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.

House

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

MEGA

HB21-1086 Voter Proof Of Citizenship Requirement KILLED BY HOUSE COMMITTEE
HB21-1321 Voter Transparency In Ballot Measures PASSED AMENDED

MAJOR

HB21-1032 Local Government Authority Statewide Disaster Declarations KILLED BY HOUSE COMMITTEE
HB21-1081 Disaster Emergency Duration Limits KILLED BY HOUSE COMMITTEE
HB21-1175 Donation To Nonprofit For Traffic Violations KILLED BY HOUSE COMMITTEE SIGNIFICANTLY AMENDED
HB21-1208 Natural Disaster Mitigation Enterprise PASSED AMENDED

MEDIUM

HB21-1011 Multilingual Ballot Access For Voters PASSED AMENDED

MINOR+

HB21-1042 Water Storage Tanks Grant Program KILLED BY BILL SPONSORS
HB21-1047 County Commissioner Districts Gerrymandering SIGNED INTO LAW AMENDED
HB21-1053 Election Recount Requests KILLED BY HOUSE COMMITTEE AMENDED
HB21-1071 Ranked Choice Voting In Nonpartisan Elections PASSED AMENDED
HB21-1088 Annual Audit Statewide Voter Registration System
HB21-1092 Candidate Lieutenant Governor Eligible For Other Office VETOED SIGNIFICANTLY AMENDED
HB21-1127 County General Fund Money For Roads And Bridges KILLED BY BILL SPONSORS
HB21-1180 Measures To Increase Biomass Utilization PASSED VERY SIGNIFICANTLY AMENDED (category change)
HB21-1274 Unused State-owned Real Property Beneficial Use PASSED AMENDED

MINOR

HB21-1001 Remote Participation In Party Committee Meetings SIGNED INTO LAW AMENDED
HB21-1003 Legislative Proceedings During Disaster Emergency SIGNED INTO LAW AMENDED
HB21-1008 Forest Health Project Financing SIGNED INTO LAW AMENDED
HB21-1025 Nonsubstantive Emails And Open Meetings Law SIGNED INTO LAW AMENDED
HB21-1051 Public Information Applicants For Public Employment SIGNED INTO LAW AMENDED
HB21-1066 CDOT Colorado Department of Transportation Financial Reporting Requirements SIGNED INTO LAW
HB21-1100 Electronic Filing Of Documents With Governmental Entities SIGNED INTO LAW VERY SIGNIFICANTLY AMENDED (category change)
HB21-1107 Protections For Public Health Department Workers SIGNED INTO LAW
HB21-1111 Consent Collection Personal Information PASSED VERY SIGNIFICANTLY AMENDED (category change)
HB21-1115 Board Of Health Member Requirements SIGNED INTO LAW VERY SIGNIFICANTLY AMENDED
HB21-1132 Local Government Limited Gaming Impact Fund SIGNED INTO LAW AMENDED
HB21-1137 Limit Notification General Assembly Regarding Adoption Of Rules SIGNED INTO LAW
HB21-1148 Colorado State Fair Annual Report Submission Date Change SIGNED INTO LAW
HB21-1168 Historically Underutilized Businesses Local Government Procurement SIGNED INTO LAW VERY SIGNIFICANTLY AMENDED
HB21-1170 Advisement Committee On Elections And Information Technology KILLED BY HOUSE COMMITTEE
HB21-1174 Transfer Senate Bill 20-219 Certificates Of Participation Issuance Premium To Capital Construction Fund PASSED
HB21-1176 Election Integrity And Voter Accuracy KILLED BY HOUSE COMMITTEE VERY SIGNIFICANTLY AMENDED
HB21-1212 Diversity Of Governor's Appointments To Boards SIGNED INTO LAW AMENDED
HB21-1240 Disclaimers In Communications Independent Expenditures KILLED BY BILL SPONSORS
HB21-1247 Colorado Department Of Public Health And Environment Contract Pay To Grantees Up Front SIGNED INTO LAW
HB21-1267 County Authority To Delegate Mill Levy Certification PASSED
HB21-1278 Special District Meeting Requirements PASSED AMENDED
HB21-1287 Marriage Or Civil Union License Procedures PASSED AMENDED

TECHNICAL

HB21-1126 State Architect Authority Execute Certain Leases SIGNED INTO LAW
HB21-1152 Repeal Obsolete Capitol Dome Restoration Fund SIGNED INTO LAW
HB21-1249 Repeal Gaming City Audit Requirement SIGNED INTO LAW
HB21-1316 Conform The Term Lease Purchase To Accounting Standards PASSED

Senate

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

MEGA

SB21-007 Improve Public Confidence Election Validity KILLED BY SENATE COMMITTEE

MAJOR

MEDIUM

SB21-010 Colorado Ballot Signature Verification Act KILLED BY SENATE COMMITTEE
SB21-023 Restrict Nondisclosure Agreements State Government KILLED BY SENATE COMMITTEE
SB21-113 Firefighting Aircraft Wildfire Mgmt And Response SIGNED INTO LAW AMENDED
SB21-166 Colorado Fire Commission Recommendations PASSED AMENDED
SB21-177 Restrict Foreign-influenced Money In Politics KILLED ON SENATE CALENDAR
SB21-247 Adjust Redistricting Commission Procedures KILLED ON HOUSE CALENDAR
SB21-250 Elections And Voting PASSED AMENDED
SB21-258 Wildfire Risk Mitigation SIGNED INTO LAW

MINOR+

SB21-012 Former Inmates With Fire Service Experience SIGNED INTO LAW AMENDED
SB21-163 Cost-benefit Analysis For Rules Additional Requirements KILLED BY SENATE COMMITTEE
SB21-221 Projects Under Wildfire Risk Mitigation Grant Program SIGNED INTO LAW
SB21-244 Funding Health Benefits For Legislative Aides PASSED

MINOR

SB21-004 Jurisdiction Over Pueblo Chemical Depot SIGNED INTO LAW AMENDED
SB21-070 County Authority To Register Businesses SIGNED INTO LAW AMENDED
SB21-141 Statewide Internet Portal Authority Competitive Solicitation Method SIGNED INTO LAW
SB21-144 Sunset Homeland Security And All-hazards Advisory Committee SIGNED INTO LAW
SB21-152 Rule Review Bill SIGNED INTO LAW
SB21-155 Limited Gaming Commission Member From Gaming Area SIGNED INTO LAW SIGNIFICANTLY AMENDED
SB21-160 Modification To Local Government Election Codes SIGNED INTO LAW AMENDED
SB21-178 Extend Care Subfund Deadline For COVID-19 Programs SIGNED INTO LAW
SB21-237 Create Forest Health Council In Department Of Natural Resources PASSED AMENDED
SB21-262 Special District Transparency PASSED AMENDED
SB21-283 Cash Fund Solvency PASSED
SB21-284 Evidence-based Evaluations For Budget PASSED
SB21-288 American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 Cash Fund SIGNED INTO LAW
SB21-289 Revenue Loss Restoration Cash Fund PASSED

TECHNICAL

SB21-068 Concerning the enactment of the Colorado Revised Statutes 2020 as the positive and statutory law of the state of Colorado SIGNED INTO LAW
SB21-266 Revisor's Bill PASSED

HB21-1001 Remote Participation In Party Committee Meetings (Fenberg (D), Holbert (R)) [Esgar (D), McKean (R)]

SIGNED INTO LAW

AMENDED: Minor

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

  • Allow key leadership of political parties in the state to meet remotely in 2021, including taking votes and filling vacancies.

Description:

State law requires these meetings to take place in-person at the moment, requiring in-person votes. This bill instead allows central committees and executive committees to meet remotely and cast votes remotely. Allowed methods are e-mail, mail, telephone, or through an Internet application (like Zoom for instance). Any method must be approved by party rules. This includes electing officers and filling vacancies on the committee.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: January 1, 2022

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • This is pretty simple: we still have a pandemic and state law does not allow these committees to meet or take votes remotely without this adjustment. In 2021 we can easily handle remote participation: the state legislature itself allows for it. As with the state legislature, giving the decision on whether or not to participate remotely to the individual, rather than the party or the committee, allows for people to make their own decisions about health and safety.Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • More discretion should be given to the parties to set some rules around closure here. We fully expect to have wide vaccination by summer and certainly by fall. The bill gives the discretion to attend and vote remotely to the participants themselves, not to the party or the committee

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1001

HB21-1003 Legislative Proceedings During Disaster Emergency (Fenberg (D)) [Benavidez (D)]

SIGNED INTO LAW

AMENDED: Moderate

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

  • Create a framework in state law for triggering remote participation during public health disasters and allow for this year’s SMART hearings to be delayed due to COVID.

Description:

Allows members of the general assembly to participate remotely during a declared disaster emergency that is caused by a public health emergency. If a member elects to do this, they are still eligible to receive the per diem they would have received if they had traveled to Denver. Members are not eligible for reimbursement for technical expenses, unless they have to travel somewhere due to technical problems at their home. Then they are eligible for travel expenses, but it cannot exceed their customary reimbursement for travel to Denver.

The bill also extends the amount of time the legislature can conduct its SMART hearings (accountability hearings for state departments) to account for the pandemic and the fact that the legislature adjourned for a month after starting the 2021 session. Members can participate remotely.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: September 1, 2021, for the SMART hearings section

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • We need set laws to refer to in times of public health emergencies so we don’t have to rely on rules created on the fly (and voted on in-person).

