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Colorado Lawmakers Hobble To End Of Special Session

DENVER (AP/CBS4) -- Colorado lawmakers wrapped up a special session Wednesday with little to show for returning to work. It was an extraordinary session, with quite ordinary results.

The Legislature convened its first special session since 2006 on Monday. Lawmakers were called back to Denver by Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper, who wanted them to reconsider a civil unions measure for same-sex couples.

But the civil unions proposal failed in a Republican House committee, and many of the additional bills Hickenlooper asked lawmakers to consider perished, too.

The Senate rejected a proposal to set a blood marijuana limit for drivers. A bill to create "benefit corporations" died in the House. The Legislature passed just three bills -- one on water projects, one on unemployment insurance and one on machinery regulation.

Worth a return trip to Denver? Many lawmakers weren't sold.

"The bills we passed could've been put in other pieces of legislation," said Rep. Mark Waller, the third-ranking House Republican.

Others insisted they needed to return. The nuts-and-bolts bills passed during special session were not passed during the regular term because they were swallowed up in a meltdown over civil unions.

"After what happened last week, it was extremely important that we come back and do the work we were sent here to do," said Democratic Rep. Andy Kerr.

Senate Democratic President Brandon Shaffer said civil unions was worth coming back to Denver to consider, and that the minor bills passed also were worth the trouble.

"With or without civil unions, I think a special session would have been justified," Shaffer said.

One of the few legislators who has been through two special sessions -- Republican Rep. Larry Liston -- said this year's will be remembered not for the work that was done but what wasn't done: civil unions.

But Liston insisted the special session wasn't a waste.

"In hindsight, or retrospect, we had to take care of some other important business," Liston said. But he was watching the clock: he is one of the lawmakers who face a primary contest next month, and every day in the special session cost him a day on the campaign trail.

"I'll definitely be walking precincts this time tomorrow," Liston said.

One bill that passed during the special session will help prevent fire danger. The water bill includes money for building new reservoirs, clearing dead timber from watersheds and using a satellite to track our streams and rivers so we can capture as much water as possible.

"This will impact communities, this will impact agriculture, this will impact our compact deliveries. It is a very significant issue for our state and how we plan for that is all part of this important bill," said Sen. Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass Village.

The money comes from severance taxes on the oil and gas industry. The bill funds $61 million worth of loans and grants.

- By Kristen Wyatt, AP Writer

(TM and © Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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