Colorado Legislature

Despite some setbacks, Colorado lawmakers are praising the now completed 2017 legislative session. Lawmakers avoided major funding cuts to hospitals and took a step toward jump-starting condominium developments. But they failed to send a measure to voters that sought to raise the state’s sales tax to fund road infrastructure repair.

Bente Birkeland spoke with Democratic Speaker of the House Chrisanta Duran about some of the major pieces of legislation that passed through the Democratic House and Republican Senate.

Colorado’s $28.6 billion budget is nearing the end of its legislative journey.

Each year, the six-member, bipartisan Joint Budget Committee crafts a balanced budget before sending it to the House and Senate for amendments. The JBC then has to reconcile those changes.

But in most cases, they go back to the original budget they spend months writing.

This year, the the House and Senate have added about 30 amendments to the so-called “long bill”.

Alycin Bektesh / Aspen Public Radio News

State Sen. Kerry Donovan was in Aspen Dec. 2 to check in with her constituents ahead of the 2017 legislative session.

Nationally, the election of Donald Trump as the nation’s 45th president has many wondering about what comes next. In Colorado, the balance of power remains the same. State lawmakers are moving forward with their November calendar - mapping out their priorities for the upcoming legislative session - while trying to figure out what the new congress and administration will mean for state policies.

 A bipartisan committee of lawmakers met Tuesday to begin crafting water policy that could be introduced during next year’s legislation session.

While many state lawmakers are busy with campaign season, that doesn’t mean they’ve forgotten about some of the future policies they’ll be crafting. 

 Signatures for anti-fracking proposals along with a new tax on cigarettes and tobacco were among those turned in Monday, which was the deadline for groups wanting to put questions in front of votes in November. 

 

Colorado has been seen as a key swing state during the last few presidential elections – but this year many political pundits say its trending blue, and won’t be a battleground state. But the Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump campaigns aren’t treating it that way.

 A trio of measures aimed at making it easier for more Coloradans to rent and buy homes cleared its first committee at the state capitol on Thursday. But as Bente Birkeland reports, time is running out for the bills to pass before the legislature adjourns next week.

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  It’s opening week for the Colorado Legislature, we check in with party leaders about their predictions for the session.

Gov. John Hickenlooper delivered his sixth State of the State address to the state Legislature Thursday. In his speech he highlighted the need for people from all political stripes to work together to fix the state's big budget problems and discussed Colorado's economic gains and challenges.

"We're one of the top states for economic growth," Hickenlooper said. "One of the best places for business and careers, for quality of life, for health and tourism."

New state law will boost commissioners' salaries

Sep 15, 2015
pitkincounty.com

A new Colorado law gives elected officials across the state a pay hike. On Tuesday (9/15) the Pitkin County Commissioners discussed Senate Bill 288 and how it may impact their paychecks. 

The legislation was crafted as a way to tackle low pay for state executive officers, such as Colorado’s Secretary of State. With an annual salary of just over $68,000, that position’s pay ranks low nationally.

Creative Commons/Flickr/Scott Davidson

Snowmass Village Police continue to investigate a report last week of a sexual assault. A woman walking home from a friend’s house was reportedly attacked. The investigation is ongoing but few details are emerging. Law enforcement says such a sensitive crime needs a certain level of privacy, especially in a small town. Aspen Public Radio’s Marci Krivonen reports.

Reporter: "The occurrence of sexual assault crimes like this, how common is it that your department handles such cases?"

Chief Brian Olson: "Looking back at statistics, we investigate two cases a year."

As a result of Colorado's booming oil production, energy companies are paying more in severance taxes – money they pay the state for taking minerals out of the ground. Half of it is supposed to go to back to local communities, both directly and through grants. But thanks to market forces – and political conditions in Denver – it's not always a stable source of funding.

The debate over continuing the Office of Consumer Counsel won't be decided until the final day of the state's annual legislative session. The Office represents taxpayers when utility and telecom companies go to the state to ask for rate hikes. Without Senate Bill 271 [.pdf], the Office of Consumer Counsel would sunset and go away altogether.

Determining the scope of the office's role though has been contentious.

A bill to raise the salaries of Colorado's elected officials was introduced in the Senate Thursday.  The proposal had been discussed for months, but people working on the measure said state lawmakers in both parties wanted to make sure there were enough votes for it to clear the legislature before allowing an introduction. This late in the session, a legislative leader must approve a bill before it can be introduced.

A measure to eliminate immunity for public schools for school shootings, death, sexual assaults and other series injuries that happen to students on school grounds cleared the House Judiciary Committee Thursday. It passed on a vote of 10-3.

Currently public schools are not liable. Legislative leaders in both parties are sponsoring the change, spurred in part by the 2013 death of Claire Davis. She attended Arapahoe High School in Littleton when a fellow student shot and killed her before turning the gun on himself.

A bill to raise the salaries of elected officials in Colorado is expected to be introduced in the final days of the legislative session. A measure has been in the works for months.

Statewide elected officials in Colorado have not received a raise since 1998. The state's governor ranks 47th in the country in terms of salary, earning $90,000.

Two former governors, Roy Romer and Bill Owens, joined current Gov. John Hickenlooper at the state capitol to urge lawmakers not to go too far in reducing the numbers of standardized assessments school children take. This comes as legislators are debating several bills to lower the number of exams.

Republican Bill Owens said it's important to have standards and test against those standards to see if students are learning what they should, and to evaluate schools and teachers.

"Our friends from the left and the right for differing reasons, don't want to test, don't want to measure, don't want to have accountability," said Owens. "This is stunning to me."

A bill to expand farm-to-school programs in Colorado initially cleared the state House Tuesday, but it still faces objections from some lawmakers who call it unnecessary.

House Bill 1088 [.pdf] would set up grants to help farms and ranches meet federal safety standards to they could sell their locally produced food to schools.

"This program boosts our economy, it creates jobs, and we have schools right now who want to buy more local food from our farmers and the supply chain does not exist," said bill sponsor Representative Faith Winter (D-Westminster).

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