In Further Detail: Last year the legislature had to scramble to deal with the emerging pandemic and create rules on the fly. While it mostly worked out, it is better to have vested authority in state law to allow for remote participation during times of dangerous infectious disease rather than rely on rules created and passed by the legislature, which of course must be in-person until otherwise allowed. This way, the executive committee (which is the leadership of both chambers) can initiate remote participation without a full in-person vote of both chambers. Of course we only want this when it is absolutely needed, so the disaster declaration is a requirement. For the reimbursement, we don’t want people choosing to come to Denver in unsafe situations simply to collect their per diem.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • Remote participation degrades the ability of the legislature to function and there should be no automated way to bring it about. We also should not encourage remote participation through providing a per diem to people who aren’t actually using it to travel and stay in Denver.

In Further Detail: Not every public health emergency is the same and we shouldn’t have one-size fits all standards. Even though the executive committee must trigger this remote participation, it still doesn’t allow for enough nuance. Remote participation is clunky and precludes a lot of the in-person work that is critical to making the legislature operate. A per diem is not a salary or some sort of income associated with a job. It is to cover your expenses. If you don’t travel to Denver and stay overnight in Denver and have to eat out in Denver, then you aren’t incurring any expenses. In fact, you’d be encouraged to do the exact opposite: stay at home and collect the money anyway.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1003

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

SIGNED INTO LAW

AMENDED: Minor

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

HB21-1011 Multilingual Ballot Access For Voters (Gonzales (D), Moreno (D)) [Caraveo (D)]

PASSED

AMENDED: Minor

Appropriation: $82,800
Fiscal Impact: Negligible each year

Goal:

  • Require counties within the state where a minority language is spoken by at least 2,000 or 2.5% of citizens in the county who do not speak English well and speak the minority language at home to supply a sample ballot in the minority language as well as in-person ballots in the minority language upon request.

Description:

This mirrors the requirements of the federal Voting Rights Act, but lowers the eligibility requirements from 10,000 or 5%. Secretary of state must provide appropriate translation for all state and federal ballot questions and races. Secretary of state must also create a multilingual ballot hotline to provide access to translators in each of the languages the most recent census was offered in.

State must try to help any counties who take on additional costs due to this bill.

Additional Information:

To qualify for use, translators must have certified ability to speak and write proficiently in both languages. The hotline must be available during hours that are consistent with the hours of operation of voter service and polling centers from 8 AM-5 PM Monday through Friday from the first day ballots are mailed through the Friday before election day. On the day before and on election day must be available from 7 AM-7 PM. Notice of the hotline must be provided on secretary of state’s website and in all voter service and polling centers. Secretary of state must also determine which counties must offer minority language ballots and notify them as well as provide access to translation resources. Secretary of state must list all of the counties that must offer minority language ballots on its website.


Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • Far too many of the eligible voters in this state who don’t speak English well live in counties where minority ballots are not available because they don’t meet the Voting Rights Act thresholds
  • Our ballots are dense and difficult to read, even for native speakers. For those who are not fluent in English it can be nearly impossible
  • We must ensure that all citizens can make informed choices and participate in our democracy

In Further Detail: Only five state counties qualify for the Voting Rights Act requirement of a minority language ballot. But the current estimate is that 82,096 of the 103,146 eligible voters who speak English less than very well live in counties where minority language ballots are not available. Our ballots are also very dense and difficult to read, even for native speakers, particularly referendums and amendments. This means that many citizens for whom English is a second language they are proficient, but not fluent in, that the ballot is incomprehensible. So we need to expand the standards for minority language ballots and provide a hotline for those who have questions related to what the ballot actually says. Every citizen of this state has the right to vote and determine the shape and direction of our government. We must ensure that all citizens, regardless of their language, can make informed choices and be a part of the process. It is a defining part of the fabric of our melting-pot nation, where for hundreds of years we have welcomed people from around the globe who do not speak English and made them a part of America.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • The entire idea of minority language ballots is bad and we should not expand on it. English is the language of this country and a translation of something as precise as ballot language is not something any citizen should use to cast a vote

In Further Detail: The language in ballot questions is incredibly precise. While we are forced to do some minority ballots by federal law, it is a bad idea to start with and we should not do more than is required. English is the language of the United States and an individual who cannot read or understand English well enough to fill out a ballot should not be relying on a translation of the original language of the measure to cast a vote.


Bottom Line:

  • This expansion falls squarely on the backs of counties, who are given no financial support to create these extra ballots and pay for translation of their local ballot materials.

Bottom Line:

  • There are no guidelines or guardrails in this bill to prevent hotline translators from influencing the vote of people who call and ask for translations. This could allow translators to subtly influence the vote of people who call in.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1011

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

SIGNED INTO LAW

AMENDED: Moderate

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 information that does not relate to the merits of or substance of pending legislation or other public business, including 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. The bill specifically states this must be things that are not about the merits or substance of pending legislation or other public business

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. Untangling whether or not it directly touched on the merits of pending legislation or public business may be difficult

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1025

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

KILLED BY HOUSE COMMITTEE

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)]

KILLED BY BILL SPONSORS

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. Some of the tanks may be too small for effective firefighting. And it might not be viable in times of drought to have this much water stored in tanks all over the state

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 (Lee (D)) [Kennedy (D)]

SIGNED INTO LAW

AMENDED: Minor

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None at state level, costs at county level depending on how they implement this

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

HB21-1051 Public Information Applicants For Public Employment (Pettersen (D), Liston (R)) [Geitner (R), Bird (D)]

SIGNED INTO LAW

AMENDED: Moderate

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

  • Allow state and public bodies to designate a single finalist for chief executives of agencies or other similar entities, which makes all of their application materials subject to state open records. Currently the law requires a list of all finalists, which makes their records subject to open records and if there are three or fewer qualified applicants, all must be made finalists.

Description:

Multiple courts have held that the current law requires naming more than one finalist.

Demographic data (race and gender), if supplied, of any candidate interviewed for these positions must be made available to the public upon request.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • Knowing that your application materials will be public even if you aren’t a serious candidate for a job has a chilling affect on applications and it is already hard to recruit for this level because of competition from the private sector

In Further Detail: The current law makes it so that even marginal candidates may end up being named “finalists” which then puts all of their application records into the public sphere. It is already hard to recruit for these positions, because the people qualified for them can make more money (sometimes vastly more) and potentially more recognition in the private sector. Adding the potential chilling affect of having your records made public even if you aren’t really a finalist does not help. Agencies are still free to designate more than one finalist if they want.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • These are critical positions with enormous power, which is why the open records act applies. Because the idea is not just to know about the person who got the job, but the people in serious consideration as a public check on hiring decisions

In Further Detail: The reason this requirement exists in the first place is that we vest these positions with enormous power and they frequently have enormous public anonymity. They aren’t elected officials and most voters have no idea who they are or what they do. So the idea behind current law is that we deserve to know about everyone in serious consideration for the job, as a check on hiring decisions. If the current law is vague and flawed when it comes to non-serious candidates, that can be fixed without letting the state just present us with a fait accompli.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1051

HB21-1053 Election Recount Requests [Williams (R)]

KILLED BY HOUSE COMMITTEE

AMENDED: Moderate

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

  • Allow any registered voter to request a recount, including requesting that the recount by done manually. As with requests made by candidates or political parties, the person making the request has to pay the cost of the recount in advance and cannot accept contributions to make this payment. The losing candidate with the most votes (so second place finisher) can waive any recounts in their election, which overrides the ability for a citizen to request a recount. Must be done within 1 day of the clerk notification of a recount request

Description:

All of the same rules that apply to candidates and political parties in terms of timing of the recount and ability to challenge process in court also apply to registered voters. The state has mandatory recount standards that occur without request and on the state’s dime. They are not manual and must occur when the margin is 0.5% or less.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • The core of our democracy is our citizens and it is only fair to allow them the ability to request recounts in the same manner as politicians. Because the costs of a recount must be prepaid, no government is going to lose money because of this

In Further Detail: The right to vote is one of our most sacred and having that vote counted properly is part of what we expect from our country. Errors happen in all elections and recounts are designed to catch those errors. But it should not just be up to politicians to decide if a recount is necessary. Concerned citizens should have that right as well, especially if wanting to have a manual recount which is not triggered by state laws. Because all requested recounts must be paid for in advance by the requestee, no government will lose money because of this bill. And the cost of a recount will deter frivolous requests. Even at lower level elections we are talking about thousands of dollars and statewide…much, much more.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • If a candidate for office is convinced that they have lost and a recount is not necessary, that should be proof positive that it’s true: no one has more motivation to request a recount
  • This isn’t about money but about time and perception: recounts call into question the validity of the results and take time and effort for election officials. We don’t need to go through of all of that to satisfy the whims of citizens. And there are plenty of extremely wealthy citizens who will not blink at the costs of requesting a recount

In Further Detail: The person on Earth most likely to want a recount if it is going to make any difference is the candidate who lost. Followed by the political party that lost. If they are satisfied no recount is necessary, then it is almost certainly not necessary. And given the automatic thresholds and the way recounts typically go, any requested recount is highly unlikely to change the result. Any requested recount that the candidate wasn’t interested in is almost certainly not going to change the result (never say never but it seems impossible). So this isn’t so much about the result itself or money (since the request must be prepaid). This is about dragging out the process and casting doubt on the result. The citizen who requested the recount could then drag the matter into court. And given the billions of dollars spent on our elections, including massive amounts by private citizens, the price tag of a recount is unlikely to dissuade enough people to make trouble every election cycle.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1053

HB21-1066 CDOT Colorado Department of Transportation Financial Reporting Requirements (Smallwood (R), Woodward (R)) [Bockenfeld (R), Michaelson Jenet (D)]

From the Legislative Audit Committee

SIGNED INTO LAW

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

  • Requires the department of transportation to provide the legislature with a monthly budget report of the expenditures made from each budget category in its budget allocation plan, as well as the unexpected and unencumbered balance of each subcategory. This must also be put on its public website.
  • Department must also submit a monthly financial report to the Office of the State Controller, which must have enough information for the controller to complete a review of legal over-expenditures, any deficit fund balances, and budget-to-actuals report for every budgeted item

Description: Nothing to add

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • This is a result of the state auditor finding that the department of transportation wasn’t really filing reports according to what was required in law. The auditor recommended changing the law to match what the department was doing, so that is what this bill does.

