go toward mental health services and victims of domestic violence and other violent crimes.

Mullica chairs Colorado’s Senate Finance Committee, and members of the Democratic Women's Caucus have publicly accused him of obstructing one of Democrats' top-priority gun bills for the session. If he refuses to bring House Bill 1349 to a vote, it could die on the calendar when the legislative session ends next week on May 8.

“It is not acceptable that Senator Mullica could single-handedly prevent the people of Colorado from weighing in on this critical issue,” states a letter from the Women’s caucus.

Sen. Mullica told CPR News that he hasn’t set a hearing date because he has been working with sponsors and advocates to address his concerns. 

“That’s why it hasn’t yet been scheduled. There’s active conversations still happening.”

He said there are some false narratives in the letter and said he’s not blocking a vote.

“When you have issues or concerns with a bill you try to work to get that addressed, and that’s what I’ve been doing multiple times a day with the sponsors and advocates,” said Mullica.

He said a tax on guns is an emotionally charged issue and he thinks it deserves a certain level of detail. 

“The bill calls for funding for some good things,” he said. “But it’s a tax.”

It’s not uncommon for bills to be up in the air in the final week of the legislature when the Capitol becomes a very fluid and fast-paced environment. For instance, a bill banning the sale and transfer of “assault” weapons also hasn’t been scheduled for a Senate hearing — but the chair of that committee has already confirmed he planned to hold a public hearing.

The Democratic women’s caucus, which is a voluntary membership consisting of 23 Democratic women from both chambers, said in a formal letter that they were extremely disappointed in Mullica for stalling on scheduling the excise tax measure for a hearing, “and indicating he will not pass it if he does.”  

“This will prevent the bill from being heard by the full Senate, and make it impossible for the measure to go before voters,” the letter read.

House Majority Leader Monica Duran is the measure’s main sponsor. She said, that as a survivor of domestic violence, the bill is close to her heart. She wants to help other victims get the resources they need and considers herself one of the lucky ones who escaped their abuser.

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Democratic Majority Leader Monica Duran, Jan. 31, 2024.

“I found myself struggling to make ends meet, navigate the court system, and get the mental health care I needed in my darkest time,” wrote Duran. “Victim services changed my life as a single mom trying to provide a home and healthy environment for my son.”

The bill cleared the House with almost unanimous Democratic support, though one Democrat joined Republicans to oppose it. Opponents argue it amounts to an unfair tax on gun owners and infringes on Second Amendment rights. They say it’s part of a pattern of Democratic bills this session that would be cumbersome and onerous for law-abiding gun owners in the state. 

However, the bill still needs to clear the Democratic-controlled Senate. The first step there is the Finance Committee, which has a 4-3 Democratic majority. If the committee does not take up the measure by May 7, there will not be enough time to pass the measure before the session ends on May 8.

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