Greetings and welcome to another legislative session! The Second Regular Session of the 72nd General Assembly kicked off on Wednesday, January 8, and started a 120-day clock wherein all bills must be passed by midnight on May 6th or they turn into pumpkins. Your CLS team will be sending out a weekly newsletter to keep you informed about all the important business and shenanigans that happen at the Capitol over the course of the next 117 days.
The session began with all the pomp and circumstance that adorns the opening day speeches of the legislative leaders. Senate President Leroy Garcia was more progressive in his remarks than anticipated, diving into issues like socioeconomic class disparities and money in politics. Garcia also criticized Republicans for their tactics last session and failed recalls over the summer. You can read President Garcia’s full remarks here. Speaker of the House KC Becker, in her speech, outlined the Democratic majority’s lengthy agenda on everything from criminal justice reform to tackling health care costs. Becker plans to continue the work that was started last year when Democrats took over all levels of state government but called on everyone to come to the table and work together. You can read Speaker Becker’s full remarks here. On the minority side, Senate Minority Leader Chris Holbert mostly talked about the need for transportation funding. House Minority Leader Patrick Neville took a more confrontational approach saying that he will fight many of the Democratic party policy priorities. You can read Minority Leader Holbert’s full remarks here, and Minority Leader Neville’s full remarks here.
After all the opening day speeches on Wednesday, Governor Polis addressed a joint session of the House and Senate on Thursday to deliver his second State of the State speech. Just before the speech began, anti-fracking protesters in the gallery erupted and unfurled a banner over the railing. Several protesters had to be forcibly removed and about two dozen where arrested on various charges. Once Polis began speaking, he dove right into his priorities of expanding preschool education, reducing the prison population, and lowering health care costs through a government-managed public option. You can read Governor Polis’ full remarks here.
Countering all of the lofty policy goals of the democratic leaders is the fact that the budget is expected to be extremely tight this year. The General Assembly is going to have to prioritize their goals in order to have enough money to pay for them.
There are several changes to the legislature to be aware of as we begin another session. The partisan divide remains the same – 41D-24R in the House and 19D-16R in the Senate. However, over the interim Representative Rochelle Galindo resigned and a Democratic vacancy committee selected Mary Young to represent her Greeley district. Representative Kimmi Lewis recently passed away and Richard Holtorf was selected by a Republican vacancy committee to represent her southeastern Colorado district. Finally, Senator Lois Court recently resigned due to health issues and a Democratic vacancy committee in east Denver has yet to name her successor. Representative Chris Hansen is a candidate for that vacancy appointment, meaning there are also potentially more vacancies coming so stay tuned.
Now to the bills, the General Assembly has been in session just a few days but there have already been 164 bills introduced – 91 in the House and 73 in the Senate. The first ten bills introduced in each chamber are usually a good indication of legislative priorities. The Senate introduced bills on behavioral health training for K-12 educators, rural economic development, a new state park, student loan repayment assistance, health care cost-sharing, opportunity scholarships, opioid treatment, water quality violations, adult education, and repealing the ban on local governments regulating plastics. The House introduced bills on regulating nicotine, college credit for work experience, rural economic development, wildfire mitigation, enhancing Safe2Tell, early childhood mental health, diverse teacher workforce, health care cost-sharing, records of eviction proceedings, and dealing with an accurate census count.
Additionally, health care is going to get a lot of attention this session. The main issue will be a bill yet to be introduced creating a "public option" insurance product that will generate plenty of controversy. As the bill is introduced CLS will keep you up to date on this issues it contains.
There will be much more to report as more bills are introduced, committee hearings get underway, and things really start to get wild.
Until next week…