State Democrats continued to assail Republican lawmakers on Tuesday for withholding funding for the Colorado Civil Rights Commission by holding a sprawling rally outside the Capitol and leveling attacks the GOP say are untrue and amount to political theater.
All the while, the situation — related to a lightning-rod case pending before the U.S. Supreme Court involving a same-sex couple and a wedding-cake baker in Lakewood — has wound its way further into the workings of a powerful legislative body that is tasked with drafting the state budget and generally transcends partisanship.
It was the Joint Budget Committee’s 3-3 vote Friday, in which all three Republicans voted to hold up the commission’s funding, that sparked the rally.
The panel’s Republicans had asked to table a decision on how much to give the commission while its future went before legislators for consideration under a so-called sunset review, which evaluates the need for the continued existence of an office or program.
The GOP members cited concerns with the commission stemming from its central role in the Supreme Court case, saying they wanted more information.
That request was rebuffed. And in the party-line vote, lawmakers deadlocked over whether to renew its funding — a decision that the JBC can revisit in the future.
But the not-uncommon tabling request and a decision to withhold funding stoked anger among Colorado Democrats, from Gov. John Hickenlooper and Denver Mayor Michael Hancock on down.
That emotion was on display Tuesday as Democrats and LGBT advocacy groups hosted a rally outside the Capitol accusing Republicans of trying to do away with the commission, which is housed under the Colorado Civil Rights Division, and roll back civil rights protections.
The episode has echoes of last session’s fight over the Colorado Energy Office, which was also up for sunset review. Republicans insisted on using the office’s expiration date to extract changes to how it operates. Democrats on the JBC attempted to renew its funding, but Republicans balked, saying the full legislature should have a say on the office’s future.
“We must protect the Civil Rights Division and commission and fight back against efforts to weaken the important protections that they provide for Coloradans,” House Speaker Crisanta Duran, D-Denver, told dozens of people waving signs in support of the Civil Rights Commission. “We must ensure the doors of opportunity for all of the Coloradans who will lead us to 21st-century solutions instead of taking us back to …read more
Source:: The Denver Post – News