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Testing, police, pot to dominate Legislature's final days

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DENVER (AP) — Colorado lawmakers face a chaotic three-day stretch of work before adjourning for the year Wednesday with substantial legislation still pending, including more oversight on law enforcement, allowing school-violence victims to sue and reducing statewide standardized testing for kids.

The hectic final days are a contrast to what was a slow beginning to the session in January as both parties struggled to pass anything major. With little time left, the fate of many remaining bills remains uncertain and lawmakers may have to broker last-minute deals for proposals to survive the Legislature's split-party rule.

Democrats control the House and Republicans the Senate.

One dominant topic of the session has been increasing oversight on law enforcement in the aftermath of allegations of police misconduct around the nation. Some of the bills have already failed, including a measure to encourage the use of officer-worn body cameras. A bill aimed at preventing police interference in citizen recordings of law-enforcement activity is still alive, as well as a measure to collect demographic information on officer-involved shootings.

Another bill still making its way through the process would allow lawsuits against schools in some cases of when there's violence that results in death or serious injury. The bill is named for Claire Davis, who was killed at Arapahoe High School in 2013. She was shot by a fellow student who then turned the gun on himself.

Lawmakers also must resolve disagreements on how to reduce standardized testing requirements for public schools. The House and Senate have approved rival versions, with major differences including whether to require tests in 9th grade even though the federal government doesn't require them.

State finances are another major sticking point. A major bill introduced Wednesday could prevent surplus budget refunds to taxpayers in three years so the state could keep the money for schools, transportation, and other services.

Colorado's Taxpayer's Bill of Rights mandates refunds when the state collects revenue faster than the rate of population growth and inflation. But the state would be under that limit if lawmakers reclassify what is called the hospital provider fee, a charge to facilities that the state uses to get a federal match to help pay for more Medicaid patients.

Democratic House Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst, the sponsor of the bill to make the change, said it's one of her priorities before the session ends.

"I think there are a tremendous number of people in the state who have expressed interest in doing that — education, transportation folks who want to see some of our increased revenues from the economic upturn turned into investments," she said.

But Senate Republicans who support refunds to taxpayers will likely resist the idea.

Senate Republican Leader Mark Scheffel said pending legislation would get proper consideration, even if few days remain.

"There's gonna be a lot of late nights. There's a lot of bills still coming over from the House. We're going to do our dead-level best to make sure everything get a fair hearing and fair consideration," he said.

Other bills still in the process:

— Creating a new crime of fetal homicide, a Republican response to an attack on a pregnant woman last month in Longmont.

— Leveling felony charges on repeat drunken drivers.

— Two proposals banning red-light cameras. One of the bills would require voter approval for their use.

— A slate of marijuana measures, including a ballot measure to ask voters about keeping pot taxes.

— Allowing civil penalties for drone surveillance in areas where people have an expectation of privacy. Law enforcement or other government employees would be exempted.


Associated Press writer Kristen Wyatt contributed.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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