Arguments Against: n/a

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1066

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

PASSED

AMENDED: Moderate

Appropriation: $500,000
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). Those located in multiple counties must wait until 2025. 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 but counties must reimburse the state in proportion to their statewide use of 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

HB21-1081 Disaster Emergency Duration Limits [Pico (R)]

KILLED BY HOUSE COMMITTEE

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: Increases in expenses to run special sessions when required

Goal:

  • Extend the duration of disasters declared by the governor from 30 days to 60 days but require a joint resolution of the general assembly to extend any disaster declaration beyond 60 days. The legislature can only extend for another 60 days, but can continue doing so indefinitely

Description:

Currently the governor can extend 30-day disaster declarations indefinitely. The legislature can override such a declaration.

If the legislature is not in session, the bill directs either it to convene in special session. This requires either the governor calling a special session or a 2/3 majority of the legislature voting for one.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • Current law gives too much power to the governor, who can unilaterally declare these emergencies, and then if the legislature is out-of-session, keep declaring them indefinitely. Exactly what happened last year
  • In a true emergency, the legislature can keep the emergency going indefinitely

In Further Detail: Our current setup is way too heavily tilted to our executive branch of government. The governor can in essence declare an emergency forever and the legislature is powerless to stop it until they are back in regular session without the super-majority of votes required to convene a special session. This of course is exactly what happened for a large chunk of 2020. If we really do need to extend the emergency, the legislature can keep doing it under this bill.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • This ignores the very real danger of convening the legislature during a disaster, which would have to been done repeatedly every 60 days
  • Legislature already has tools to stop disaster declarations

In Further Detail: It can be extremely dangerous to bring all 100 legislators and associated staff and personnel required to run a session to the capitol. Even in situations where the legislature votes to allow remote participation, the session itself must be convened first in-person. Under the terms of this bill, that would have to happen every 60 days, because special sessions cannot just be held open indefinitely. And the next pandemic may be worse than this one in terms of deadliness of the disease. It’s also important to note that the legislature can always override a disaster declaration and force it to stop. The legislature can bring itself into special session with a 2/3 vote. So the legislature can stop obvious abuses of the declaration power already. In fact during the current disaster declaration the legislature had the opportunity to end the disaster declaration when it resumed its regular session in May, when it reconvened again in special session last fall, and again now in its current regular session. It has declined to do so, so all this bill would have accomplished is put a bunch of people in regular danger to rubber-stamp our disaster declaration.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1081

HB21-1086 Voter Proof Of Citizenship Requirement [Luck (R)]

KILLED BY HOUSE COMMITTEE

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: $552,000 in increased fees for one year to cover state costs, unknown increased costs for counties

Goal:

  • Require all registered voters to prove citizenship via either a valid passport, birth certificate, or naturalization papers. To receive a regular mail ballot you must provide one of these proofs in person at your county clerk’s office. Those who have not proven their citizenship receive a provisional ballot and are not allowed to mail the ballot back (or use a drop box). They must deliver it in-person with their proof of citizenship documentation. In-person voters must prove citizenship before being allowed to vote. Once citizenship is proven, it is recorded in the state’s database and does not have to be done again in subsequent elections

Description:

As with other provisional ballots, someone who submits one without proof of citizenship is to be contacted by the county clerk and has three days to provide proof of citizenship or their ballot will not count. This applies to in-person ballots. Provisional ballots that are mailed or dropped off are automatically disqualified.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • It is federal and state law that you must be a citizen of the United States in order to vote in an election. So we should be ensuring this via something more secure than our current voter registration system requires
  • People who are missing their birth certificate can obtain a copy. That process might not always be easy, but it will only have to be done once. When citizenship is proven, the voter does not have to do it again in the future

In Further Detail: You must be a citizen of the United States in order to vote in this country. So we should be ensuring that no one is allowed to vote who has not proved they are a citizen. The only way to really be sure is documentation that relies on a birth certificate or naturalization papers. If someone doesn’t have their birth certificate, there is always a process to get a copy. Once citizenship is proven, the voter is done and never has to do it again. The costs to county clerks will likely drop as most citizens go through the process.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • This is voter ID on steroids and will make it extraordinarily difficult for many Coloradans to vote. We already have one of the best and most secure election systems in the country
  • Voting by non-citizens is extremely rare, advocates of laws like this one have never been able to find anything more than tiny amounts of it occurring
  • Similar laws have already been found unconstitutional by federal courts

In Further Detail: This is voter ID on steroids. The impact of forcing every Coloradan to register in-person, and to only allow passports, birth certificates, and naturalization papers as proof of citizenship will erect enormous barriers to large swaths of the state participating in our democracy. There are many citizens of the United States who might have a hard time getting their hands on their birth certificate and have never traveled or gotten a passport. It can be actually quite hard to get your birth certificate, there are entire non-profit organizations structured around helping people do this. Plus you are requiring them to come in person to prove citizenship, another barrier to overcome. And for what? There is no problem with non-citizens voting in Colorado. The bottom line is that Colorado runs perhaps the most secure elections in the entire country (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). We are the gold standard for other states to emulate. and it is extremely secure. There was a big push by the Republican secretary of state in 2011 to find all of the people he was sure were illegally voting because they weren’t citizens. He found 35, or 0.001% of the state’s registered voters. And even that list of 35 was disputed as error-ridden. This will also saddle our counties with large extra costs every election in order to have the staffing required to process citizenship. Similar laws have been found unconstitutional by federal courts, most recently as last year by the 10th circuit court—which also oversees Colorado.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1086

HB21-1088 Annual Audit Statewide Voter Registration System [Pico (R)]

KILLED BY HOUSE COMMITTEE

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: Almost $100,000 in first year, then about $80,000 each year after

Goal:

  • Require the state auditor to conduct an audit of the state’s voter registration system each year, with a random sample of at least 20% of registered voters in the state. Audit must verify whether the information in the voter registration system can be verified against other state records. Auditor must present a report to the legislature

Description:

Records must not be duplicated until at least 5 years have passed, so that the auditor reaches the entire system over that time frame. Auditor to use death records, property records, tax records, and other data sources deemed appropriate.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • This is just a systems check to make sure they are working properly—nothing automatically happens to anyone’s voter registration
  • Ensuring our elections are held fairly is critical to our democracy, and the costs of this program pale in comparison to the dangers of potential problems in our system

In Further Detail: This is validating that the procedures we have in place in fact work. Because it is critical to our mail ballot system that we are sending ballots to the right people (and the right ballot for their current residence). The auditor is not throwing out any registrations or affecting anyone’s right to vote (though the state can fix any errors that are found of course), they are merely presenting a report to the legislature on how well our voter registration system is working. Because the right to vote is one of our most sacred and we must ensure our elections are being conducted properly. You have to check the entire system because there may be weird edge cases you miss if you don’t look at everyone.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • We already have numerous systems in place to ensure our voter registration rolls are accurate
  • Colorado is the gold standard for elections nationwide—one of the most secure places in the country for elections and past attempts to uncover people voting who should not have been allowed to do so have come up almost entirely empty
  • This is a solution in search of a problem designed to cast doubt on our elections

In Further Detail: State registration rolls are already updated daily with information from other state agencies and checked monthly against the social security database. We already do random auditing of ballots after every election to look for problems. The bottom line is that Colorado runs perhaps the most secure elections in the entire country (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). We are the gold standard for other states to emulate. and it is extremely secure. There was a big push by the Republican secretary of state in 2011 to find all of the people he was sure were illegally voting because they weren’t citizens. He found 35, or 0.001% of the state’s registered voters. And even that list of 35 was disputed as error-ridden. The only other possible worry about voter registration fraud is people getting ballots they should not be, even though they are eligible to vote. We have signature match requirements for every ballot in the state and if you vote in person, you have to show photo ID. This is simply a solution in search of a problem and a way to throw mud on the integrity of elections in Colorado. You don’t conduct audits by reviewing every eligible record, as this bill proposes to do over the span of five years. Audits are designed to take representative samples and look for problems. What fishing expeditions do is try to catch as wide a net as possible, so you can catch one error somewhere so as to cast doubt on the entire system through crazy headlines that are later quietly debunked. This would essentially be a full-time job for person, year-round. We don’t need to waste taxpayer money on it.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1088

HB21-1092 Candidate Lieutenant Governor Eligible For Other Office (Holbert (R)) [Williams (R)]

VETOED

AMENDED: Significant

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

  • Allow someone to run for both lieutenant governor and another state elected office at the same time. If the person wins both races, they must resign from one of them within 7 days of final certification of the vote. The resulting vacancy is filled by whatever the state law is for that position

Description: Anyone who accepts a nomination for lieutenant governor must immediately shut down their campaign committee for the other office and not accept any donations for that office.

