These are all of the Elections and Government bills proposed in the 2021 session. Each bill has its own bill number, please use your browser search feature to find the bill you are interested in. Return to the Colorado home page to pick a different bill category.

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.

Each bill has been given a "magnitude" category: Mega, Major, Medium, Minor+, Minor, and Technical. This is a combination of the change the bill would create and the "controversy" level of the bill. Some minor bills that are extending current programs would be major changes if they were introducing something new, but the entire goal here is to allow you to better curate your time. Something uncontroversial likely to pass nearly unanimously that continues a past program may not be worth your time (and please remember, you can still read all of the minor bills!). Technical bills are here to round out the list. They are non-substantive changes.

HB21-1008 Forest Health Project Financing (Cooke (R), Hansen (D)) [Arndt (D), Catlin (R)]

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

  • Allow local government to form special taxation districts to fund and execute forest health projects inside the special district. Allows these districts and districts that provide protection services to also execute projects outside their district in order to mitigate fire risk inside their district
  • Extend the repeal of laws allowing for the state to issue bonds for watershed and forest health projects from 2023 by 10 years

Description:

Districts can also do forest health projects to secure and protect an adequate supply of water to reduce risk of forest fires in watersheds.

Special taxation districts are formed by different local governments that band together to create one district for sales or property tax purposes. The bill allows counties, cities, other special districts, water conservancy districts, forest improvement districts, Colorado Water Conservation district, and the Southwestern Water Conservation district to join these forest health districts. They can then only use those taxes for the purposes allowed by the type of special taxation district they created. Taxes must be approved by the majority of eligible voters in the district. They are run by a board of directors whose composition and manner of appointment is determined by the founding document for the district.

Forest health projects include improving the health of a forest by: reducing threat of insect diseases and epidemics, reducing impact of wildfires, reducing impact of undesirable non-native species, replanting in deforested areas, improving use of or adding value to small trees, or harvesting woody vegetation.

The Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority is the entity that can issue these bonds, of up to $50 million.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • Wildfires are an expanding danger in Colorado and things are likely to get worse without more active intervention through better forest management
  • Allowing local communities to band together to fund mitigation can be a part of the overall strategy, with the added benefit of putting some of the cost of mitigation directly onto the people choosing to live in dangerous areas

In Further Detail: Wildfires are of course one of the biggest on-going threats facing the state. This is being exacerbated by climate change and we can probably expect to have more summers like last year more often. The cost of these fires is enormous, both in terms of actually fighting them and damage and destruction. Last year we spent over $200 million on fighting these fires. We need more solutions to stop these fires before they get going into massive infernos and active land management is definitely key. Dead trees and overgrown forests and brush create tinder boxes just waiting for a match to explode. One way we can begin to address this is by giving communities the tools to take matters into their own hands, through these special districts. This has the added benefit of putting some the weight of fire mitigation onto the people who are choosing to live in dangerous fire areas. Nothing would be done without taxpayer approval of course. This is obviously not the only thing we need to do, but it can be a key part of our overall tool kit. Passing this bill does not in any way preclude also taking statewide action with state funds.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • This dancing around the vastness of the problem and passing the buck off onto areas less equipped to deal with it than the state
  • That water authority has not done a single project since being allowed to issue bonds in 2008. It may need more of an overhaul

In Further Detail: Our forest management has gotten so bad that a 2018 estimate was we’d need to do controlled burns on nearly 300,000 acres of land every year for the foreseeable future. In 2019 we did 13,336. The scale required to get rid of all of the fuel waiting for a match is beyond local special districts and requires state-wide intervention on a large scale. It is well worth the investment, as the Arguments For points out, we are losing hundreds of millions of dollars a year fighting these fires. So let’s stop trying piecemeal solutions and truly attack this problem at the state-wide level with state funds. As for the bond issuing authority, something is clearly not right with this program since it has done zero projects in 12 years of being allowed to issue bonds. It may need a bigger overhaul than simply changing its expiration date.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1008

HB21-1025 Nonsubstantive Emails And Open Meetings Law (Ginal (D)) [Arndt (D)]

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

  • Makes some exceptions to e-mail records between public officials that are subject to state open meeting laws. These include e-mails about scheduling and availability, forwarding information, responding to an inquiry from an individual who is not a member of the state or local public body, and posing a question for later discussion.

