KGNU is partnering with the League of Women Voters of Boulder County on a monthly commentary series called Making Democracy Work for All! which focuses on educating listeners on the workings of state and local government and letting them know how they can get involved at different stages of the political process. This month Jeannette Hillery reviews the 2017 state legislative session.
The 2017 legislative session ended on May 10th with more bipartisanship than initially expected. A few strongly partisan bills introduced by both parties were killed during the session. Remember that the Colorado Senate is Republican controlled and the Colorado House is Democratic controlled.
The biggest priorities of the session were funding for transportation infrastructure. The major transportation bill, HB 1242 failed but another bill is addressing some of the issues. Also, addressing the hospital provider fee issue and allowing it to become an enterprise fund would alleviate other TABOR, Taxpayer Bill of Rights issues. More later. And financing of K-12 education.
SB 267 Sustaining Rural Colorado addressed funding for roads and infrastructure needs through the use of Certificates of Participation (COPs) valued at up to $2 Billion for transportation and capital construction. It created the Colorado Healthcare Affordability and Sustainability Enterprise so hospital provider fees would not be under TABOR and it provided additional funding for rural schools. However, more money will be needed for transportation needs.
The Long Bill, Colorado’s budget bill was passed for a budget of $26.8 Billion. Unfortunately a number of requests for funding programs failed, including the Colorado Energy Office that has helped to increase alternative energy options within the state.
The School Finance Act, SB 296, will raise per pupil funding to $6,546 to reflect a 2.8% inflation rate and holds the negative factor/budget stabilization factor steady. The state still continues to constitutionally (Amendment 23) under-fund public schools by close to $750,000 per year. School districts will have additional mandates as to where and how their local dollars must be spent. HB 1375 Distributing Mill Levy Override to Schools, would require school districts to develop a plan for distributing MLO funds to all schools OR provide all district innovation and charter schools with a 95% per pupil distribution of those funds. There were some transparency requirements included.
In elections and voting rights it was a fairly quiet session, extreme bills died. But a late bill which passed will provide guidance on implementation of Proposition 107 (restore presidential primary elections) and Proposition 108 (allow participation by unaffiliated voters in primary elections) which were approved by voters in the 2016 election cycle.
The four bills to create more campaign finance transparency died. They were HBills 1259,1260,1261, and 1262. We feel that these bills will reappear in the 2018 session.
Health Care – the attempt to undo the Colorado Health Exchange failed. Most bills to enhance consumer access and quality of care passed. Bills asking to ameliorate rising high health insurance premiums also failed.
A feel good water bill to have drinking water systems in poor Colorado public schools get tested for lead did get funding.
And a “Sexting Bill “ passed at the end of the session allowing the offense to become a misdemeanor and establish sexting education programs.
More information can be found on the Colorado legislative web page.