DENVER (KDVR) — After days of negotiating, lawmakers at the state Capitol were able to reach a compromise on the fentanyl accountability and prevention measure.
The final version of the measure allows people arrested for possession to prove at trial they were unaware fentanyl was mixed in with other drugs. Lawmakers also approved removing language that would have lifted the felony aspect of the measure in 2025.
While some lawmakers saw the move as a compromise, others argued it leaves the door open for anyone caught with the drug to get out of felony charges. The final version was passed out of the House by a vote of 35-30 with Republican prime sponsor Mike Lynch of Wellington asking for his name to be removed from the bill.
“I couldn’t stay on that bill any longer. That broke my heart because there is a lot of good things in that bill but I will tell you that it’s not enough. It’s not this House or this legislature listening to the people who are on the ground trying to fix that problem,” Lynch said.
The move left former Weld County Sheriff and current Senator John Cooke to act as the lone Republican prime sponsor of the bill.
“Each legislator has to do what they think is right and best and so Rep. Lynch decided that he couldn’t live with his name on that bill at the final product. I don’t begrudge him for it, that was his decision,” Cooke said.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisles are reflecting on what they were able to accomplish this year. To no surprise, there are a lot of different opinions.
Fentanyl took up a lot of conversation this year. In the background, there were lots of decisions about how to spend state money. That is where lawmakers had some differences.
Democrats at the state Capitol said success from this year’s session came from members of the General Assembly working together.
“This has been, I think, one of the most productive sessions that I have seen in my entire time here at the Capitol,” said outgoing House Speaker Alec Garnett.
“One of the greatest undersung stories of this session is the thoughtful, bipartisan way we used the American Rescue Act funds. If you look at other states where there were enormous fights between executive and legislative branch, and Republicans and Democrats, that didn’t happen here,” said Governor Jared Polis.
Senate Republicans sang a different tune at their end-of-session press conference.
“Out of the 44 bills we introduced, five were passed and signed into law,” said outgoing Senate Minority Leader Chris Holbert. “Given the state of this state and the dire economic consequences Coloradans find themselves in, it is certainly puzzling that Democrats didn’t partner with us to pass more of those bills.”
House Republicans agreed with Democrats, saying many issues across the state were addressed but they feel the solutions that passed did not go far enough.
“What I observed that the Democrats did was too little, not enough, didn’t go far enough and really if you think about things like the unemployment trust fund; they really should have fully paid off what we owe the $1.1 billion. When it came to our PERA obligation, we could’ve repaid that. We came pretty darn close,” said Representative Matt Soper of Delta.
Some lawmakers are already looking ahead to the next session. With an interesting upcoming election season and a fair number of outgoing members, the Capitol is bound to look a lot different in 2023.
While lawmakers were able to pass key agenda items at the last minute, some bills were not able to make it out like a measure that originally called for local and state governments to create and enforce climate-friendly building codes as well as a measure that would have prevented police from using deceptive interrogation tactics to obtain statements from kids.
For more on some of the winners and losers of this year’s legislative session, tune into Colorado Point of View this Sunday a 7:30 a.m. on Channel 2 News.