Description: Nothing to add

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • E-mails that are subject to open records law of course have to be kept by public officials so they can be part of the public record. We already exempt e-mails that do not relate to pending legislation or other public business, this bill merely clarifies that just figuring out a schedule, responding to questions from people are not part of the public body, or just posing a question for later discussion also do not need to part of the public record.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • Removing logistical stuff like scheduling is one thing, but this goes too far in allowing matters that do touch on public policy to be excluded. Information that is forwarded could be about a public matter, a question that was asked for later discussion could be very important to understanding why something turned out the way it did.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1025

HB21-1032 Local Government Authority Statewide Disaster Declarations [Luck (R)]

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

  • Allow local governments to issue resolutions, ordinances, or other laws to overrule parts of all of any order applying to the area issued by the governor as part of a disaster emergency after 30 days have passed. Forbids the state from retaliating in any way against the local government.

Description:

This power applies to counties and cities. For counties, any order issued only applies in the unincorporated parts of the county. Disaster emergencies declared by the governor can only last for 30 days but they can be renewed.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • Disasters like COVID can affect different parts of the state in different ways, so what may be necessary for public safety in one part may not be in another
  • Emergency orders can have huge negative impacts on a community, like the business-related closures due to COVID. If they aren’t necessary for a community, a community should not have to adhere to them

In Further Detail: Long-term disasters like the COVID pandemic affect different parts of the state in different ways. What might be necessary in one part of the state may not be in another, but one-size fits all emergency declarations treat everyplace nearly the same. These orders can have huge negative effects on a community, as we have seen with businesses forced to close due to COVID. This bill allows communities that do not need an order as strict as what is issued by the governor to overrule him, while allowing for a period of time for the disaster to unfold before doing so.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • Disasters don’t have timetables and they don’t read maps. We cannot assign an arbitrary time limit to how long an emergency might last and we cannot decide that an emergency will remain within neat geographic lines
  • For some disasters, like an infectious disease pandemic, the actions of people in one part of the state affect those in others, as people move around

In Further Detail: You cannot put a 30-day time limit on how long a disaster might last. As we’ve seen with COVID, sometimes things go way beyond a month and sometimes we really have little control over how long something will last. Disasters also don’t adhere to geographic boundaries. Particularly an infectious disease just goes where people bring it. Which bring us to the final, and most serious, problem. The actions taken by people in one part of the state can affect all of the rest of us. The first discovery of the UK variant of the Coronavirus in the US was made in a rural part of the state in someone who didn’t live in that county. We also saw rural areas hit the hardest this winter, in terms of per capita infections, and that included Colorado. Right now the counties with the most cases per 100,000 people in the state are Bent, Crowley, Lake, Lincoln, Grand, Washington, Rio Blanco, Eagle, Summit, and Fremont. Bent County did not report more than 1 case on a single day until November. It now has reported 1,469, or 26,340 cases per 100,000 residents. That’s the 2nd highest rate in the entire state, second only to Crowley county, which also had a small spike in May. The virus took a little longer to spread into those communities, but as is typical with infectious disease patterns, it did not spare them. Another point against a 30-day timetable.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1032

HB21-1042 Water Storage Tanks Grant Program [Hanks (R)]

Appropriation: $5 million each of next four years
Fiscal Impact: Not yet released

Goal:

  • Create a grant program to purchase water storage tanks for wildfire firefighting. Bill requires $5 million in general fund money to fund the program for each of the next four years

Description:

Program is to be run by the Colorado forest service. Forest service is to develop policies to implement it, including application process, grant amounts, and reporting requirements. To be eligible, grantees must be either a government or non-profit entity. Grants must be used to purchase storage tanks that can hold at least 1,000 gallons per tank. Forest service must report annually to the legislature with name of each grant recipient and amount granted, description of each project and report on progress, and any recommended legislative changes.

