DENVER (AP) — Colorado’s Legislature passed bills adjusting several aspects of state COVID-19 relief on Friday before adjourning for a month in hopes that it will be safer to meet in the statehouse amid the coronavirus pandemic.
In a three-day session, the Democrat-led Senate and House passed a short list of bills that, among other things, extended limits on debt collections, allowed wills to be notarized remotely, renewed certain pandemic-related business tax credits and retooled a limited aid program for minority-owned small businesses in response to a lawsuit challenging its race-based criteria as discriminatory.
For the second time since Wednesday, most minority House Republicans protested the month-long break, insisting health safeguards at the statehouse are sufficient to keep addressing this year’s work, including short and long-term economic recovery, restoring drastic cuts to K-12 and higher education, and investing in transportation infrastructure, Colorado Politics reported.
Republicans also are eager to chip away at Democratic Gov. Jared Polis’ authority to renew emergency declarations and orders during the pandemic.
“By scheduling our regular sessions in fits and starts during a declared disaster emergency, the General Assembly is effectively abdicating its duty to represent the people’s will to the executive branch,” said Rep. Dave Williams of Colorado Springs as he read a formal letter of protest.
“This isn’t about legislators taking a month off,” said Majority Leader Daneya Esgar of Pueblo. “It is not safe to be in this building.”
Minority Leader Hugh McKean of Loveland agreed. “At this moment when we have such a rise, such a peak, in the cases of this vile disease ... I can support going and coming back,” he said.
About 370,000 Colorado residents have been sickened by the coronavirus, and more than 5,300 people have died with the disease, according to the state health department.
Both chambers passed resolutions honoring the birthday of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., who would have turned 92 on Friday.
“Many of the struggles he fought for are still unresolved,” said Sen. Janet Buckner, an Aurora Democrat, citing a continuing legacy of discrimination. “I am in that number. As a Black woman, I’ve always been treated differently than white counterparts. I have experienced more racism in my life than you can even imagine.”
Another resolution called on President-elect Joe Biden and other officials to reconsider a Trump administration decision to base the headquarters of the U.S. Space Command in Huntsville, Alabama. The command is provisionally based at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, and Wednesday’s decision outraged Colorado politicians.