These are all of the Mega category bills proposed in the 2020 session. Each bill has its own bill number, please use your browser search feature to find the bill you are interested in. Note that these are across all categories, return to the Colorado home page to pick a specific bill category. All Mega bills also appear on their specific category pages.

None of the text is the opinion of Engage. Each bill's description, arguments for, and arguments against are our best effort at describing what each bill does, arguments for, and arguments against the bill. The long description is hidden by design, you can click on it to expand it if you want to read more detail about the bill. If you believe we are missing something, please contact us with your suggestion. Some of these bills have the notation that they have been sent to the chamber's "kill" committee. This means that the leadership has decided to send the bill to the State committee even though it does not belong there based on its subject matter. This committee, in both chambers, is stacked with members from "safe" districts and the idea is to kill the bill without forcing any less safe members to take a hard vote. It is possible for a bill to survive the kill committee, but it is very rare.

Prime sponsors are given after each bill, with Senate sponsors in () and House sponsors in []. They are color-coded by party.

Some bills will have text highlighted in pink or highlighted in orange or highlighted in yellow. Pink highlights mean House amendments to the original bill; orange mean Senate amendments; yellow highlights mean conference committee amendments. The bill will say under the header if it has been amended.

House

Click on the House bill title to jump to its section:

HB20-1033 Live And Let Live Act KILLED IN HOUSE COMMITTEE
HB20-1086 Insurance Coverage Mental Health Wellness Exam PASSED HOUSE AND A SENATE COMMITTEE AMENDED
HB20-1144 Parent's Bill Of Rights KILLED IN HOUSE COMMITTEE
HB20-1151 Expand Authority For Regional Transportation Improvements PASSED A HOUSE COMMITTEE AMENDED
HB20-1153 Colorado Partnership For Quality Jobs And Services Act PASSED HOUSE AND SENATE COMMITTEE AMENDED
HB20-1163 Management Of Single-use Products PASSED HOUSE COMMITTEE AMENDED
HB20-1169 Prohibit Discrimination Labor Union Participation KILLED IN HOUSE COMMITTEE
HB20-1188 Persons Who Illegally Reentered The United States KILLED IN HOUSE COMMITTEE
HB20-1203 EITC Earned Income Tax Credit And Child Tax Credit And Income Definition PASSED A HOUSE COMMITTEE AMENDED
HB20-1233 Basic Life Functions In Public Spaces KILLED IN HOUSE COMMITTEE
HB20-1265 Increase Public Protection Air Toxics Emissions PASSED A HOUSE COMMITTEE
HB20-1269 Create School Safety Account And Related Tax Credits KILLED IN HOUSE COMMITTEE
HB20-1271 Repeal Red Flag And Amend 72-hour Hold KILLED IN HOUSE COMMITTEE
HB20-1272 Colorado Natural Marriage And Adoption Act KILLED IN HOUSE COMMITTEE
HB20-1287 Colorado Rights Act KILLED BY BILL SPONSORS
HB20-1309 Income Tax Credit For Telecommuting Employees
HB20-1319 Prohibit Sale Of Flavored Nicotine Products PASSED A HOUSE COMMITTEE AMENDED
HB20-1349 Colorado Affordable Health Care Option PASSED A HOUSE COMMITTEE AMENDED
HB20-1351 Local Government Authority Promote Affordable Housing Units

 

HB20-1033 Live And Let Live Act [Humphrey (R)]

KILLED IN HOUSE COMMITTEE

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal: Allow organizations and individuals to refuse services to LGBTQ individuals based on sincerely held religious beliefs regarding sexual orientation and gender identity.

Description:

  • Prohibits the state from taking any action against religious organizations or other non-corporate organizations that decline to participate several activities, including marriages, offering housing, adoption, and employment decisions, based on their sincerely held religious beliefs regarding sexual orientation and gender identity. These organizations may also establish sex-specific standards or policies concerning employee or student dress or grooming, or concerning restroom access or other intimate facility or setting access based on sincerely held religious beliefs regarding sexual orientation and gender identity. Licensure or any other state accreditation or certification that would be granted otherwise cannot be denied to someone at one of these organizations based on their sincerely held religious beliefs regarding sexual orientation or gender identity.
  • Also prohibits the state from taking action against individuals who decline to participate in wedding associated services for the same reason.
  • Prohibits state from taking action against state employees from expressing their opposition to same-sex marriage or transgendered individuals in the workplace and allows state employees to opt out of marriage-related duties for same-sex couples or that involve a transgendered individual.
  • Provides legal relief for any successful claims, but claims must be made within two years of the action.

Additional Information:

Requires the secretary of state to ensure that any employees opting out of marriage related duties does not delay or impede any legally valid marriage from occurring.

Legal relief for successful cases includes declaratory relief, injunctive relief, compensatory damages for pecuniary and non-pecuniary losses, reasonable attorney fees, and any other appropriate relief.

Companies that can qualify are sole proprietorships, partnerships, trusts, closely held corporations, or other closely held entities or a co-operative, venture, or enterprise consisting of multiple such entities.


Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

The state should accept and accommodate sincerely held religious beliefs under the 1st amendment. We make exceptions for Quakers and other pacifists for military service, for Sabbath observers to practice their faith. Those who have sincere religious beliefs that same-sex marriage and changing your gender assigned at birth are wrong should not be forced to violate their beliefs. The people who need the services for a wedding or want to work in an environment that accepts their sexual identity can do so somewhere else. It also helps the state keep faith-based charities and educational institutions serving essential services in the fold. All around the country religious organizations that handle adoption and foster care have been forced to close because of this issue and a religious educational institution in Massachusetts was threatened with loss of accreditation. This doesn’t prohibit same-sex marriages or transgendered individuals, it just allows people who do not approve the right to their own views on the matter. Live and let live.

Arguments Against:

Discrimination is discrimination, it doesn’t matter what it is hiding behind. You cannot have a sincerely held belief that violates the civil rights of another person. The LGBTQ community didn’t choose their sexual identity any more than a black, brown, or white person chose their skin color. We do not accept discrimination in this country based on ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation. So, just as we would not accept a baker or a church refusing to serve black people based on personal beliefs, we cannot accept them refusing to serve gay or transgendered people. And the idea that we should allow people to be hired or fired or denied housing based on their sexual orientation is a dark place this country has left behind. As for state employees, there is no “right” to work for the state. One of the requirements for being a state employee is not discriminating against LGBTQ individuals. If someone cannot handle giving out marriage licenses to same-sex couples, then they need to find another job where they don’t have to.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB20-1033

HB20-1086 Insurance Coverage Mental Health Wellness Exam (Fields (D)) [Michaelson Jenet (D), Larson (R)]

AMENDED: Minor

PASSED HOUSE AND A SENATE COMMITTEE

Appropriation: $13,347
Fiscal Impact: None beyond appropriation

Goal: Provide an annual mental wellness exam as part of mandatory health insurance coverage at no charge to the insured party.

Description:

Require an annual mental health wellness exam performed by a qualified mental health care provider of up to 60 minutes to be part of the mandatory health insurance coverage of preventive health care services at no charge to the insured. Coverage must be comparable to annual physical examinations and comply with federal mental health parity laws. Must check with federal government that state would not be subject to defrayal for this benefit. If government does not respond within one year the state may proceed.

Additional Information:

Examination includes services such as:

  • Behavioral health screening
  • Education and consultation on healthy lifestyle changes
  • Referrals to ongoing treatment
  • Mental health services and other supports
  • Discussion of potential options for medication

Qualified mental health care providers include:

  • Licensed physician with specific board certification or training in psychiatry or other mental or behavioral health care areas
  • Licensed psychologist, licensed clinical social worker, licensed professional counselor, or licensed addiction counselor
  • Advanced practice nurse with specific training in psychiatric nursing


Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

Just as we have annual physicals for preventive medicine, so we should have annual mental health wellness exams for preventive mental health. It’s the same idea: prevention and early identification can lead to better outcomes. Not only for long-term mental health and wellness but also for suicide prevention. Colorado has one of the highest suicide rates in the nation. What we hear far too often from families in the aftermath of tragedy is that they didn’t know their relative or child was struggling or suffering. Because we currently treat mental health on a crisis-by-crisis basis, we cannot uncover problems early, before they become acute. Imagine if we treated physical care in this manner, where you only went to see a doctor if you felt that something was wrong. How much more expensive would treatment be? How many lives would be cut short? Another benefit of this law would be to chip away at the stigma around mental health and asking for help. We think nothing of going to the doctor, even when nothing seems wrong. Imagine a world where mental checkups are commonplace and no one blinks an eye at seeing a mental health professional.

Arguments Against:

This bill contains no guidance on billing. Annual physical examinations are fairly well defined and so insurers know what the costs will be that they will be required to cover. Mental health examinations under this bill are so broad that a wide range of potential services costing a wide range of money would all be acceptable as an annual examination. This could lead to vast disparities in what individuals are banking to their insurance, and thus to the rest of us in the form of higher premiums. And we already have a crisis in premium costs in many parts of the state. We simply cannot afford to pile more onto that ledger.


The increased costs of providing all of this mental health care will be borne by all of us, in a major way. There is no such thing as a free lunch, and a free mental health exam for every Coloradan (even if not everyone takes insurers) will result in higher premiums as insurers adjust. Let’s keep providing mental health care to those that need it and not allow everyone any sort of mental health exam every year.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB20-1086

HB20-1144 Parent's Bill Of Rights [Pelton (R)]

KILLED IN HOUSE COMMITTEE

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: Not yet released

Goal: Create a parents bill of rights which prohibits inference with the rights of parents to direct the upbringing, education, and health care of their minor child unless state can prove compelling interest to the contrary.

Description:

Unless it can prove a compelling interest applied to the child involved that is narrowly tailored and cannot be accomplished in a less restrictive manner, the bill prohibits the state from obstructing or interfering with the rights of parents to direct the upbringing, education and health care of their minor child. This includes religious training, access and review of all school and medical records, health care decision-making (except in emergencies), consent to various specified violations of the child’s privacy, and prompt notification if the state believes their child has been the victim of a criminal offense by someone other than the parent. Bans attempts to encourage or coerce a minor to withhold information from their parent unless by a police officer in a criminal investigation. Each school district must develop plans and policies to enforce these requirements, so that parents are involved in their children’s education and discipline, can object to learning materials on basis of sex, morality, or religion, and remove children from classes with those learning materials, opt-out of clubs, activities, and sex education.

Additional Information:

Specific privacy areas that require written parental consent include:

  • Biometric scan of the child is taken, shared, or stored
  • DNA taken, shared, or stored unless it is due to a court order
  • Any video or voice recording made by the state unless it is related to a legitimate academic or extracurricular activity, for security or surveillance of school grounds, or for a photo ID card

Detailed list of minimum areas school district policies must address includes:

  • Plan for parent participation designed to improve parent and teacher cooperation in areas like homework, attendance, and discipline
  • Procedures for parents to learn about course of study and all learning materials
  • Procedures for parents to withdraw their child from any activity or class or program that uses materials the parent objects to on sex, morality, or religious grounds
  • At least 15 days notice on how to opt-out of sex education classes if the school offers them
  • At least 15 days notice and opportunity for child to withdraw from any instruction or presentation regarding human sexuality in other classes
  • At least 15 days notice for parents to learn about nature and purpose of clubs and activities, including extracurricular ones and opportunity to withdraw from any of them
  • Procedures for parents to learn about their existing rights in state law, including opting out of sex education, school choice open enrollment rights, exemption from immunization laws, high school graduation requirements, access and view school records, participation in gifted and talented programs, attendance requirements, public review of textbooks and courses of study, participate in PTA associations, and their rights under this bill

Bill also allows parents to opt-out of any data collection instrument at the district level for the longitudinal student data system, except what is necessary and essential for establishing a student’s public school record.


Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

Parental rights are a cornerstone of American jurisprudence and have long been recognized as a fundamental right in this country. We need to get back to understanding that parents make the best decisions for their children in most cases. This right of course only extends to no harm being done to the child. Children in abusive homes would still be able to be taken away from their parents, so long as the state can prove this is the narrowest possible solution. Medical professionals are already required to report suspected abuse and would continue to do so. Children needing emergency medical care would receive it. Children would continue to receive educations, but parents would be more involved in the process and retain the ultimate authority to teach the beliefs they want to their children, not a teacher’s beliefs or a government official’s beliefs. Requiring private schools and homeschooling as a solution puts an unfair burden on working parents who cannot afford these things. The bottom line is that so long as the child is not being harmed, a parent has the right to decide on medical care for their child. A parent has the right to decide on the moral and religious upbringing their child receives. A parent has the right to control the privacy of their child. We need to err on the side of parental rights, not state interference, and force the state to prove that the solution it is proposing is the least restrictive way to achieve the desired result.

Arguments Against:

Note the bill exclusive speaks of compelling government interest as the burden that must be met. What is missing from this formula is the rights of the child. The right to live a life free from fear, free to be who you are not who your parents want you to be, and free to learn essential knowledge in subjects such as science. This bill is extremely broad and contains no protections for children. The bill in effect gives parents veto power over school curriculum through a broad definition that allows parents to opt their children out from teaching that contradicts the parent’s beliefs in sex, morality, or religion. Scores of books, whole subjects in science, history, civics, and other areas could run afoul of this requirement. And so could any discipline applied by the school. If a parent believes deeply enough that our current curriculum is so flawed, home schooling or private school is an option. For issues like sex education, parents already have the ability to opt out. For health care, reproductive health and the right for people to control their own bodies could run afoul of this law. For child protection from abuse and neglect, a crushingly high burden of proof is placed on children, and the state, to prove they are being mistreated. In practice, this may have devastating impacts on LGBTQ youth by making it harder to remove them from non-affirming homes where they suffer abusive relationships with their parents that don’t rise to obvious levels of physical abuse. This can in turn lead to higher suicide rates. And, tying back in with health care, the requirement that parents approve any medical procedures or exams makes it more dangerous for abused children to get care. It also makes it harder for children to get more low-stakes care in schools, since consent is required for any physical examination. Finally, and perhaps least importantly, this bill’s broad and vague language is a recipe for lawsuits at multiple points in our society where kids interact with education, health care, and the state.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB20-1144

HB20-1151 Expand Authority For Regional Transportation Improvements (Winter (D)) [Gray (D)]

AMENDED: Minor

PASSED A HOUSE COMMITTEE

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: Impossible to say, depends on what these areas do with their powers

Goal: Allow cities and rural regions to raise transportation revenue on their own to use inside their boundaries, without needing approval from other parts of the state and without losing any state transportation funding.

Description:

Allows cities and rural regions within transportation planning organizations to exercise the powers of a regional transportation authorities, which includes the power to impose charges, fees, and with voter approval, visitor benefit, sales, and use taxes to generate transportation funding. The state is prohibited from considering these authorities and any revenue they are raising when it determines the amount of state transportation funding to be allocated to the areas inside these transportation planning organizations. Doing this requires at least two public hearings prior to adopting a resolution authorizing these enhanced powers.

Additional Information:

Adopting resolution must specify the regional transportation systems to be provided and the boundaries of the territory where the transportation planning organization can use their enhanced revenue generation power. This cannot include territory that is not in the transportation planning organization. Cities and counties can opt-into these boundaries if they are excluded.


Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

We all know we have enormous transportation funding problems in Colorado, with billions of dollars in shortfalls just to maintain our current transportation infrastructure. The voters have rejected tax increases and they have rejected bonding on a state-wide level. The solution in this bill may not be ideal, in terms of a level transportation infrastructure base across the state, but it is one of the few avenues we have left. It lets individual pockets of the state have their own say. If, for instance, the Denver metro area wants to increase sales taxes to fund transportation projects in the Denver metro area, they should be able to do so without being vetoed by citizens who don’t live there. This bill enables this to happen through use of regional transportation authority. These can be created without this bill of course, but they are difficult to form and operate. Every single local government within the authority has to agree on everything. This bill takes existing (and possibly new) transportation planning organizations and gives them that same authority. It also prevents the department of transportation from using the existence of these revenues to cut-off state funds to the area. That would be counter-productive and actually incentivize other regions not to fund their own transportation improvements. If citizens in Denver, to use the same example, are paying more in sales tax to fund their transportation needs and then the state pulls funding so that Denver ends up about the same but some other part of the state gets more money, that is not fair to Denver and advantages the people who refused to pay out of their own pockets.

Arguments Against:

Some things just need statewide solutions and our transportation network is one of them. If parts of the state boost their transportation revenue, then those parts are less likely to support statewide initiatives to do the same. That could leave parts of the state out entirely, where the infrastructure there deteriorates while other parts thrive. Future efforts to boost revenue could be torpedoed by the regions of the state who have already boosted their own revenues. Smaller and less prosperous parts could be left in a no-win situation where they cannot raise enough funds on their own to address transportation and cannot convince the rest of the state to help them. The structure of the bill leaves the department of transportation unable to siphon off at least some funds from the thriving areas to help other parts of the state. We all have to be in this together.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB20-1151

HB20-1153 Colorado Partnership For Quality Jobs And Services Act (Garcia (D), Pettersen (D)) [Esgar (D)]

AMENDED: Minor

PASSED HOUSE AND SENATE COMMITTEE

Appropriation: $2.3 million
Fiscal Impact: In addition to appropriation, up to $4.4 million at full implementation

Goal: Allow state employees to organize into a union.

Description:

Allows state employees to create a single union. Management, employees with access to confidential employer-employee relations, employees within division of labor who manage this plan, administrative law judges and lawyers hearing officers, employees of the legislative branch, and temporary employees (less than 6 months) are excluded. The currently existing certified employee organization, Colorado WINS, will start as the certified employee organization representing all state workers. This organization is to negotiate partnership agreements with the state around wages, hours, and terms and conditions of employment, including a grievance procedure to resolve disputes that must end in binding arbitration. It must also have reasonable access to areas where its member employees work to hold meetings, post notices, and provide information, as well as attend new employee orientation. Employees in a partnership agreement are forbidden to go on strike, a work stoppage, or group sickout. Employees may opt-out of providing their personal information to the certified organization and paying dues appears to be optional. The state must make payroll deductions for union dues, notify the organization of employee changes, and submit requests to the general assembly for funding if it is necessary. If the general assembly fails to fund what is necessary for the agreement, the state and certified employee organization must go back into negotiations. If the state and the organization cannot come to an agreement over a work contract, the process goes to mediation. The state personnel director is tasked with enforcing partnership agreements.

