Special Session: This Is Completely Ridiculous, Kevin Grantham

Colorado Senate President Kevin Grantham.

9NEWS’ Brandon Rittiman reports on one of the most bizarre and outrageous spectacles we’ve seen from the one-seat Republican Colorado Senate Majority–and that is no small statement:

Colorado Senate President Kevin Grantham (R-Cañon City) has a message for the governor about the special session scheduled to start in less than two weeks: call it off.

“In this case, the toothpaste can be put back in the tube,” Grantham said in an interview Thursday for Balance of Power. “He should rescind the order.”

…Asked if he need to take Grantham’s suggestion seriously and consider calling off the special session, Hickenlooper said he wants to talk it over with the parties involved.

To briefly recap the situation, a key bipartisan fiscal stabilization bill (SB17-267) was passed this year and signed into law to protect rural hospitals from possible closure. Unknown to either its Democratic or Republican sponsors, the bill contained a drafting error that has had the effect of eliminating marijuana sales tax revenues collected by special tax districts around the state–two of the better examples being Denver RTD and the Denver metro’s Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (SFCD). RTD alone stands to lose millions of dollars in uncollected revenue between now and when the legislature reconvenes in January, which is why Gov. John Hickenlooper called the special session to deal with the problem now.

And that’s where this all gets, well, rather infuriating:

“We’ll certainly talk to the special districts of course,” Hickenlooper said, adding that he wants to discuss Grantham’s concerns in depth. “I don’t understand where this is coming from, but obviously there must be some reason, so I’ll obviously want to sit down and talk to him.” [Pols emphasis]

…As for the special session, no one meant to cut off special districts from marijuana taxes—a fact Grantham freely admits.

However, he and his fellow Republicans do argue the special session is unnecessary and that the fix can wait until the next regular session of the legislature in January.

As we first reported late last week just as Republican objections to the special session were starting to make the news, GOP Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg (a prime sponsor of SB267) has already filed draft legislation for the 2018 session that would fix the error created by leaving special tax districts out of SB267. There’s no disputing the nature of the problem, and Sonnenberg’s bill shows how simple the fix would be. A special session of the legislature costs approximately $25,000 a day, so accounting for the minimum time required for legislation to pass the General Assembly means a total cost of under $100,000.

To save special districts from millions in lost revenue. How is this not a no-brainer, you ask?

…But it does inconvenience the 100 members of Colorado’s part-time legislature. Members are back at their day jobs or traveling in the off period.

“Certainly it bugs me,” Grantham said. “It bugs a lot of folks that are in the legislature, Democrat and Republicans, that we had to do this right here and right now.”

That’s right, folks! Senate President Kevin Grantham is annoyed about doing his job. The only thing that Grantham can hope for here is bigger political news driving this story down the page, because it is hugely embarrassing for Grantham and the one-seat Senate majority. Under the hood, political insiders understand that Republicans were divided on the passage of SB267, with outside agitators like the Independence Institute basically calling the deal a crime against the 1992 Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights up against rural lawmakers like Sen. Sonnenberg who couldn’t stand by while hospitals closed. Sonnenberg himself has been mentioned as a possible congressional candidate in the event Rep. Ken Buck doesn’t run again, and aggrieving the TABOR purists in the Colorado GOP isn’t an auspicious way to enter a Republican primary.

But none of that really matters. What matters is that lawmakers on both sides made a simple mistake–and rather than take the equally simple action needed to rectify that mistake before it costs millions, Senate Republicans are refusing to do their jobs. Their ulterior motives are irrelevant, because there’s just no excuse for this based on their stated rationale–or lack thereof. It is absolutely, irredeemably contemptible.

And for the tenuous Republican majority in the Colorado Senate, it could be political suicide.


23 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. FrankUnderwood says:

    You know what is "completely ridiculous"?

    Kevin Grantham's mustache.

  2. PseudonymousPseudonymous says:

    And for the tenuous Republican majority in the Colorado Senate, it could be political suicide.

    Or it changes nothing.  Because it  means nothing to their voters, and, therefore, nothing to these Republican electeds.  They don't care, because they don't have to.  It's Denver that's bleeding, maybe its lawmakers should be the ones you're castigating for passing this language in the first place.

    • bullshit!bullshit! says:

      This is actually FALSE INFORMATION and you need to stop spreading it. There are special tax districts all over the state that are affected by this error. This is impacting the Colorado Springs bus system, the Montezuma Hospital District, and other districts nowhere near Denver. Please don't do the GOP's job of creating false divisions between Denver and the rest of the state.

      • PseudonymousPseudonymous says:

        That's fair.  How much are they losing?  Could you link to where these other special districts have come out against their representatives and told them they need the special session?  By the coverage I've seen here and in the Post, it seems that the vast majority of the impact is on Denver Metro institutions.  I'm happy to learn more.

        • Old Time Dem says:

          You can find a list of special districts in the Department of Revenue's  Form DR 1002. This mistake probably affects the LIDs, the MTS, the MHAs, and the RTAs (to the extent a particular district has dispensaries).


          • PseudonymousPseudonymous says:

            That doesn't say what proportion of their funding comes from marijuana sales taxes.  For some, that number is probably zero.  For others, like RTD, it's apparently a bundle. Without knowing that, one can’t know if any particular district is affected by the legislative error, or, if it is, by how much. Even then, R voters might not care if the districts lose some money.

            My point hasn’t been that nobody else lost a dollar, it’s that Republicans and the people that elect them won’t see this as “their” issue. I don’t think anyone’s going to succeed at making it so.

            • Old Time Dem says:

              I know. That information is not easy to come by, but you can see how many districts are potentially affected and where they are.

              • PseudonymousPseudonymous says:

                Except you can't, right, because the only way to know who's affected is to know who gets weed money and how much, since that's what this error affects.

                • Old Time Dem says:

                  Can't what? Say if a district is affected, or give you a precise amount of lost revenue?

                  If it is a special district with a sales tax, and there are taxable marijuana sales in the district, it is apparently affected.

                  Some of the districts are small–basically shopping centers. They probably don't have dispensaries (or at least I haven't seen one at Flatirons).

                  But the RTAs and Montezuma Hospital District have dispensaries, so they are affected.

            • bullshit!bullshit! says:

              Actually, this is what you said:

              It's Denver that's bleeding, maybe its lawmakers should be the ones you're castigating for passing this language in the first place.

              And I pointed out that this statement is factually bullshit. You did not couch it in "the Republicans say," it really seemed to be what you think. Not that I really care one way or the other except for pointing out that you're wrong, but I'm not sure you're being completely honest about your motivations for "concern trolling" this on the GOP's behalf.

              • PseudonymousPseudonymous says:

                What's wrong about that?  The Denver metro area is losing several million dollars over this error.  That's the area Pols calls out.  I can't find another region mentioned in stories about this problem.  That's the area I expect is driving this conversation.  They certainly are bleeding.  And, if anyone else is too, I've suggested you point them out, with details.

                I'm not concern trolling.  I haven't expressed solidarity in order to undermine anything.  I'm simply stating an opinion: that Republican lawmakers aren't invested in finding a solution because they don't feel they have a reason to care.  I've not said the mistake shouldn't be fixed (although I think the bill itself is bad law) or that they're right to be acting the way they are.  I've only said that the idea that this will wound Republicans politically is, in my estimation,silly.

                Oh, and Denver lawmakers who voted for this bill certainly are responsible for not noticing this error and, thereby, harming their folks.

    • unnamed says:

      Oh, I can think of two GOP State Senators up for reelection in swing districts that would be effected by this.  Coupled with a potentially brutal electoral environment, it could sink them.

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