(The Center Square) – Both chambers of Colorado’s General Assembly on Wednesday passed resolutions allowing lawmakers to participate and vote remotely to avoid the spread of COVID-19.
Both resolutions took hours of debate that at times grew heated. Democrats argued the rule changes would allow members with health issues to safely participate, while Republicans argued it’s important for members to represent their constituents in person.
The resolutions allow each chamber’s members to vote from home.
“This is only something that would happen in a declared disaster emergency,” Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg, D-Boulder, said.
“This is not something that I think is in the DNA of the Colorado Senate by any means, but it is something that I think we absolutely have to do to take care of our colleagues, our families, and the people of Colorado,” he added.
Senate Minority Leader Chris Holbert, R-Parker, said Republicans oppose the resolution because they see “there is a responsibility for those of us who are elected to represent the people to be here in this environment so that the public can see and hear what we have to say.
The General Assembly temporarily adjourned on March 14 and reconvened this week.
“I happen to believe that if you want to participate, then you do have to show up,” Rep. Dave Williams, R-Colorado Springs, said.
Williams added he had an issue that the legislature’s rules can be changed by a simple majority, rather than the previous two-thirds majority required.
“I think it’s a dangerous precedent to allow a simple majority to change these rules,” he said.
Rep. Jovan Melton, D-Aurora, said he was at the Capitol against his doctor’s orders, urging colleagues to pass the resolution.
“It’s a shame that I had to drive across town against my doctor’s orders to be here to speak up and ask for some compassion,” Melton said, explaining he’s had to take oxygen after being hospitalized in December and later diagnosed with acute heart failure.
“I should not be here,” he added. “My doctor has told me ‘do not go to work.’”