Additional Information: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • Not being able to run for two offices at the same time in a general election inhibits some people who don’t want to risk losing their current seat for nothing
  • It would be almost impossible for a candidate to run for and win two offices they don’t currently hold so that would not be a concern and it would be extremely unlikely for a federal office holder to step down to running for lieutenant governor, so that should not be an issue either

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • This seems oddly specific and too vague at the same time. The office of lieutenant governor alone being the thing you can run for while running for another office at the same time? On the other hand other states have rules about state v. federal offices or you could have a rule about an incumbent being able to run in their own race again and another one. State office vacancies are filled by committee but a federal office would require a special election and cost the state millions of dollars

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1092

HB21-1100 Electronic Filing Of Documents With Governmental Entities (Bridges (D), Lundeen (R)) [Soper (R), Gonzales-Gutierrez]

SIGNED INTO LAW

AMENDED: Very Significant (category change)

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

  • Require an electronic filing option for all documents required to be filed or allowed to be filed with the state and county governments by the end of the year. This can include accepted scans of original documents through e-mail or secure file transfer systems. The option must comply with existing requirements on security practices for personal identifying information. This does not allow governmental entities to require electronic filing. Requires all state agencies and each county to report to the legislature their current electronic filing capabilites, what would be needed to get to 80% electronic filing, and what obstacles the agency would face in doing so. Report due by October 15, 2021

Description:

Any government entity that already possess the legal authority to require electronic filing can still do so.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • Electronic filing reduces paper waste and increases accessibility to government services and functions—particularly in rural parts of the state
  • Modern IT systems can be secured and most government agencies are already keeping electronic records anyway—your data is likely already in a computer system where it could be hacked, this won’t add to the risk if done properly (and the bill requires it to be done properly)
  • But given the costs that could hit local governments, we need to proceed carefully and with consideration

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • This is too expensive to warrant doing like this all in a rush. Counties are likely to be hit hard by this requirement as well and the bill does not provide them with any help
  • This is the sort of thing that requires more time and effort to do right. There are a ton of document filings across all levels of the government and we probably don’t just want people scanning sensitive documents and e-mailing them to the state

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1100

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

SIGNED INTO LAW

AMENDED: Minor

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

HB21-1111 Consent Collection Personal Information (Bridges (D), Gonzales (D)) [McKean (R)]

PASSED

AMENDED: Very Significant (category change)

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: About $200,000 next year

Goal:

  • Require any governmental entity that has certain personal information about a state resident to notify them the state has this information every 90 days by either physical mail, telephone, or e-mail. The notice must include the information the state has and an option for the resident to assent to the state keeping the information or ask that it be destroyed. Destruction must be done 30 days after the request. Law enforcement may delay the notice if it is pertinent to an ongoing criminal investigation Study how personal identifying information held by the state is stored to see what costs and procedures would be necessary to centralize the storage and protection of data

Description:

Requires the chief technology officer to convene an advisory group next year to study where personally identifying information held by the government is stored by state agencies and the costs and processes necessary to centralize the storage and protection of the data. Advisory group must include members of the government data advisory board and someone from the attorney general's office. Rest are up to the CTO. Report due by January 2023.

Personal information includes medical information, social security or identification number, date of birth, place of birth, government issued license number, vehicle registration information, license plate number, photograph, fingerprint, uniquely identifying physical feature, financial transaction device, student identification number, school attended, financail and tax records, home or work address, status as recepient of public assistance or victim of a crime, race, ethnicity, gender, immigration status, disability status, religion, username or e-mail address in combination with a password that permits access to an online account, account number or credit card or debit card number in combination with a security code, access, code, or password that gives access to the account, IP address, or geolocation data.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: January 2024

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • None of this information is need by the majority of state agencies and the bill carves out an exception for law enforcement
  • Our personal medical information and geolocation data should not be sitting in state databases ripe to be hacked so it makes sense to study if it is feasible to create a central, well-defended, database
  • The fiscal note is assuming a heavy reliance on mail notification, which may not be the case and would drastically reduce the costs

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • First, the state must keep some of this information by state and federal law. How is the Medicaid program, to pull just one example, supposed to operate without any medical information? Law enforcement is supposed to baby sit its data to ensure it doesn’t get accidentally erased? Medical information is so broadly drawn here that your driver’s license application may contain some This is still likely to be a waste of money as such as system is likely to be far too costly to be workable. You have to design alll sorts of data access requirements into the system and then what happens if one agency needs to change something? Not to mention that a centralized target containing everything is a very juicy target and may prove extremely difficult to defend
  • Second, even if we are generous and say the fiscal note is too high, we don’t need to spend a million dollars on a program like this, much less hundreds of millions of dollars or billions of dollars a year

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1111

HB21-1115 Board Of Health Member Requirements (Ginal (D), Priola (R)) [Kipp (D), Mullica (D)]

SIGNED INTO LAW

AMENDED: Very Significant (category change)

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

  • Specifies that no member of a board of county commissioners may serve concurrently on the county board of health. Specifies that no member of a county board of health may be removed by the board of county commissioners for anything other than malfeasance, willful neglect of duty, or for anything that made the health board member incapable or unable to do their job. Require members of county boards of health to attend yearly trainings put on by the state. State board of health members must attend too. Require state to give guidance to counties on recruiting people to boards of health.

Description:

In counties with populations under 100,000, county commissioners can currently designate themselves as the county board of health.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • This is about insulating county boards of health from the pressures on elected officials which may cause them to act against the public health interests of the county. It also doesn’t let commissioners fire board members because they don’t like their public health orders. Given all that has happened in the last year with publicly elected officials calling for ignoring the recommendations of the medical community around keeping safe during the pandemic, this seems pretty necessary. Just look at what happened in Custer County just last week: the county board of commissioners, serving as the public health board, had been flaunting public health orders and caused a mini-spreader event at their own meeting. They all now have COVID This is the best we can do in these small counties. Hopefully the increased education will prevent situations like Custer County in the future

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • Small counties may have an extremely difficult time finding enough people to fill out both county commissioner positions and the board of public health positions. What then? This also ties the hands of county commissioners in a more dramatic fashion than is usual for appointed positions. There is a lot of gray area in-between being bad at your job and malfeasance This won't accomplish anything. Situations like Custer County will continue in the future

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1115

HB21-1126 State Architect Authority Execute Certain Leases (Story (D), Sonnenberg (R)) [Hooton (D), Rich (R)]

SIGNED INTO LAW

From the Capital Development Committee

TECHNICAL BILL

Description:

Officially restores the ability of the department of personnel to negotiate and execute leases for state use of privately owned property, which was accidentally removed in 2014. The state has continued to do it anyway since then.

HB21-1127 County General Fund Money For Roads And Bridges [Pico (R)]

KILLED BY BILL SPONSORS

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

  • Allow local governments to transfer money from their general funds to their road and bridge funds at any time

Description:

Current law only allows this during a declared disaster emergency.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • This provides additional flexibility for local governments in their road projects. If a local government does this and the voters are upset, they have the option to replace their elected officials

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • General funds mostly consist of property tax money that is designated for very specific purposes—we don’t want counties taking that money and directing it elsewhere

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1127

HB21-1132 Local Government Limited Gaming Impact Fund (Story (D)) [Amabile (D), Baisley (R)]

SIGNED INTO LAW

AMENDED: Minor

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

  • Require grant awards given out to counties affected by nearby legalized gambling to be based on explicitly identifiable negative impacts (the bill provides a long list of viable negative impacts). Also requires grants to be prioritized for eligible local government entities with lower property values in the eligible group of counties
  • Also allows grants to be used for providing gambling addiction treatment training to staff at non-profit community mental health center clinics

Description:

Negative impacts include:

  • Increased government regulatory cost to oversee casinos
  • Increased infrastructure requirements to serve licensed gaming establishments
  • Increased public service costs required
  • Decreased number of new businesses and revenue from those businesses due to licensed gaming and decreased employment in those industries
  • Decreased property values near licensed gaming
  • Increased rates of gambling addiction, and costs associated with addressing negative resulting impacts such as bankruptcy, divorce, restraining orders, child abuse and neglect, mental health issues including self-harm, higher crime, lower work productivity, and treatment costs for gambling addiction
  • Increased crime related to licensed gaming establishments
  • Increased traffic, traffic accidents, and noise in general
  • Increased socio-economic inequality

The eligible entities for these grants are not changed by the bill. They are counties of Boulder, Clear Creek, Grand, Jefferson, El Paso, Fremont, Park, Douglas, Gilpin, Teller, La Plata, Montezuma, and Archuleta. Any city in those counties except for Blackhawk, Central City, and Cripple Creek, and any special district within any of those counties. This program is financed with part of the taxes on gaming activities. In 2019 just over $5 million was distributed (2020 figures are extremely depressed because of lack of gaming activity due to COVID).

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • These grants are valuable, and since they are limited to counties directly affected by gaming, we must ensure they are actually being granted for mitigating gaming impacts
  • We also must make sure we are prioritizing the poorer counties

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • Some of these negative impacts are a little tough to document and tough to attribute directly to gambling: socio-economic disparity and family dispute issues can be tough to pin down to exact causes

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1132

HB21-1137 Limit Notification General Assembly Regarding Adoption Of Rules (Lee (D), Gardner (R)) [Weissman (D), Van Winkle (R)]

SIGNED INTO LAW

From the Committee on Legislative Services

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

  • Stop legislators from getting notifications about rules adopted as the result of legislation after 8 years of the bill’s passage or if they are a co-sponsor

Description:

A bill in 2013 required these notifications. Prime sponsors still get notified, as do members of the committee of reference, and you do have to still be in the legislature.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • Legislators themselves are best positioned to know if they need the current level of notifications or if what they are proposing is fine—let’s listen to them

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • Maybe make it optional? Some folks might still want these notifications

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1137

HB21-1148 Colorado State Fair Annual Report Submission Date Change (Fields (D), Smallwood (R)) [Bockenfeld (R), Michaelson Jenet (D)]

From the Legislative Audit Committee

SIGNED INTO LAW

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

  • Change the date of when the state fair must submit its annual report from October 31 to January 31 or within ten days after their financial audit is released, whichever is later

Description: Nothing to add

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • This is pretty simple: you need the audit report in order to have an accurate annual report and the current deadline doesn’t work well

Arguments Against: n/a

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1148

HB21-1152 Repeal Obsolete Capitol Dome Restoration Fund (Kirkmeyer (R), Zenzinger (D)) [D. Valdez (D), Lynch (R)]

TECHNICAL BILL

From the Statutory Revision Committee

SIGNED INTO LAW

Description: Repeals obsolete language about the capitol restoration dome fund, which is no longer needed because the dome was finished in 2015.

