Editor's note: Gov. Hickenlooper's office now says he is unwilling to call off the special session. Read our update at this link.
Colorado Senate President Kevin Grantham (R-Cañon City) has a message for the governor about the special session scheduled to start in less than two weeks: call it off.
“In this case, the toothpaste can be put back in the tube,” Grantham said in an interview Thursday for Balance of Power. “He should rescind the order.”
Gov. John Hickenlooper (D-Colorado) called the special session, scheduled to start October 2, to fix a mistake in a tax bill lawmakers passed earlier this year. The error cut off special districts, most prominently RTD, from being able to charge sales taxes on sales of recreational marijuana.
Asked if he need to take Grantham’s suggestion seriously and consider calling off the special session, Hickenlooper said he wants to talk it over with the parties involved.
“We’ll certainly talk to the special districts of course,” Hickenlooper said, adding that he wants to discuss Grantham’s concerns in depth. “I don’t understand where this is coming from, but obviously there must be some reason, so I’ll obviously want to sit down and talk to him.”
Hickenlooper doesn’t need permission from legislative leaders-- Colorado’s state constitution gives the governor unilateral power to call a special session.
However, the parties involved generally try to get on the same page so that a special session doesn’t last longer than three days—the minimum time it takes to pass a bill into law in Colorado.
While asking for it to be called off, Grantham predicted low odds of a special session running longer than four days—but said Republicans are still evaluating how to proceed.
He also threw a bit of fire at Hickenlooper, arguing that the governor did not engage enough with Republican lawmakers before calling the special session.
“He is taking a lot of time out of his schedule to work in this bi-partisan fashion with a Republican governor from Ohio,” Grantham said. “But he doesn’t seem to be able to do the same here in Colorado, so maybe a little bit more focus here would have been warranted.”
Grantham is referring to Hickenlooper’s recent media blitz—on tour with John Kasich, the former GOP presidential candidate, pushing for a bipartisan healthcare bill.
“The bottom line is I’ve been in Washington a day and a half in the last two-and-a-half months,” Hickenlooper responded. “It’s not like I’m living there.”
Hickenlooper says it’s part of his job to speak up on issue like healthcare when people in Colorado will be affected by decision in Congress.
As for the special session, no one meant to cut off special districts from marijuana taxes—a fact Grantham freely admits.
However, he and his fellow Republicans do argue the special session is unnecessary and that the fix can wait until the next regular session of the legislature in January.
That sort of delay would amount to roughly a $2 million hit to RTD’s budget, which is less than half of one percent of the agency’s annual budget. Still— RTD representatives say the loss of money isn’t helping them at a time when they’ve seen lower fare sales than expected.
In the grand scheme of state spending, a special session is barely a blip. It costs about $25,000 a day when lawmakers are in session.
But it does inconvenience the 100 members of Colorado’s part-time legislature. Members are back at their day jobs or traveling in the off period.
“Certainly it bugs me,” Grantham said. “It bugs a lot of folks that are in the legislature, Democrat and Republicans, that we had to do this right here and right now.”
Balance of Power airs every Sunday at 8:50am on 9NEWS, right before NBC’s Meet the Press. Episodes and extended interviews are posted on Sundays to 9NEWS.com.