Additional Information:

  • Decertification election can be triggered by a petition of at least 30% of covered employees. This must occur no earlier than 120 days and no later than 90 days before the expiration of the partnership agreement or after the fourth year of a partnership agreement. When no agreement is in effect, no decertification can be made until two years from the date of the certification. A majority vote is required to decertify an employee organization
  • If there is no certified organization, qualifying non-profits may request election for representation by submitting a petition of at least 30% of covered employees
  • Multiple organizations can submit and the winner of a majority vote becomes certified
  • No subsequent elections for a year
  • Violating labor stoppage ban can result in decertification or any another sanctions or fines determined by division of labor. Employees who participate may be subject to termination.
  • State may not:
    • Encourage or discourage membership in partnership agreement or take a position on any available choices for organizations to represent employees
    • Expend any public resources in a campaign against an employee organization
    • Interfere or restrain employees from exercising their rights to form a partnership agreement
    • Retaliate against an employee for filing a complaint or for joining a partnership organization
    • Refuse to participate in the partnership process
  • Bill specifies that the nothing in the bill impairs ability for state to carry out core functions of any department or agency, establish and oversee budgets and finances, determine technology utilization, make, amend, enforce, or revoke reasonable personal conduct rules, or take actions such as may be needed to carry out any government functions in an emergency
  • State must also provide specific employment information for each covered employee every month as well as personal contact information unless the employee has opted-out. Information is confidential and personal contact information is not subject to the open records act. State must provide 30 day notice to new hires of ability to opt-out and one-time 60 day notice to current employees when law is enacted. State must provide at least 10 days notice to certified organization of any new employee orientation unless there is an urgent need critical to state operations that was not foreseeable
  • Anything that requires statewide uniformity will involve negotiating with the governor. Sole agency or department negotiations will be handled by the director of the department or agency. The agency or department and employee organization can move solo items to the statewide negotiation by mutual agreement.
  • Only the partnership agreement submitted for ratification is subject to state open records laws
  • If no agreement is reached after 90 days the state and employee organization may enter mediation, with mediator selected from a list of five candidates provided by a respected, national, non-profit entity that provides alternative conflict resolution services. If no agreement after another 30 days the mediator will issue a recommendation on all outstanding issues within 15 days. Parties may enter agreement on the issues they do agree about.
  • State and employee organization must split all mediation costs
  • Only the mediator’s final recommendation is subject to state open records laws
  • Both the state and the certified organization can seek judicial review over elections, unfair labor practice charges, and disputes arising from the agreement including arbitration decisions. Court is to uphold arbitration unless if finds the arbitrator came to a decision by corrupt, fraud or undue means or exceeded their authority or did not adhere to the essence of the partnership agreement or violated the law
  • Bill also removes the limit on number of senior executives serving in state, eliminates the separate state employee funds for merit pay by bringing them all into one fund, and specifies that in a disciplinary action against an employee for violence or threatened violence, the safety of others gets predominant weight over the interests of the employee


Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

We already allow our teachers, police officers, and firefighters to organize into unions, so this does not set some sort of new precedent in terms of government employees able to collectively bargain for themselves. Our state employees technically have a union, Colorado WINS, but it cannot negotiate binding contracts and its existence was not protected by state law, which leaves approximately 28,000 state employees without the strong protection a union can provide. Changes in technology, the nature of the workforce, and demands for state services require the state to modernize the way it manages its employees. Our state workforce is aging and the state has struggled to effective recruit and retain younger employees. As in all industries, high turnover costs money: the state is losing millions in recruiting and training. Part of changing this dynamic is allowing our state employees to dialogue collectively with the state to improve their working conditions and possibly compensation. Through the process in this bill, the state will benefit from the innovations and creativity of front-line employees and at the same time will provide a mechanism for these employees to prosper, which will help keep them in their jobs (or advance to higher level jobs within the state). The bill protects against work stoppages, so we will never lose state services due to labor disputes. No one is forced into the union against their will and the bill language seems to indicate that employees have the ability to not pay dues to the union by not authorizing or canceling payroll deductions.

Arguments Against:

The decision over state employee wages, benefits, and working conditions is a matter of public concern, since the ultimate employer of every person who works for the state government is the citizens of Colorado. This bill removes the citizens of the state, through their elected representatives, from their ability to exercise any oversight into this process. Right now the legislature and governor, through laws and the state budget, make these determinations. Last year’s budget, for instance, featured a 3% pay increase for state employees. If this bill becomes law, unions and the state itself will be making these decisions, but of course the legislature still has to fund them which could lead to a big mess.


Unions are all or nothing propositions. The protections, wages, and other benefits that unions negotiate are for all employees, thus all employees need to contribute. In many ways, this is similar to numerous forms of taxes and fees: we all vote, then we have to abide by what the decision is. The bill needs to allow for all-union employment if majority of eligible voters or ¾ of those who actually voted agree. It also pulls the rug out from underneath workers by prohibiting work stoppages, one of the only tactics that ever really works in a collective bargaining situation.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB20-1153

HB20-1163 Management Of Single-use Products (Gonzales (D)) [A. Valdez (D), Sirota (D)]

AMENDED: Moderate

PASSED HOUSE COMMITTEE

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal: Mostly ban use of single use plastic carry-out bags, stirrers, straws, and expanded polystyrene food service carriers in Colorado at the point of sale to customers.

Description:

Bans stores and restaurants from providing single-use plastic carry-out bags, plastic stirrers, plastic straws (except upon request), and expanded polystyrene food service products to customers at point of sale after June 2021 2022. Inventory purchased prior to July 2021 2022 can be used before the end of 2021 2022. The prohibitions against plastic straws do not apply to hospitals or independent living facilities. Attorney general can seek injunction for any violation and the state can fine $25 for a second violation and $100 for third or subsequent violations. Retailers and restaurants may appeal any fines. Stores must charge customers at least $0.10 per bag if they provide recyclable paper bags instead and may charge the same fee for single-use plastic bags until July 2022. If local laws allow it, stores can keep the money 60% of money goes to city or county store is located in, store keeps 40%. Store must notify customers on receipt of number of bags charged and must have prominent signs indicating the bag fee. Stores cannot refund fee to customers in any way. Local governments are banned from enacting any regulations that are less strict.

Additional Information:

Bags used to contain prescription medicine at pharmacies, to package loose items together at a grocery store (like fruit or vegetables), or contain or wrap frozen foods or bakery goods or prepared foods to prevent contamination of other items. Also does not include laundry, dry cleaning, or garment bags. Expanded polystyrene is defined as: blown polystyrene, commonly known as Styrofoam, and any other expanded or extruded foam consisting of thermoplastic petrochemical materials utilizing a styrene monomer and processed by techniques that may include: fusion of polymer spheres, injection molding, foam molding, and extrusion-blow molding. The ban on these items does not include anything prepacked outside of Colorado or packaging for raw or uncooked meat, fish, or seafood. Banned stirrers are defined as a device used to mix beverages, made predominantly of plastic, and single use. Includes plastic stoppers that can be placed into the sipping hole of a beverage lid to prevent leaks or spills.


Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

Plastics do not biodegrade, they instead photodegrade into smaller and smaller pieces that eventually get into animals and then into our food chain. Plastic straws and stirrers are mostly too lightweight to make it through mechanical recycling sorters. People simply don’t recycle plastic bags (the estimate from Waste Management is 1% of all bags). And it is estimated that in America, we use over 500 million plastic straws and stirrers a day. Yes, that’s right, a day. We use over 100 billion plastic bags every year. We are facing some truly scary ocean pollution risks when it comes to plastic, in terms of overall pollution and corruption of the food chain. New York is banning plastic bags and California already has. Entire countries have banned them. For plastic straws, Seattle has banned them, Starbucks is phasing them out, and McDonald’s has removed them from its U.K. locations. This is not even an outright straw ban, just a way to reduce straw usage only to those that seek them out, rather than foist them on everyone and continue to multiply our problem. We have replacements for all of these things, mostly multi-use bags made from other materials, paper-based straws, stirrers, and containers. The $0.10 bag charge should encourage customers to just obtain their own reusable bags. This can not only lead to large decreases in using store bags but also in litter. San Jose found decreases in litter of about 60% in waterways and streets after a nearly identical law change. Research on other similar bag fees around the country confirms that this happens. The honest answer about how much of the trash in our oceans comes what source is we don’t know. Lots of trash sinks to the ocean floor and thus cannot be counted and smaller items become unrecognizable more quickly than larger ones. Our plastic problem is urgent, a true emergency, so we also cannot wait for societal pressures and trends to sort this out over a longer time-frame. Statewide action also makes it easier for businesses to navigate, as they do not have to sort through local regulations. This is something we can do, with ready alternatives, which much of the rest of the world is also doing, and will help the problem. Polystyrene containers are already taken care of in HB1161

Arguments Against:

It is believed the single greatest contributor of plastic to our oceans is fishing gear. Eight million tons of plastic flows into the ocean each year it is believed plastic straws account for 0.025 percent of that total. Plastic bags aren’t believed to be much higher, in part because of their size. This just isn’t going to do much to fix the problem of plastic pollution in our oceans and will instead inconvenience Coloradans who don’t want to drag their own bags everywhere, or want to use a straw but suddenly have to ask for one. And note the phrasing here, straws have to be asked for. So waiters cannot ask a customer if they want a straw, the customer has to ask for it themselves. Every time you get food in a restaurant, you have to ask the waiter or waitress for a straw for your drink. And we do have plastic bag recycling, you can drop them off at many King Soopers for instance. So rather than an outright ban and bag tax, let’s explore less confrontational ways to get people to be responsible consumers.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB20-1163

HB20-1169 Prohibit Discrimination Labor Union Participation (Gardner (R), Marble (R)) [Ransom (R), Neville (R)]

KILLED IN HOUSE COMMITTEE

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: Potential loss of federal grant funds for RTD

Goal: Ban all-union organizations by prohibiting requiring joining a union as a prerequisite for employment.

Description: Prohibits an employer from requiring any person to join a union, pay union fees, or assessments to charity or other third-party organization as requirement of employment. Any agreement that violates these provisions is null and void. Excludes federal employees and employers.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

So-called all-union employment is unfair to individuals who don’t want to participate, for whatever reason, and are forced to support something they do not believe in. This includes being forced to pay their own money to the union. Unions are still welcome to organize, but just won’t be able to force anyone to participate against his or her will. This won’t kill unions, they can still negotiate with employers for higher wages and benefits and if some people benefit from this without paying dues or joining, that will not be the worst thing in the world. It happens all the time, all over the country. Certain people or groups of people work really hard and spend time and money to advocate for a benefit that will help everyone, even the people who didn’t lift a finger to help.

Arguments Against:

Unions are all or nothing propositions. The protections, wages, and other benefits that unions negotiate are for all employees, thus all employees need to contribute. In many ways, this is similar to numerous forms of taxes and fees: we all vote, then we have to abide by what the decision is (and the threshold for all-union employment is much higher than simple majority rule, the higher of majority of eligible voters or ¾ of those who actually voted). So while something like this sounds nice in theory, in practice it is a killer blow to many unions who fight for their members rights every day. Being in a democracy means abiding by the decisions of the electorate, even when we don’t agree. This also destroys multiple active collective bargaining agreements by rendering them void. RTD may also lose federal grant funding by repealing compulsory union membership.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB20-1169

HB20-1188 Persons Who Illegally Reentered The United States [Williams (R)]

KILLED IN HOUSE COMMITTEE

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: Not yet released

Goal: Require state law enforcement to cooperate with civil immigration detention requests and notify federal authorities when someone on such a request is to be released, with civil liability possible if they do not and the person in question commits a crime.

Description:

Requires state law enforcement to notify federal immigration and customs enforcement officials (ICE) if they have someone in their custody who has a civil immigration detention request and who was previously deported, convicted of improper entry in the US, or convicted of a state felony. Law enforcement must inform ICE of the timing of the individual’s release from custody and detain the individual if ICE requests. They do not have to be detained for longer than 48 hours after being eligible for release, but it is up to local law enforcement.

Anyone who suffers property damage or injury, including death, from an individual who was released without the proper notification listed above may sue the employing agency of the law enforcement officers who failed to comply. This is a civil action that requires a criminal conviction for the crime that caused the damage or injury. Property damage has maximum damages of $350,000 for one harmed individual and $900,000 for multiple harmed individuals, and personal injury has maximum of $700,000 for one harmed individual and $1.9 million for multiple harmed individuals. Secretary of state must annually adjust these amounts in the same manner as adjustments are made to damages in the Colorado Governmental Immunity Act.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

Colorado is currently a sanctuary state, Immigration is handled by the federal government, not by the states. The state cannot refuse to participate in the immigration policies of the federal government because it does not like them. This would be just as true of a state trying to deport people against the wishes of the federal government. It is also a crime to be in this country illegally. We have a whole set of laws relating to people who actively aide criminals, and the bill passed last year that this bill undoes in effect makes the entire state of Colorado an accessory. Just last year a woman was killed in a hit-and-run accident by a man who had been deported at least six times. This bill could give families like hers redress against state agencies who do not cooperate with federal immigration enforcement. Our status as a sanctuary state might also make Colorado a magnet for people who are in the country illegally, increasing the number of illegal residents in the state and increasing the burden on social services agencies.

Arguments Against:

When illegal residents or families with illegal residents fear going to hospitals or police, everyone’s public safety suffers as crimes go unreported and injuries and illness go untreated at earlier stages. When illegal residents or families with illegal residents fear sending a child to school, the state suffers. There is already a large backlog of immigration deportation cases and federal agents are already supposed to prioritize illegals who commit crimes over others. So-called sanctuary cities do not protect illegals who commit crimes, so not turning people over to the federal government isn’t materially affecting the immigration system in this country. Federal immigration enforcement is not the job of the state of Colorado and we should not be using our resources to do it. Furthermore, the near unanimous finding of peer reviewed evidence is that immigrants and immigrant communities (where those who are here illegally mostly reside) commit fewer crimes and have lower crime rates than native-born Americans. This includes studies that have attempted to isolate only those here illegally. The Koch Brothers founded Cato Institute says as much. Obviously there are people who commit crimes in any population group, but we don’t say that we would be safer if we got rid of the entire group. So it is with people who are here illegally, if we could waive a wand and get rid of every last one of them tomorrow that would not make our state safer.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB20-1188

HB20-1203 EITC Earned Income Tax Credit And Child Tax Credit And Income Definition (Gonzales (D)) [Sirota (D), Gray (D)]

AMENDED: Minor

PASSED A HOUSE COMMITTEE

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: About $500,000 a year in additional expenses, unknown precisely how much tax revenue but should be around zero

Goal: Remove a state tax break based on federal law for business income passed-through to personal taxes and use that money to expand the state earned income tax credit and create a state child tax credit.

Description:

Requires any taxpayer who claims the federal pass-through tax deduction for sole proprietorships, partnerships, and S corporations that are taxed through their owners’ individual incomes to base their state of Colorado tax amount on income with that deduction added back in (as if it did not exist for Colorado). Expands the state earned income tax credit (EITC) from 10% of the federal EITC to 20% 20.12%. The Colorado version of the federal child tax credit was enacted with the provision that it could only become active if Congress passed legislation allowing states to collect sales tax on sales made out of the state. This bill repeals that requirement and makes the tax credit active.

Additional Information:

The federal pass-through deduction allows these owners to deduct 20% of income earned by their companies when computing their federal tax income. Colorado bases your income tax rate on your federal tax income, which is why the federal tax law affects Colorado income taxation. So in essence it is a 1% tax cut for anyone who qualifies for Colorado taxes, which this bill reverses. This law was part of the massive federal tax law changes in 2017 and expires in 2025.

The EITC is available to taxpayers with incomes falling below certain thresholds. In 2020 those are $15,820 with zero children, $41,756 with one child, $47,440 with two, and $50,954 with three or more. Benefits also range depending on number of children, ranging from $538 to $6,660. The Colorado portion of this is a percentage of that benefit, so right now it is $54 to $660, this bill doubles it to $108 to $1,320.

The federal child tax credit is available to people filing jointly at under $400,000 or singly at $200,000. It is $2,000 per child under 17. If the total credit is more than what the taxpayer owes they can take a refundable credit of $1,400 per child (the $2,000 is not refundable, so you don’t get money back if you zero out your taxes). The Colorado version of this is 30% of the federal credit for the lowest income bracket (under $25,000 for single filers and $35,000 for joint filers), 15% of the federal credit for the middle bracket ($25,000 to $50,000 for singles and $35,000 to $60,000 for joint), and 5% of the highest bracket ($50,000 to $75,000 for singles and $60,000 to $85,000 for joint). So that’s $600, $300, and $100 per child.


Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

There is a lot going on here but in essence we are taking about $150 million in tax breaks away from some Coloradans and giving it instead to low income Coloradans. The net revenue impact to the state may fluctuate and cannot be estimated to the exact dollar but it should be around zero at least until 2026. Before discussing the individual tax credits, an important fact about Colorado: we have a regressive income tax system, which means the rich pay a lower percentage in taxes than the poor. This is because we start with a flat tax rate, and there are more lucrative tax breaks for the wealthy than for the poor. And this is all before we even consider this additional federal tax break. This unfairness is compounded by sales taxes, which of course are the same no matter what your income is, but hurt poor people much more. 2015 is the last year for which we have complete data, and those earning $200,000 or more paid an effective total tax rate to the state of 3.9% of their income. Those earning $0-$15,000 paid 6.3%. But people don’t put percentages into the bank account, so even if it was the same percentage the fact remains that you talking about people who in poverty versus people who are most definitely not. With that in mind let’s talk about each of these three tax credits individually. The federal tax break for pass-through income firstly benefits business owners and no one else. Freelancers of course can form their own personal business, and many legal, consulting, and accounting firms are set up this way. So are a lot of hedge funds and private equity groups. But on the whole, people making more than $1 million a year are getting 44% of the benefits from this law and people making less than $200,000 are getting less than 25%. Think about what it means that we aren’t even thinking about breaking down lower levels of income. So this is a tax break for the wealthy who need it the least. Getting rid of it in Colorado frees up that money for someone else who might need it. The EITC is one of the most effective tools in our battle against poverty. Numerous studies have shown it boosts work effort, particularly among single mothers. This in turn helps get people off welfare programs. Spending around ½ of the money we save on these tax breaks for the rich is spending about $75 million to help lift Coloradans out of poverty. On the federal level this credit has helped millions of families escape poverty. The child tax credit operates in a similar manner but it focuses more intensely on families with children. It is hard to overestimate how expensive children are, and the overall societal benefits to keeping children out of poverty are immense. Increased health and education outcomes lead to better paying jobs and a better future. This is a multi-generation tax credit. And it should be law already. The bill that enacted this credit into law wasn’t written well: instead of focusing on the outcome that would trigger the credit (collecting out of state sales tax revenue) it focused on the mechanism. So since the mechanism turned into a Supreme Court ruling (Mayfair v. South Dakota), the tax credit failed to trigger. So the added revenue from out of state sales tax collections is already expected to pay for this particular credit. It is important to point out that it is irrelevant that the federal tax credit expires in 2025. If the credit expires, it won’t affect Colorado taxes at all because this bill already is removing the credit. It would affect how much taxpayers pay to the federal government, but that is not our concern. It is also worth noting that the real engine of our economy is the workers: no business exists without demand and if people don’t make enough money to buy things, all of the job creators in the world can’t help. Corporate taxes are also at the same level as individual taxes in Colorado, so the entire point of the business pass through cut (that just cutting corporate taxes down to individual levels wouldn’t help some people) doesn’t make sense here.

Arguments Against:

The idea that wealthy people just don’t need their hard earned money is not fair to them. Another way to look at our state taxes is that those who make over $200,000 a year support 1/3 of the entire tax burden of the state, while those that make $0-15,000 support just 3%. So the rich are paying. And the idea behind the pass-through tax credit is to help the engine of our economy, business owners who create jobs. The more money we can allow them to keep in their businesses (remember their business income is being paid on personal taxes) the more they can grow their businesses and create more jobs. So it has to be a balancing act between credits targeted to help the poor and those targeted to help create more jobs for everyone. Pulling $150 million out of businesses in the state and redistributing it to poor people may help us feel better and some individual families here and there but may also damage the overall economy in the state.


We can do the child tax credit since the out of state sales tax revenue should cover it without doing the rest of this bill. Keep the tax credit to help businesses.


This is a good time to revisit the entire child tax credit idea and get rid of it. Adults with children are already given great advantages in federal and state tax codes and we don’t need to be piling on more money to lower income families who have lots of children. Some form of self-discipline and reliance needs to be in play.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB20-1203

HB20-1233 Basic Life Functions In Public Spaces [Melton (D), Benavidez (D)]

AMENDED: Moderate

KILLED IN HOUSE COMMITTEE

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: About $700,000 to state governments, other increased costs to local governments

Goal: Prohibit camping bans unless the government can offer adequate alternative shelter and the individual refuses.

Description:

Prohibits any government in the state from restricting people experiencing homelessness from conducting basic life functions in a public space unless the government can offer adequate alternative shelter and the individual refuses. This includes sitting, standing, leaning, kneeling, sleeping, lying down, eating, and sheltering oneself in a non-obstructive manner. This must not render passageways impassable or hazardous. Campuses of institutes of higher education and residential areas are exempt. Adequate shelter is an indoor place where a person can conduct basic life functions that does not restrict the individual from using the shelter because of certain limitations. This includes restricted hours of operation, lack of storage for personal belongings, religious requirements, disabilities, family composition, or individual personal characteristics. Governments also cannot restrict anyone from occupying a motor vehicle if is legally parked. Anyone who feels the government has violated these laws can pursue civil action and the court can order injunctive and declaratory relief, restitution for loss of property, actual and compensatory damages, and reasonable attorney fees.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

The courts have basically spoken on this issue, with a Colorado court striking down Denver’s camping ban and a federal appeals court striking down one in Idaho. In both cases courts found it was cruel and unusual punishment to have nowhere for someone to rest but also punish that person for resting in public. In essence, you cannot criminalize homelessness. Trying to do so doesn’t prevent homelessness (you think people want to be homeless?), they just push people into the prison system and decrease any chance they have to escape their situation. These laws are also frequently selectively enforced, which leads to bias based on appearance. Local governments can still enforce health and safety requirements and prevent people from blocking sidewalks or access to private property. This bill doesn’t set out a series of rights, it just says unless someone is violating a safety or health ordinance or blocking a passageway, you cannot make them move or arrest them if there is nowhere adequate for them to go.

Arguments Against:

We haven’t reached final judicial consensus on this yet, so no need to change laws based on these judicial opinions (Denver is appealing). Cities should have the right to decide for themselves what to do with those who have nowhere to live. Denver itself quite literally just spoke on this issue and overwhelmingly rejected repeal of its camping ban. If they decide that they don’t want beggars bothering people in the parks or taking up parking spaces then that is the right of the city. Businesses may be turned off by large visible homeless populations and hurt the economic well-being of the city’s inhabitants. If a city’s citizens feel differently, then they can change their representatives or laws.


This doesn’t go far enough. Previous efforts to end the criminalization of homelessness have focused on the rights of those experiencing homelessness, so that if there was a conflict with local ordinances, there wouldn’t be ways for local governments to easily evade these requirements. By not delineating rights, this bill makes it much easier for local governments to find ways to ignore the spirit of the bill through ordinance violations that have nothing to do with homelessness on their face, but are in fact used to create de facto camping bans.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB20-1233

HB20-1265 Increase Public Protection Air Toxics Emissions (Gonzales (D), Moreno (D)) [Benavidez (D), A. Valdez (D)]

AMENDED: Minor

PASSED A HOUSE COMMITTEE

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: Not yet released

Goal: More heavily regulate certain dangerous air pollutants and the facilities that emit them into our air, including heavier monitoring requirements, health-based thresholds that cannot be exceeded, more power for the state to help disproportionately impacted communities, and increase requirements around incident reporting.

Description:

Requires the state to regulate more heavily certain dangerous air pollution as toxic: hydrogen cyanide, hydrogen fluoride, hydrogen sulfide, and benzene. Any facility that reported amounts over the minimum allowed by the bill for any of these gases becomes a covered facility under the bill. These facilities are required to have fenceline monitoring and near-source monitoring of these gases and a plan submitted to the state that identifies its equipment locations, procedures for dealing with maintenance and equipment failures that must include backup plans, methods for disseminating data to the public, governments, and schools in real time, and other air pollutants the monitors can measure. There must be a least two public hearings on the plan and the state must approve it. Plans must be updated and resubmitted every five years and state may require a more frequent update if it believes there has been a substantial change in the facility’s operations or emissions. State must create rules for this monitoring by end of year and plans must be in place by November 2021. Data collection must begin by 2022. State can add new gases to this toxic category by rule and must re-evaluate both the gases and the qualifying emissions levels every five years.

If there is not existing health-based emissions limit at the state or federal level for a toxic gas the state must create health-based emissions limits for these facilities to follow by rule. It must then re-evaluate these limits every five years. State is prohibited from revising a health-based emission limit unless the revision is more protective of public health and cannot solely consider cost or technical feasibility in setting a limit. Health-based limitations must contain a numerical limit, require maximum degree of reduction in emissions, provide an ample margin of safety to protect public health, consider cumulative effects from multiple sources of pollution, consider available monitoring data from covered facilities, consider both cancer and non-cancer health risks, and consider effects on disproportionately impacted communities and employees at facilities. The acceptable cancer risk is set at one extra cancer case per 100,000 people. There can be a phase-in period for facilities, but it must be prompt.

When considering air pollution permits for covered facilities that are in or near disproportionately impacted communities, the state must consider the cumulative impact of emissions (a report of this must be included by the facility in its application) and can only approve a permit if there is no net increase in the adverse cumulative impacts of hazardous air pollution in each disproportionately impacted community affected.

If the state finds that existing emissions exceed the health-based limits, then it must require a decrease or cessation in the applicable emissions from the covered facility. This must be done within 90 days. The state may also proceed with existing cease-and-desist judicial procedures in existing law dealing with air pollution. The state may also set target emission reductions and deadlines for achieving them in disproportionately impacted communities.

State must set up a real-time community alert system for incidents, with the information required in them to be set by rule. Alerts must be in the two most prevalent language spoken in the community (as determined by the Census) and available through opt-out text messages and reverse 911 calls. Alerts must go to local emergency planning and response organizations, area health agencies, clinics, hospitals, local governments, and school administrators. When an incident occurs the facility must immediately call the emergency number setup to report incidents and disseminate the required information to the required entities. Facilities must coordinate with local first responders at least annually, including providing its emergency action plan and its emergency response plan (if it has one).

Additional Information:

The thresholds for the toxic gases are:

  • Hydrogen cyanide: 10,000 pounds
  • Hydrogen fluoride: 10,000 pounds
  • Hydrogen sulfide: 5,000 pounds
  • Benzene: 1,000 pounds

State must report to legislature by end of year the estimated costs to create the rules for health-based limits on emissions. Covered facilities that already have permits must have their permits revised once the rules are set. Must make all research, studies, and other underlying support for the limits available to the public.

Monitoring equipment at facilities must continuously monitor wind speed and direction. All plans made for monitoring must be the two most commonly spoken languages in the affected community (as determined by Census) and must be available to the public on the state’s website. Interpretation services must be provided at the public hearings as needed for the two most common languages. One hearing must be held on a weekend and one must be held on an evening. Facility and state must consult with affected local government on plan. State must respond in writing to all written and oral comments received prior to approving a plan. Hard copies of the plan must be made available by the state and by the covered facility, which must also make these hard copies available at libraries in the affected community. State to determine a processing fee for these plans the facilities must pay.

State may create monitoring plans for a disproportionately affected community, subject to public comment and hearing. State may also require all baseline levels, health-based cumulative air-pollution targets, implementation and monitoring plans, and monitoring data for disproportionately affected communities be available on the state website.

State is to work with local emergency planning and response organizations to develop a model memorandum of understanding between adjacent jurisdictions so as to integrate alert systems and responses to potential incidents that may cross jurisdictional boundaries. Facilities must provide emergency contact information to local emergency planning and response organizations and establish appropriate schedules and plans for field and tabletop exercises required by federal law.

Facilities subject to either some federal EPA exemptions or EPA flare regulations are subject to a sub-section of regulation that makes any emission of an air pollutant from a flare or pressure relief device that is not an allowable emission or any uncontrolled release of an air pollutant from a pressure relief device a violation of the law. State is allowed to periodically review its rules in this area to see if more stringent measures are needed, including requirement that all leak detection and repair inspections occur at a minimum on a semi-annual basis or that an alternative approved instrument monitoring method is used.


Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

We had a release from a Suncor oil refinery last year that resulted in ash falling on cars in the vicinity. Suncor claimed all was well and told people to wash their hands and offered free car washes. Schools sheltered in place and all Suncor could do was refuse to comment on exactly what happened but say there was an investigation underway. This facility emits more than 800,000 tons of greenhouse gases and other pollutants a year. It broke its permitted level of 12.8 tons of hydrogen cyanide (the gas used in Nazi concentration camps for executions) and didn’t think it was necessary to alert the public (to be fair, neither did the state) and want to actually raise its permitted level. Even low levels of hydrogen cyanide can cause difficulty breathing, chest pain, vomiting, headaches, and thyroid gland enlargement. Benzene and is a known cancer causing gas. Hydrogen sulfide can be tolerated by the body at lower levels but even moderately breaching those levels can cause eye irritation, a sore throat and cough, nausea, shortness of breath, and fluid in the lungs. Chronic low-level exposure has been linked to fatigue, loss of appetite, headaches, irritability, poor memory, and dizziness. High-level exposure is extremely dangerous and has a high probability of death. Hydrogen fluoride immediately converts to hydrofluoric acid upon contact with the body. This is highly corrosive and toxic and can cause blindness by rapid destruction of the corneas in addition to severe burns. High levels can cause death. Suncor has a history of releasing large amounts of just about all of these with just about the same “everything’s fine, nothing to see here reaction” each time. The community around this refinery have suffered disproportionately from asthma, cancer, and heart-lung aliments for decades, in part of course because this Suncor refinery isn’t the only heavy polluter in the area. Our current approach of just letting companies figure it out when there are no federal regulations is a clear failure. Our air quality does not meet federal health standards and there is no sign of it getting better. This bill is not about Suncor alone (although it is a major catalyst for it) but about any facility that is emitting these extremely dangerous gases into the air. We actually don’t know the long-term effects of exposure to this deadly cocktail of gases (as opposed to the individualized effects of each one, which we do know) but it would seem well within the realm of probability that it isn’t good. It is long past time to crack down on these facilities. The current concept of fines and penalties (Suncor has faced at least seven in the past six years) is not working and our community is suffering. We cannot wait for the EPA to step in and regulate this for us.

Arguments Against:

First, the refining industry (which is the clear target of this bill) is one of the more regulated industries in the country. Note that incidents paraded in the arguments for section are all known because these things are heavily monitored. Of course no one can be perfect, but Suncor has poured $1.6 billion into upgrading this refinery in the past 14 years and continues to work with the state government anytime there is an issue (as do all other regulated refineries). State regulators themselves have noted that Suncor has generally been proactive in identifying issues and self-reporting any potential compliance problems. These facilities are important to our state economy in creating the energy that we all use, including gasoline. This bill will dramatically increase their operating costs in the best-case scenarios and in the worst-case, force shutdowns of plants. People work at those plants and they are key cog in our energy supply chain, so any closures could have ripple effects in the oil and gas industry. By its very nature oil refining is a dirty business, if we want to have gasoline we can afford to put into our cars we cannot simply waive away all oil refineries. If the EPA has not decided these gases need to be regulated to this degree (and remember that the Democrats controlled the agency for eight years), then we don’t need to jump in and do it ourselves.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB20-1265

HB20-1269 Create School Safety Account And Related Tax Credits [Neville (R)]

KILLED IN HOUSE COMMITTEE

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: $212 million a year lost revenue and $68 million a year in diverted school funds at full implementation

Goal: Create school safety accounts for children directly affected by school safety incidents to use to attend private school or use homeschooling, and create tax deductible scholarship structure for the program.

Description:

Requires the department of education to create child safety accounts if a child in a public school or charter school is directly affected by a safety incident (but not a perpetrator) and the child’s parents could not reach a satisfactory resolution with the school district. This account is funded by the money that was supposed to go to the school district for the student. It instead can be used by the parents for eligible expenses in educating their child at either a participating private school or home-school. Any leftover money in the account can be used if the child attends an institution of higher education. The account can be closed for improper usage. Also creates a scholarship structure for the program. Any scholarships are 100% income tax deductible up to $100 million in aggregate. Parents in this program are eligible for tax credits for any payments relating to education that this program does not cover, at a 100% level. Any credits that exceed the taxes the parents owes are refunded to the parent.

Additional Information:

Eligible safety incidents include bullying, sexual harassment, sexual abuse, sexual misconduct, gang activity, fighting, suicide attempt or threat, shooting, drug use, other act of violence, or other incident that a licensed physician finds has an effect on the safety of the student. Eligible expenses include: tuition, instructional materials, tutoring, transportation to and from school, and therapy for trauma from the event. The scholarship cap can increase if the donor reaches 90% of it (so $90 million to start), if this happens it will go up by 25%. Scholarships can be given by individuals or corporations. Scholarships cannot be for specific students but can be for specific types of schools or specific types of safety incidents.


Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

One of the greatest societal failings we can have is the failure to protect a child. Our schools take on that responsibility but when they fail, parents sometimes don’t have a recourse. What is a parent supposed to do if their child is involved in an incident at school and no longer feels safe? An education costs large amounts of money, money that the state provides to the school but that the parents cannot access if they do not feel comfortable sending their child to public school. This bill fixes all of this, by giving these parents the ability to access the funds designated for their child to continue their education in another setting. And as recognition of the damage inflicted by the state through the public school, a way to continue education through a college degree. The tax credits bolster this by making sure that the parents will not have to pay any money, just as it is for public education. The scholarship program is a way to lift some of the burden of these costs off of the state. Ultimately, this bill is an attempt to rectify the tragedy of a child not feeling safe at school.

Arguments Against:

This bill has the potential to be a gigantic favor to wealthy individuals, private schools and parents who chose to opt-out of public education. It sounds reasonable on the surface, a child who is attacked at school should not have to go back there. But nowhere in this bill is school choice mentioned, which the ability for parents to send their child to a public school their child is not assigned to. Perhaps the way to solve this problem, and there is no argument that it is a problem if a child does not feel safe at school, is to guarantee a school choice option for the parents to send their child to a different public school. And even this omission only scratches the surface. The bill’s designation of safety incidents include a few that are fairly broad, such as bullying, and offer an “out” for a parent who like to send their child to private school but would not like to pay for it. And indeed, any parent would be a fool to not try to get into this system. Free private school (because if the safety account doesn’t cover the costs, the state will reimburse the rest through an unlimited tax refund) AND the potential for some free college education if the account is managed carefully. Not to mention a gigantic tax shelter the Cayman Islands would be proud of, in the form of a $100 million tax aggregate deduction. Anyone with any money whatsoever would be lining up to take advantage of this tax break to drastically lower their tax bill, with no real ceiling at all ($100 million a year is quite the goal). On the plus side that does mean that the state would probably not be on the hook for any additional tax refunds or the cost of college tuition, because all of the private money would be there. But of course that’s tax money the state won’t have to spend on anything other than the kids in this program. The non-partisan legislative staff council estimated that this bill would cost the state over $212 million dollars in revenue when fully implemented.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB20-1269

HB20-1271 Repeal Red Flag And Amend 72-hour Hold (Cooke (R), Smallwood (R)) [Saine (R)]

KILLED IN HOUSE COMMITTEE

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: About $240,000 a year

Goal: Repeal extreme risk protection order gun removal bill passed last year and change standard when someone can be put in an involuntary 72 hour mental health hold from imminent danger to extreme risk.

