More waiting than seeing this week at the state house. Small victories are being celebrated by mostly Democratic legislators who have been working on the same issues over the course of the last four years and are finally seeing them pass - at least through their first committee. Bills this week were heard that regulate student loan services, ban inquiries about criminal activity on job applications, and limit the fees charged on rental applications. Republicans on the other hand are expressing their frustrations, mostly over losing bills that were once supported by their left-leaning colleagues. And while these tiffs between the minority party and majority leadership are not out of the ordinary, one battle has caused a rule revival that could have serious impacts for a lot of bills that have already passed out of the Senate.
Sen. Owen Hill (R-Colorado Springs) had a bill that gave teachers a pass on sales tax on purchases of school supplies which was killed in the first committee. Democrats, pointing to bigger issues that educators face, like low pay, said that the avoided tax was “like a bandage on a bigger wound.” Republicans took to social media, spotlighting some banter on the mic between Sen. Pete Lee (D-Manitou Springs) and Sen. Lois Court (D-Denver). While controversy started to build, Senate President Leroy Garcia (D-Pueblo) put a kibosh on the entire discussion, pointing to a clause in the Colorado Constitution (Article V, Section 31) which determined that revenue- raising or lowing bills must start in the House of Representatives.
At this point, there has not been a calculation done regarding which bills will be effected by this rule, but it is clear that the President intends to interpret the constitution literally and strictly. This means that Senate Bills which affect the General Fund should be killed and restarted in the lower chamber in order to avoid challenges around a proposed law’s constitutionality. Political fallout from this is yet to be determined, but for those in the capitol this wasn’t the only decision affecting educators this week.
On Wednesday, the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE) decided they will not intervene in the teachers’ strike. Gov. Jared Polis announced the decision he and CDLE Director Joe Barela made, saying that they believe the district and teachers are close to a negotiated agreement. A final bargaining session is being held in Denver at 5:00 pm on February 8. If no agreement is reached, teachers will begin their strike on Monday and will likely storm the capitol with red t-shirts and demands for the state to buy down the state’s “budget stabilization factor” (formerly known as the “negative factor”) like they did last year – another reminder of sessions past.
For next week, it is likely that health care remains in the focus. There are a number of new bills that deal with rate setting, out-of-network provider costs, and drug importation schemes. With the Governor’s campaign promise of bringing down the cost of healthcare still majorly unresolved, it’s likely that this issue will stay front and center until the end of session. More bills on health care transparency are still to come as are bills that regulate the oil and gas industry.