 

HB21-1168 Historically Underutilized Businesses Local Government Procurement (Kolker (D)) [Bacon (D), Ricks (D)]

SIGNED INTO LAW

AMENDED: Very Significant

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

  • Require local governments to track data on the participation of historically underutilized businesses in procurement contracts. Beginning in 2024 and for every year through 2029, the local government must submit its data to the state and the state will share a summary with the legislature Create a pilot program for 5 counties to opt-in to help them identify perceptual and substantial barriers to entry for historically underutilized businesses in procurement. Participating counties must: identify program implementation needs like labor and technology, determine appropriate size and type of contracts that would benefit, establish a reasonable threshold for a county's budget to use on such a program, understand available technology costs, determine how to standardize data across counties for submission to state, determine benchmarks for fair participation by historically underutilized communities and which communites are more or less impacted, and help create a sample program with articulable goals and targets for other counties to adopt

Description:

Historically underutilized businesses are defined as those that are at least 51% owned and controlled, in both the management and the day-to-day operations, by one or more individuals who are: members of a racial or ethnic minority group, non-Hispanic white women, people with physical or mental disabilities, members of the LGBTQ community, or veterans.

Data collected must include: name of business, type of service or good being sought, amount of contract, whether any subcontractors are historically underutilized businesses, and whether the owners of the business are members of a racial or ethnic minority group or non-Hispanic white women. State to ensure five counties represent urban, suburban, and rural diversity of the state. State must report to the legislature in each of the next two Januaries on program's progress

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • Fair procurement ensures justice, broadens our contractor pool, promotes efficiency, and promotes jobs in historically underserved communities
  • We know for a study at the statewide level that our state procurement process is terrible at fair procurement, with just about every racial minority and women falling far below even the standard of what courts consider “substantial” bias
  • Courts have held you have to demonstrate a bias exists before enacting race or gender conscious programs, and the sort of study we did at the state level can be expensive, so in order to gather proof at the local level data gathering is the most effective way forward in order to move forward we need to create a pilot concept first that irons out all of the kinks before dumping this on the state level. Given the long time frames of the original bill, we likely won't lose any time proceeding in this manner

In Further Detail: A fair procurement process not only ensures justice in our society but also broadens the contractor pool, which promotes efficiency, and promotes jobs in these underutilized businesses, growing our economy. We undertook a statewide disparity study that just concluded and the results were terrible. When the results were indexed, so that 100 would be perfect utilization based on the number of these businesses in the community and any number over is over-utilization and under under-utilization, the index for Black businesses was 6, for those with disabilities 3, for Native American businesses 4, for white women businesses 27 and for Hispanic businesses 33. Any number below 80(!) is considered substantial. That matters because courts have long held that you must prove substantial problems in order to support race or gender conscious programs. So we’ve proved it at the state level, which allows us to create laws to attack the issue, but we have not proven it at the local level (though it seems pretty likely). That is where this data collection comes in. The statewide study was expensive ($500,000) and beyond the means of many of our local governments. So we need to collect the data over a period of time to prove the disparity exists. figure out a way for local governments to gather the same sorts of data in a reasonable manner. The orignal bill had really long time frames, so the change in the bill won't likely cause too many additional delays.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • We should not do affirmative action in our procurement process, we award projects to the best bid regardless of background because to do otherwise might cost the state money. And if a company feels like it had the best bid but wasn’t chosen because of race, they have legal avenues to pursue. So we don’t need to collect data in this manner: just ensure we are giving out contracts to the best bidder

Bottom Line:

  • The data collection in the bill is a bit vague, we aren’t asking local government to give their overall procurement data. And if we have a problem here solving it sooner rather than later would be better, so starting data collection earlier would also be better. It also may be worth exploring having the state pay for studies instead—counties will be cheaper than the state. The bill authorizing the state study passed in 2019 and the study was done in 2020. Much faster than waiting until 2029 while we collect data who knows when while we run pilot programs and collect data

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1168

HB21-1170 Advisement Committee On Elections And Information Technology [Geitner (R)]

KILLED BY HOUSE COMMITTEE

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

  • Create a committee to study electronic voting systems in the state and make recommendations to the legislature for any changes. Specifically the committee is tasked with studying the security, standards, criteria, and procedures for certification of these systems; the security and reliability of them in elections, and other IT related election issues. Committee reports annually and is set to expire with sunset review in 2025

Description:

Committee members to be appointed by state chairs of the Democratic and Republican parties, with each appointing three members. One of the three is to be unaffiliated politically. Each chair is to appoint no more than one previously elected official. Members should have education, experience, and expertise in IT and computer science, including evaluating and testing computer systems with security in mind; election administration; and state and federal election laws and rules. No compensation for serving on the committee and no expense reimbursement. Must report each March to the legislature.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • We frequently use a committee of experts to guide our processes for programs across the state. Voting, one of the most sacred rights of any democracy, shouldn’t be any different
  • The fact that we don’t have a problem right now does not preclude problems from appearing in the future

In Further Detail: Creating a committee of experts to help advise elected and unelected officials on policy is common practice in our state. For good reason! We want to ensure we are doing things properly. So when it comes to voting, one of the most sacred rights of any democracy, we should not be doing anything different. This committee is evenly represented by both parties and the state will not pay a dime for anyone to be on it. The fact that our current system does not have problems does not preclude problems from appearing in the future and we should go the extra mile to make sure our electronic systems remain secure.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • This is a solution in search of a problem: we already have perhaps the most secure voting system in the entire country, including built-in post-election auditing of ballots
  • All accusations of irregularities with electronic voting machines, specifically the Dominion machines we mostly use in this state, have been laughed out of court (to the extent anyone has even dared mention it: most of the lawsuits have actually been silent on this subject) and Dominion seems poised to potentially win multiple billion dollar defamation lawsuits. Let’s not waste our time and state resources (state agencies will have to serve this committee’s data needs and requests) on this

In Further Detail: 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. We already do random auditing of ballots after every election to look for problems. So what’s going on here? We mostly use Dominion machines in this state and that has become a partisan bugaboo, despite the fact that to the extent anyone has actually included these machines in post-election lawsuits, they’ve been laughed out of court. More tellingly, most of the post-election lawsuits haven’t mentioned Dominion at all. Because in court you have to have evidence to back up your claims and there are potential repercussions to your law license if you don’t. And since Dominion seems poised to potentially win multiple billion dollar defamation lawsuits, we don’t need to waste our time and some state resources (since agencies will have to provide full cooperation with this commission it will consume some resources even if the commission itself is not compensated) on this fishing expedition.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1170

HB21-1174 Transfer Senate Bill 20-219 Certificates Of Participation Issuance Premium To Capital Construction Fund (Story (D)) [Hooton (D)]

From the Capital Development Committee

PASSED

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

  • Transfer $12 million in excess proceeds from lease-sale agreements made as a result of a bill passed in 2019 from the general fund to the emergency controlled maintenance account in the Capital Construction Fund to be used on any capital construction, renewal, or controlled maintenance projects by March 2024.

Description:

These lease-purchase agreements were made on state buildings to generate money to spend on roads. Capital is of course different than Capitol, the building.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • Since the excess money comes from leasing out our state buildings, it makes sense to spend it on those buildings. Those need constant funds for maintenance and construction anyway, so it’s not like if we don’t transfer this money it won’t get spent. It’ll just have to come from somewhere else

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • More money for our roads is great, we still face massive shortages even with federal stimulus money. Let’s spend it on our roads, which don’t get general fund money every year as a rule, unlike capital maintenance

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1174

HB21-1175 Donation To Nonprofit For Traffic Violations [Williams (R)]

KILLED BY HOUSE COMMITTEE

AMENDED: Significant

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: Not yet released for amended bill

Goal:

  • Allow anyone issued a penalty assessment for a traffic violation or traffic misdemeanor to make a donation of time or money to a non-profit organization rather than pay a fine, with a limit of $500 and requirement that any state funds that receive money from the fine be paid to the state

Description:

Proof of payment required for donations and a notarized statement required for donating time, based on state minimum wage.

Non-profits can be 501 (c)(3) or 501 (c)(4). C4s are more free to do political advocacy than C3s, they can advocate for causes, propositions, and individual candidates. Donations to C3s are tax deductible while donations to C4s are not. must be designated as an eligible charity organization by the secretary of state.

