Historic Session: Colorado legislature passes laws on guns, pot, civil unions & immigrant tuition

DENVER - Colorado has wrapped up a historic session that saw ruling Democrats pass sweeping legislation on gun control and same-sex civil unions, regulation of recreational marijuana and in-state college tuition for immigrants in the country illegally.

The legislative session ended Wednesday, but Democrats continue to trumpet their achievements. On the other side, Republicans are likely to blast the majority party for swinging too far to the left.

Here's a breakdown of major legislation that passed in the fourth-month session.


--Gun Control--

In reaction to the deadly shootings at the Century 16 Aurora movie theater and Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, Democratic lawmakers pushed through a suite of legislation that requires universal background checks for gun buyers; prohibits the sale, transfer or possession of ammunition magazines holding more than 15 rounds (People can keep larger-capacity magazines acquired before the law took effect); and prevents people who have been convicted of domestic violence from owning or carrying firearms.

Pro: "We have made great progress this session on measures to reduce the gun violence that is ravaging our neighborhoods. And we’ve done it while remaining respectful to the Second Amendment." --  Rep. Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora, who sponsored several gun-control bills.

Con: "This is about criminalizing law-abiding citizens. These laws will have no deterrent effect whatsoever on the tragedy that occurred in Aurora." -- El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa, among a group of Colorado sheriff's planning a lawsuit to block new gun laws.


--Civil Unions--

Democrats said the long-sought civil unions law will "grant all loving partners, regardless of gender, basic legal rights."

Pro: "This bill is about three simple things. It's about love, it's about family, and it's about equality under the law" -- bill sponsor Rep. Mark Ferrandino, D-Denver, the first openly gay speaker of the Colorado House.

Con: "What this bill is about, really, is the Bible. Is it right or wrong?" -- Rep. Lori Saine, R-Dacono.


--Recreational Marijuana--

Lawmakers pushed through a raft of legislation to regulate the sale and use of recreational marijuana after Colorado voters passed Amendment 64 last fall allowing people 21 or older to privately use and grow small amounts of marijuana.  

This included passage of bills to license and regulate marijuana stores, products, manufacturers, growing and testing facilities; to establish a blood-test limit to impose sanctions on people who drive while stoned; to place a referendum on the November ballot asking state voters to approve a 15 percent excise tax, to be used for school construction, and a 10 percent special state sales tax, to pay for regulation and enforcement, to recreational marijuana sales when it begins in January.

Pro: "The passage of these bills marks a major milestone toward the creation of the world's first legal, regulated, and taxed marijuana market for adults…We are confident that the final product will be a comprehensive, robust, and sufficiently funded regulatory system that will effectively control marijuana in Colorado." -- Christian Sederberg of the Amendment 64 campaign.

Con:  "While Smart Colorado advocated for the strictest regulatory framework, legislators ended up voting for an approach that could open Colorado up to mass commercialization by Big Marijuana as early as next year. Additionally, marijuana potency limits, specific production caps, and important educational programs for middle- and high-school students about how marijuana impacts the teen and young adult brain were omitted from the final legislation" -- from a statement by Smart Colorado, a coalition advocating "smart policies that decrease marijuana use and its harm to our people, communities, businesses and healthcare system."



After six failed attempts over 10 years, Democratic lawmakers and some Republicans passed legislation allowing immigrant students in the country illegally who graduate from Colorado high schools to attend college at the in-state rate. Lawmakers also passed a bill allowing Colorado residents who lack citizenship to obtain a driver’s license, instruction permit or a state issued identification card. Proponents argued that it endangers public safety to have noncitizen residents continue to drive without a license or insurance.

Pro: "Every kid matters. We need every child that we can get to be as educated as they are capable." -- Gov. John Hickenlooper after signing the in-state tuition bill into law.

Con: "[This immigrant tuition bill is] a small step down the road of amnesty and amnesty doesn’t work. This is a false hope. The federal government needs to fix this problem." -- Sen. Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud.

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