Updated at 9:46 a.m.: A group of pro-Palestine protestors briefly interrupted the Colorado House of Representatives on Saturday morning, shouting from the balcony overlooking the House floor and calling for lawmakers to support a ceasefire in Gaza.
Lawmakers had just reconvened for the morning when a small group of protesters unfurled Palestinian flags and a banner calling for an end to Israel’s occupation while one man shouted for lawmakers to condemn Israel’s campaign in Gaza.
Troopers from the Colorado State Patrol, who oversee security in the Capitol, shepherded the dozen or so protesters out of the balcony area. The group then began to chant from the building’s interior, watched by law enforcement.
A group of Democratic lawmakers — Reps. Iman Jodeh, Tim Hernandez, Jen Bacon and Javier Mabrey — spoke with the group, and one of the House’s sergeants — the chamber’s quasi-security force — told the protesters they could go down to a basement room to talk further with legislators.
Shortly after, the chanting restarted, including with a promise to return to protest again. The troopers then directed the group into a stairwell and out of the building.
The scene was similar to when a group of student protesters, urging lawmakers to take action on gun violence, shouted down from the House balcony last spring. Law enforcement and building security drew criticism in the wake of that incident after they physically carried one shouting student from the balcony.
The House remained in recess 45 minutes after, as tensions over the policy issue of the day — property taxes — flared up in the wake of the protests.
Original story: Colorado lawmakers are convening for the second day of a special session Saturday as they advance legislation that aims to provide property tax relief, flatten state tax refunds and provide more aid aimed at preventing evictions for renters.
Friday’s opening day featured quick work by committees to advance the majority Democrats’ bills — while also rejecting Republican-sponsored legislation. Tangling over the expedited three-day schedule erupted in a Senate floor dispute Friday night between Republicans and Democrats, resulting in contested rules votes and a delay that will likely extend the session into Monday.
On Saturday, the Senate plans to convene mid-morning and hold preliminary floor votes on legislation. The House aims to take final votes on bills introduced in that chamber, sending them to the Senate.
The special session that began Friday was called by Gov. Jared Polis in response to voters’ rejection of Proposition HH in the Nov. 7 election. The measure, championed by Polis and Democratic legislative leaders, had aimed to reduce the size of coming property tax increases that are driven by recent increases in property values across the state that average about 40% at the median.
Prop. HH also would have provided compensation to school districts and local governments and special districts that rely on property tax revenue for their budgets.
Now lawmakers are pursuing a similar strategy, though the changes would apply only for the coming year. The direct property tax relief provisions match those proposed in Prop. HH for residential properties, though the “backfill” provisions for local entities differ.
Disagreements around Prop. HH and the election results have played into this weekend’s legislative debates.
GOP lawmakers argue that the measure’s loss, by nearly 19 percentage points, shows voters don’t want legislators to divert money away from tax refunds due to them from the state’s surplus under the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, or TABOR.
Democrats are eyeing the surplus, including to cover a boost in the Earned Income Tax Credit. But for direct property tax relief, they have proposed drawing from $200 million previously set aside by the legislature for help on property taxes.
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