State must report to legislature by December 2024 on the effect of this program, including how much revenue has been diverted away from law enforcement and courts. Program repeals in September 2025.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: September 2025

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • Giving counties the incentive to collect fine revenue based on traffic enforcement is bad policy. It puts pressure on police to come up with the expected revenue and in some cases that burden falls on poor people who cannot pay and fall into a debt spiral
  • The Commission on Civil Rights found that in some jurisdictions as much as ¼ of the local prison population for nonpayment of fines and fees. A report in 2019 found seven jurisdictions in Colorado where fines and fees of some sort made up at least 10% of their budget or exceeded $100 per actual resident, including a whopping 45% in Morrison
  • This bill allows for a different way for smaller fines to be paid off—through work or donations to non-profit organizations charities while maintaining the flow of money to state funds that rely on these fines and fees

In Further Detail: Counties should not be provided with incentives to issue traffic citations in order to boost revenues. It puts pressure on the police officers to come up with the revenue and in some jurisdictions that involves poor people who cannot afford to pay the fines. The Commission on Civil Rights reported in 2017 that almost 60% of Americans don’t have enough savings to cover a $500 emergency. This leads to uncollected debt that must be pursued and a vicious cycle of trouble for the poor person, who might lose their driver’s license and is subject to increasing penalties and possibly even worse. This entire concept runs counter to what we have learned post-Ferguson from numerous nationwide studies of the issue. The Commission also found that in some jurisdictions as much as ¼ of the local prison population for nonpayment of fines and fees. A report in 2019 found seven jurisdictions in Colorado where fines and fees of some sort made up at least 10% of their budget or exceeded $100 per actual resident, including a whopping 45% in Morrison. These communities need to find other ways to fund themselves and this bill ensures that anyone facing a $500 fine

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • The logic of the bill falls apart pretty fast: if the concern is that someone is too poor to pay the fine, then why is a donation in lieu of a fine OK? There are also no income thresholds in the bill, the wealthiest person can avoid paying their fines. And this applies to all fines, so if you had a $3,000 fine, no matter your circumstances you can divert that first $500
  • The inclusion of 503 (c)(4)s is also a huge red flag. In essence we are diverting resources away from county governments to political action committees. If you’ve heard of “dark money groups”, many of them are C4s
  • This will devastate multiple state funds that rely on this money: crime victim compensation fund, the victims and witness assistance and law enforcement fund, the brain injury fund, and the state patrol. If the concern is counties run amok with traffic citations, this bill is not the way to address it. The state is also not in the business of doing financial impacts at the county level but it’s easy to see how hard this would be on many jurisdictions

In Further Detail: The logic of this bill fails almost instantly. We want to help out poor people who cannot afford traffic violations, so we allow anyone (not just poor people but anyone) to donate the money of their violation to a non-profit charity of their choice, including 503 (c)(4) political action committees? You name the issue and there is an eligible C4 that could get traffic violation money instead of a county AND the state. Because it is not just counties that use this money. The crime victim compensation fund, the victims and witness assistance and law enforcement fund, the brain injury fund, and the state patrol and several other funds get money from state traffic penalties. We will suck millions out of these programs via this bill. And we have no idea of the exact impact on counties, because the state doesn’t analyze county fiscal impacts, but we know it will happen and it will hit some counties hard. If you are a Republican, how do you feel about allowing people to send money or donate time to Future Majority, the C4 that spent tens of millions of dollars to elect Joe Biden and other Democrats? How do Democrats feel about diverting these funds toward Majority Forward, Mitch McConnell’s C4 dedicated to helping Republicans win Senate races?

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1175

HB21-1176 Election Integrity And Voter Accuracy [Holtorf (R)]

KILLED BY HOUSE COMMITTEE

AMENDED: Very Significant

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: Not released for amended bill

Goal:

  • Create a commission to do see if an audit of the state’s voting systems, including its electronic systems and existing auditing and recount procedures, is necessary based upon statisical analysis using criteria the commission comes up with. Commission is to consist of five members, two from each party and one unaffiliated, all appointed by the secretary of state. Report due to legislature state auditor by December 2021 and auditor to apply criteria created by commission to past election to determine if full audit is necessary. This is to be done every year following a general election.

Description: Specifically the commission is tasked with studying the security, standards, criteria, and procedures for certification of electronic voting systems, if the audit and recount measures provide a meaningful level of statistical confidence and any other issues related to the accuracy, security, transparency, verifiability, recountability, and auditability of voting systems in the state.

Audit must also address necessity of inspection of all procedures conducted and the handling of ballots, election security systems, and data management by one or more counties; and computer data management, network architecture, election servers, routers, master tabulators, CF cards, thumb drives, and all other digital media used by counties.

Commission members get a per diem and reimbursement for expenses. Members should have education, experience, and expertise in IT and computer science, including evaluating and testing computer systems with security in mind; election administration; and state and federal election laws and rules. Commission may accept gifts, grants, or donations.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: September 2022

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • We frequently use a committee of experts to guide our processes for programs across the state. Voting, one of the most sacred rights of any democracy, shouldn’t be any different
  • The fact that we don’t have a problem right now does not preclude problems from appearing in the future

In Further Detail: Creating a commission of experts to do a deep dive on an important issue is common practice in our state. For good reason! We want to ensure we are doing things properly. So when it comes to voting, one of the most sacred rights of any democracy, we should not be doing anything different. This commission is evenly represented by both parties with the Democratic secretary of state in charge of all nominations. The fact that our current system does not have problems does not preclude problems from appearing in the future and we should go the extra mile to make sure our electronic systems remain secure. It also never hurts to double check our auditing and recount procedures to make sure they are solid.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • This is a solution in search of a problem: we already have perhaps the most secure voting system in the entire country, including built-in post-election auditing of ballots
  • All accusations of irregularities with electronic voting machines, specifically the Dominion machines we mostly use in this state, have been laughed out of court (to the extent anyone has even dared mention it: most of the lawsuits have actually been silent on this subject) and Dominion seems poised to potentially win multiple billion dollar defamation lawsuits. Let’s not waste our time and state resources on this

In Further Detail: 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. We already do random auditing of ballots after every election to look for problems. So what’s going on here? We mostly use Dominion machines in this state and that has become a partisan bugaboo, despite the fact that to the extent anyone has actually included these machines in post-election lawsuits, they’ve been laughed out of court. More tellingly, most of the post-election lawsuits haven’t mentioned Dominion at all. Because in court you have to have evidence to back up your claims and there are potential repercussions to your law license if you don’t. And since Dominion seems poised to potentially win multiple billion dollar defamation lawsuits, we don’t need to waste our time and some state resources on this fishing expedition.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1176

HB21-1180 Measures To Increase Biomass Utilization (Coram (R)) [D. Valdez (D), Will (R)]

PASSED

AMENDED: Very Significant (category change)

Appropriation: $2.5 million
Fiscal Impact: Not yet released for amended bill

Goal:

  • Require the forest service to study the environmental and economic benefits of implement a grant program to increase biomass utilization throughout the state, including wildfire prevention and mitigation benefits, energy benefits from biomass energy generation, and agricultural benefits from biochar. Study to look at potential barriers to biomass utilization increase, including administrative or statutory barriers. Study due by March 2022 to the legislature $2.5 million appropriated for grants

Description:

Study must also look anticipated costs in increasing supply and demand for biomass utilization including potential costs of purchasing air curtain incinerators, reductions in state revenue from potential tax credits, and costs to update existing data regarding statewide markets for wood products. Forest service must work with the department of agriculture, division of fire prevention and control, and any other interested state agencies.

Biomass utilization is essentially using the natural vegetation in our forests for energy needs. It is listed as a renewable energy source in state law. The most obvious example is burning wood. Biochar is a charcoal like substance that’s made by burning these materials and is generally considered good for soil health. Air curtain incinerators are special devices made to capture the smoke created by burning vegetation and dissipate it more gradually across a wider area. It produces lower emissions of particulate matter and carbon than open burnings.

Forest service must report to the state next year and every year in which they award grants under the program. No other guidance given on the grant program. It is set to repeal with sunset review in September 2026.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: September 2026

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • This has the potential to help address three separate issues. First, decreasing the ferocity of wildfires. In essence, we want to remove some of the fuel these fires feast upon from our forests, which will slow them down and make it easier to contain them earlier. Second, increased carbon neutral energy sources to help in our fight against climate change. This is a renewable energy source and it is cleaner than fossil fuels. Third, we can potentially help our agricultural producers through biochar gleaned from burning the biomass. Biochar can improve water quality, reduce soil emissions of greenhouse gasses, reduce nutrient leaching, reduce soil acidity, and reduce irrigation and fertilization requirements. On the issue of carbon neutrality, proper forest management can keep the process net neutral by ensuring you aren’t deforesting too much area (so you keep the carbon sink) which allows for regrowth

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • Biomass is not a clean energy. There is a difference between renewable (we can make or grow more of it) and clean. You have to burn it to use it and that releases carbon into the atmosphere. It is considered “less dirty” than fossil fuels simply because it traps carbon during its lifetime as a plant and when it sits and rots, much of that it released back into the atmosphere as carbon. So the idea is we are intercepting the life cycle and using that carbon that would be released anyway to our benefit. But you still have to burn it, and various studies indicate that burning wood actually releases more carbon than burning coal per energy unit produced. This is part of why recent studies have found that smoke from wildfires is more dangerous than other sources of air pollution. Also the extent to which you create large industry around it you start to encroach on forest space. Even its status as being carbon neutral is under fire, as the Obama administration acknowledged it believed it was not carbon neutral. We definitely have forest management problems we need to sort out but the avenue to doing that is not diverting energy resources into a dirty path. Clean energy must be our future

Bottom Line:

  • This grant program is very ill-defined, it basically is just taking the things that were supposed to be studied and now saying we'll award grants to these things with no guidance on eligiblity, who gets the grants, amount of awards, etc.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1180

HB21-1208 Natural Disaster Mitigation Enterprise (Priola (R), Winter (D)) [Cutter (D), Gray (D)]

PASSED

AMENDED: Moderate

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: Net none, $5 million a year raised from fee

Goal:

  • Create a natural disaster mitigation enterprise program (so free from TABOR restraints) to promote natural disaster mitigation through a grant program and provide technical assistance to local governments. Grants and technical assistance provided for: reducing negative impacts from disasters on lives, property, and the economy; improving the resilience of local communities; engaging in mitigation activities that directly reduce risk to lives and property (more on this in Description); reduce repetitive losses; utilize federal funding available for matching grant programs; and support communities with limited ability to submit their own grant proposals. Grants to local governments only. Enterprise repeals in 2030
  • Program is paid for by a $1.25 fee on every $1,000 of insurance premiums $2 fee per insurance contract collected on a variety of different insurance types (not health and life, see Description for full list). To avoid requiring voter approval of the program, it cannot take in more than $100 million in revenue in its first five years (voters approved a requirement in the last election that any enterprise larger than that requires voter approval)

Description:

Program may not award grants for renewable energy generation projects, resources or technologies. It may award grants for slope stabilization, watershed restoration, fuels mitigation (wildfire fuels, like dead trees for example), and drought mitigation. For activities that directly reduce risk to lives and property, these must be cost-effective, technologically feasible, science-based, ecologically sound, environmentally sound, not harm underserved communities, and allow for strategic investment of limited resources.

