Colorado lawmakers fail on redistricting compromise
May 11, 2011
DENVER (AP) – Colorado Democrats killed the last bill that would have let legislators redraw congressional districts this session. Now it’s up to the courts or a costly special session.
Congressional redistricting is required every 10 years following the census to ensure voter equality.
Democratic Senate President Brandon Shaffer said he would not be forced into a “blatantly gerrymandered map,” but he agreed to look at a new proposal from Republicans in an effort to keep the last redistricting bill alive after Republicans launched a filibuster. The bill died later Tuesday on a 3-2 party line vote in the Senate State Affairs Committee.
Shaffer said allegations from GOP House Speaker Frank McNulty that it was the Democrats’ plan all along to force redistricting into the courts were “just false.”
The session began in January with Democrats and Republicans promising bipartisan cooperation, holding 10 hearings across the state to get voter opinions. McNulty said Democrats held the hearings to gather ammunition for a court battle, and joint press conferences with Democrats promising to come up with a bipartisan redistricting map were a charade.
“They were posturing to go to court the entire time,” he said.
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In a confrontation with Senate Majority Leader John Morse on the Senate floor on Tuesday, Republican Minority Leader Mike Kopp said if the House bill wasn’t given a hearing, Republicans would filibuster and dramatically slow down work as lawmakers raced to pass bills before the session ends Wednesday.
The filibuster began after Senate Democrats passed their own token plan Tuesday to draw new congressional districts that has no chance of passage before the Legislature adjourns.
Both sides said a special session would be futile unless either side is willing to make more concessions.
With the hours ticking down before the Legislature adjourns, Rep. Mark Waller, the third-ranking Republican in the House, said the GOP map in the House was the Legislature’s best option.
“It’s our charge in this General Assembly to pass congressional redistricting,” he said. “This is the only map that has come forward for a vote in the General Assembly.”
Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper called a meeting with both sides to try to negotiate a compromise, but canceled it after members of the news media demanded access.
Congressional redistricting is required every 10 years following the census to ensure voter equality. It matters to voters because their representatives will make important decisions on health care, the federal budget, Medicaid and other issues that have embroiled members of Congress.
A decade ago, it took seven years, ending with an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court to get it done in Colorado.
During the last election, Republicans picked up two seats in Colorado, giving them a 4-3 majority, and Democrats would like new maps that provide help winning back some of those spots.
Associated Press writer Ivan Moreno also contributed to this report.