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'It's Very Serious': Colorado Legislature Will Adjourn To Avoid Coronavirus Threat

Colorado's Democratic party leaders talk about their plans to take a two-week recess at the state Capitol because of the threat from the coronavirus.
Scott Franz
/
Capitol Coverage
Colorado's Democratic party leaders talk about their plans to take a two-week recess at the state Capitol because of the threat from the coronavirus.

The state legislature will adjourn for at least two weeks starting Saturday to help protect the public from the spread of COVID-19.

With its big political debates and historic treasures, the state Capitol building often sees thousands of visitors each day.

That has lawmakers worried about the potential for the virus to spread in the busy building.

"We're in a unique time," Senate President Leroy Garcia, D-Pueblo, said Friday after leaders from both parties introduced the measure that will start the recess after lawmakers finish up some work on Saturday morning.

A worker at the Capitol offered reporters hand sanitizer before the press conference began.

Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg, D-Boulder, said lawmakers don't want to go home in the middle of the session. But the legislature "wants to make sure people are safe."

The announcement came shortly after the state said a woman in El Paso County died from the virus and Gov. Jared Polis urged the cancellation of large public gatherings of more than 250 people.

Meanwhile, schools around the state are closing in response to the virus.

Polis said it's likely "thousands" of Coloradans have COVID-19 but have not yet been diagnosed with it.

"Many Coloradans are going to get it," he said Friday. "You're gonna get it or a friend will get it or a family member. Somebody you know is going to have coronavirus. They are very likely to have minor symptoms. They will have to remain isolated in their home."

Legislative leaders said there are still several unanswered questions about what impact the recess will have on their agenda.

Democrats are pursing a public health insurance option and a paid family leave program, among other proposals.

"There are over 350 bills still in the process right now and there's going to have to be a lot of reevaluating," House Speaker KC Becker said.

Lawmakers are asking the Colorado Supreme Court to decide whether the session can be extended past its scheduled ending date of May 6 to make up for the lost time.

The measure to recess will include a provision to allow legislative aides to work remotely and receive pay while lawmakers are away from the Capitol.

The legislature is meeting at 9 a.m. Saturday to finish up their work before taking votes on the resolution for a recess.

Because the measure is sponsored by the leaders of both parties, it is expected to pass with broad support.

Copyright 2020 KUNC

Scott Franz is a government watchdog reporter and photographer from Steamboat Springs. He spent the last seven years covering politics and government for the Steamboat Pilot & Today, a daily newspaper in northwest Colorado. His reporting in Steamboat stopped a police station from being built in a city park, saved a historic barn from being destroyed and helped a small town pastor quickly find a kidney donor. His favorite workday in Steamboat was Tuesday, when he could spend many of his mornings skiing untracked powder and his evenings covering city council meetings. Scott received his journalism degree from the University of Colorado at Boulder. He is an outdoorsman who spends at least 20 nights a year in a tent. He spoke his first word, 'outside', as a toddler in Edmonds, Washington. Scott visits the Great Sand Dunes, his favorite Colorado backpacking destination, twice a year. Scott's reporting is part of Capitol Coverage, a collaborative public policy reporting project, providing news and analysis to communities across Colorado for more than a decade. Fifteen public radio stations participate in Capitol Coverage from throughout Colorado.
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