DENVER (AP) — Colorado lawmakers concluded a historic session Wednesday that saw ruling Democrats exert their power to pass sweeping gun laws, same-sex civil unions, and in-state tuition for immigrants in the country illegally.
The legislative session also included new regulations on the legalization of marijuana, approved by voters in November. But the 120-day session didn't end without a few big ideas left on the table.
By the time the end rolled around, lawmakers were in a jovial mood in the Senate, singing "Take Me Out To the Ball Game," slinging rubber-bands and tossing a plastic ball. House Republicans smoked cigars at a balcony outside the chamber.
Legislators tackled some of the most contentious ideas early on, including the strictest gun laws in Colorado's history, with limits on the size of ammunition magazines and universal background checks.
Those proposals drew strong opposition from Republicans. But Democrats consolidated power after November's elections after two years of split-chamber control, and they used their numbers to easily pass the legislation they wanted.
They approved same-sex civil unions and in-state tuition for immigrants in the country illegally who graduate from Colorado high schools.
In a normal year, those bills would've been enough to define a landmark legislative session for Democrats.
But they also wielded their power to pass an overhaul of elections law — which includes same-day voter registration — now pending a decision from Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat.
Democrats made no apologies for setting an ambitious legislative agenda.
"We basically decided, we're not messing around," said Senate Democratic Leader Morgan Carroll, adding that Democrats didn't want to use their newfound power to pursue bills that "move commas and don't really change life for the people of Colorado."
"We would rather be criticized for tackling too many of Colorado's problems than not enough," Carroll said.
Republicans saw it differently.
"I think it'll be remembered as one of the most divisive and overreaching sessions in the history of the state," said Rep. Mark Waller, R-Colorado Springs, the GOP's House leader. "I've heard lobbyists who have been here 20 or 30 years say that they have not seen this much weighty legislation jammed into one session."
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