Description:

In essence repeals the extreme risk protection order gun removal bill from last year (also known as the “red flag” bill), which allows for a family or household member or law enforcement officer to petition a court for a temporary extreme risk protection order that would remove firearms from an individual for 364 days or until the individual can prove to the court they are no longer a risk. Bill removes the penalty for having a weapon when under a protection order, so the order becomes pointless as it is unenforceable.

Changes the standard for when person can be put an involuntary 72 hour mental health hold from imminent danger to themselves or others to extreme risk, which the bill defines as a credible and exigent threat of danger to themselves or others through actionable threats of violence or death as a result of current mental state.

Additional Information:

Current law requires that the petitioner must establish by the preponderance of the evidence that an individual poses a significant risk to self or others by having a firearm or by getting a firearm. The individual in question has access to an attorney at the state’s expense, not a public defender but someone from a pool of private attorneys who have agreed to participate. The court must hold the hearing in person or by telephone the day the petition is filed or the next court day. If a temporary protection order is granted, another hearing must be held within 14 days to determine if the order should be continued. A continued order is in effect for 364 days. The individual under the order can petition once during the 364 days to have it removed, here the burden is on the individual under the order to prove they are no longer a risk, but there is discretion left to the judge to order future hearings if the judge thinks there is a strong possibility the order could no longer be necessary before it expires. The petitioner can request the order be extended before it expires. Upon expiration or lifting of the order, all of the individual’s firearms must be returned.


Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

There is no requirement that someone actually does something to lose their constitutional right to bear arms under the current law, only the hurdle that others think they might do something. We live in an innocent before proven guilty society and there is a cost to having that freedom. There is also a cost to living in a society where your rights can be taken away for things you might do instead of things that you have done. We cannot travel down that road, no matter how noble the intentions. In addition, the law shifts the burden of proof onto the individual whose rights are being violated after the initial protection order is granted. Someone who wants to get their constitutional rights back has to prove they are “worthy” of them, not the people trying to continue to deny an individual the right to bear arms. This law opens up broad avenues to discriminate against those with behavioral health disorders who are not dangerous but still struggle with mental health problems. It also provides no avenue for someone who has had their constitutional rights abridged to get any help. The state simply swoops in and takes someone’s guns away, then waits for the situation to “get better” without any designated aid to the individual. And we are already seeing the law abused, as in one high profile case earlier this year when a woman tried to get a police officer’s guns confiscated. Fortunately that case did not go through but it illustrates the dangers of a law like this. Multiple counties in the state oppose the law and say they will not enforce it. We need to get rid of it. For involuntary mental health holds, the current standard is too loose and as a result we have a lot of these involuntary holds, over 40,000 of them in 2017. Any doctor or social worker can just say they believe someone is a danger to themselves or others and away someone goes for 72 hours. An investigation into at behavioral health facility in Johnstown last year found the facility abusing this law in order to get insurance money (they were just sued again earlier this year for similar practices). An involuntary hold is quite literally taking away someone’s freedom for 72 hours against their will. We need a higher standard.

Arguments Against:

This is about saving lives. We’ve all asked, in the aftermath of the Parkland shooting and many others, why no one stepped in when it seemed so obvious that there was such clear danger. The unfortunate answer is, it wouldn’t have mattered with something like extreme risk protection orders. If Nicholas Cruz lived in Colorado and people were concerned he would become violent with his firearms, it was not possible to take them away from him, by any avenue, until after he commits a crime. Here in Colorado deputy Zackari Parrish, was killed by a mentally unstable man that the local authorities knew was unstable and armed. And then there are the numerous successful suicides by gun, which may have not been successful with alternatives like pills. Deputy Parrish, and many others, might still be alive today if when people see something and say something, we can actually do something about it. This was a bipartisan bill supported by numerous state sheriffs. It contains numerous safeguards for the rights of the accused individual and relies on a judge to administer the final ruling. The high profile case earlier this was a perfect example of the law working. No guns were removed from the person accused and the case was thrown out. These red flags laws exist in other states, including now in Florida, so this is not a novel experiment nor a “blue state” one. For the mental health hold, the proposed threshold of actionable threats is too low as we are not always going to be dealing with someone in a sound enough state of mind to voice an actionable threat but it still may be possible to glean from their behavior that they are a danger to themselves and others. Any standard can be abused by bad actors, the solution is not to remove the standards but the bad actors (that facility in Johnstown is operating on a provisional license right now, shut the place down if necessary). Our current standard is fine (in fact there are those that believe the current threshold is too high, a probable sign that is in the sweet spot of just right).

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB20-1271

HB20-1272 Colorado Natural Marriage And Adoption Act [Humphrey (R)]

KILLED IN HOUSE COMMITTEE

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal: Ban same-sex marriage and ban allowing same-sex couples to adopt children.

Description:

Bans same-sex marriage and bans allowing same-sex couples to adopt children.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

The constitution of this state says that only the union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized in this state. This law simply says we should follow our constitution. As for the Supreme Court, its composition has changed since the ruling allowing same-sex marriage and this bill could be used to bring the issue before the court again to see if there might be a different ruling now. If same-sex couples cannot marry, then we also should not allow them to adopt since their lack of legal marriage presents barriers for raising a child.

Arguments Against:

This law is unconstitutional, as the Supreme Court has final say over these matters (it has long since been decided in this country that states do not get to overrule the Supreme Court, even if they write things into their own constitutions) and has ruled that same-sex couples can marry and can adopt children. Just putting in the law that it doesn’t matter what courts say doesn’t work in our system of government. If you want to change this law, you need a constitutional amendment. The most important thing for a child is a stable and loving home, this far outweighs considerations of modeling on genders or any so-called traditional notions of family. The vast majority of research supports the conclusion that there is no difference between children raised by same-sex couples and those raised by a male-female couple when you control for other factors. This last phrase is important, because if you compare same-sex adoptive parents to biological parents you find the biological parent cohort is “better” but this is not an apples-to-apples comparison. When same-sex adoptive parents who stay together are compared with male-female adoptive parents who stay together, the research says there is no statistically significant difference. Love is love, and the idea that we would keep a child in foster care and deprive them of a loving family simply because of who the parents chose to love is not right. Of course children raised by their biological parents is option A, but that is not what this is about. As for marriage, this is pretty much another settled issued. Same-sex partnerships do not harm people in male-female couples. No one’s marriage is somehow worth less just because two men can get married or because two women can get married. The bottom line is that there is nothing wrong with a person who is attracted to someone of the same sex. They are just living the life they were born to, the way they were created. The fact that they experience attraction differently does nothing to harm people who are attracted to the opposite sex.

HB20-1287 Colorado Rights Act (Marble (R), Lee (D)) [Soper (R)]

KILLED BY BILL SPONSORS

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: About $3.1 million at full implementation

Goal: Allow civil lawsuits against people and public agencies for depriving someone, under the aegis of enforcing the law, of the rights, privileges, or immunities under the state constitution, regardless of any state immunity laws or qualified immunity, with a statute of limitations of two years.

Description:

Allows people to sue other people or public entities that use the law to deprive them of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the state constitution. Court may award legal fees to the defendant if the defendant wins and the court finds the suit frivolous. If the plaintiff wins they get reasonable attorney fees and legal or equitable relief. Bill also allows the attorney general to sue on behalf of people for the same reason. In this case, if the attorney general wins, the court must order the distribution of any award of damages to the injured party. Statutory immunity, qualified immunity and statutory limitations on damages, liability, or attorney fees do not qualify for lawsuits brought under this bill except for cases involving prisoners where legal limitations do apply. Employees of public entities are indemnified against damages unless they are convicted of a crime based upon the issue in dispute. Statute of limitations for action under this bill is two years.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

This is about basic fairness under our constitution. There are really three issues here, one is the qualified immunity that government officials receive in doing their jobs. This basically says that officials who violate the civil rights of individuals where the law was not previously settled are immune from consequences. The idea is that the officer may have been acting in good faith but just did not know that what they were doing violated someone's civil rights. Unfortunately this has now devolved into the absurd, where because the courts had only determined that you could not sic a police dog onto a suspect who had surrendered and was lying down, a case where a dog was set onto a suspect who surrendered and was sitting down was thrown out. Solely because of the difference between sitting/lying down. This is one of many examples that stretch across all government agencies and it makes accountability nearly impossible to come by. Remember that you still have to prove you actually had your rights violated, and agencies like the police are still protected by having to show shocking conduct in split-second decisions. Another is the extreme difficult prisoners have in suing and winning civil rights cases in federal court due to the federal Prison Litigation Reform Act. Lawsuits in this area have fallen by nearly 60% since the passage of the act and it is now extremely difficult, even in the face of open wrongdoing, to file suit and even then to win. This bill would allow prisoners to instead use the state courts. Finally this bill addresses harassment by state agencies. One of the elements that came out of the Masterpiece Cake decision by the US Supreme Court was that the state civil rights division has stepped out of its bounds in the case by ignoring any claim of religious liberty, which is also a guaranteed constitutional right. The problem is that there is no redress mechanism. The baker in that case won, but also lost because he has no way to make himself whole. The civil rights division can continue to act with relative impunity because they do not have to fear civil lawsuits coming back at them. But it is also important to note that this bill protects LGBTQ people as well. They too can bring civil lawsuits against anyone depriving them of their constitutional rights. As can the state attorney general. So this bill is not a one-sided attempt to tilt the scales in favor of religious rights, it is a way to give people whose rights have been violated a remedy in court to be made whole. It has a short statute of limitations. Federal law provides a similar avenue for redress, except of course for extremely important area of qualified immunity, this would allow for the same thing at the state level, where the lower expense of a lawsuit should act to help people more easily stand up for their rights. And it is important to note that rights under the Colorado constitution are more expansive than federal rights. Finally, if you bring a case and you lose, you are liable for the defendant's legal fees. That alone will do much to discourage frivolous lawsuits or attempts to prevent any state division or agency from conducting its work through endless lawsuits.

Arguments Against:

The total removal of qualified immunity goes way too far. Police officers rely on this in order to do their jobs. While there are examples of this policy gone wrong, there are also examples of how removing qualified immunity could go wrong too. The 4th amendment prohibition against unreasonable search and seizure is quite vague and notoriously finicky. Officers can make good faith errors in search or other gray areas without realizing they are making an error. This is because we do not expect our governmental agents to be constitutional experts up on all of the latest case law. Many of the instances of failed accountability held up by opponents of qualified immunity should in fact be handled by the appropriate agency. Qualified immunity is for civil cases and the court system, but keeping a job is a different matter. This could also open up quite the Pandora’s Box of lawsuits. The fiscal note is estimating an increase of about $3 million in additional expenses for the state defending itself and a lot of these actually come from prisoner-related cases (the limitations there are not such that lawsuits would be precluded entirely). And it does not estimate at all the impact on potential settlements or lost cases on the fiscal well-being of government entities. But the more serious problem is the potential chilling effect on state agencies, including the police, which are charged with investigating claims. This includes the civil rights commission, which was at the center of the Masterpiece Cake controversy. Burying the division or any other division in lawsuits is a good way to keep it from functioning, even if many are later dismissed as frivolous.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB20-1287

HB20-1309 Income Tax Credit For Telecommuting Employees (Crowder (R)) [Holtorf (R)]

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: About $126 million in lost revenue annually at full implementation

Goal: Create a $1,000 per employee tax credit for any business that allows an employee to work from home for at least 2/3 of the time the employee is expected to work.

Description:

Creates a $1,000 per employee tax credit for any business that allows an employee to work from home for at least 2/3 of the time the employee is expected to work. The credit can be rolled into future years if it exceeds taxes due, up until five years in the future. Credit repeals in 2032.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: January 2032

Arguments For:

Telecommuting has multiple benefits for our state. First, it allows people to live away from where most businesses are located (in the Denver metro area), which decreases the strain on housing in those areas, on transportation networks, and increases economic opportunity for rural areas and those with disabilities who cannot easily travel for work. The decrease in transportation also decreases air emissions. Employees do not have to commute and thus gain back significant amounts of their day, which may increase job satisfaction and productivity. Some employees may also not need to pay for child care, which is huge burden for many families. So this is positive behavior we want to encourage more of, and a tax credit is a good way to do that, especially structured per employee in this manner rather than just a tax credit for allowing telecommuting at all.

Arguments Against:

This may fall into the area of not a big enough incentive for a business to change its behavior while simultaneously overly rewarding businesses who already do this. The decision on letting employees telecommute this much goes so far beyond a $1,000 tax credit per employee. Even if you had 100 employees, telecommuting is a tricky proposition for many businesses, as it requires robust IT infrastructure, employees who can be trusted to work away from supervision, lower amounts of team-based work and community-based work, and no physical interaction with the public required. Many employees who allow telecommuting also require day care as part of this (they want their employees working, not looking after children), so you aren’t necessarily going to end up helping families out there. So we may end up not incentivizing anyone to do anything new while simultaneously giving tax money away to companies who are just operating as they would have without the tax credit. The state estimates about 126,000 Coloradans work from home already, so without changing any behaviors whatsoever we could be out $126 million of revenue.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB20-1309

HB20-1319 Prohibit Sale Of Flavored Nicotine Products (Fields (D), Priola (R)) [Caraveo (D), Becker (D)]

AMENDED: Significant

PASSED A HOUSE COMMITTEE

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: Needs new fiscal note due to amendment

Goal: Ban sale of flavored cigarettes, tobacco products, and nicotine product (including e-cigarettes) and products that are added to nicotine and tobacco products to produce a flavor other than tobacco in shops that do not require proof of ID to enter.

Description:

Bans sale of flavored cigarettes, tobacco products, and nicotine products (which includes e-cigarettes). Also bans sale of products intended to be added to these nicotine and tobacco products to produce a flavor other than tobacco. Shops where ID must be shown (and you must be 21) are exempt. Products fall into these bans by having retailers or manufacturers:

  • Make a public statement or claim that the product produces a flavor or smell other than tobacco
  • Use text or image on product label, package, or signage that explicitly or implicitly indicates the product produces a flavor or smell other than tobacco
  • Taken any action directed toward consumers that a reasonable person would expect would cause consumers to believe the product produces a flavor or smell other than tobacco

Specific flavors mentioned as being banned include: fruit, menthol, mint, wintergreen, chocolate, cocoa, vanilla, honey, or any candy, dessert, alcohol beverage, herb, or spice.

Penalties are a $250 fine for first offense, $500 for a second offense in a 24 month period, $1,000 for a third offense in a 24 month period and a 7 day prohibition for the retailer selling any tobacco or nicotine products, between $1,000 and $15,000 for a fourth violation in a 24 month period and a 15 day sales ban, and $15,000 for fifth or subsequent violation in a 24 month period with at least a one year sales ban.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

The partial verdict is in: e-cigarettes are dangerous and we do not want our children to become hooked on them. Each pod of a Juul, for instance, contains as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes. And we know that nicotine is highly addictive. Nearly all vaping products contain nicotine (99%) even when they are labeled as nicotine free. We know vaping products contain dangerous chemicals, including those linked to lung scarring and unregulated heavy metals. And then of course we had the spate of deaths due to what appears to have been tainted products last year. And Colorado has the highest teen vaping rate in the entire country at 27%. Vaping among kids didn’t really catch on until all of the flavors came on to the market, and then it exploded. Because of course beyond the “cool” factor the tobacco flavor wasn’t a popular draw. But if it also tastes good, then look out. In many ways we are doing a complete rerun of our experience with cigarettes, except of course that we’ve been much more proactive about jumping on vaping. But we’ve got the same excuses about lack of long-term evidence of health risks (which would be impossible at this point), that adults like flavors too, and that it damages businesses to regulate. Everything we heard from big tobacco and the same playbook of trying to hook kids on the product. In fact Juul, the dominant player in the market, is owned by tobacco giant Philip Morris. So don’t be fooled by the notion we are “helping” big tobacco by cracking down on vaping. As for smaller businesses, that’s the risk you take if center your business on a product that is a health threat. The bill still allows stores that require proof of age to enter, so most vape shops and tobacco stores will be fine. Anyplace kids can shop will not, which is the entire point. For people attempting to quit smoking, there is decidedly mixed evidence as to how much vaping helps, and if the argument is that vaping is less dangerous than smoking (which is the belief at the moment, but we really don’t have enough information about vaping to say that for sure), then this bill should do nothing to prevent someone from vaping instead of smoking. They just can’t have kid friendly flavors. It also remains a bit dubious to say that you are fine if you are vaping instead of smoking and the FDA does not recommend e-cigarettes as an aid to quitting smoking. We are not the first state to ban these products and the federal government has also made a partial ban (that doesn’t cover additive products like this bill does). Note that the big decrease in revenue is mostly about people buying less tobacco products (note that if they buy different tobacco products we'd still get the revenue). This is a very good thing.

