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Gov. Polis Calling Rare Special Session To Tackle Coronavirus Relief Plan

Scott Franz/Capitol Coverage

Gov. Jared Polis is summoning lawmakers back to the Capitol for a rare special session to consider a coronavirus stimulus package worth more than $200 million.

"Extraordinary times call for extraordinary actions," Polis said Tuesday at the governor's mansion. "I'll be asking the general assembly to take up critical legislation that will help Colorado families and Colorado small businesses survive these challenging winter months ahead to bridge us to the vaccine."

Polis did not announce a date for the special session, but it will take place less than two months before lawmakers are scheduled to kick off their regular session on Jan. 13.

House Majority Leader Alec Garnett, D-Denver, said the legislature can't wait until next year to consider Polis' stimulus plan.

"As we’ve waited for the federal government to act to provide relief to Coloradans in every corner of this state, the calls for someone to step up have grown, and grown and grown," Garnett said. "We just can't wait any longer for Congress to act."

Polis wants lawmakers to quickly approve hundreds of millions of dollars of spending on housing assistance, child care and tax relief for restaurants and other small businesses. Most of the money would come from the state's general fund.

Polis is also proposing to let restaurants keep sales tax revenue that would otherwise go to the state.

He thinks the stimulus package could help Colorado avoid more drastic budget cuts in the future. Lawmakers have reacted positively to Polis' proposal for a statewide relief package. But some have questioned how effective it could be compared to the $24 billion in coronavirus relief the state got from the federal government.

Polis said his entire proposal, worth $1.3 billion, could support 10,000 to 15,000 new jobs.

Asked why he felt he needed to bring lawmakers back to the Capitol to consider the spending when he has already authorized emergency relief funds himself, Polis said he considered it to be the safest and most legally sound way to authorize the spending.

Democratic lawmakers said they will allow members to participate in the special session virtually as the pandemic continues to worsen in Colorado and around the country.

The coronavirus pandemic has forced at least 18 states to hold special sessions this year, mostly to tackle budget cuts and emergency aid.

But the virus has complicated some states’ ability to govern. For example, the Missouri state senate decided this week to postpone a special session until after Thanksgiving because of a COVID-19 outbreak among lawmakers. And in Virginia, lawmakers plan to conduct their next session virtually.

Scott Franz is an Investigative Reporter with KUNC.
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