The fund that supports this program is also created by the bill and is managed by the board of governors of the Colorado state university system. Forest service can use a portion of the money to administer the program.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: January 2026

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • Wildfire is a continuing danger to the state, and large amounts of water can help contain fires before they get big, but getting that water to rural parts of the state quickly can be difficult
  • We spend enormous amounts of money each year fighting wildfires, this would be a good investment to help save money down the road

In Further Detail: Wildfires are of course one of the biggest on-going threats facing the state. This is being exacerbated by climate change and we can probably expect to have more summers like last year more often. Having large sources of water at-hand in rural parts of the state will help us contain these fires more quickly before they can spread into uncontrollable dangers to life and property. The cost of these fires is enormous, both in terms of actually fighting them and damage and destruction. Last year we spent over $200 million on fighting wildfires. $20 million over four years would be an investment well-spent.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • With our limited resources we must prioritize where we spend money on wildfire mitigation. A better use of it than water tanks may be forest management and individual property mitigation.
  • The state is so vast that we are unlikely to get enough tanks in enough places to help as much as more widespread management

In Further Detail: In an ideal world, we do everything we can to mitigate wildfires and perhaps we should be spending more upfront so as to not spend even larger amounts later. But with how we currently budget money toward mitigation, this might not be the best use of our resources. Spending money on forest management and on encouraging individual property owners to implement mitigation procedures may bring us more bang for the buck than water tanks. Given the vast size of forest that we have to cover, we are unlikely to get enough tanks in enough places to help as much as better forest management tactics.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1042

HB21-1047 County Commissioner Districts Gerrymandering [Kennedy (D)]

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: Not yet released

Goal:

  • Create a redistricting process via commission in counties where commissioners are elected by district, instead of by the entire county. Commission would select a map for the new district lines each redistricting cycle (occurs same time as all other redistricting, year after the census)

Description:

This would currently affect three counties: Arapahoe, El Paso, and Weld. Bill encourages these commissions to be independent. Commissions must allow for public input, including multiple hearings. Any paid lobbying of the commissions must be disclosed within 72 hours to the secretary of state. Establishes priorities to use when drawing districts, including equal size (within 5% deviation), any federal voting act requirements, preservation of communities of interest and political subdivisions, compactness, and maximizing the number of competitive districts. Prohibits maps drawn to protect individual commissioners, political parties, or if it abridges someone’s right to vote on account of their race, ethnic origin, or membership in a protected language group. Majority vote required to approve a map which is submitted to judicial review to ensure compliance with the law.

Additional Information:

  • For counties where the entire population elects the commissioners, districts must be as equal in population as possible, must not be redrawn more often than every two years, unless the districts need to be redrawn to match new federal or state legislative districts. Public hearing must be held on the new boundaries within 30 days of resolution to draw new districts.
  • If any county commissioner moves from their district their office immediately becomes vacant

Community of interest is defined as:

  • Shared public policy concerns of urban, rural, agricultural, industrial, or trade areas
  • Shared public policy concerns such as education, employment, environment, public health, transportation, water needs and supplies, and issues of demonstrable regional significance
  • Does not include relationships with political parties or candidates

Three judge panel is to be selected by chief judge of the judicial district of the county. Must be regularly sitting judges.

Commission must provide 72 hours public notice before adopting any rules for its administration and operation. Anyone may present a potential map, including members of the public. Commission must give 72 hours public notice before voting on a map. Commission must maintain a website for public comment. All written comments must be published. Access to commission hearings must be provided by broadcast via its website or comparable means of communication with the public. Commissioners are not allowed to communicate with non-partisan staff outside public hearings and non-partisan staff are not to communicate about the maps with anyone outside the commission or staff. Violating these requirements results in immediate removal. Anyone who contracts to advocate for the adoption or rejection of any map is a lobbyist and must register with the secretary of state and properly disclose any lobbying.

