Months of frustration fuel final chaotic push at Colorado Capitol |

Months of frustration fuel final chaotic push at Colorado Capitol

Colorado Democrats fight over priorities and tactics as Republicans cry process foul

Nick Coltran
The Denver Post
Democratic state Rep. Mike Weissman, right, addresses a question from Republican state Rep. Marc Catlin, center in the well during debates over amendments to SB23-303 in the House chambers in the Colorado State Capitol in Denver on May 7, 2023. At left is Republican state Rep. Lisa Frizell.
Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post

Long-simmering frustrations among Colorado lawmakers erupted into public view in a chaotic ending to the 2023 legislative session Monday night, as major legislation died and Democrats vented frustrations with their Republican colleagues and with each other.

In the span of an hour, House Republicans walked out of the Capitol in protest of a late Democratic effort to rush through changes to state tax policy. Gov. Jared Polis’s sweeping land-use reform bill died. In a meeting of the entire caucus, some House Democrats publicly questioned their party’s achievements for the session and wondered aloud if it was worth working with Republicans.

The chaos that unfolded in the legislature followed a grueling session of lengthy debates, previously rare weekend work, and a growing sense of acrimony among lawmakers in both chambers. Progressive lawmakers grew frustrated as their priority housing, gun violence, and substance use bills died in a Capitol that’s fully controlled by Democrats. Their moderate colleagues chafed at suggestions their party wasn’t doing enough after passing sweeping gun and abortion packages.

In the House, Democratic leadership, leery of Republican obstructionist tactics that had nearly derailed their agenda in last year’s legislative session, dusted off rarely used procedures to limit debate. In turn, Republicans — with historically low representation in the chamber — howled that they were being silenced and their constituents ignored.

Down the hall in the Senate, Democrats similarly sought to thread major policy proposals through a narrow window of deadlines necessary to make them law.

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All of those dynamics collapsed Monday night.

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