Headlines April 26, 2022
Colorado House Passes Fentanyl Bill
After hours of debate, Colorado House members passed a bill Monday that would increase the penalty for possessing any amount of fentanyl from misdemeanor to a felony.
The measure, passed 43-22, faced opposition from lawmakers who want harsher felony charges and others who say more criminalization makes the problem worse.
The State Senate Judiciary Committee will hear the bill today, at 2 PM.
Democratic State Lawmakers Announce Plan To Give Out 2023 TABOR Tax Refunds This Summer
Gov. Jared Polis and Colorado Democrats announced a bill yesterday that will pay $400 to taxpayers this summer and up to $800 for families as part of the voter-approved Tax Payers Bill of Rights or TABOR refund.
The refund checks would account for about $1.4 billion of the expected surplus in the current fiscal year. If there is still money left over, lawmakers plan to distribute it through another round of smaller checks to Coloradans.
Republicans created the TABOR refund in 1992 to combat inflation and limit government growth. In years past, the state gave individual filers making up to $47,000 a year a TABOR refund of $276. Someone making over $263,000 a year would have received $871.
The checks come during election-year pressure on the state’s majority party over inflation and the economy. Colorado GOP Chairwoman Kristi Burton Brown said that this is obviously an election year game. She wryly added that she is happy but surprised that Democrats are touting the Republican created TABOR.
Polis Signs Bill Allowing 10 Hours Per Week Of Free Universal Preschool
Gov. Jared Polis signed a bill to create universal preschool programs and a new Department of Early Childhood yesterday.
Starting in 2023, the new program will provide at least ten hours of free preschool per week for children in the year before they attend kindergarten. Funding will come from increased taxes on tobacco and nicotine products passed by Colorado voters in 2020. The universal preschool program and the state’s new department will also receive money from the Colorado’s general fund.
Advocates for the legislation say the new Department of Early Childhood will serve as a one-stop-shop for families navigating the state’s services for early childhood programs.
According to estimates, Colorado parents will save an average of $4,300 a year in child care costs under the universal preschool program.
Colorado Democrats Debut Labor Bill Granting County Government Employees The Right To Unionize
Colorado Democrats introduced legislation Monday that would allow county government employees to unionize.
Earlier in the legislative session, lawmakers considered expanding collective bargaining to all public workers, including municipal and higher education employees, Monday’s legislation, scaled back the initial version and focused on Colorado’s 38,000 county employees.
According to the Colorado Sun, the legislation doesn’t force county commissions to adopt union contracts, but they can’t fire employees who take part. They also cannot discriminate against employees for organizing or taking part.
Senate President and Boulder Democrat Steve Fenberg, told the Colorado Sun they took the other public sector workers out of the bill, not because Democrats did not have the votes, but because some workers were split on how they wanted to proceed.
The bill does not allow employees to strike or require binding arbitration, which, many say, will negate most of the union’s bargaining power. Alex Wolf-Root, an adjunct professor at the University of Colorado Boulder and union official, told the Denver Post that employees in higher education employees did not join the bill because cutting out rights to strike and binding arbitration would be a “poison pill” for any attempt to unionize.
Gov. Jared Polis has not yet stated his position on the current legislation, but he has expressed opposition to earlier proposals by Democratic lawmakers. A statewide group of county commissioners held a news conference last week opposing the forthcoming legislation arguing that pay under collective bargaining would mean less funding for county services.
Bear Peak Grass Fire Started By Human Activity
Boulder County investigators believe the small grass fire on Bear Peak that occurred last week was started by human activity but have not pinpointed an exact ignition source.
The fire, one of several that occurred last week, started near Flagstaff Road and Bison Drive. No structures were damaged.