DENVER—Gov. John Hickenlooper is meeting with resistance from fellow Democrats after floating the idea of holding a special session on the deadly flooding disaster.
Hickenlooper said at a press conference Thursday that he’s considering calling for a special three-day session to beef up laws governing flood-related contractor fraud and looting, adding that, “so far, most of the issues we’ve been able to deal with directly.”
“That doesn’t mean we’ve covered every avenue,” said Hickenlooper in the Denver Post.
Hickenlooper said he would make a decision in the next few days. If he does call a special session on flood relief, however, it creates an opportunity for Republicans to push for other items to be added to the call, starting with last session’s widely criticized Democrat-pushed bill on election reform.
Both House Speaker Mark Ferrandino (D-Denver) and Senate Majority Leader Morgan Carroll (D-Aurora) told the Post they weren’t convinced a special session was necessary to handle the issues arising from the epic floods, which resulted in eight deaths and brought destruction to 17 counties.
“[N]othing has been brought to my attention that would need the legislature to come into session before January 2014,” said Ferrandino.
A special session is seen as politically risky for Democrats, given that it could open the door for other issues to be raised at a time when the party is still reeling from its stunning defeats in the Sept. 10 recall election.
Leading the list is House Bill 1303, the newly approved Voter Access and Modernized Elections Act, which critics argue needs to be revisited before the Nov. 5 election. State Rep. Frank McNulty and the Colorado Springs Gazette have already called for a special session to clean up the elections bill, saying it sets the stage for widespread voter fraud.
State Sen. Greg Brophy (R-Wray) said that if the governor does call a special session, Republicans should request the addition of H.B. 1303 to the call. The legislature is limited to considering items listed by the governor in his call for a special session.
“We as GOP legislators should tell the governor, ‘Look, if we’re going to call a special session anyway, let’s put the election-fraud bill on the call and get that resolved before November,’” said Brophy. “This [special session] does give us an opportunity to raise those issues.”
McNulty said there may not be enough time in a three-day session to fix everything wrong with H.B. 1303, but the problem with district-shifting “gypsy voters” could be addressed, which would help ensure the integrity of the November balloting.
“This bill is so poorly written that there’s going to be more work to be done, but what we can do is clear up the most glaring instances of fraud and abuse that were brought up during the special election,” said McNulty.
State Democrats have insisted that there’s nothing amiss with the election law, despite episodes such as Independence Institute president Jon Caldara’s casting of a blank ballot in the recall election of state Sen. John Morse.
But the Democrats’ hold on the state legislature was weakened by the recalls, which saw Morse and state Sen. Angela Giron replaced by Republicans Bernie Herpin and George Rivera. The two Republicans are scheduled to be sworn in next week.
That gives Democrats a paper-thin 18-17 majority in the state Senate, meaning that the GOP would need just one Democratic vote to pass legislation. In addition, no Democrat has yet been named to replace Morse, who was Senate President.
Hickenlooper noted that the calling of a special session could be a “distraction.” So far he has signed executive orders to contribute $91.5 in state funding toward flood relief.
“We want to see if it’s really useful, and if it is valuable, we’ll call one,” said Hickenlooper.
The governor has done it before, calling a special session in May 2012 to consider legislation on civil unions.