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Legislative Year: 2018 Change
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Colorado Eyes & Ears »

Reclaimed domestic wastewater receives attention among the first bills introduced at the Capitol.  Dog and cat owners should note that HB18-1069 allows toilet flushing with reclaimed water up to category three standards. 

Category three water gets secondary treatment with filtration and disinfection and meets standard three e coli and turbidity measures.  Category three water receives more treatment than water used for zoo operations (category one) and commercial laundries (category two).

Marijuana is added to category two wastewater compliance in HB18-1053 and hemp is added to category one wastewater compliance in SB18-038.

Colorado’s beef industry will benefit from a new regulation coming from anti-regulation Republican lawmakers Rep. Kimmi Lewis (HD-64) from eastern Colorado and Sen. Vicki Marble (SD-23) from the more rural side of the north I-25 corridor.  US born, bred, and slaughtered meat will receive a USA MEAT designation.  Others get the IMPORTED label.

A bipartisan bill, SB18-009, sponsored by Sens. Kevin Priola (R-25) and Stephen Fenberg (D-18), both in districts north of the metro area, allows utility customers to install residence-based electricity storage units.  The bill will help electric car owners and solar energy users mitigate energy black or brown-outs.

Guns get the usual election year mulligans.  Two bills to repeal ammunition magazine prohibitions, HB18-1015 and SB18-052, will put House committee members and all Senate Democrats on the record as voting to oppose unlimited ammunition magazines.  They are already on the record with HB17-1097 and SB17-007, defeated in the previous session.

HB17-1036, Concealed Carry in Public Schools has a recycle in 2018 with HB18-1037, Concealed Carry on School Grounds.  SB18-051, Prohibit Multi-burst Trigger Activators, sponsored by Sen. Mike Merrifield from SD-11 in Manitou Springs, is new and will prevent automatic weapon firing of semi-automatic weapons.  These bills will lose in State, Veteran, and Military Affairs committees.

Democrats and Republicans are running various taxes up and taxes down bills. 

Plastic bags may end up funding affordable housing if Democrats Rep. Paul Rosenthal and Sen. Lois Court can pass a bill for an initiative to charge 25 cents for plastic bags used at stores.  The tax covers any number of bags used in a single purchase.

Democratic Sen. Andy Kerr has resurrected Funding for Full Day Kindergarten, SB18-004, so far without Rep. Brittany Pettersen, who sponsored the same bill, SB17-29, with Kerr in 2017.  Pettersen is running for Kerr’s Senate seat in 2018.  The bill asks the Secretary of State to run an initiative that will allow state government to retain TABOR tax money for kindergarten.

On the other side, Republican leadership in the Senate wants to reduce the state income tax rate from 4.63 percent to 4.43 percent.  Another bill, SB-070 sponsored by incumbent Republican candidate Sen. Tim Neville, SD-16, will free up more church property from taxation.  HB18-1036, another Neville-sponsored bill, brings back the annual legislation to reduce business personal property tax. 

Republican leadership in the Senate also wants to improve broadband coverage to rural areas.  Rather than using tax dollars, the bill uses PUC regulated funds and surcharges from local exchange carriers to cover additional costs. 

Four Republican legislators, two from the House and two from the Senate, are asking for a funding initiative for transportation that will not raise taxes but will move money around, exclude certain funds from spending limits, and push 10 percent of sales taxes to the transportation budget.

So much of this legislation shows how little has been accomplished in previous years to resolve education and transportation funding needs.  With the legislature divided, gun bills will go down. 

There is good news for the sake industry.  SB18-019 will classify sake as wine in the Colorado Liquor Code.

Governor John Hickenlooper faces his last General Assembly in 2018, with his speech to the Joint House and Senate chambers tomorrow. 

Numerous accounts from various pundits across the nation, including the New York Times, say that he may run for president in 2020. A successful 2018 of lawmaking may make him competitive with the current Democratic front-runner, Oprah Winfrey.  This means heavy lifting on problems that haven’t been resolved over seven years of his terms as governor.

