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Colorado Democrats call for civility, Republicans for less government to start session

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(The Center Square) – Colorado’s General Assembly started the 2024 session on Wednesday with Democrats pledging to create a collaborative environment and Republicans emphasizing limits on government.

“The first goal I want to talk about today is how we can guarantee a fair shake for every member, respect our diversity of lived experiences and identities and make civility a priority in our discourse,” House Speaker Julie McCluskie, D-Dillon, said in opening remarks after pro-Palestinian protesters were earlier escorted out of the chamber.

Republicans walked out of the House on the last day of the 2023 session after Democrats ended debate on a property tax bill creating Proposition HH. The initiative was defeated by voters in November.

“Please let those voices be heard – the voices that continue to believe in limited government, property rights, school choice and those Coloradans who understand there is no such thing as government money,” House Minority Leader Mike Lynch, R-Wellington, and a candidate for the 4th Congressional District. “It’s their money. Because government has no way of producing income outside of our free market successes.”

Democratic Gov. Jared Polis called a special session after the defeat of Prop HH and it resulted in a bill creating a bipartisan task force to continue studying property taxes.

“Spiking housing prices have brought the property tax question in Colorado to a crescendo – and it turns out the answer was definitely not a certain double-lettered ballot initiative,” Senate President Steve Fenberg, D-Boulder, said. “We’ve provided significant relief to ease the pain for vulnerable folks over the past few years and during the special session – but that won’t ensure we aren’t in this position again in the future.”

Senate Minority Leader Paul Lundeen, R-Monument, echoed Lynch’s remarks.

“Relief. Relief. Relief,” Lundeen said. “These are the words that should echo in this chamber and resound throughout our state.”

Throughout the day lawmakers in both chambers introduced dozens of bills.

Republicans introduced a bill to lower the state’s income tax rate from 4.4% to 4.0%. The minority party previously proposed a cut to 4.0% during the special session, but the bill was defeated.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced a bill that would allow counties to create property tax credit or rebate programs “to directly improve an area of specific local concern related to the use of real property in the county.”

Another bipartisan bill would bar commercial properties from using certain grasses in an effort to conserve water.

“The General Assembly therefore declares that preventing the installation, planting, or placement of nonfunctional turf, artificial turf, and invasive plant species in commercial, institutional, or industrial property or transportation corridor is(a) a matter of statewide concern; and (b) in the public interest,” Senate Bill 24-005 states.

Senate Bill 24-003, sponsored by Sen. Tom Sullivan, D-Centennial, and Rep. Meg Froelich, D-Greenwood Village, would allow the Colorado Bureau of Investigation to investigate illegal firearm activity with a $1.7 million appropriation.

A bill introduced by Rep. Brandi Bradley would prohibit Chinese and Russian entities from owning agricultural land in the state. Similar proposals have been considered in several Republican-led states.

Derek Draplin contributed to this story.

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