Arguments Against:

It is easy to say that an adult addicted to cigarettes should just use tobacco flavored vape products but that is likely to make it harder for some people to move from one product to the other. Having the flavor makes the vaping product more attractive and thus more likely for the adult to want it rather than the cigarette. And while the jury may still be partially out on vaping, particularly with long-term effects, it is decidedly in on cigarettes. We know cigarettes are incredibly damaging to your health and to the health of people around you. It has been a long-term project in this country to reduce smoking and while vaping is not a perfect solution, it is a partial one. It is extraordinarily difficult for many people to kick the nicotine habit, so a potentially less dangerous alternative can be helpful. This bill will also damage a lot of small businesses in the state who sell vaping products, as the vast majority of their sales are the flavored products. It is also important to note that it is illegal to sell vaping products to minors, just like any other nicotine product. So a step-up in enforcement would seem to be in order. This bill will make it extremely difficult for anywhere other than a vape shop to sell these products and in effect gives these shops a monopoly. That is not only not fair to drugstores and grocery stores (who are still required to verify age prior to purchase of any tobacco product), it is unreasonable for adults who want these products and now must go to these specific stores.


Vape shops should not be exempt, our long experience with tobacco is illustrative here: ID requirements do not stop teens from getting their hands on this stuff. We should not be ruled by how much revenue might be lost--this is about health care not state revenues.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB20-1319

HB20-1349 Colorado Affordable Health Care Option (Donovan (D)) [Roberts (D), Kennedy (D)]

AMENDED: Minor

PASSED A HOUSE COMMITTEE

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: About $950,000 next year, then about $750,000 each year

Goal: Create the Colorado Option, an insurance plan offered by private insurers that is controlled by the state government and includes higher medical loss/ratios, basic protections provided by the ACA, defined reimbursement rates and mandatory participation for hospitals, and must be offered by at least two insurers in each county in the state.

Description:

Requires health insurance carriers in Colorado to offer what the bill calls the “Colorado Option”, which has its own set of rules and regulations, beginning in 2022. This must be offered to anyone on the individual health care marketplace in each county where the insurer offers any other insurance, but the state commissioner of insurance is empowered to write rules expanding the Colorado option to the small group market if a majority of an advisory board created by this bill also agrees. If the board agrees, the commissioner is also required to ensure that at least two carriers offer the Colorado option in each county and gives power to the commissioner to establish rules that may require carriers to offer the plan in specific counties. All hospitals must accept Colorado option insurance or face fines escalating to $40,000 per day and potential loss of license.

For insurers, the Colorado option plan must have a medical loss ratio of 85%, rather than the 80% required by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). This means 85% of all premiums must be spent on reimbursing medical care. All rebates and incentives from drug manufacturers must pass through at 100% to policyholders in the form of premium reductions. Plans must be at least ACA bronze and silver levels of coverage, include the essential benefits package required under the ACA, and provide first-dollar, predeductible coverage for certain services such as primary care and behavioral health care as appropriate.

In developing the plan the commissioner must consider: lowering all out-of-pocket costs to consumers, including premiums; increasing access to health care; increasing consumer choice; reducing health disparities; minimizing cost shifting, impacts on other markets, and impacts on those receiving federal subsidies; improving care coordination; and incorporating value-based purchasing and plan design. Commissioner is specifically tasked to mitigate adverse impacts on those whose income is up to 400% of the federal poverty line (eligible for federal subsidies under the ACA).

The Colorado option has specific hospital reimbursement rates that must be included in all plans. The commissioner will set these rates for in-patient and outpatient services, with a specific goal of lowering costs and increasing access in rural areas. The rates must be based on Medicare or equivalent reimbursement rates. The base is 155% of Medicare and then is adjusted based on the following factors:

  • Critical access or hospitals that are not a part of any health care system get a 20% increase in reimbursement. A hospital that is both gets to double-dip: 40% increase
  • Hospital with combined percentage of Medicare and Medicaid patients that exceeds statewide average gets up to a 30% increase, based on how far above average it is
  • Hospital that is efficient in managing underlying cost of care, taking into accounts its margins, operating costs, and net patient revenue, gets up to a 40% increase

Commissioner must consult with employee membership organizations representing health systems’ employees in Colorado and with hospital-based health care providers and may make changes as necessary to reflect cost of adequate wages, benefits, staffing, and training. Commissioner also has the option to exempt a hospital from these rates if it can demonstrate they will have a significant negative affect on the hospital’s financial sustainability. Starting in 2024 the advisory board will advise the commissioner on any adjustments that should be made to this formula.

Commissioner must annually report to the legislature beginning in 2024. The department of health care policy and financing must, in consultation with the advisory board, annually report on the impact of the Colorado option on hospital sustainability, the health care workforce, and health care wages to the legislature, also beginning in 2024.

The bill also creates the Colorado Option Advisory Board, which in addition to its already described duties, must also advise the commissioner how pass-through funds from any federal waivers received (which the bill requires at least 80% of which to go to those eligible for ACA subsidies), opportunities to leverage the plan to promote innovation and lower costs, and overall help in designing and implementing the plan. The board can override any decision made about the Colorado Option by the commissioner with a vote of 7 out of the 9 members.

Additional Information:

Commissioner must consider each insurer’s structure, number of covered individuals in each county, and existing service areas as well as alternative health care options in each county (including cooperatives) when deciding whether to force insurers to operate in a specific county.

Commissions paid to brokers for the Colorado option must be comparable to the average commission for other plans in the individual market.

Board is composed as follows:

  • Executive director of the health care exchange
  • Four members appointed by the governor:
    • Two representatives of consumers who have the highest barriers to accessing health care
    • One with experience or expertise in provision of health care to uninsured and low-income populations
    • One with experience or expertise in health care finance
  • The speaker of the house, president of the senate, house minority leader, and senate minority leader get one appointment each, which must include:
    • Member with experience or expertise in value-based purchasing and plan design
    • Member with experience or expertise in provision of health care services in rural areas
    • Member with experience or expertise in hospital administration
    • Member from an employee organization that represents employees in the health care industry

No more than four members of the board can be from the health care industry, which includes hospitals, insurers, brokers, and providers. Members must publicly disclose any conflicts of interest. At least three must be from rural areas of the state and the board should reflect geographic, ethnic, racial, and economic diversity of the state as much as possible. In order to qualify for the board, a member must have demonstrated experience or expertise in at least two of the following areas:

  • Individual health care coverage
  • Value-based purchasing and plan design
  • Health care consumer navigation and assistance in accessing health care
  • Health care finance
  • Provision of health care in rural areas
  • Provision of health care to uninsured and low-income populations
  • Health care actuarial analysis
  • Health care delivery systems
  • Hospital administration
  • Insurance brokerage

Board members serve three year terms except that initially two of the governor’s appointees and the appointees of the house and senate minority leaders serve two years so as to stagger the terms. Board members may only serve two terms on the board. Board also has non-voting members, representing the following organizations/offices:

  • Comissioner of insurance, executive director of health care policy and financing, and the administrator of the all-payer health claims database
  • Appointed by the governor:
    • Governor
    • Statewide association of professional nurses
    • Statewide association representing physicians
    • Statewide association of hospitals
    • Statewide association of insurers

Board members can be removed by their appointing authority for cause, including incompetency, neglect of duty, malfeasance, or any other cause as determined by the board’s bylaws. Board must meet at least quarterly, hold public meetings with the opportunity for public testimony, and establish bylaws for its operation. Members receive a per diem and reimbursement for expenses.

Hospital’s initial fine is $10,000 per day for first 30 days it refuses, and then up to $40,000 per day after that.

Report to legislature must include: effect of the Colorado option on the individual market and any cost shifting, effect on individuals who qualify for federal subsidies, adequacy of providers in the plan, and any other aspects the commissioner deems pertinent.


Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

Multiple regions in Colorado still struggle to obtain affordable, useful insurance. The useful clause there is important, low-cost mostly useless insurance doesn’t do anymore much good and is the system we had before the Affordable Care Act when bankruptcy from health care costs was considered a normal thing in this country. 14 counties had access to only one insurer through the state’s exchange in 2019. The federal government doesn’t seem like it is going to do anything to address this, so it is up to us. Free markets have utterly failed in this industry for several very good reasons. First, consumers do not “price” their health care options. It is nearly impossible to do so even if you wanted to shop around at various providers. Second, consumers mostly do not have the choice over their insurance to begin with, since the vast majority get it through their employer. And most importantly, we cannot choose to not get health care. We all need it and we cannot choose when we need it. And so we have two choices: offer insurance through the government (a public option) where the government is in essence the insurance company or create and manage an insurance option for private insurance. In essence, attack head-on the problems we all see in the health care marketplace through an insurance plan that must be offered throughout the state. We passed a bill last year to explore this issue and the committee it created recommended this solution. A true public option just does not fit with state finances (multiple other states including Vermont and California have explored this and come to the same conclusion). So what are these problem areas? First, prescription drugs, where a piece of the issue is cost savings from the manufactures that are not making their way to consumers but instead being pocketed by insurers and pharmacy middlemen called PBMs. That will not happen under the Colorado Option. Second, insurance companies themselves, who remain an extremely profitable industry, with net profit margin higher than before the introduction of the ACA (3.4% in 2018 and rising) on vastly increased revenues (thanks in part to all of those new ACA customers). So clearly shaving another 5% off the amount of premiums they are allowed to keep isn’t going to hurt anyone. Finally and most importantly, a big part of this is hospitals. Denver-area hospitals made a record $2 billion in profit (yes profit, not revenue) and prices overall in the state grew 70% between 2009 and 2018. In the state, hospitals are now profiting (again, profiting) at $1,518 per patient in 2018. That number was $538 in 2009. A 280% increase in pure profit. Coloradans have lost billions of dollars just so these hospitals can make more money, mainly through charging non-Medicare and Medicaid patients far more than they need to offset any potential losses. We have the second highest hospital profits in the entire country, the fourth-highest administrative expenses (non-medical care—you don’t profit on salaries but you can compensate your executives highly, like over $5 million a year for the CEO for instance), and the second-most hospital construction in the country, despite the fact that we are one of the healthiest states in the nation. And this is an industry dominated by “non-profits” (over ¾ of the hospitals in the state) who aren’t supposed to care about making a profit at all. These non-profits have cut spending on charity care by 2% according to the latest tax data available while instead money is plowed into unnecessary construction (our occupancy rate is below average for the country and dropping) and stockpiling of “reserves”. All of that extra cost gets passed on to us through insurance premiums. Probably the most controversial part of this bill will be the rate setting for hospitals, which of course face similar issues with Medicaid and Medicare but have more flexibility to opt-out of providing some of that care. The break-even point for most hospitals is believed to be at about 143% of Medicare rates, so we are already starting above that in order to provide some cushion. Then of course we want to not have a one size-fits all rate but target hospitals in specific circumstances (including having more of those low fee Medicare and Medicaid patients) for higher reimbursement rates. No one wants to run hospitals out of business or put added stress on hospitals that are already struggling (thus the ability to also have a complete exemption from these rates). We just want to reign in one of the worst systems in the entire country when it comes to cost. So yes, the state sets reimbursement rates and those rates may in fact drive other insurance plans offered in the state to negotiate their own rates from a place of power, rather than their current place of weakness in the face of the monopolistic structure of our hospital system (where there has also been a lot of consolidation of ownership). That is in fact the entire point. We do not need the most profitable hospital industry in the nation. The design of the bill may actually also raise reimbursement for some hospitals who are not part of a big system, critical care locations, and efficiently serving high numbers of Medicare and Medicaid patients (the media has already found 10 hospitals, all rural, that they believe will actually see rate increases under this bill). Because all of those adjustments to the rates are additive, you can easily blow past 100% if you hit multiple categories. And those are precisely the hospitals that are currently struggling and the ones we want to reward. The bill also protects against two main areas of concern with a state-backed plan: that insurers will simply shift costs to non-Colorado Option plans and that those on subsidies will be negatively affected. For the first, the commissioner of insurance can deny any rate change that is a cost shift (all plans must be approved by the commissioner to appear on the marketplace right now). As for the alternative total cost of care model proposed in arguments against, this is a model that fails to acknowledge that our current spending is wildly out-of-control and instead locks that spending level in and just tries to “limit” future growth. Massachusetts may believe they have saved money by using this plan compared to nothing at all, but insurance premiums and out-of-pocket expenses have grown there by more than their targeted maximum growth figure (which was 3.8%, well above inflation). So it may be somewhat helping but it by no means gets a full handle on the problem. The final point is the concern over insurers fleeing the state entirely. This gets parts of the equation here wrong. Insurers are going to love the reimbursement rates set on hospitals (who also aren’t going anywhere) and are going to love the bargaining power this option gives them when it comes to their own plans. They may not be so pleased with being forced to serve some markets and being forced to give up another 5% of their premium revenue, but profits remain profits. And the insurance industry can still easily be profitable under this bill, as can hospitals.

Arguments Against:

Getting costs down by getting more free market innovation into the space is the right way to go, not more government involvement. There is a reason why there are few insurers who want to provide coverage in these counties and that is because of the high cost of delivering health care in these areas. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, these insurers cannot offer lower cost plans that do not cover as much, so everyone is stuck with high priced plans. We need to get government out of the way, not more deeply involved as this bill envisions. In essence, this bill gives an enormous amount of power to unelected government officials to basically set the health care market for the entire state. The commissioner of insurance gets to create this plan and its requirements, tell hospitals exactly what they are allowed to charge for services, and tell insurers where they must offer plans as well as denying rate increases in other areas. This is government intervention on steroids. For hospitals, there is a lot to unpack here. First, the profit numbers include profits from investment income (reserve funds, which no one denies a hospital should have, don’t just sit in a bank account), and the profits due to just patient care drop the profit margin from 10% to 4%. And of course we need new construction, we are one of the fastest growing states in the country. We might be somewhat under-capacity right now, but we know more people are coming. And when it comes to cost, the fact that no one like to talk about is that health care innovation is incredibly expensive. All of the work that goes into creating new drugs and new equipment and new procedures that benefit us all must be paid for. And hospitals frequently have to make significant capital investments in that new equipment just to keep up. But yes, there probably is extra cost here that could be addressed. But instead of government pricing controls, we should look to the model used in Massachusetts and Oregon (hardly bastions of conservative thought). This is a total cost of care model that sets a desired target for how much health care spending can grow and then work with hospitals that do not meet the target (including public hearings and a formal improvement plan). Massachusetts believes it has saved billions with this program and we can do the same here in Colorado by working with the hospital industry, not in conflict with it. And that truly is the bottom line here, a collaborative approach with all elements of this industry to foster innovation and competition by removing government oversight. Then consumers can pick options that work best for them, which in a free market drives money to the best operators in the industry, including those with the best costs. Because this plan runs the risk of insurers and hospital providers deciding they don’t want to participate in Colorado at all. The commissioner of insurance or state government cannot force them. So instead of creating more options and lower costs, we could end up with fewer options as these companies flee the state entirely.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB20-1349

HB20-1351 Local Government Authority Promote Affordable Housing Units (Gonzales (D), Rodriguez (D)) [Lontine (D), Gonzales-Gutierrez (D)]

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal: Allow local governments to force developers to build affordable housing through restricted rent on new or reconstructed developments so long as there is a choice of options for the developer, including one or more alternatives to the construction of new affordable units.

Description:

Allows local governments to apply land use restrictions that restrict rent to new or reconstructed developments as long as the regulation provides a choice of options to the property owner or land developer and creates one or more alternatives to the construction of new affordable housing units on the building site.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

In 2000 the state supreme court ruled that local ordinances that force developers to include low-cost housing units in new developments is rent control, which is illegal under state laws. This ties the hands of cities that are desperately trying to force developers to build more affordable housing by requiring a certain amount be set aside for affordable housing. And we desperately need more affordable options. 50% of Colorado rentals statewide are cost-burdened, spending more than 30% of income on housing. Independent analysis shows that we are facing a deficit of over 20,000 housing units until at least 2025. This explosion is of course somewhat situational, which is why we need to give local communities the ability, through their own elected officials, to enact affordable construction requirements. The inability to do so has displaced renters from Denver and other large communities into surrounding smaller communities, which are ill-equipped to deal with the influx, which of course makes their housing costs rise as well. In addition, too many renters in the state cannot live near their work, which adds to our punishing traffic and contributes to our brown cloud. These sorts of agreements, called inclusionary zoning, are not novel. Neither is rent control, which has been around for nearly 100 years in New York. Ironically it is also New York that demonstrates the flaw in the supply and demand argument (that our only problem is we don’t have enough housing, so build more housing of any type). New York now has a glut of empty high-end units because these were overbuilt. That of course has not solved the housing problem because people are not living in them and they were not constructed to support lower rents. So instead of the promised supply lowering prices, we just have empty units taking up space. In this bill developers still must get some options, including at least one alternative of no affordable unit construction, so this will not be full-blown rent control and construction mandates pushed down developer’s throats. It will be flexible enough to allow cities to make their own determinations about what is best for their community.

Arguments Against:

This bill will allow rent control in some circumstances (the way to guarantee that housing stays affordable) so it is worth discussing how effective rent control is. Rent controls fly in the face of our capitalist system. Apartments that are rent controlled may incentivize owners to not maintain their property and there is a vast collection of literature from economists of all stripes, 93% of a 1992 poll of the American Economic Association, and in later times, including noted liberal Paul Krugman, that rent control does not work and in fact leads to less housing being created (that’s what happens when you remove the profit motive), in fact can raise prices in non-rent controlled areas, and can increase urban blight. Look at New York and San Francisco, how is rent control working out for them? They remain the two most expensive housing areas in the country. Rent controls also make it extremely difficult for the population to be mobile: if you live in a rent controlled apartment you may not be able to give it up to move elsewhere in the city because you cannot get into another rent controlled apartment. So the long-range commute solutions may not last very long. Finally rent controlled apartments encourage unsavory factors being used to determine who gets the rental. Rather than pure money, landlords may rely on factors such as appearance, children, and other potentially more insidious factors such as race or sexual orientation. What we have in our housing market is a simple supply and demand problem. There are far too few housing options in many parts of the state and far too many people who want to live there. Fix the supply, in part by building more multi-unit complexes vertically into the available space in the sky rather than one-family homes, and you will fix the pricing problem. It may not happen instantly, as the market does need to sort itself out at times, so for instance in New York no developer is going to sit on vast numbers of vacant units without doing something to fix the problem, but over time it will improve our housing market. There is also a way to force developers to build housing units at a certain value point as part of a project but not restrict the rent they can charge. This avoids the potential future problems of rent control while also avoiding the problem of developers building too many luxury units.