Commission must start with a preliminary plan from the non-partisan staff. After hearings the staff must prepare and publish online at least three more plans based on feedback. Commissioners can request additional plans from staff. Final plan may be adopted at any time after last staff plan is presented. Judicial panel must approve the plan unless it finds it violates the laws set out in this bill. If the panel does not approve the plan, the commission has 12 days to hold hearings that must include public testimony and return a new plan to the panel. If the commission does not meet the deadline, the staff have three days to submit a new plan. Final plan must be approved by judicial panel by December 29 of the redistricting year. If the state does not have the data it needs by July 31 of a redistricting year, the county commissioners may change deadlines so that final approval happens by December 29 of the next year.


Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • District-drawing commissions that must adhere to guidelines like those in this bill allow for a more vibrant and shifting democracy where voters pick the politicians, not the other way around
  • The state already has independent commissions to draw our federal and state legislative districts, counties should be no different

In Further Detail: Political gerrymandering is something we do not accept in Colorado. We have independent commissions to draw our federal and state legislative districts because we understand that the practice of politicians picking their voters is the exact opposite of how a true democracy is supposed to function. Political gerrymandering also allows parties that are supported by the minority of voters to achieve majorities through techniques like packing (putting most of the majority into one district) or cracking (splitting the majority so it becomes the minority in several districts). Commissions allow more for a more vibrant and shifting democracy, particularly if the districts are supposed to be as competitive as possible, like this bill requires. This ensures that politicians are always working to please the voters, not to find new ones. So if we already do this for federal and state representation, why should counties get to skate by? While only three counties currently select their commissioners by a process that doesn’t involve everyone living in the county (think the difference between electing a US senator and a member of the House of Representatives), these counties and any that opt for that sort of election in the future should be forced to adhere to principled districting.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • This is a costly burden for these counties to bear without getting any say in the matter. The citizens of these counties should decide if they want redistricting commissions, by good old fashioned majority vote, rather than the state legislature, most of which does not represent these three counties.

Bottom Line:

  • Supposedly apolitical redistricting to maximize competitiveness clashes with the idea of preserving existing political subdivisions and communities of interest. The fact is that the way people concentrate together in urban areas makes it extremely difficult to do both. We either split these communities up or we let mostly alike communities (which will probably vote mostly alike) pick the representatives they desire.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1047

HB21-1071 Ranked Choice Voting In Nonpartisan Elections (Fenberg (D)) [Kennedy (D), Arndt (D)]

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: About $1.1 million in year one, then $145,000 after that, all through increased fees

Goal:

  • Allow cities and towns to use instant runoff ranked voting, beginning in January 2023, as part of a general election (more than one item on the ballot). They can already do so in municipal-only elections. This would only be for city-wide races of course. Notice must be given at least 100 days prior to the election and the city must pay for reasonable costs associated with it. It must enter into an agreement with all relevant county clerks on maximum number of choices voters can rank and procedures for the county to certify the ballots. Secretary of state must develop statewide rules to govern these elections by end of 2022.

Description:

Instant runoff ranked choice is a process where instead of picking one candidate voters rank their choices. Then if no candidate receives 50% of the vote, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated, and all of the voters who voted for that candidate get their vote moved to their second choice. The process continues until one candidate has more than 50% of the vote. It is most famously used in the United States in Maine. In Colorado, some cities already use it and Boulder is planning to start in 2023.

In this bill, the secretary of state is responsible for vote tabulation and reporting. The rules set by the secretary must include tabulation, reporting, and canvassing, as well as provisions for an election that occurs in multiple counties.

Additional Information:

Colorado has laws around the testing and verification of election equipment. This bill sets out similar standards for election equipment for ranked choice elections (obviously there is specialized equipment that handles ranked choice elections). If the secretary certifies a piece of equipment, they can also set conditions for use of the equipment and recommend procedures. The secretary is directed to try to negotiate a single annual statewide license for using the system to allow for all counties to use it. State must pay for the license.


Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • Ranked choice voting is great for situations where you have more than two main candidates. Voters are free to pick the candidate of their choice without worry of “wasting” their vote on someone who is not likely to win. It also prevents run-offs, potentially saving municipalities with run-off laws money
  • Ranked choice also results in the consensus choice—no winning an election with a strong minority of support where you aren’t anyone’s second option
  • Ranked choice is used all around the world successfully—and no one is forced to do it. Only if the municipality chooses to do so. It is also best to hold elections on the same day as other items, to increase turnout, rather than force cities to hold stand-alones if they want ranked choice

In Further Detail: The strength of ranked choice voting is the security it offers voters to vote for the candidate they truly want to win, with no worry that they might “waste” their vote and end up with their least favorite option winning. It boots third-party candidates and works great in large fields. It also prevents someone who is no one’s second choice from winning with a strong minority of support. Beyond its use in Maine (already successfully done in the 2018 election, where it was challenged and upheld in court), it is used in parts of Australia, India, and Ireland. Voters do not have to rank all of the choices if they don’t want to. The bill forces no one to use the system that doesn’t want to. But for cities that decide they do, we should hold the option open and not force them into stand-alone elections for their city-wide offices. Turnout will always be higher when we are dealing with a full ballot. As for the fees, spread over all of the businesses in the state it will probably be almost unnoticeable.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • If everything on the ballot is ranked choice, as is the current case with any city that uses it, then it won’t cause too much confusion, but this would force mixed ballots where some offices are ranked choice and some are not
  • Ranked choice encourages stuffed ballots as people with no chance decide to give it go anyway, which can lead to serious voter confusion on top of an already potentially confusing process—are we expecting voters to fully research all of these candidates?
  • Businesses should not have to pay for this expansion (the funding requirements of the bill are from funds that require increases in various fees in order to cover the costs)

In Further Detail: Ranked choice voting can be pretty confusing. We are all used to voting for one person per race. So some cities occasionally have ballots where this is not the case, but crucially the ballot itself is not mixed. You don’t have a ranked choice vote for mayor and then a pick one for state representative. That could lead to voters making mistakes on the ballot due to confusion. And ranked choice itself can be confusing. It encourages less viable candidates to run and requires more effort and research from voters to decide who is 1, 2, 3, etc. This will also cost extra money to the state, over a million to setup and then smaller amounts to administer. That burden will fall squarely on business filing fees, which must be raised in order to cover increases in election costs. If a city wants to do ranked choice—go ahead under current rules but don’t force the rest of us to pay for it.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1071

HB21-1107 Protections For Public Health Department Workers (Bridges (D), Lundeen (R)) [Caraveo (D), Carver (R)]

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

  • Expands previous privacy protections for personal information of law enforcement officials and certain human services workers to people working for or contracted with the department of public health and environment or county or district public health agencies, as well as unelected members of county or district boards of health

Description:

Exact privacy protections are: class I misdemeanor to knowingly make the personal information of a state or county employee public on the Internet if the disclosure of the information poses a serious threat to the safety of the employee or their family and the individual disclosing it reasonably should know it would cause a serious threat. These employees can also request that other state or government officials remove personal information from the Internet if they feel their safety is threatened.

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • It is sad that this has become necessary, but COVID and our fight against it has made these public officials a target merely for doing their jobs. Someone as widely popular as Dr. Fauci still gets death threats. Our health officials need to be able to do their jobs without fear of retribution.

Arguments Against: n/a

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1107

SB21-004 Jurisdiction Over Pueblo Chemical Depot (Garcia (D), Simpson (R)) [Esgar (D)]

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

  • Accept concurrent jurisdiction for Colorado with the federal government over the US Army Pueblo Chemical Depot. This is one of two locations in the country that houses chemical weapons and is scheduled for decommission and is destroying its chemical stockpiles. This is expected to be done in 2022-2023 and at that point the land will revert to the community. The bill explicitly states that Colorado accepts no liability for the depot.

Description: Nothing to add

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line

  • This is a necessary step towards the final goal of having this property be turned into something useful once it is clear of weapons.

