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Gov. Hickenlooper Calls Special Session Over Lawmakers' Mistake

By Shaun Boyd

DENVER (CBS4)- Gov. John Hickenlooper has signed an executive order calling lawmakers back to the state Capitol for a special session.

At issue is a few missing words in a law that took effect last month. That small omission, Hickenlooper says, has put millions of dollars at risk for organizations across Colorado, "This is one of those things, Republicans missed it, Democrats missed it. It's not a question of people being lazy or not working. They made a mistake."

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Rep. Steve Lebsock, a Democrat representing Northglenn and Federal Heights, first raised the issue in June.

"What we needed to do is include language in the bill that allocated money appropriately to special districts," said Lebsock.

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The new law - among other things - raised the sales tax on recreational pot. A big chunk of that money was to go to a half dozen special districts representing hundreds of organizations. But somehow, that wording got left out.

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Lebsock said, "The legislature is the only body that can change and amend law. The governor can't do it on his own. The joint budget committee on their own can't make this change. It can't be made at the staff level."

Scientific & Cultural Facilities District SCFD copy

The Science and Cultural Facilities District, or SCFD, which helps fund nearly 300 organizations like the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, said it's losing more than $50,000 a month.

Scott Reed with RTD said the error is costing them $500,000 a month.

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"RTD has quite a few pressures on our budget already. We're looking at cutting services already so anything removes more money negative impact," Reed.

The governor says that is why he decided not to wait until lawmakers come back in January.

"The rush is on because this money is not being collected so if we want to make them whole, now the cost would be, in order of magnitude, greater. That's why time is of the essence because we don't want to disadvantage these districts any more than we absolutely have to," Hickenlooper.

Colorado State Capitol
(credit: CBS)

The special session will convene Oct. 2. The governor says he expects it to last three days, the minimum time lawmakers need to pass a bill. He says a special session costs $20,000 to $25,000 a day and the money, he says, will come out of pot taxes.

Shaun Boyd is CBS4's political specialist. She's a veteran reporter with more than 25 years of experience. Follow her on Twitter @cbs4shaun.

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