The menu of options portion of this bill may in fact end up being the “out” for developers to avoid building affordable housing at all. Because of the tenuous current legal situation, the few cities that are attempting some form of inclusionary zoning have tended to make it voluntary with options developers can meet instead of building affordable housing (like paying a fee). The result has been developers overwhelmingly paying the fee instead of building the housing. So whatever the alternative is, and the bill does not really define what cities are allowed to do here, if it includes build what you want anyway but pay some sort of fee, that is what developers are going to do. The state supreme court made it clear that the legislature has the power to change this section and allow full-blown forced affordable housing as part of construction. We should do that and ditch the menu.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB1351

SB20-044 Sales And Use Tax Revenue For Transportation (Lundeen (R)) [Carver (R)]

KILLED IN SENATE COMMITTEE

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: About $365 million to transportation out of the general fund

Goal: Create a dedicated funding stream for transportation out of motor vehicle sales and use tax revenue.

Description:

Transfers sales and use tax revenue due to motor vehicles (about 10% of all sales and use tax revenue each year) to transportation funding, with 60% going to the state highway fund, 22% to counties, and 18% to municipalities. This is money that would have gone to the general fund.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

This is exactly what we used to do in the state, from 1997 to 2009, when we used this mechanism to spend $1.43 billion on transportation. We need to rectify the mistake of ending this dedicated funding stream for transportation so we can start to hack away at our $7 billion backlog of transportation needs. The failure of the sales tax increase bill for transportation funds in the 2018 election shows that voters want our state to take care of this need through existing money, not through tax increases. And it only makes sense to do so by using the revenue motor vehicles are bringing into the state. This will provide an estimated $365 million in much needed funding next year (of course it will fluctuate somewhat as sales tax revenue fluctuates) and similar amounts every year in the future. No last minute arguing about how much “extra” money to set aside for transportation in each year’s budget. As for the impact on the rest of the budget, the state is flush with cash, so much so that an automatic temporary tax decrease was triggered by TABOR this year. We can afford it.

Arguments Against:

$365 million does not appear out of thin air. That is money spent on one thing that we do not spend on another. Proponents of measures like this tend to find a few million here and there they can specifically say they don’t want the state spending but fail to reckon with the hard choices that must be made with amounts this size. The state still owes our school districts over $500 million, this is money that the schools are constitutionally required to have, but the state was unable to pay due to the last recession. Half of our districts are on 4 day weeks and 1 in 5 teachers work a second job to make ends meet. . By keeping the amount of general funds we set aside for transportation up to the legislature each year, we are able to adjust to the economic climate and budget of the day. We will have another recession. It is inevitable. What happens to our schools then if we haven’t made up the negative factor but must siphon this money off for transportation needs? We need to pay our schools the money they are owed, then worry about our other priorities.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB20-044

SB20-067 Vehicle Specific Ownership Tax Actual Price (Crowder (R))

KILLED IN SENATE COMMITTEE

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: Full implementation: $13.5 million lost state revenue, $60 million lost local revenue a year

Goal: Change the way car ownership taxes are calculated for most vehicles from a percentage of MSRP to the actual amount paid for the vehicle.

Description:

Changes how the specific ownership tax (what is paid instead of property tax when the vehicle is registered) is calculated. Currently, Class A and B vehicles that weigh 16,000 pounds or less are calculated 75% of MSRP, those over 16,000 pounds use actual purchase price. Class C and D, regardless of weight, use 85% of MSRP. This bill changes all of those classes to use actual purchase price, regardless of weight. It does not alter the tax rates used for the classes, which decrease based on the age of the car.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

Many people do not pay MSRP for their vehicles, in fact the estimate is that the actual average purchase price is 16% lower than the MSRP. This is money we are unfairly taking out of the pockets of our citizens. The “R” in MSRP stands for recommended, it is not the actual price. And the vast majority of car dealerships do quite a bit of negotiating when they sell a car. So to base the tax on a price that few people actually pay artificially inflates it and adds money to our government coffers that is not deserved. The fact that it is a lot of money makes it even more important to rectify. This is the people's money, it belongs to them.

Arguments Against:

This would be a devastating blow to our local governments, school districts, and state budget. At full implementation the state is losing around $13.5 million, mostly in money that must be spent to backstop losses in school districts. The thing is, we already owe our school districts hundreds of millions of dollars, so that $13.5 million is funds that cannot be spent paying down our debt to schools. In the end, they may lose out on that money. And our local governments would lose $60 million in revenue at full implementation. That is a blow that many localities may struggle to withstand. We already have a system to account for cars losing their value based on their age, it’s the tax value percentage that drops from 2.1% in year one to 0.45% in year 5. And this is supposed to replace a property tax, not a sales tax. We pay property taxes based on the value of the property, not what was paid for it.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB20-067

SB20-074 Bonuses For Highly Effective Teachers (Lundeen (R)) [Williams (R)]

KILLED IN SENATE COMMITTEE

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: $57 million at full implementation

Goal: Reward teachers who are rated as highly effective through a bonus program based on significant state funding.

Description:

Creates a highly effective teacher bonus and incentive program that allows public and charter schools to pay bonuses or provide employment incentives to teachers who rate as “highly effective” for the most recently completed school year by the state mandated performance evaluation system. School districts are given $20,000 and $850 per teacher in their district for the program (this makes a total of about $57 million), subject to appropriations. If the legislature appropriates less than the full amount, the state must reduce proportionally. They cannot use the funds for anything other than either paying bonuses to highly effective teachers or paying a signing bonus to recruit a highly effective teacher. Bonus does not affect base pay rates. Each school district must report back to the state and the state must summarize these reports for the legislature.

Additional Information:

Report from the schools must include:

  • Number of highly effective teachers employed and amount of bonus paid to each
  • Number of highly effective teachers hired by the district, if any, and any bonus amounts spent on them
  • Any portion of the funds that were not spent


Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

We all recognize that some teachers are better than others, but the current remuneration system based on tenure makes it difficult to use money to try to keep or entice exceptional teachers. Since we already have an evaluation system, nothing more is needed to figure out who the exceptional teachers are, all we need is a way to reward them. Based on data from the last available year, 2016-17, 48% of teachers were rated as highly effective, which means each of them would get about a $2,000 bonus on average. That is what this bill provides, in an amount sufficient enough to really matter. We also are trying to help schools create more of a market for these highly rated teachers by distributing the money based on school size, rather than based on where the teachers are currently. Schools with fewer than expected highly rated teachers trying to attract more to their school may be able to pay higher amounts to bring them. The end effect is really good teachers getting paid more than teachers who are not as good. This is basically the way the free market works in most industries and it is one of the core reasons why the free market works so well. You get rewarded for good work.

Arguments Against:

This money will not come out of thin air, since it is not funded by a revenue source it will come out of some other program, in all likelihood, our education budget. So we will be taking $57 million away from something and giving it to these teachers. That something may impact the salaries of all teachers (lowering the entire base so we can redistribute the $57 million to highly effective ones), the bill does not prohibit it. The bill also does not allocate funding based on the number of highly effective teachers but based on the school’s size. So some schools will get too much funding and will either sit on the money (bill lets them keep it, although they cannot spend it on anything else) or pay out their teachers at a higher rate and some schools will not get enough money and will have to shortchange some of their teachers. The entire thought process behind rating teachers is flawed anyway. You just cannot capture the quality of a teacher through the raw numbers, there are too many other variables at play. Pay all of our teachers more money and we'll get better results.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB20-074

SB029 Cost Of Living Adjustment For Colorado Works Program (Fields (D), Moreno (D)) [Coleman (D), Duran (D)]

AMENDED: Significant

PASSED SENATE COMMITTEE

Appropriation: $4.1 million
Fiscal Impact: $7.8 $3.9 million annually, about $45 $26 million in next 5 years

Goal: Increase the amount of cash assistance under the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program to try to catch up with inflation and then tie future increases to cost of living adjustments.

Description:

Increases the amount of cash assistance under the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program by 10% 5% immediately and then increases future amounts by 1.5% a year or the federal social security administration’s cost of living adjustment, whichever is greater. Requires the general assembly to appropriate any necessary funds to fully fund the program out of state works program reserves. In 2025 requires the joint budget committee to study the sustainability of the state’s long-term works reserve to fund these increases and find additional funds if necessary the reserve fund is less than $34 million. Cannot use county reserves. This study of the reserves must then be done every five years. TANF is funded mostly by federal money and excess funds go both in county reserves and the state reserve fund.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

In 2018 about 65,000 children in Colorado were experiencing extreme poverty, earning about $12,875 a year for a family of four on average. This is an extreme impact on the future of these children. One study found extreme poverty before the age of five led to on average two full years less of school and three times higher likelihood of being poor as an adult. A $3,000 annual difference in household income in those first five years is associated with a 17% in increase in that child’s future earnings. Poverty is also widely considered the biggest single predictor of child maltreatment, due to the enormous stress it causes on the family and the lack of resources. People can talk about bootstraps all they want, the proof is in the long-term data. And the notion that anyone would actively choose $560 a month in cash, which is $6,720 a year (average for single parent with two kids) over a well-paying job that lifted you out of poverty is silly. We therefore have rightly provided cash assistance aid to these families for decades through the federally supported TANF program (known as Colorado Works in the state). This program has work-related provisions for those who are deemed able to work and the goal is to package together cash assistance with help in finding better and more stable work. Participants must have a child or be expecting a child. There is a lifetime limit of 5 years for receiving assistance. So the program has safeguards and is very much designed as a hand up. But we have not kept pace with either inflation or the exploding cost of living here in Colorado. In every county in the state the average rent for a two-bedroom apartment exceeds the monthly assistance for a family of one adult and two children. And at the same time we are awash in reserve money as a state. The 10% 5% increase this bill creates immediately can be entirely funded just by the money the counties and state have sitting around. And this, by the way, still does not entirely catch us up to the inflation value of assistance since the program’s creation in 1996 (that would require a 16.75% increase). Obviously having mostly caught up with inflation we need to keep up with it in the future. Most federal aid funds like Medicaid are tied to inflation. The estimated cost of the 1.5% increases over five years is about $6 million total. The cost of the 10% increase is $7.8 $3.9 million annually. That seems like a lot, until you consider that counties have reserves of $57 million and the state itself has a reserve of over $91 million. This is money just sitting there, instead of actively helping our neediest families and children.

Arguments Against:

While it is true the program has work-related guidelines, it has struggled in implementing them. In 2016 the state was fined over $6 million by the federal government for failing to meet employment guidelines (40% employment for individuals and 80% for two-parent families, Colorado was closer to 20% in both categories). It is also true that many federal funds are tied to inflation but the money coming from the federal government is a flat amount. It does not increase annually and of course it then follows if we increase what we are spending, the burden of making up any difference will fall on the state. And we did just do a 10% increase in 2018, which by the way basically ate up the difference between what counties were spending and what they were receiving from the federal government. Almost all counties would go into the red on an annual basis with the provisions in this bill and we are not touching their reserve funds. That leaves the state reserve fund, which we would probably come close to halving in that five years. Those reserves are there for emergencies and extra TANF funds are sometimes used for other child welfare funds. The provisions of the bill are just not stable without another source of funding, and we are essentially kicking the can down the road on that decision until 2025 when it will probably be too late to slash provisions and we may be stuck pulling the funds from other programs.


Welfare programs are a bad idea to begin with, as they teach dependence on others instead of self-reliance. Of course we sympathize with the plight of children in these circumstances, but we already have mechanisms to deal with neglect and abuse if that is occurring. If it is not, every child in this country is given a free K-12 education and thus the opportunity to pull themselves out of poverty by their own willingness to work hard. Instead we hand out cash to their family and teach the lesson that there are a bunch of different federal programs out there for you if you stay poor enough to be eligible.


The change from 10% to 5% cuts too much money from families that desperately need it.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB20-029

SB20-020 Reduce The State Income Tax Rate (Sonnenberg (R)) [Pelton (R)]

KILLED IN SENATE COMMITTEE

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: Loss of $100 million property tax exemption would have come from TABOR surplus in two years, plus potential additional losses in future years for same reason

Goal: Reduce the state income tax rate by 0.14%.

Description:

Reduces the state individual and corporate income tax rates from 4.63% to 4.49% and the alternative minimum tax by the same 0.14%.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

The state is flush with cash, so much so that we are projecting three straight years of TABOR tax refunds and the refund in 2019 was so large it triggered an automatic temporary reduction of the tax rate down to 4.5%. Right now the state is projected to return $1.1 billion to state taxpayers in the next three years. This is a sign that our taxes are too high and that we should allow taxpayers to keep more of their own money, where they can put it to use bolstering our state economy rather than having the state sit on it for a year only to give some of it back.

Arguments Against:

Another recession is coming. It is inevitable and the only question is when and how hard will it hit. Balancing our state revenues around their peak is a recipe for disaster when we reach a valley. We cannot simply raise taxes back up in that circumstance, it would require voter approval on a general election ballot. We still haven’t fully recovered from the last recession, as we still owe our schools hundreds of millions of dollars. The state needs to use as much money as it can to get back to even from our last recession and put away some reserves to prepare for the next one. Colorado’s economy is booming with our current tax structure. Our unemployment is among the lowest in the country. The state is one of the fastest-growing in the country. We don’t need lower taxes. In addition, this bill causes the state to have to find tens of millions of dollars for property tax exemption refunds that would have been covered by TABOR refunds.


Three straight years of TABOR refunds along with hundreds of millions of dollars owed to our schools and billions in transportation needs shortfalls shows that we have a TABOR problem, not a tax problem. Lowering our taxes permanently will only make these funding issues worse. The solution continues to be, despite the results of the last election, to fix TABOR.


A tax cut done in this matter is highly regressive. Those earning under $100,000 would see less than $100 of tax relief, while those earning over $1,000,000 would get over $1,000. This is unacceptable.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB20-020

SB20-109 Short-term Rentals Property Tax (Gardner (R))

KILLED BY BILL SPONSORS

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: $1.4 billion in higher property taxes around the state, decrease in state revenue of about $20 million

Goal: Treat short-term rentals that are not occupied by the owner for more than one month in a year like commercial property for property tax purposes.

Description: If a building or unit that is primarily used to dwell in is available for rent for less than 30 consecutive days and it is occupied by the owner for less than 30 days in a year, then the bill defines it as non-residential property for property tax purposes. This increases the tax rate from 7% to 29%.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

Short-term rental properties have adverse effects on their communities, particularly in resort communities. They increase property values and especially drive out long-term rentals, which crowds out people who live in the area. They generally end up with inconsistent maintenance and up-keep standards and a steady flow of different people staying in them, which can downgrade the living experience for people in the community. So yes, this has a huge potential price tag. But let’s be honest here, anyone who is really using this as a way to offset owning a second home could easily stretch to fit the 30 day occupancy requirement and so avoid the tax increase. And the fiscal analysis used properties available to rent for more than 9 months a year, but the reality is that you can rent out the home for 11 months a year and still avoid the tax increase. So the actual likely impact will be smaller as people adjust. And quite frankly, anyone who spends less than one month out of the year at their second home and rents it out the rest of the time has a business, not a mountain home. And they should be treated as such, not given special treatment. In particular this bill will hit the businesses that buy properties for the sole purpose of renting them out short-term. Will some of them sell the properties instead of paying the higher taxes? Absolutely yes. Will this perhaps decrease property values? Yes. Those are both good things. Real 2nd home owners will still be advantaged by the tax code and can still rent out their homes. The economic impact on the community from tourism should be therefore mostly unaffected. People are still going to go to the mountains and people are still going to travel here from out-of-state. They somehow managed before AirBnB even existed and they’ll easily manage with a slightly reduced inventory of short-term rentals.

Arguments Against:

This could be devastating to the economies of these communities. Summit County alone would see a whopping $419 million a year increase in taxes as part of $1.4 billion increase state-wide, according to the fiscal note. The short-term rental industry is a major part of the tourism industry in this state, especially in resort areas. This bill will certainly cause some short-term rental owners to sell their homes instead and anyone who can say they know exactly how many is kidding themselves. A large sell-off, as those who can’t really afford a 2nd home without renting it out more than 11 months a year and those businesses that decide it is no longer worth it, is possible. This reduction in inventory comes along with a reduction in sales tax revenue, as people can’t pay sales tax if they aren’t renting a property, which is really the fiscal backbone of resort communities. The world has fundamentally changed since short-term rentals became popular and there is no going back. People who want to use them rather than hotels are likely to just go somewhere else, like Utah, if they cannot get a short-term rental here in Colorado. As for the housing issue, a huge part of the housing crisis in these communities actually relates to second homes that are just sitting empty most of the year, generating no economic activity and of course taking up space. Because space is a prime constraint. There are other ways to mitigate the impacts of short-term rentals, through licensing for instance and enforcement of ordinances, and other ways to boost affordable housing. A change this drastic should not be undertaken.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB20-109

SB20-100 Repeal The Death Penalty (Gonzales (D), Tate (R)) [Arndt (D), Benavidez (D)]

AMENDED: Minor

PASSED

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: Slight but hard to estimate

Goal: End use of the death penalty in Colorado.