Board to create criteria for grant selection. It must include: for grants with matching federal funds, the federal emergency management’s agency’s standardized benefit-cost analysis; the financial need of the grant applicant; and the degree to which the applicant’s proposal demonstrates benefits to underserved communities.

At least 85% of the program’s revenue must go to grant awards. No more than 15% may be spent on any one single grant, except if by unanimous approval of the board in special circumstances when 25% may be spent. No more than 10% can be spent on technical support and no more than 5% on administrative costs. Federal match grants are contingent on receiving federal funds.

The board can issue bonds and engage contractors, consultants, and legal counsel but cannot hire staff. The board consists of eleven 13 members, all appointed by the executive director of the department of safety. Board term is four year, bill contains no mechanism to remove board members. Board members get a $50 per diem for any day spent attending official board meetings. Must meet at least quarterly.

Board reports annually to the legislature on the unobligated balance of funds it has, number of grant applications and number and value of grants awarded; eligible entities that have applied for a grant, actions taken by grantees and other measures of success; progress toward goals of the program; and recommendations for legislative or policy changes.

Specific insurance types that must pay the program fee are: fire, allied lines, multiple peril crop, private crop, private flood, farmers multiple peril, homeowners multiple peril, commercial multiple peril, earthquake, private passenger auto physical damage, aircraft, and boiler and machinery.

Additional Information:

Board must create rules for grant applications and reporting. Grantees may only use money on implementing climate resilience or disaster mitigation measures or to match federal funding. Must report quarterly on their progress. Board must create a policy for dealing with non-compliant grantees, whereby the grant is converted into a loan with interest.

Program can accept gifts, grants, and donations but to stay within enterprise rules, 90% of total revenue must come from the fee.

Board members are as follows:

  • One member representing the department of public safety and one representing the department of public health and environment
  • One member of the Colorado Resiliency Office
  • One member who has experience in environmental justice and representing underserved communities
  • Four members who are representatives of local government: one must represent a county, one a city, and all most represent the geographic diversity of the state to the greatest extend possible
  • Two members who are scientists with expertise in climate-induced weather hazards, resilience planning, or disaster mitigation
  • One Three members representing the insurance industry


Auto-Repeal: January 2030

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • Natural disasters are an accelerating problem in the state, the fires last year cost us around $200 million dollars alone but there is no current source of funds at this scale for long-term mitigation strategies
  • Mitigation strategies deployed as the bill lays out can therefore save us a lot of money, with returns of up to 10 to 1, and local governments are best suited to deploy these strategies at scale
  • Funding the program as an enterprise ensures we don’t have to cut other programs in order to stay under TABOR caps and since insurance companies will benefit from lower claims payouts as a result of the program’s activities, it makes sense that they fund the program

In Further Detail: We already experience economic dislocation on almost an annual basis from wildfires and droughts and the trend line is getting worse. Fighting fires cost us around $200 million alone in 2020. The 2012 drought resulted in the loss of $276 million for the agriculture sector alone. Fighting climate disasters is an expensive business and the degree to which we can plan ahead and mitigate the damage can provide enormous savings to the state. Some estimates on the returns of these kind of mitigation programs are in the area of 10 to 1. But there is no current source of funding at this level for long-term mitigation strategies. Local governments are already on the front lines of this fight and it makes sense to directly empower them. It also makes sense to try to tap matching federal funds as often as possible. Funding this program through a fee on various types of property and casualty insurance also makes sense: these are the very programs that will benefit from the program’s success through reduced claims payouts. Finally, it makes sense to make this a TABOR exempt enterprise program because if we don’t, money brought into this program counts against the state’s revenue cap and will result in the state having to return more money to taxpayers, slashing funding in other areas. Put simply, if this is not an enterprise we are cutting spending in some other aspect of government. Because it is an enterprise, it is instead an investment by insurers to create programs that can potentially lower their claims payouts (and benefit everyone else too). As for the $100 million threshold to avoid voter approval, the intent of the voters was clear: large enterprise programs of over $100 million in their first five years require approval. This program is not that size and therefore does not.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • Enterprise funds are clear dodges of the spirit of TABOR and voters just agreed last fall by requiring voter approval of large funds. We don’t know what they think of funds that just miss the threshold because they weren’t asked
  • Designing an enterprise to dodge these new requirements is not how we should be proceeding given the results in the last election. Ask the voters first
  • This is going to get passed on to consumers

In Further Detail: These enterprise funds are clear dodges of the spirit of TABOR, a feeling voters just reinforced by requiring that any such fund that brings in more than $100 million in its first five years be approved by voters, just like tax increases must be. How do voters feel about funds that bring in $99.9 million in their first five years? They weren’t asked, so we shouldn’t pretend like they don’t care. Because we also should be clear about something: this fee is likely going to be passed on to consumers. The bill doesn’t prohibit insurance companies from doing this so it’s hard to imagine they won’t specifically allows insurers to do so. It’s small but it is still in essence a fee increase on many Coloradans. So if we want to have a program like this, and it is certainly is a worthy endeavor, we need to ask first.


Bottom Line:

  • Any grant program of this size and scope should be not left in the hands of people appointed by an unelected official with no recourse to remove them from their position. Our elected representatives need to be making those choices

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1208

HB21-1212 Diversity Of Governor's Appointments To Boards (Coram (R), Fields (D)) [Soper (R), Esgar (D)]

SIGNED INTO LAW

AMENDED: Minor

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

  • Require the governor, when making appointments to any board, to include members that reflect the geographic and demographic diversity of the state to the extent possible, while still meeting the board’s specified membership requirements. This includes members from both rural and urban areas and members of diverse political, racial, disability, and cultural groups and of diverse sexual orientations and genders

Description: Nothing to add

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • Every board has its own qualifications and usually these try to capture a diversity of experience or occupation required to fulfill the board’s duties. Sometimes, if we are concerned about differing experiences, there are added diversity requirements like in this bill. But rarely is the governor tasked with approaching appointments with the complete diversity of the state in mind. This bill will ensure that, so that all of boards, as much as possible, reflect Colorado

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • Boards fulfill a bunch of different purposes and sometimes it would be tricky to try to balance those while keeping a full menu of diverse options in mind. In addition, the requirement to consider political diversity seems like a bridge too far in many cases and fairly hard to define. Just Democrats and Republicans or do we have to care if we are talking about centrists or radicals? What about other minor parties? The unaffiliated are the biggest group in the state. Seems like a way to inject politics into places it should not be

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1212

HB21-1240 Disclaimers In Communications Independent Expenditures [Baisley (R)]

KILLED BY BILL SPONSORS

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: Negligible this year

Goal:

  • Alter the disclosure requirements for independent expenditures in campaigns (someone not associated with a particular candidate). Right now these expenditures have to identify a real person who is the registered agent of the organization if an organization paid for the expenditure. The bill changes this to require this real person be reported to the state, but not included on the actual expenditure
  • This statement has to be a certain size by rule set by the secretary of state for printed materials. The bill requires that size to be clearly readable but that it cannot exceed the size requirements of the federal election commission (which governs requirements for elections for federal offices)

Description:

The state requirement right now for these disclaimers is at least 15% of the size of the largest font used in the communication, but in all cases at least eight-point font. Federal rules are much looser, they just require it to be clearly readable with reasonable color contrast. They do provide an example of 12-point font meeting the requirements for printed materials that do not exceed 24x36 inches.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • It’s not good practice to have two different sets of rules that apply to the same thing, which is in essence what we have right now with state and federal regulations for campaign material. That means that anyone running for federal office has to satisfy two different standards. The federal standards are fine, most printed material is definitely smaller than 2 feet by 3 feet, so solid guidance is provided. As for the real person requirement, the vast majority of voters will have no idea who that person is, so it is basically irrelevant. We still track this of course so it can always be looked up

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • Candidates can certainly abide by the stricter of the two requirements, whichever that may be, and be in compliance with both. The nice thing about the state standards is that they are clear, which means there is an absolute way to be in compliance or out. The federal standards are more like “know it when you see it” which leaves room for interpretation

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1240

HB21-1247 Colorado Department Of Public Health And Environment Contract Pay To Grantees Up Front (Danielson (D)) [Jackson (D), McKean (R)]

SIGNED INTO LAW

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

Allow the department of public health and environment to provide up to 25% of grants immediately upon execution or renewal of the contract. Right now these programs operate on an invoiced basis.

