The Spot Blog

The chairman of a committee scheduled to hear a civil-unions bill said today there's no guarantee the group will meet before the session ends on Wednesday.

Rep. Jon Becker, R-Fort Morgan, said it might depend on whether the committees meeting this afternoon send bills to the House Appropriations Committee.

"I will make decisions from there," he said. "This late in the process we'll see what comes out of committees and talk about Appropriations in the morning."

Even if no other bills are sent to Appropriations, Becker could call a hearing. Chairmen control their committee meeting schedules.

Republicans have pointed fingers at the Senate Democrats for the racing clock, noting the civil-unions bill was introduced on opening day on Jan. 11 but not passed by the Senate until two weeks ago.

FILE: Fran and Anna Simon held a photograph of themselves and their son Jeremy, age 4, during their testimony in support of civil unions.  The House
FILE: Fran and Anna Simon held a photograph of themselves and their son Jeremy, age 4, during their testimony in support of civil unions. The House Judiciary Committee heard testimony both in support of and against legislation that would grant Colorado citizens the right to enter into civil unions Thursday night, May 3, 2012. (Karl Gehring, The Denver Post)

Appropriations must hear the bill by Tuesday in order for it to have a chance of passing the House. The vice chairwoman of the committee, Rep. Cheri Gerou, R-Evergreen, supports the measure, so the bill would head to the House if Appropriations met.

The bill then must be debated on the floor Tuesday in order for an official vote on Wednesday.

House Speaker Frank McNulty said it's possible the bill could still go to the floor and be DOA despite there being enough votes to support the measure. The Highlands Ranch Republican said leadership is under no obligation to bring the bill up for a debate.

McNulty pointed out that last year the the Democratic-controlled Senate let bills die on the calendar.


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"Understandably, this bill is a lot higher profile than bills that died last year," he said.

Senate Bill 2, by two gay Denver Democrats, would allow same-sex couples to form civil unions.

The House sponsor, Minority Leader Mark Ferrandino, said he's aware that GOP leadership is reluctant to call the bill up for debate.

"That doesn't mean we're not going to use every tool and procedural motion we have in our toolbox to try to force their hands," he said.

"The rules are there to make sure that leadership can't just kill a bill. If the majority of lawmakers support a bill and are standing for motions around that bill, it's hard for the majority leader and the speaker to stop things from coming up," Ferrandino said.

Republicans have a 33-32 majority in the Senate, so Ferrandino would need only one GOP vote to force the bill to a vote. Gerou won't be that vote.

"I think we're going to come to a resolution on this, but I'm not going to undermine my leadership," she said.

Rep. B.J. Nikkel, R-Loveland, was the swing vote in the bill's first committee hearing, in Judiciary, siding with Democrats Thursday to pass the measure.

"I support the bill being heard on the floor," she said today.

The bill on Friday passed the Finance Committee, with another lone Republican, Rep. Don Beezley of Broomfield, as the swing vote to send the measure to Appropriations.

The lobbying over the civil unions bill is so intense McNulty said his voicemail fills up about every 25 minutes.

Among those trying to reach the speaker is Ken Mehlman, the former chairman of the Republican National Committee and the campaign manager for George W. Bush's successful 2004 re-election bid. Mehlman has since revealed he is gay.

He said he wants to urge the House to pass civil unions.

"I care about the health of the Republican Party and blocking something the vast majority of voters support and that will undermine family values and undermine freedom seems to me to be both bad policy and bad politics," Mehlman told the Denver Post.

McNulty said he also has been lobbied by religious officials to try to kill the bill.

Lynn Bartels: 303-954-5327 or lbartels@denverpost.com