Description:

Repeals the death penalty for any offenses charged in Colorado after July 1, 2020.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

The country is moving away from employing the death penalty, as evidenced by the recent repeal of the death penalty in seven states and the fact that a total of twenty states now do not impose the death penalty in their criminal justice systems. In addition, three states, including Colorado, have imposed an effective moratorium on the death penalty. This trend reflects a growing belief that the death penalty is not an effective penalty in a modern criminal justice system. The first problem with the death penalty is that as of 2015 for every 10 people who have been executed since 1973, one person has been exonerated from death row (national statistics). That is an unacceptable risk of the state putting to death an innocent person, and in fact, the odds are that an innocent person has been executed since 1973. The second problem is that the racial bias that pervades the criminal justice system finds a home here too. Study after study has found that the race is a significant factor in determining whether or not the death penalty is applied to a defendant. The third problem is that there absolutely no evidence that the death penalty provides any criminal deterrence, despite numerous studies of the subject. The fourth problem is that using the death penalty costs the state far more money than a life sentence. Colorado was found to spend about 15% more on death penalty inmates than on those in the general population. And while there are some victims’ families that find closure through the death penalty, there are others that do not. One set of victims should not gain precedence over the other, all things being equal and all things are decidedly not equal in this case.

Arguments Against:

The reason we have the death penalty is simple and it goes beyond cost considerations or deterrence. It is about justice. Justice for the victims and justice for society in cases where the underlying crime was so heinous that it merits the strongest possible response. As for deterrence, while there is evidence that the death penalty deters crime, it is important to note how hard this would be to prove. You would need to have individuals admit that they would have committed a crime but did not due to the death penalty (merely using crime statistics brings in a host of other variables). If we execute murderers and there is in fact no deterrent effect, we have killed a bunch of murderers. If we fail to execute murderers, and doing so would in fact have deterred other murders, we have allowed the killing of a bunch of innocent victims. DNA evidence has been an enormous factor in exonerations. We obviously have DNA now and did not in the past, so this should not be a factor in the future. And for the racial problems, this calls out for reform of our justice system, not changing our punishment structure.


This should be up to the voters to decide.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB20-100

SB20-135 Conservation Easement Working Group Proposals (Sonnenberg (R), Donovan (D)) [Roberts (D), Wilson (R)]

PASSED A SENATE COMMITTEE

Appropriation: $5 million taken from tax credits for easements this year
Fiscal Impact: Complicated. Beyond appropriation One-time loss of $149 million in refunded tax credits. On-going loss of $17 million for increased credits. On-going costs of $3 million.

Goal: Make multiple changes to the conservation easement program, including properly compensating taxpayers who were improperly denied tax credits between 2000 and 2013, adjusting the amount of credit that can be claimed in future easements, setting up a process for dealing with abandoned easements, and creating an ombudsperson to handle disputes.

Description:

Makes multiple changes to the conservation easement program, based on the recommendations of a working group created last year to study the issue.

  • Requires the state to provide compensation for taxpayers who were denied income tax credits for conservation easements between 2000 and 2013 if the federal government allowed a deduction for the same donation. Amount is credit based on the value accepted by the IRS, reduced by any amount that was subsequently allowed or reinstated to the taxpayer. Bill provides a process for resolving who gets the credit if it was transferred to another taxpayer. Compensation is limited by number of available unused credits from 2013-2019. If that is not sufficient to pay everyone who is owed money, the ceiling is boosted by 50% and future years are reduced by the same amount (so the total spent remains the same over time). Claims paid out in order received. State must notify every taxpayer who had a claim denied in these years. Claimants have until the end of next year to apply for their credits.
  • Modifies the method of calculating the amount of the tax credit that can be claimed by easement donors. Changes the amount an easement donor can claim for tax credits from 75% to 90% of the fair market value of the land when the easement was created for future easements. Overall cap of $5 million remains, and the distribution of credits in $1.5 million maximum increments per year also remains.
  • Creates an ombudsperson to assist in resolving disputes related to easements that were transferred to another party. May be an employee of the state or another professional with knowledge of conservation easement transactions. If the parties cannot come to an agreement with the ombudsperson’s assistance, then it may be referred to an arbitrator for final judgment (state pays for this).
  • Sets out parameters for investigating abandoned easements. State may only declare an easement abandoned if it is held by an entity that either is nonfunctioning but not legally dissolved, functioning but has submitted a written letter to the state saying it is unwilling or unable to continue serving the easement, or has not completed its annual monitoring obligations for three straight years. State is to appoint a receiver for the abandoned easement after a public hearing. Must be the commission or the board of county commissioners for the county where the easement is located. $5 million is taken away from the easement credits that may be given out this year and given to a fund to support these receivers in continuing to maintain the easements. The commission may start proceedings to end the easement with the permission of the landowner. Receivers and landowners have five years to either end the easement or transfer it to someone else. Ombudsperson to help if there is a dispute, and if that doesn’t solve it, again final arbitration paid for by state.

Additional Information:

State must notify all affected property owners by October 2020. Notice must outline process for applying for compensation, describe criteria used to determine it, and any relevant deadlines. Taxpayers applying for compensation must include the following a copy of the federal tax form used to substantiate the federal tax deduction and if the amount was adjusted, documentation confirming the amount ultimately allowed by the IRS. If more than one person has claim to these credits they can work together. Applicants must attempt to notify anyone who would be eligible for a portion of the credits and anyone who receives this notice has 90 days to file an objection. Objection must state the alternative compensation proposed. Ombudsperson to sort these objections out. State must release funds 30 days after final resolution (or if there was no objection, 30 days after objection deadline expired).

For investigations of abandoned easements, state must open investigation promptly upon being aware of potential abandonment. It has 10 days from opening of investigation to notify landowner and easement holder of the investigation by certified mail at last known address. Must explain investigation process, potential outcomes, and provide contact information. Decision on abandonment rests with commission (after public hearing). Landowner may determine if the commission or the board of county commissioners will be receiver. If the easement is declared abandoned, state has 10 days to notify all affected landowners and easement holders by mail to last known address. Must explain basis for declaration, process and timelines for receivership, options available to landowner including ending easement, a list of all entities in the state certified to hold easements, contact information for questions, and instructions for the landowner to rank in order of preference who they would like to hold the easement in the future. Commission must review each easement in receivership after one year and place into one of three categories: easements that can be reassigned without changes, easements that need to be changed to be reassigned, and easements that cannot be reassigned. If an easement is reassigned, the new owner has a right to a portion of the funds held to manage the easement by the state. Exact amount to be determined by new holder and state.


Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

The state did great damage to a number of property holders between 2000 and 2013 by arbitrarily disallowing easement tax credits to landowners who were doing everything right on their end. To the tune of more than $144 million over those 14 years. Beyond the redress of landowners done wrong, the bill also sets up a badly needed process for abandoned easements and creates an ombudsperson to attempt to resolve disputes in various areas. This bill is a bipartisan agreement following careful study of how to remedy that harm and allow the easement program to move forward into a new era that will allow it to serve its mission of protecting our natural resources while rewarding property owners who participate. This is the culmination of two years of legislative work to reform the program so it works fairly for all involved.

Arguments Against:

It is not fair to the owners of previously created easements that new easements will get 90% instead of 75% of value. Yes the overall cap remains, but anyone who was below that cap is losing out on tax credits merely by creating an easement at the wrong time. Program should be the same for everyone, so either more retroactive credits are in order or we should keep it the same going forward.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB20-135

SB20-145 Repeal Colorado Reinsurance Program (Smallwood (R))

KILLED BY BILL SPONSORS

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: Not out yet, but would save money

Goal: Repeal the state health insurance reinsurance program

Description: Repeals the state health insurance reinsurance program, allowing it to wind-down over the next year. Any funds leftover in the program after it ends must be returned to where they came from.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

We don’t need more insurance company bailouts, they are already highly profitable middlemen sucking money out of our health care system. If premiums are too high, we should be attacking them by addressing insurance company practices, not simply handing the companies more money so they will lower the premiums. We are going to pay $90 million to insurers in 2021 and the amount that is supposed to come from hospitals, $40 million, is up in air as the hospitals consider legal action. This is supposed to be an enterprise fund so it won’t qualify for TABOR (this gets pretty wonky, but sufficed to say if it is not an enterprise fund it messes up the budget) but if we can’t get the money from the hospitals in time that might not be possible. We are using money that was supposed to go to affordable housing to prop this up. It’s time to pull the plug and take a different approach to the problem.

Arguments Against:

This is working, why would be shut it down now? The average monthly premium on the state health exchange decreased from $510 to $407 this year. Some families are saving thousands of dollars a month. There was a slight increase for those who receive subsidies, from $118 to $138, but overall this is doing exactly what it is supposed to do: help insurers pay high-cost claims to keep premiums down for everyone. Insurers are already required to use at least 80% of premiums received on claims (85% for large group policies) so the extra money here isn’t padding insurer’s pockets. We found out that the federal government will pay even more than we expected, $169 million, and we only need an additional $9 million this year to make it work. Yes, there are a few financial issues going on right now with exact funding amounts, when the hospitals will kick in their share, etc. But these are solvable and we should not end a program doing excellent work because we’ve hit a few bumps in the road.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB20-145

SB20-148 Property Tax Exemption Value Adjustments (Marble (R)) [Saine (R)]

KILLED IN SENATE COMMITTEE

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: Around $125 million a year

Goal: Increase the property tax exemption for qualifying seniors and disabled veterans from 50% of the first $200,000 to 50% of the first $435,000 and then tie future amounts to housing values.

Description:

Increases the property tax exemption for qualifying seniors and disabled veterans from 50% of the first $200,000 to 50% of the first $435,000. The amount is then tied to the average actual value of residential real property, excluding new construction, in the state with the $435,000 as the base amount. So if the average value increases by 5%, then the top end of the exemption must increase by 5%.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

This exemption has not been raised since this exemption, called the homestead exemption, was first created in 2002. Obviously the value of homes has shot up since then, so the value of this exemption has greatly decreased. This bill simply fixes this first by catching us up to the present, and then by tying the future amount to the actual value of homes in the state. To qualify a senior must be 65 years or older and have lived in the same house for 10 years. The point is to help seniors stay in their homes when the property taxes skyrocket (since they are based on the value of the home). This is a program the voters of Colorado approved and we owe it to them to keep it current. The state has the power to reduce this exemption down to zero in tough budgetary times (as it did during the recession), so it won’t destroy our budget in good times, like right now. $200,000 doesn’t go very far when it comes to owning a home in Colorado anymore. It is time to change the law to recognize that.

Arguments Against:

When we have a TABOR refund, this exemption gets paid first. Otherwise it is general fund money. And it is a lot of money, around $125 million annually that will get sucked out of the state’s revenues (or alternatively, will not go to taxpayers in a TABOR refund year). A massive redistribution of resources to seniors and disabled veterans (but mostly seniors) instead of spending that money on schools, roads, or health care. This program is not means-tested, which means that although the value is capped at $435,000, someone who owns a multi-million dollar home still gets that 50% exemption on the first $435,000. Because you also have to own your home to benefit, the program also disproportionately benefits wealthier seniors (and white seniors). We don’t need to make it more generous on the upper end, if anything we need to think harder about how we can help those on the lower end.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB20-148

SB20-153 Water Resource Financing Enterprise (Coram (R))

KILLED BY BILL SPONSORS

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: $38 million annually

Goal: Create a TABOR exempt water resources financing enterprise which collects a small fee on drinking water used by residents and spends the money on financing water projects in the state.

Description:

Creates the Water Resources Financing Enterprise which collects fees from drinking water customers to provide water resources financing to providers (including by issuing loans, bonds, and grants). This is exempt for TABOR restrictions. These fees are to be collected by drinking water suppliers, which can keep 3.3% of the fee. Fee is set at $0.25 per thousand gallons of drinking water delivered per month after the first 4,000 (so you only start to get charged after 4,000 gallons and it resets every month). Can be adjusted for inflation.  Governed by board of directors consisting of the boards of the state Water Resources and Power Development Authority and the Water Conservation Board. 2/3 majority required to act. Must meet at least quarterly. Board can adjust fee in either direction for large non-residential customers and for customers with suppliers whose pricing tiers start at a level higher than 4,000 gallons per month. Money can only be used for provision of raw water, drinking water, water treatment, or wastewater treatment or for feasibility studies. Bill sets multiple factors for board to consider when deciding on providing financing, including: water provider’s ability to pay, whether it is subject to non-compliance or increased requirements relating to water quality, whether the proposed usage aligns with the state water plan, and the geographic and demographic characteristics of its customers. Board must report its activity to the legislature each year.

Additional Information:

Non-voting members of the Water Conservation Board do not get to vote on this board either. Drinking water is defined as piped and metered water that has been subject to treatment. Water providers, which can receive money from the commission, can supply raw water, drinking water, or wastewater treatment. Suppliers are not liable for a customer’s failure to pay the fee. Feasibility studies can include: consulting, planning, permitting, and construction of infrastructure and water conservation projects and related recreational, hydroelectric, and flood control facilities. Cannot include maintenance and operation.

Bonds can be issued for repayment exclusively from the revenues and receipts of a project financed by the bond. They can require additional security from the facility taking out the bond. Board has pretty much unlimited control over they bond types, interest, maturity, conversion, etc. They may be sold at public or private sale at the price and in manner board determines. Bonds are in no way liability of the state. Each bond must state that payments only comes from enterprise funds, that the state is not obligated to pay, and that faith and credit of the state is not behind the bonds.


Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

We are way behind in addressing our state’s water needs. To fully implement our state water plan by 2050 the estimate is that we need to spend $100 million a year to reach the $3 billion required to fill the funding gap we have identified. Suppliers of raw water, drinking water, and wastewater treatment services are a part of that plan and have substantial, unmet, financing needs. It is therefore a matter of public interest for all of us to create an enterprise fund that can leverage money into the larger sums we need. The way this bill constructs the fee that funds all of this ensures that it affects people who are using the most water the most, while allowing for some consideration of non-residential users. This is a chance to make a real investment in our water needs, with $37 million of estimated revenue annually that we can mostly direct right to our water plan without triggering refunds to taxpayers which would result in cuts to areas like education or health care. With the proper leveraging of that $37 million we should be able to at least come close to the $100 million in annual spending we need to ensure that we have enough water in Colorado in 2050 for our citizen’s needs. All for about $6.67 per resident per year.

Arguments Against:

While it is dressed up into a fee to avoid TABOR, this is in fact a water tax. It takes $38 million out of citizen’s pockets each year and puts it into the government’s pockets to spend on water projects. There is no disputing that we need to spend money on water projects, but the point of TABOR is to require the voters to approve any such increase. We are all going to be paying for this without consenting to it, a violation of the spirit of TABOR. This is also part of a larger trend of skirting TABOR by creating these enterprise funds and we need stop it in its tracks. Instead we need to make the hard cuts in government that are required so we can spend our resources better on the basics of government services.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB20-153

SB20-161 Pretrial Release (Lee (D), Gardner (R)) [Herod (D), Soper (R)]

AMENDED: Minor

PASSED A SENATE COMMITTEE

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: About $2.4 million in ongoing costs, no estimate of savings for fewer prisoners

Goal: Drastically reduce the usage of monetary bail requirements for almost all cases by tying bail requirements to a pretrial screening process designed to use the minimum amount of monetary bail needed to ensure public safety and defendant appearance in court.

Description:

Requires each judicial district in the state to develop standards and guidelines for a pre-trial bail screening process and written criteria for the immediate release of some defendants without monetary bail conditions. These must adhere to state developed guidelines and standards, which must be completed by end of year. State is then to review these screening tools every three years to check for any bias based on race, ethnicity, or gender. For defendants who require a court hearing, the presumption all courts must start with is that monetary bail is not required and that the least restrictive bond conditions possible should be used. The court may impose more restrictions or monetary bail if it finds the defendant is a substantial risk to public or individual safety, to not appearing in court, or to obstructing the criminal process. Bill outlines list of factors to consider for courts to come to this determination. Specifies how interested parties can ask for review and modification of bond due to new information or behavior of the defendant while on release.

All counties must develop a pre-trial services program. In addition to administering the screening tool to all arrested individuals, it must provide all of the other materials required to complete the assessment and that the court may need to make a bond decision (such as criminal history). It must also provide community-based supervision programs that are research-based in order to decrease unnecessary pre-trial detention. None of the costs of these things can be assessed to the defendant unless they are convicted and not at all to the indigent. Counties must annually report their pre-trial statistics to the state. Requires all counties to have their pre-trial program set by April 2021. Creates funding program to help develop and sustain these programs, with prioritization given to services leading to no detention.

