By Sandra Fish (June 19th, 2019)
But the rancor belies the fact that at least one Republican lawmaker supported all but 19 of the 460 bills approved, meaning 96% won bipartisan support.
The broad agreement is not unusual given the large volume of minor legislation, but the degree to which Republicans sided with Democrats is noteworthy.
Half of the 40 Republicans in the legislature voted for 66% of the bills that passed this year.
The findings are part of a new analysis from The Colorado Sun that looked at the votes cast in the 2019 legislative session by all 100 state lawmakers. The numbers show the Democratic-led statehouse — the first after four years of divided rule — found plenty of middle ground despite partisan divides on big issues, such as oil and gas regulation, a red flag gun law, sex education, paid family leave and more.
Democrats voted in lockstep on most issues. And much of the bipartisanship is owed to one Republican: Sen. Kevin Priola, an Adams County lawmaker eyeing a tough reelection in 2020 in a swing district. Priola voted for 90% of the bills that the Demcoratic majority advanced in the session.
“Obviously, if you take Kevin Priola out of the equation, the (bipartisan) number goes down quite a bit,” said Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg, D-Boulder. “He is very much a member of their caucus. But he also partnered with us on several bills.”
Of the 441 bipartisan bills, 14 passed with only one Republican vote. Priola was the lone GOP vote in favor of seven of those, including a measure to tighten up reporting on campaign donations and another he co-sponsored to ask voters this fall to retain tax money collected above TABOR limits.
“I vote my district, and a lot of that comes from the tens of thousands of calls, conversations I’ve had with voters over the years,” Priola said, explaining his votes in an interview.
When weighing bills, he said he asks himself: “Would the average person at the door think this is reasonable and fair and thought-out and will work, or will the average person think this isn’t going to work?”
In all, nine Republicans in the House and Senate voted with the Democratic majority nearly 70% of the time or more, according to the analysis of voting records. The most bipartisan Republican in the House was Salida Rep. Jim Wilson, who voted in favor of nearly 72% of the bills that passed.
Gov. Jared Polis and Democratic legislative leaders made significant policy shifts in the 120-day lawmaking term, and emphasized their efforts to win GOP votes on legislation. Once he finished signing bills earlier this month, Polis celebrated the “really historic success” of the 2019 session and pointed out that “95% of bills that reached my desk were bipartisan.”
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