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Publish Date: 5/10/2005

Legislature’s parting shot kills smoking ban
Primary seat-belt bill also goes down in defeat


DENVER — The proposal to impose a statewide ban on smoking in bars, restaurants and a variety of other indoor venues died in the closing hours of the Colorado Legislature’s 2005 session on Monday.

Also going down to defeat, as senators and state representatives wrapped up nearly four months of lawmaking, was a proposal to make seat-belt violations a “primary” traffic offense, which would have allowed police to pull over and ticket unbuckled drivers for that violation alone.

The Legislature did, however, approve to expand Colorado’s hate-crimes law by criminalizing the harassment or intimidation of another person because of the victim’s sexual orientation or a physical or mental disability.

The Colorado General Assembly ended its annual session shortly after 8 p.m. Monday, more than 48 hours ahead of constitutionally-set midnight Wednesday deadline for adjourning this year’s 120 calendar-day-long session.

Democratic leaders, whose party held majorities of the seats in both the House and Senate for the first time in more than 40 years, made it a point of personal pride to try to complete the session early, the first time in memory that has happened.

“The session ending early was another example of a productive year for the new Democratic majority,” the House Democratic press staff proclaimed in a Monday night e-mail.

But Louisville Democratic Rep. Paul Weissmann argued in an interview earlier that day that “it’s not a news story that we ended early.”

Weissmann said the Legislature’s early adjournment probably wouldn’t mean much to most people outside the Capitol, and even to many working inside the statehouse.

On the other hand, Colorado Springs Republican Sen. Ron May observed at one point Monday that it was time to put an end to this year’s session.

“The longer we stay here, the more dangerous we are,” May said.

Being a majority-party member did not guarantee successes for all Democratic-sponsored bills. as the final day illustrated.

Two Democrats joined 16 Republicans, for example, in Monday evening’s 18-16 Senate vote to reject the session’s final version of Denver Democratic Sen. Dan Grossman’s Colorado Clean Indoor Air Act, the proposed state smoking ban.

And while Denver Sen. Peter Groff got most of his fellow Senate Democrats’ support in last Friday’s 18-16 vote for the proposal to make seat-belt offenses a “primary” traffic violation, Denver Rep. Fran Coleman was unable Monday to collect all of her fellow House Democrats’ support for the Senate-amended version of that bill.

The Coleman-Groff seat-belt bill died on a 32-32 tie vote Monday. Twenty-four House Democrats and seven Republicans joined Coleman in voting for the Senate-amended seat-belt measure, while 22 Republicans and 10 Democrats voted against it.

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