Additional Information:

  • Requires a summons instead of an arrest warrant for all traffic offenses, petty offenses, and comparable municipal offenses for which monetary bond is prohibited, unless the location of the person is unknown. Requires summons for misdemeanor offenses and comparable municipal offenses unless arrest is mandatory by law, the crime includes violence or a DUI or a deadly weapon, the facts indicate a substantial flight risk or imminent threat of harm to others, or their location is unknown. For felonies it remains optional but is up to the district attorney. Class 4, 5, and 6 and drug 3 and 4 felonies there is a preference and presumption in favor of a summons unless arrest is mandatory by law, the crime includes violence or a DUI or a deadly weapon, the facts indicate a substantial flight risk or imminent threat of harm to others, or their location is unknown
  • Pretrial screening must be conducted within 24 hours after admission to detention facility. Sheriff and other detention facility operators are encouraged to delay admission of an individual to extent possible until assessment is complete
  • Criteria for immediate release without bail must be developed by each judicial district in conjunction with district attorney, public defender’s office, sheriff, pre-trail services program, victim advocate, and office of state court administrator. Criteria must consider practices in other similar judicial districts to promote statewide consistency with deviation from core practices only to extent necessary to address specific issues in that judicial district
  • Statewide standards must consider: impact of detention on low-risk individuals and recidivism, national and state research on effectiveness of nonmonetary bail relating to community safety and court appearance rates, and relevant case law. State must consult with: a pre-trial services agency or program, office of state court administrator, office of state public defender, state district attorney’s council, a local law enforcement department or office, a victim’s services agency or program, a non-governmental entity with expertise in pre-trial justice, and an individual or family member of an individual who has been incarcerated pre-trial
  • Each judicial district must be evaluated each year on its bond setting process, including type of bond set, amount of any secured or unsecured monetary condition of bond, and any other conditions of release, for any evidence of bias based on race, ethnicity, or gender
  • For evaluation of assessment tools for bias, data submitted to state must include:
    • Race, ethnicity, and gender
    • Pre-trial risk category (safety, flight, or interference with justice process)
    • Number of points assigned to each underlying variable and total score
    • Any recommendation made by a structured decision-making guide or matrix
    • Whether this recommendation was followed by the court, if applicable
    • Type of bond and conditions of release set by court, including monetary conditions, if applicable
    • Whether defendant was released prior to trial or disposition of case
    • If defendant failed to appear in court and if so, if they subsequently did appear and within what timeline
    • Pre-trial supervision outcome, if applicable
    • Results of any additional pre-trial risk assessments used to provide additional information to the court
  • In addition to the risk assessment tool for determining appropriate levels of bond requirements and monetary amounts, court shall consider:
    • Individual financial circumstances of defendant
    • Nature and severity of alleged offense
    • Victim input
    • All methods of release to avoid unnecessary incarceration
    • State’s written criteria under this program
    • Employment status of defendant
    • Nature and extent of defendant’s family relationships
    • Defendant’s past and present residences
    • Defendant’s character and reputation
    • People who agree to assist defendant in appearing in court
    • Likely sentence if convicted, in particular if it will not include jail time
    • Defendant’s prior criminal record
    • Any prior failures to appear in court by defendant
    • Any facts indicating possibility of violating law or witness intimidation or harassment
    • Any facts indicting defendant has strong ties to community and is unlikely to flee
    • Results of any pre-trial assessment administered to defendant
  • Courts may set four different types of bond:
    • Unsecured personal recognizance bond, which may include an amount specified by court
    • Unsecured personal recognizance bond with additional nonmonetary conditions
    • Secured monetary bond, which cannot be restricted to a particular method without a valid rationale from the court
    • Bond with secured real estate conditions
  • Defendants, prosecutors, or bonding and release commissioners may request review and modification of any bond conditions if new information is discovered that was not presented at original hearing or if circumstances have fundamentally changed since that hearing. Court must do a new hearing on an expedited basis (unless defendant is still in jail and then within 3 7 business days) and rule within 14 days, stating in writing reason for decision
  • If the district attorney requests a change in bond status either for violations of conditions or changes in threat, the court must issue a warrant for the individual to appear. This does not revoke the bond. Court may continue bond as is, modify non-monetary conditions in least restrictive way possible, revoke the bond and set a new monetary condition and non-monetary conditions, or provide temporary sanctions. This must be agreed to by defendant and can be up to 72 hours in custody and continue the original bond when the time period is over. Court may also refer defendant to substance use treatment as condition of release, again requires defendant’s consent
  • Appellate reviews of bond decisions must be issued within 14 days of the hearing
  • Government entities may enter into agreements with any other entity (for- or non-profit, another government entity) to provide pre-trial services so long as they have no conflict of interest
  • Pre-trial services report to state must include:
    • Total number of assessments done by program
    • Total number of closed cases where the person was released from custody and supervised; total closed cases where these people appeared for all scheduled court appearances; total closed cases where these people were not charged with a new crime that carries potential jail time while on release; total closed cases where these people’s bond was not revoked
    • Total number of closed cases where the person was released from custody and supervised where they failed to show up in court and if any of these people returned to court within: 30 days, 60 days, 90 days, or 120 days
    • Total number of closed cases where the person was released from custody and supervised and was charged with a new felony, a new violent crime, or a crime against a victim or witness
    • Total number of cases where there is a disposition that closes the supervision or an action of the court such as a warrant, failure to appear, failure to comply, or removal of supervision
    • Number of cases in each bond category
  • Fund to help with these pre-trial services comes from the general fund and is not appropriated in bill. Can accept gifts, grants, and donations. For assessments, counties can get up to 2 full-time employees funded or amount state determines is required to fund pre-trial assessments in the county, whichever is less. For supervision services, counties can get up to 1 full-time employee funded or what is required to supervise high-risk defendants in the county, whichever is less


Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

We are an innocent before proven guilty society, we should act like it. The high cost of bail (and bail bonds) can be an impossible barrier for lower-income defendants. This means they will lose their job, maybe their housing, and maybe even custody of their children. This system also pushes people to plead guilty to low level offenses (or even higher ones) so they can get of jail. A study in Philadelphia found that assigning bail makes defendants 12% more likely to get convicted. On any given day a full 1/5 of the US prison population, 450,000 people, are in jail awaiting trial. This is also a massive waste of taxpayer money. Our current system is just not doing a good job when it comes to this and we need something better and more systematic. We should only use monetary bond (and other severe restrictions) when it is actually necessary, not just as a knee-jerk reaction to any arrest or based on whatever the prosecutor wants. And bond should never be leveraged into getting a guilty plea. The bill provides sufficient safeguards to prevent a patchwork of rules and systems throughout the state while still allowing for local differences. It also provides a mechanism for counties to get funding to implement this. It also provides for robust anti-bias checks to ensure the tools are being applied appropriately.

Arguments Against:

Public safety and welfare have to come before all other concerns, including the state spending money to keep people in prison before trial. So we shouldn’t come into this looking to save money. This bill replaces our current idea of letting a judge do his or her job and judge what conditions are required for bail with an overly complex system that may create a patchwork of different standards around the state, all funded through expensive pre-trial processes that may clog up our already overtaxed judicial system. Counties are also not guaranteed funding through the bill, which does not appropriate any funding, to operate this system.


The vague risk assessment tool is a cause for concern. Racial biases in the criminal justice system mean that black Americans are more likely than whites to be arrested or convicted for the same behaviors. Thus, a black defendant may look “riskier” than a white one — even if they lived comparable lives. It’s all well and good to point out that the tools are in fact being used in a biased manner three years later, but it would be better to build more safeguards into the process now.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB20-161

SB20-200 Implementation Of CO Colorado Secure Savings Program (Donovan (D), Pettersen (D)) [Kraft-Tharp (D), Becker (D)]

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: Not yet released

Goal: Implement a secure state retirement 401k style savings plan as recommended by a study done last year as an automatic enrollment at 5% of earnings with opt-out as a mandatory requirement for all employers to manage (state manages the actual plan but employers must handle withholding and financial deposits).

Description:

Last year the legislature passed a bill to study the creation of a state-sponsored retirement program (similar to a 401k), specifically to examine whether the program should be opt-in or opt-out (or if we should have no plan at all and just try better financial education). This bill redirects the board created by last year’s bill to implement the program as an opt-out (where everyone is automatically enrolled) at 5% of income. Like a 401k, employers can choose to match contributions but it is voluntary. The board itself is to be given brand new membership appointed by the governor (except that the state treasurer remains). Board must create method for people to opt-out of the program and for people to adjust their contribution levels, including minimum and maximum levels to comply with federal tax law. Employers that offer their own retirement plans can obtain an exemption from this bill, board must design how that works mechanically as well.

Board is tasked with establishing the program and adopting rules for its administration. It must also develop the financial instruments available under the plan. It is allowed to create administrative fees to defray its costs and a grant program to help small businesses (5 to 25 employees) defray their costs. It must set the penalties for non-compliance by state businesses (but these must be up to $100 per eligible employee and not exceed $5,000 total). It must create an outreach program to both disseminate information about the program and required compliance as well as benefits of retirement savings in general. It is also supposed to assess the feasibility of multi-state or regional agreements to administer the program through shared resources and it allowed to enter into one without the need for further approval (it must be deemed beneficial).

People who are not considered employees but meet the qualifications to open an IRA must be given the opportunity to voluntarily participate in the plan. Fines to employers for non-compliance do not start until after the program has been running for one year and then an employer must be given three months after notification of non-compliance to fix it.

Board must annually report to legislature on enrollment statistics, average amount saved per employee, average contribution levels, summary of common complaints, and administrative costs and fees.

Additional Information:

Some of the things from last year’s bill that carry over (made from “would” to “does”):

  • State has no financial obligations, any financial liabilities are borne by insurers just as with any regular retirement plan
  • Employers have no liability for losses and are not fiduciaries (again like regular retirement plans) and are also not responsible for errors made by the state in administering the program
  • State must develop enrollment packet and create mechanics for enrollment, receipt of withheld funds, and correct investment of these funds
  • State must contract with up to three private investment managers to run the fund
  • Fees must not exceed 1% of the plan’s total assets in first five years and then must not exceed 0.75% thereafter


Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

About 40% of Coloradans ages 25-64 working in the private sector lack access to a retirement plan at work. Workers are fifteen times more likely to save for retirement if they access to an automatic payroll deduction plan at work. The days of employer pension plans are over, and the combination of these factors is a looming crisis. Right now the average savings for the exact median level of annual income (50% percentile) family is $5,000. Six out of ten African-American families and three out of four Latinx families have no retirement savings at all. Seniors who cannot retire must continue working, which takes jobs away from young Coloradans entering the workforce. If they cannot continue working, then they must be supported by either their families (placing a huge burden on families already struggling to support themselves) or by the state, which is taxpayer money that could be used elsewhere. The board studied the issue last year and found that where optional retirement marketplaces and just increased financial education has been tried, they have not expanded retirement savings in any meaningful way. So calling for us to do something other than this approach is likely to fail in achieving our goal of increased retirement savings for Coloradans. The board also found that a mandatory plan would be cost neutral to the state within five years. So it is time to offer a meaningful retirement option to all Colorado workers, giving them to change to opt-out if they want, but relying on the well-established research that shows forcing people to opt-out is more effective than an opt-in program and oh by the way, Social Security is mandatory retirement plan you cannot opt-out of, so this is not unprecedented. Because the key to retirement is the compounding effect from investing money early. Even smaller amounts, invested early, can grow. Just $10 a month, at a 6% annual return rate (the historical S&P 500 average is 12%), would leave someone with $103,034 dollars, with only 8%(!) of that total coming from contributions. Using investments to save for retirement is the great trick of the middle and upper classes and its time we open it up to everyone. As far as employer-offered benefit packages, right now just offering a 401k plan is strong benefit. If everyone has access to a similar plan, then to compete employers will need to offer more, such as matching benefits or higher wages. So if anything the existence of this plan may increase worker benefits and salaries rather than decreasing employer contributions to 401ks or similar plans.

Arguments Against:

Private employer sponsored retirements plans are opt-in, not opt-out. It is extremely well-established that many Americans do not realize when their paycheck grows or shrinks by small amounts. Thus American did not realize they had received a tax cut from the Obama stimulus plan and did not realize that they were getting more take-home pay from the Trump IRS decision to not adjust withholding tables fully after the Trump tax cuts were passed. So people may be in this plan and not realize it. Employers may drop their own sponsored plans in favor of just letting the state handle it. Full-time workers (a word that appears nowhere in the bill) are a completely distinct group from part-time workers and a one-size fits all approach may fail one or the other. Employees with varying compensation (tips, commission, or productivity-related) are not set-up for this kind of savings approach. Some businesses might also decide that Colorado is not the best place to locate their business due to the higher costs associated with this sort of plan. The bottom line is that paternalistic approaches to adults, trying to force them to do the right thing (and no one disputes that saving what you can for retirement is the right thing) is not what we should want our government to do. Provide greater incentives for businesses to offer their own private plans and provide greater financial education instead.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB200

SB20-204 Additional Resources To Protect Air Quality (Fenberg (D)) [Jackson (D), Caraveo (D)]

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: Not yet released

Goal: Create a TABOR-exempt enterprise program to conduct air quality modeling, monitoring, assessment, data analysis, and research and report permit and enforcement data, health effects data, emission data, ambient air quality, visibility, meteorological sampling data, and mitigation project services to polluters all funded by fees on air polluters based on per-ton pollution and direct services provided (and bonds backed by those fees). Also raises a variety of fees on polluters from the air quality commission and removes the caps on these fees, allowing the commission to set future amounts by rule so as to cover costs.

Description:

Creates an enterprise program (which are exempt from TABOR revenue limits) to conduct air quality modeling, monitoring, assessment, data analysis, and research and report permit and enforcement data, health effects data, emission data, ambient air quality, visibility, meteorological sampling data, and mitigation project services to polluters. The goal of these efforts is to support tangible progress toward aiding polluters in reducing their emissions and meeting state air quality goals. Program is to prioritize enhanced monitoring projects to produce high-quality data, regular aerial surveys and observations, and assessing local exposures to and health impacts of nearby air toxics. Board must also provide trusted and cost-effective mitigation project services, high-quality research and development services regarding emissions rates and inventories, monitoring and control technologies, and health effects and emissions impacts. All data collected by the program must be made available to the state, including the air quality commission, and all fee payers. The program is directed to dedicate a meaningful portion of its annual revenues to competitive grants to conduct highly qualified, peer-reviewed research related to research priorities identified by the board.

The board of directors of the enterprise must chose projects to invest its money in, set fees by rule and collect them, issue bonds payable from its revenues, and engage services of third-party experts as needed. It is allowed to ignore the state procurement code, but must encourage diversity in bids and generally avoid using single-source bids. Board members get a $50 per day per diem for attending board meetings.

Fees set by the board include: a fee per ton of air pollution emitted annually by a stationary source, which can vary depend on how tough it is to research or mitigate the particular pollutant; fee for custom or additional services required for a location; and a fee for emission mitigation project services sought by a fee payer. General fund is to provide start-up funding for the board, this must be paid back with 3% interest by July 2023. Board can seek and accept gifts, grants, and donations.

Board must report annually to the legislature.

Bill removes the fee caps on air pollutant emission notices (was $119.13 and tied to inflation), on air pollution per ton (was $28.63 or $119.13 depending on pollutant type and tied to inflation), and non-air pollutant emission notice document evaluation (was $95.63 and tied to inflation). These are set at $218, $33, $218, and $109 per hour. The air quality commission is allowed to set future amounts by rule to cover the costs of administering the entire state air quality programs. The increases in fees directly attributable to this bill must be used to:

  • Ensure requirements imposed by rules to minimize emissions are included in permits and complied with
  • Deploying more resources to find and get repaired by oil and gas operators leaks and releases of dangerous pollutants
  • Increase compliance by oil and gas operators with all air quality requirements
  • Increase number of inspectors and enforcement actions by the state
  • Expand state’s capacity to conduct monitoring of oil and gas emissions
  • Develop new emission control strategies
  • Expand state’s ability to quickly respond to public health issues that are related to exposure to air toxics
  • Improve state’s complaint management systems

Additional Information:

Monitoring projects include placement of permanent monitoring stations using gas chromatography or proven, state-of-the-art technology to measure in real time or nearly so, nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, ozone, methane, and particulates at key locations and within high emission regions. Aerial surveys and observations are to assist leak detection and repair, improve accuracy of emission inventories, and create a better understanding of regional emission profiles.

Board of enterprise program composed as follows:

  • Executive director of the department of public health and environment
  • Six members appointed by governor, including:
    • At least two members who are experts in atmospheric or air quality modeling, monitoring, assessment, and research
    • At least one member who is a toxicologist, epidemiologist, pathologist, pulmonologist, cardiologist, or expert in a similar field related to public health or environmental effects of air pollutants
    • At least one other member who is also professionally active or engaged in scientific research

To extend possible governor’s appointments should be individuals with a record of peer-reviewed publications and who are affiliated with, currently hold, or have held academic or equivalent appointments at universities, federal laboratories, or other research institutions. Board must meet at least quarterly.

Report to legislature must include summaries of:

  • The board’s prioritization of research needs
  • Modeling, monitoring, assessment, and research accomplished by the program
  • Program’s completed, ongoing, and planned emission mitigation services
  • Uses of the fund
  • Enterprise fees
  • Value of business services provided to fee payers through the program


Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

One of the first things you have to get right if we are going to get a handle on our air pollution problem (for combatting climate change and increasing public health and welfare) is to accurately measure it. Unfortunately, we are not doing that right now. We learned last year that the state data on methane had inaccuracies, in part due to a lack of resources to both adequately measure in near real-time and to do effective quality control on samples. So we clearly need both more money for better testing and a panel of experts to guide the effort to ensure that the funds are spent. Setting up the panel of experts as an enterprise program allows us to do several things. First, it allows for issuing bonds against the collected fees, which is a force multiplier on the revenues generated by the program. Second, it allows for us to provide mitigation expertise to polluters to help them reduce their pollution, which in turn can lower their long-term costs (if done right) and legal exposure from incidents. Third, it allows for greater economies of scale and for us to conduct mitigation and monitoring programs. And finally, it provides a trusted, third-party source of hard data. For the air quality commission fees, in addition to the hard data provided by the enterprise fund, we simply need more funds for the air quality commission so it can do its oversight and regulatory job. Just the Suncor plant in Commerce City has had two major incidents in the past year (and has a checkered history of many more in the past). We need to do better in finding these potential problems sooner. We have a long way to go in our efforts to improve our air quality. We aren’t going to get anywhere if we cannot accurately measure what we are doing and if we cannot fully enforce our already existing rules and regulations.

Arguments Against:

This bill sets out a positive goal: better data on our air quality so we know where we actually are, but then double-dips in trying to achieve it by bringing in other issues around regulation enforcement. We don’t need both an enterprise program and increased fees to the air quality commission. One or other of these can accomplish our goals. Remember that the fees set by the enterprise program are in addition to the already existing fees set by the air quality commission (who we also should not be giving carte blanche to set fees at whatever levels they want). If the enterprise program solves all of these problems in a good way and also provides help for businesses, then great. Just do that. If we think that the air quality commission can handle this if they are just given more resources, then great. Just do that. But don’t do both. And keep the control of fees in the hands of the people’s representatives rather than unelected officials. Because the way the bill is constructed the air quality commission could really justify just about any fee increase. There is not a real hard ceiling on the amount of detection, inspection, and mitigation work the state could do on air pollutant sources.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB204