Colorado lawmakers brought a special session to screeching halt earlier this week without resolving an error pertaining to marijuana taxes. It was a legislative sideshow that, according to reports, nearly resulted in a clenched-fist riot between Democrats and Republicans over which party is to blame for sectors losing out on millions of dollars.
The Republican-dominated Senate did not waste any time on Tuesday snuffing out yet another Democratic proposal designed to give special districts the ability to collect taxes on recreational marijuana. The proposal would have revived a portion of the law that was repealed earlier this year.
The Denver Post reports that this shredding of the bill prompted lawmakers to get into a knock down, drag out battle of the blame, each side calling the other out for wasting time, opportunity and tax dollars.
Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, who called together the special session in the first place, issued a statement shortly after the debacle, expressing his disdain for the Senate’s stubbornness.
“It is disappointing that the Republican-controlled Senate refused to fix an error, acknowledged as a mistake by all involved,” he said. “Coloradans expect us to work together and solve problems. This week, we failed to do so. The special districts will continue to have unintended funding cuts - cuts that will have real implications for Coloradans who rely on buses to get to work, cultural institutions to educate their families, and other services.”
In May, a law was passed intended to “ensure and perpetuate the sustainability of rural Colorado by addressing...demographic, economic, and geographical challenges." But there was an error in the legislation that prevented some Colorado districts from collecting in upwards of hundreds of thousands of dollars a month in tax revenue through the sale of recreational marijuana.
In September, Governor Hickenlooper announced a special session to take care of the problem – a move that was to be paid for by the very districts the session aimed to benefit. But Senate leadership was against the concept from the very beginning, arguing that it was representative of the same “bought and paid for” politics that is often criticized.
"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 Senate President Kevin Grantham. “What's next? Will he try lining up sponsorships for the regular session as well? His complete mishandling of this situation, from beginning to end, doesn’t bode well for next week."
Grantham’s prediction was on point. Two bills prepared for the sole purpose of remedying the tax error were killed.
It is possible that lawmakers could give consideration to the issue when they return in January for the normal session. But there are no guarantees.
“In the end, partisan politics overshadowed the clear intentions of Colorado voters,” Hickenlooper said. “These tactics only divide us and fuel cynicism. We have been raised to own up to our mistakes and fix them. Most Coloradans believe these values should apply to everyone, especially to government.”