First, credit due:  Hickenlooper should get many kudos for his health care policies that have successfully increased the number of Coloradans with insurance.  He set in place the insurance exchange that, in some cases, makes individual insurance cheaper for Coloradans than employer-sponsored health care.  The Exchange is running smoothly and doing the job envisioned by the Affordable Care Act, which, apparently, does work well when it’s supported properly.

Outstanding Issue No. 1:  Others say PERA or transportation.  But for the long term, the biggest problem is k-12 education funding.  This state will not have kids well prepared for their future in this state at current funding levels.  This fact has been true at least since 2008 with the recession, and has not improved under Gov. Hickenlooper’s watch.

The overly complicated 2013 initiative, written mostly by current candidate for governor Michael Johnston, got pounded by voters.  Hickenlooper delegated that project to Johnston, and then was lukewarm in his support. 

The Governor owes the children of this state an initiative in 2018 that can gain voter support.  He should expend maximum political capital to get a funding measure passed.  That would be the ultimate distinction for his record.

Outstanding Issue No. 2:  Everyday Coloradans are affected most by the transportation pretzel they experience all day long.  Somehow, Gov. Hickenlooper has to explain to Republican Senators that mortgaging Colorado’s taxpayer owned buildings is insufficient. To get millennial voters behind a substantial transportation investment, the Governor must do more for non-auto travel. 

As an aside, in case the pro-auto, libertarian Independence Institute hasn’t noticed, the acres of light rail parking at the Mineral Station on the Santa Fe line are packed by 7:30 am.  The Institute’s prediction that light rail wouldn’t work was wrong.  Other FrontRange cities need alternatives to cars too.  It’s time for the Governor and legislators and the Department of Transportation to get imaginative beyond mortgaging state assets.

Outstanding Issue No. 3:  Oil and gas drilling/fracking is roiling FrontRange communities.  Where are the pipes, cry Front Range home owners and city planners.  Too much regulation, cries the drilling industry.  The Governor and the legislature face hard questions as to their priorities:  the risks to the health and safety of citizens from drilling v. the environmental impacts v. the economic benefits.  Unless the oil and gas industry turns softer, the Governor will be forced to make decisions that will make a bunch of people unhappy.  Isn’t that why he’s governor and may want to run for president?

Outstanding Issue No. 4:  PERA – the state employee and public teacher pension funds.  The problems here are arcane at the micro level but easy to understand at the macro:  there’s not enough money to cover long-term expenses.  The Governor could try to work with educators on an education funding initiative that would solve problems with current low teacher salaries (see outstanding issue 1) and high pension costs. The largest question related to PERA and teachers remains:  how can teachers with a decade or less of employment in public education continue to afford their jobs? 

If the Governor succeeds in any one of these ongoing issues, it’s not enough.  He must succeed in all four.  That’s the cost of kicking the can down our potholed roads.

The 2018 general election is 15 months away, but more than 100 people already have filed candidacy papers for the House or Senate.

And some of those candidates already are raising big money. As of the most recent filing deadline on July 17, more than $558,000 had been raised by 78 registered House candidates and more than $363,000 by 26 Senate hopefuls. Twenty House candidates have five-digit war chests.

Those totals are likely low. Depending on when they filed their affidavits, some candidates didn’t have to report financial information in July. The next reporting deadline is in mid-October.

A lot of that money is being raised in some developing primary races, particularly among Democrats.

There are 10 intra-party contests shaping up in the House, eight of them on the Democratic side. There are four potential primaries in Senate districts, all involving Democrats.

The hot Democratic House contests are in Denver, in the 4th District being vacated by Rep. Dan Pabon and in the 5th District of Speaker Crisanta Duran, who’s also term limited. Four candidates are seeking Pabon’s seat, including lawyer Amy Beatie, social worker and activist Serena Gonzales-Gutierres, community organizer Michael Kiley and a William Britt.

Contenders in the 5th District are corporate executive Meghan Nutting, businessman Alex Valdez and political organizer Nicky Yollick.

Beatie is the top fundraiser among all House candidates, reporting contributions of $43,644 so far.

Democratic primaries also are shaping up in the 18th, 24th, 26th, 28th, 34th and 50th districts.

Five Democrats are vying in Senate District 32, which stretches across south Denver. Current Sen. Irene Aguilar is term limited.

