COLORADO LEGISLATIVE SERVICES, LLC
The transition of this session’s tone went from “wait and see” to “hold on to your hats” within the course of a week and the personal agenda for those leading in politics in Colorado is really heating up.
Just since last Friday, some of the most significant and impactful pieces of legislation have been not only introduced, but introduced and debated in committee. Brand new legislators, who make up about 30 percent of the state legislature in Colorado, already felt like they were drinking from a firehose; but this week they were given a wakeup call and found out what that really means.
The oil and gas omnibus bill, the bill that authorizes local governments to set minimum wage, the Family and Medical Leave Insurance (FAMLI) bill, the bill to end the death penalty, and the bill to study the development of state-run retirement program were introduced. Several of these controversial pieces of legislation were heard in the House or the Senate along-side the Equal Pay for Equal Work Act, the “Red Flag” bill which allows police to confiscate the guns of people who may be mentally ill, and the bill to rename Columbus day.
These bills are all high priorities for the Democrats who have recently taken control of the governor’s office, the House, and the Senate. Some say the Ds are in their first year of a progressive power grab which since the election has frustrated Republicans, but now is starting to show up as a deeply divided government.
That complicates matters moving forward as more bills that affect the future of the state require the support of both parties emerge. One in particular is being worked on by Speaker KC Becker (D-Boulder). The Speaker --- with the partnership of state Sen. Lois Court (D-Denver) and one Republican willing to cross the aisle, state Sen. Kevin Priola (R-Brighton) – plans to introduce a bill that will give Coloradoans the chance to vote on a ballot measure which would give the state the authority to save and spend any revenue over the amount authorized through the Tax Payer Bill of Rights (TABOR). Those overage dollars are now returned to the taxpayers through tax credits like the Senior Property Homestead Exemption or through the six-tier refund mechanism which distributes refunds to tax payers based on their income.
This idea is reminiscent of Referendum C, which permitted the state to spend the money it collected over its TABOR limit for five years on health care, public education, transportation projects, and local fire and police pension in 2005. If passed, this bill will dedicate overages to public K-12 education, higher education, and infrastructure and transportation permanently. In a meeting with stakeholders Friday afternoon, the Speaker stressed the necessity of bringing more Republicans into the fold from inside and outside the capitol. Her call for what she calls “common sense policy” was echoed by a recent Colorado governor when making remarks at his Presidential Campaign kick-off party on Thursday night at Civic Center Park in Denver.
John Hickenlooper, former Governor and Denver Mayor, in his first major speech as a presidential candidate, called for an end to divisive politics and a new era of American optimism that will fuel the work needed to solve the nation’s most onerous problems.
“At the end of my presidency, I want Americans to say: ‘It feels like the cloud has lifted. We feel closer to our neighbors and we’ve gotten some big things done,’” he told a reported five thousand supporters in downtown Denver. “Just imagine how different our country will feel when we start moving toward each other again.”
The coming weeks will be telling as to whether state legislators and the current governor will heed Presidential-Candidate Hickenlooper’s warning. He governed over the 2013 overreach that left democrats in the Senate minority since the 2014 election and has advised his followers from not repeating past mistakes.
The Colorado Bioscience Association (CBSA) held their day at the capitol, discussing with legislators like state Sen. Bob Gardner (top) above the needs the industry has, like access to capital and a friendly business environment. In photo on left OEDIT staffer address the crowd to discuss access to capital issues. On the right, Scott Larson, Chair of CBSA Policy Committee chats with an innovative cranial health company.