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Colorado House Democrats limit debate on gun bills to stop GOP weekend filibuster


Colorado House Democrats limit debate on gun bills to stop GOP weekend filibuster

Mar 25, 2023 | 9:04 pm ET
By Sara Wilson
Colorado House Democrats limit debate on gun bills to stop GOP weekend filibuster
A view of the Colorado Capitol in Denver on March 23, 2023. (Quentin Young/Colorado Newsline)

Democrats in the Colorado House of Representatives limited debate on two firearm-related bills Saturday evening after the second afternoon of Republican filibustering.

Speaker Julie McCluskie moved to limit debate to one hour each on second reading for Senate Bill 23-168, which would make it easier for victims to sue gun manufacturers, and Senate Bill 23-170, which would expand the state’s extreme risk protection order, or red flag, statute. An ERPO allows authorities to confiscate firearms from individuals a court deems a risk.

It is a rarely-used tactic, as reported by The Colorado Sun, but one that is allowed and needs just a simple majority vote to invoke.

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“We take seriously the importance of our democratic process and of authentically engaging with the minority party on bills. At the end of the day, the smallest minority in 60 years does not have the right to stop votes on legislation that the vast majority of Coloradans desperately want to see passed,” McCluskie and Majority Leader Monica Duran said in a joint statement. “The rules of the institution exist to respect the will of the voters. To allow unprecedented obstruction at this scale from a small group of minority party members puts our democracy at risk, and we will not allow that. Too much is at stake.”

Rep. Matthew Martinez of Monte Vista voted the lone Democrat who voted against the motion.

Republicans said the move was one to “silence the voice of the minority.”

“The Legislature is the place for honest and lengthy debate, and this step removes that ability for the minority to represent their constituents effectively. Today will be looked back upon as a dark day for the democratic process in Colorado. It is not enough to have the votes to pass legislation already; now, the tyranny of the majority is complete,” House Minority Leader Mike Lynch said in a statement.

Republicans began their delay of the liability bill on Friday afternoon and kept lawmakers in the chamber until about 11 p.m. Friday night. When the House came back on Saturday morning, they debated the ERPO bill from about 9 a.m. to about 6 p.m.

Both bills are likely to pass, as they did in the Senate. Democrats hold large majorities in both chambers.

Republicans filibustered overnight earlier in the session on second reading of a bill that would establish a waiting period for firearm purchases and one that would permit overdose prevention centers.