Arguments Against: n/a

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-004

SB21-007 Improve Public Confidence Election Validity (Lundeen (R))

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: About $1.7 million in costs to the state which must be borne by increased fees on businesses; impacts ranging from about $40,000 to $1.5 million on individual counties each election cycle, depending on county size.

Goal:

  • Change voting in Colorado in general elections from all-mail ballots to only mail ballots by request, requiring everyone else to vote in-person in the seven-day period leading up to and including election day, with polling locations open from 7 AM to 7 PM on each of those days. Counties get to decide how many polling locations to open (right now it is determined by population size)
  • No ballots received after election day will count (right now military members have up to 8 days after the election to get their ballot in) and counties must count all ballots on election day (they can start counting on the first day of voting, unlike now when they must wait until election day). No results may be released until all ballots have been counted

Description:

The bill does not mention primary elections. It does not alter any current legislative text in law (it begins with “notwithstanding any other provision of law”), so it is silent about mail ballot drop boxes which would presumably operate under our current rules, which do have minimum requirements for counties.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • The release of results over time stretching into the day or days after the election can be confusing, this ensures we get one answer at the end and that the end is in fact election day
  • Some people don’t feel as secure using mail ballots and prefer the old-fashioned method. Those that like mail ballots can still request them and all such requests are to be granted

In Further Detail: One thing that we all should be able to agree on: the counting of ballots should not be a spectator sport, with all the ebbs and flows of a back-and-forth basketball game, complete with large come from behind victories that only appear that way because of the order ballots were counted in and the fact that we release ballot counts before the final result is known. This confuses some partisans, who don’t understand the ins and outs of the process, and was a big factor in the ability of some to push falsehoods about the 2020 elections. This bill ensures all of that stops, with one answer about who won when we know it and ensures that we know on election day itself (or just after we tick over to the next day). On the mail ballots themselves, the fact is that some people don’t feel comfortable with their use. For those that do, the bill provides for the ability to opt-in to using them. It also provides a strong early voting period requirement, with local control flexibility for counties to determine number of polling places. Anyone who wants to cast a ballot will find plenty of opportunities to do so.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • This may cause a massive mess—what happens if all the votes aren’t actually counted by 12:01 AM on the morning after the election (which doesn’t happen in any state in the country right now)? Do the uncounted ballots just not count at all, which would raise a host of constitutional issues? What if a particular county decides it wants to count precincts friendly to the political party in charge first and “accidentally” does not count the ballots of unfriendly precincts? What happens in primary elections? Are we truly going to disenfranchise an overseas member of the military because their ballot didn’t arrive until the day after the election?
  • We have one of the best and safest voting systems in the entire country—and our residents like it. We don’t need to change it because some people are unhappy with election results. The rest of the country would do better to be more like Colorado—which the Department of Homeland Security has called the most secure system in the entire country
  • This will dramatically increase the costs of all of our counties to administer elections in the state

In Further Detail: This bill is full of unfunded mandates that will fall on our counties. Counties must maintain our current dropbox structure (as the bill is silent about it), but must create new infrastructure to handle mail ballot requests, massive polling location staffing requirements, and a virtually impossible to meet ballot counting standard. What happens if a county doesn’t count all of its ballots by the end of election day? Considering no state in the entire country gets all of its ballots counted by the end of election day, it seems like a pretty likely occurrence. The bill does not say but clearly the only answer is they do not count. Which would open a major can of constitutional worms the state would likely lose. What happens if a county decides to mess with the process and fail to count ballots it thinks is unfriendly to its political party by the end of election day? The bill does not say. In fact, right now ballots are counted in a centralized location in a system that is a pretty well-oiled machine. That won’t be possible under this bill, so all ballots on election day will need to get counted at the precinct itself. And who thinks the results of the ballots cast before election day are going to stay a secret to all of the politicians in this state and thus likely the media? We have one of the best voting systems in the entire country—it is easy to use (since adopting it we always have one of the highest voter turnout percentages in the country), it is cheaper than running regular elections with polling sites (our costs went down about 40%), and it is extremely secure (0.0027% of ballots cast in 2018 were referred for investigation and conservative groups have found only 9 instances of vote fraud since we adopted the system in 2013). The Department of Homeland Security has called our system the most secure in the country. We were the subject of numerous envious articles in the past year as other states struggled during the pandemic. And perhaps most importantly: Coloradans like our system! Those that aren’t secure with sending a ballot in the mail can use a dropbox. Those that don’t feel good about that either can still in fact vote in-person, including on election day itself, using their mail ballot. Our system does not need this change to satisfy some people who are unhappy at the results of the last election.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-007