The candidates are entrepreneur Zach Neumann, activist Robert Rodriguez, lawyer Alan Kennedy-Shaffer and two other political activists, Peter Smith and Lance Wright.

Neumann has reported raised $55,230.  

Expect a lot more candidates to file affidavits in the coming months – there typically are about 250 legislative candidates in any given statewide election. And also expect a lot of individuals to drop by the wayside, particularly when party selection processes start next spring.

But here’s a look at the situation of as Aug. 9:

House

  • All 65 House seats are up
  • So far at least one candidate has registered in 43 districts
  • There are 78 candidates who’ve filed with the secretary of state, including two unaffiliated, two Libertarians and one from the new Unity Party
  • Thirty-seven incumbents have filed their paperwork; 13 others haven’t done so yet. The other 15 representatives are either term-limited and/or running for other offices.

Senate

  • Because senators serve four-year terms, there are only 17 races in 2018.
  • Some 26 people have filed Senate candidacies
  • At least one candidate has filed in 15 districts
  • Four incumbents who are eligible to run haven’t yet filed

Learn about all current House candidates in this spreadsheet. You can sort columns by clicking the small triangles at the top of each column. Learn more about a candidate by clicking his or her name.

Announced House Candidates 2018

Here’s the spreadsheet listing current Senate candidates.

Announced Senate Candidates 2018

But wait, there’s more

We’ve also built a spreadsheet of current candidates for statewide office. It works like the House and Senate databases.

Announced Candidates for Statewide Offices

-- Todd Engdahl

 

The 2017 legislative session may have made history as the one that cleared several logjams at once – all with one big bill. 

Whether the passage of Senate Bill 17-267 becomes a template for future compromises or will turn out to be a one-off remains to be seen. But it’s somewhat unexpected success is a testimony to what can get done when Democrats team up with moderate and some conservative Republicans.  

SB17-267, or course, is the bill with the big umbrella title of  “Concerning the Sustainability of Rural Colorado.” That umbrella ultimately covered these main provisions: 

  • Reclassification of the Hospital Provider Fee so that it won’t count against the state’s annual revenue limit, plus a compromise upward adjustment of that limit. The change saves hospitals, especially rural ones, from cuts that would have happened otherwise. 
  • Various other Medicaid changes, including increased client copays for some services. 
  • A lease-purchase program under which state buildings will be “sold” and those proceeds used for highway projects and building maintenance and construction. Part of the transportation money is earmarked for rural counties. The bill creates and permanent commitment on the state’s General Fund to help pay leases.
  • An increase in marijuana tax rates, with revenues split between the General fund and schools. 
  • A one-time $30 million boost to rural school districts.
  • Tax credits to offset business personal property taxes.

The bill is the latest in a long series of “creative” solutions the legislature has used to deal with the conflicting constraints in the state constitution, including Referendum C, declaring state colleges to be enterprises, the FASTER vehicle fees, creation of the negative factor in K-12 funding and the original Hospital Provider Fee. None of those were permanent fixes, and even lawmakers who voted for SB17-267 agreed that it won’t be either.

While the bill provides some increases for transportation, other measures that proposed larger amounts of funding failed, primarily because of GOP opposition to proposed tax increases that would have required voter approval. Both parties and Gov. John Hickenlooper think more money is needed for transportation, but everyone is happy that there was a little movement.

Other issues

Progress was made in a more traditional way on another long-unresolved issue, contractor liability for construction defects in condominium projects. Rather than attempting to pass one big bill, various narrower measures were introduced. Most were defeated, but a significant bill to set new requirements for how condo owners can sue did pass.

On other matters, lawmakers passed bills to give charter schools more access to local district revenues, set rules for how unaffiliated voters can vote in party primaries, modernize state open records law and start reforming the youth corrections system. Some modest measures to address the opioid epidemic became law.

Since the voters legalized marijuana, bills to tweak pot laws have become a staple of every legislative session. This year was no exception, and lawmakers also attempted to go on a spending spree of marijuana tax revenues until reined in by the Joint Budget Committee. A high-profile bill to create rules for marijuana clubs (amended out of the bill early) and further define “public consumption” died at the very end of the session.

One notable failure was a bill to reauthorize and redefine the mission of the Colorado Energy Office. That died on the last day after the Democratic House and Republican Senate couldn’t reach agreement.

As usual in a divided legislature, ideological “statement” bills didn’t fare well, including Republican measures on social issues like abortion and Democratic bills on energy conservation and economic security.

The budget

Bipartisan cooperation and creative thinking are more deeply embedded in the Joint Budget Committee than the legislature has a whole, and this year’s panel displayed those skills in crafting the 2017-18 budget package.

The budget includes $28.3 billion from all funds, a 4.2 percent increase, and $10.6 billion from the General Fund, a 6.7 percent increase. The committee managed to avoid some of the more uncomfortable cuts proposed in the governor’s original request.

The committee was able to make modest increases in state employee pay and rates for providers of various medical and social services.

State workers will receive a 1.75 percent across-the-board increase plus a .75 percent increase in funds for merit pay. An overall increase in community provider rates was approved, equal to 60 percent of the state employee pay raise. Some providers will receive additional increases. Additional staffing was approved for youth services.

But the budget requires shifting some severance tax revenues and highway funds to the General Fund.

Two big issues, the Hospital Provider Fee and the K-12 Negative Factor, were moving targets. The committee proposed to cut 2017-18 Hospital Provider Fee collections by $264 million, thereby eliminating the need to pay TABOR refunds. The revenue cut for hospitals would be more than $500 million, given the loss of matching federal funds. That plan became a big impetus for passing SB17-267.

The committee originally proposed a Negative Factor of $906 million but was able to trim that to $881 million before sending the budget package to the full legislature. But updated estimates of local district revenues, which came after the budget passed, enabled lawmakers to hold the Negative Factor to $828 million, the same as in 2016-17.

By the numbers

There were 681 bills introduced during the 2017 session, with 270 of those postponed indefinitely, defeated on floor votes or allowed to die on the calendar when lawmakers adjourned May 10.

See the list of all bills – with votes – here, and the list of dead bills here.

For perspective, there were 686 bills introduced in 2016, of which 288 didn’t make it.

-- Todd Engdahl

The big bills came together Wednesday after lawmakers convened for the last day of the 2017 session. As far behind as legislators always seem to be at a session's final days, they somehow always pull things together - although a couple of issues weren't resolved.

Here’s a quick recap of where things stand on top issues. For more details, check the links here to full stories from the Capitol press corps.

Hospital Provider Fee – The House gave final 49-16 approval to SB17-267, which would do everything from preventing cuts to rural hospitals to easing some business taxes. The bill passed the Senate 25-10 earlier. Because their were no House amendments, the bill goes directly to the governor. This was the big bill of the session, and its passage represents a remarkable compromise. It's also mind-bendingly complicated.

Energy policy – A measure to renew and shake up the Colorado Energy Office ate up a lot of Senate time Monday. But SB17-301 passed the Senate 21-14 Tuesday, sending it to the House, where it was significantly amended later in the day. The House and Senate struggled into the evening Wednesday over the bill. It died when they couldn't agree, as does the energy office.

School finance and charters – A running battle over whether to include special funding provisions for charters in the annual school finance measure, SB17-296, started in the Senate Monday morning and raged through a House committee and on the House floor until nearly midnight. After the dust settled, the finance bill passed the House without the charter provisions. HB17-1375, introduced late Monday afternoon, got preliminary approval late in the evening. It proposes a compromise method for school districts to share tax override revenues with charters. The House passed the charter bill by a wide margin Tuesday morning, and the Senate passed it 31-4 wihtout amendments on Wednesday morning. This is a done deal.

The school finance bill passed the House 52-13 Wedneday morning, and the Senate accepted House amendments and re-passed the bill 35-0. Relax - your district will have funding next school year, even if it's not as much as district administrators might like.

Primary elections – SB17-305 passed the Senate 31-4 Monday. This is the bill that puts into effect the 2016 ballot measure that allows unaffiliated voters to cast ballots in party primaries. Amendments cooled some of the controversy over this bill, and the House passed the bill 65-0 Tuesday evening.  

-- Todd Engdahl, updated 9 p.m.

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