SB21-070 County Authority To Register Businesses (Moreno (D)) [Bird (D)]

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

  • Allows counties to require all businesses in unincorporated parts of counties to register with the county, but the county cannot license the business or collect a fee.

Description: Nothing further

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • Counties provide a lot of services to businesses located within their boundaries, but if the county doesn’t know about the business then it cannot help
  • Registration also provides greater safety and protections against fly-by-night businesses

In Further Detail: Businesses in unincorporated areas where being missed by counties when it came time to try to offer COVID relief, and of course there are many other programs counties run. If they have no idea a business exists, then they cannot help. Businesses that are located in a city of course have to register with the city. Also, if a county can register businesses it can better protect against pop-ups that are designed to take advantage of people, like fly-by-night roofers who pop-up after a hail storm.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • This could allow counties to punish businesses who don’t want to register

In Further Detail: As currently written the bill is silent on if counties can punish businesses who don’t want to register. Given that one of the reasons for registration is to crack down on shady businesses, it follows that counties may try to put some teeth into registration.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-070

SB21-113 Firefighting Aircraft Wildfire Mgmt And Response (Fenberg (D), Rankin (R)) [McCluskie (D), Lynch (R)]

Appropriation: $30.8 million of general fund money
Fiscal Impact: None beyond appropriation

Goal:

  • Use $30.8 million of general fund money to purchase a fire hawk helicopter configured for wild fire mitigation and lease a type 1 helicopter or other available and appropriate aviation resource for fire mitigation for the 2021 wildfire season

Description:

A fire hawk helicopter has a tank mounted to its bottom that can carry 1,000 gallons of water (about three times the capacity of a bucket attached to a regular helicopter) and can fill the tank in about 45 seconds. It can carry about 12 fully geared firefighters and can still maneuver at about 140 miles per hour. It can also fully operate at night. It is a modified Blackhawk military helicopter.

Type 1 helicopters are the largest used to fight fires, capable of carrying up to 700 gallons of water.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • Just read the description and imagine how helpful that will be in fighting wildfires in the state before the bloom out-of-control. If a water source is within 6 miles of a fire the fire hawk can dump 16,000 galloons of water an hour on it. Owning one means we have access to it when we need it
  • This is all part of a larger plan of spending nearly $100 million on fire fighting

In Further Detail: Just read the description and think about how it will help us stop small fires from becoming raging infernos. A fire hawk can move rapidly from one part of the state to another, then drop 16,000 galloons of water an hour on the new fire (with a close-by water source). Multiple other western states are looking to add it to their arsenal and California already has 9. It can also be used for search and rescue operations in the winter. Owning it rather than leasing it means we absolutely have one when we need it. Lots of fires every summer in the United States, we don’t want to be in competition with other states for this resource. And this is all part of a wider plan: we are also going to spend money on forest management to try stop fires before they occur. But when they occur, we want equipment like this ready to go. Given that fighting fires cost us $200 million alone in 2020, it is worth the investment.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • These helicopters aren’t exactly saving California—because the real key is not having tinderboxes waiting for a match
  • We also shouldn’t buy a fire hawk outright, just lease it when we need it

In Further Detail: California with its 9 fire hawks still experienced the worst fire season in its history last year. The real key, and where we need to pour our resources, is in forest management to mitigate the amount of fuel ready to burn. A 2018 estimate was we’d need to do controlled burns on nearly 300,000 acres of land every year for the foreseeable future. In 2019 we did 13,336. And we should not buy a fire hawk outright (that’s $24 million of this spending), just lease one when we need it.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-113