Description:

For the department of public health and environment, allows for payment of up to 25% of grants immediately upon execution or renewal of the contract. Right now these programs operate on an invoiced basis.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • It takes about three months for a grantee to get reimbursed by the state on average, which can be really hard on smaller organizations which prevents some of them for applying for any of these grants at all. That leads to the everyone in the state missing out. Giving a small portion of the grant up-front helps remove these barriers and should help us reach more organizations throughout the state

Arguments Against: n/a

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1247

HB21-1249 Repeal Gaming City Audit Requirement (Rodriguez (D), Smallwood (R)) [Roberts (D), Michaelson Jenet (D)]

From the Legislative Audit Committee

TECHNICAL BILL

SIGNED INTO LAW

Description:

Repeal requirement that state auditor audit grant program for historical preservation of Central City, Black Hawk, and Cripple Creek as the program is finished and has no money it it.

HB21-1267 County Authority To Delegate Mill Levy Certification (Hisey (R), Story (D)) [Lontine (D), Larson (R)]

PASSED

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None at state level, counties may see some savings

Goal:

Give counties more flexibility when they are certifying property tax levels to the county assessor by allowing them to do so via written approval and to delegate this to staff or other authorized parties.

Description:

Allow counties the option to certify the level of property tax in the county by written approval. Right now they must hold a formal hearing (still can under the bill). Bill also allows them to delegate the certification process to staff or other authorized parties.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • This certification is largely a formality—it is the formal certification not an actual decision being made on lowering taxes or asking the voters to raise them. As such a formal hearing is totally unnecessary and costs time and money to the county

Arguments Against: n/a

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1267

HB21-1274 Unused State-owned Real Property Beneficial Use (Zenzinger (D), Hisey (R)) [Titone (D)]

PASSED

AMENDED: Moderate

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

Identify land and buildings the state is not using and see if they can be used for affordable housing, child care facilities, public schools, mental and behavioral health facilities, and renewable energy facilities. If they can, potentially lease them out for that purpose.

Description:

Requires the state to determine if any unused land or buildings owned by the state could be used for affordable housing, child care facilities, public schools, mental and behavioral health facilities, or renewable energy facilities. State to get input from the state architect, the executive director of the department of local affairs, any relevant political subdivisions in the state, and renewable energy facility experts and affordable housing experts. The state can seek proposals from developers to build renewable energy facilities or affordable housing on this unused property (must go through regular procurement process) and can enter into contracts to do so. Contacts cannot require improvements constructed on state property to become property of the state upon termination of a lease. Prior to entering into any contract, the state must consult with the legislature’s capital development committee and consider its recommendations, but the state does not have to adhere to the wishes of the committee.

All money from these contracts goes into a new fund created by the bill. The state may use this money to fund the costs of this bill.

As part of this effort, the bill requires the state to keep an inventory of all unused state-owned buildings and land and post a list on its website. Must be updated annually.

The bill also tweaks the governor’s mansion maintenance fund by removing a requirement that the fund not exceed $500,000 and credit any proceeds from the lease of the parking lot associated with the mansion property to the fund.

For land offered for sale by the department of transportation, if an abutting owner refuses to purchase it (they have first right of refusal) and the state determines the land could be used for affordable housing, child care, or renewable energy facilities, the department of personnel gets the next right of refusal ahead of any other state agencies.

Land controlled by the division of parks and wildlife, any institutions of higher education, and the state board of land commissioners is exempt from use consideration, as is any land protected or dedicated to another use like conservation easements or access to something else.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • Affordable land and building space can be really hard to come by in Colorado and to have state-owned land and buildings just sitting there doing nothing is a waste. Identifying all of this is just good government
  • We have a severe affordable housing crisis in the state, with a deficit of over 121,000 rental units for low-income housing
  • We have enormous needs for renewable energy facilities in order to meet our climate goals
  • This bill presents an everyone wins scenario where we take that land or buildings we aren’t using and instead use them to meet two of the state’s most pressing goals

In Further Detail: Affordable land and building space has become harder and harder to come by in the state and we have severe housing and renewable energy needs. We have an affordable housing crisis in Colorado, with 1 in 7 households spending more than half of their monthly income on housing and 50% of rentals spending more than 30% (which is what is officially considered cost-burdened). Independent analysis shows that we are facing a deficit of over 20,000 housing units until at least 2025 and one analysis estimated a shortage of 121,000 rental units for those with low-income. We also are trying to reduce our emissions due to energy production down to essentially 0 by 2040, which will require enormous amounts of renewable energy to replace the fossil fuels we currently use. Being able identify usable space and land that is owned by the government but just sitting there can only help both of these areas. And it is also just good government: letting the citizens know what land the government owns but isn’t fully utilizing. The final step of allowing the state to actually then use the land for affordable housing and renewable energy facilities makes this a potential win-win-win (win for the state to get money out of this land currently doing nothing, win for developers and construction, and a win for all of us with the end result).

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • We already have a lot of existing laws and procedures to do what this bill wants, without all of the added processes of the bill—a 2019 law already requires the state to report all non-developed land and the bill itself notes that the state already has the power to rent or lease out property not being used
  • The bill’s fund may run a healthy surplus that just sits in the fund, it should be able to be used for other things especially since it will count toward the state’s TABOR revenue cap
  • The bill may create unnecessary work by not excluding some districts from consideration and not considering size of land in the first pass of qualified unused property

In Further Detail: Any developer can find out who owns what land if they are interested without all of this rigmarole for state agencies, a 2019 bill passed by the legislature already requires the state to report all non-developed land under its control and make this information available to the public (the expressed intent of this was to make this land available for development of affordable housing). So we may have some duplicative work going on here. We also have a somewhat byzantine process of leasing that may result in the fund created by this bill running a healthy surplus. That money should be able to be spent on something else rather than just sitting there, especially since it will be subject to the state’s TABOR revenue restrictions and so will push us closer to or farther over the cap, which triggers refunds to taxpayers. The bill itself also notes that the state is already authorized to rent or lease property not presently needed for state use, so we might not need the structure the bill is creating. A bill last year that looked to do a similar thing also exempted ambulance districts, fire districts, sanitation districts, water districts, and water and sanitation districts, so we may be looking into land that seems unused but is in fact not. This bill also makes no attempt at worrying about the size of the unused land or buildings, which may lead to use wasting the time of the state architect and others to say that a tiny piece of unused land can not, in fact be used for housing or renewable energy because it is too small.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1274

HB21-1278 Special District Meeting Requirements (Sonnenberg (R)) [Exum (D)]

PASSED

AMENDED: Minor

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

Clarify that for special district board meetings, the rules about location only apply to physical locations, not virtual, and prohibits challenging any special district board meeting that was conducted virtually prior to this bill.

Description:

Clarifies that for special district board meetings, the rules about location only apply to physical locations, not virtual, and prohibits challenging any special district board meeting that was conducted virtually prior to this bill (because it would have violated the rules about location, even though the meeting was virtual). Notices for online meetings must include method for online access.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • Much like everything else, we’ve learned virtual meetings can work at times, even if we are not in a pandemic. And if we are in a situation where virtual meetings are required, the laws must be flexible enough to allow this without the ability for someone to throw out the results of such meetings. That’s all the bill does, for special district board meetings

Arguments Against: n/a

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1278

HB21-1287 Marriage Or Civil Union License Procedures (Gonzales (D)) [Gonzales-Gutierrez (D), Soper (R)]

PASSED

AMENDED: Moderate

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

Allow people to get marriage and civil union licenses using virtual technology through January 2024. This is already allowed by executive order (and being done throughout the state).

Description:

Allow county clerks and records issuing marriage or civil union licenses to use interactive audio-visual technology, mail, fax, or other online functionality to verify application information, present proof that each party will be 18 on the effective date of the license, present proof the marriage is not prohibited by law, and pay required fees. If audio-visual technology is being used the parties must appear together and no one under 18 is allowed to use these non-in-person options. Any clerk using these options is encouraged to must seek and receive training on human trafficking in Colorado no later than 30 days after the implementation of this bill. These non-in-person options repeal in January 2024.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: January 2024

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • This is a legal extension of emergency procedures counties were already using thanks to an executive order from the governor. It’s an obvious solution to the problem of limited in-person interaction at county governments and the bill allows for plenty of time to return to normal. Note that it is also entirely voluntary for the county, so if counties can get back to normal functioning sooner, they don’t have to do things this way. With the protection of requiring the two people to appear together there doesn’t seem to be much increased risk of human trafficking than in-person requirements. In both cases the clerk sees both people and sees them together

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • The part about getting training for human trafficking pretty well sums up the problem here. Even though the bill requires people to appear together, there are still dangers that a virtual interaction will not provide as full a picture as an in-person interaction would. So rather than put a set end date far into the future on this, it should be tied to the governor’s state of emergency declaration. Once that ends, this should too

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1287

HB21-1316 Conform The Term Lease Purchase To Accounting Standards (Kirkmeyer (R), Moreno (D)) [Pico (R), D. Valdez (D)]

From the Statutory Revision Committee

TECHNICAL BILL

PASSED

Description:

Replace the term “lease-purchase agreement” with “financed purchase of an asset or certificate of participation agreement” so as to more readily comply with federal accounting standards.

HB21-1321 Voter Transparency In Ballot Measures (Moreno (D), Pettersen (D)) [Kennedy (D), Weissman (D)]

PASSED

AMENDED: Minor

Appropriation: $7,865
Fiscal Impact: Negligible each year

Goal:

Require ballot initiatives that affect revenue (either through increases or decreases) to have more information in their title and the blue book description, including exactly how much revenue will be lost a year due to tax decreases (tax increases are already required by TABOR to say how much will be brought in), what specific services might be impacted by the change, and the estimated annual impact of the change based on income bracket.

Description:

Changes what is required to be printed in the “blue book” we receive each election that contains information about the ballot measures as well as the title that appears on the ballot.

If a ballot measure will either increase or decrease income or sales tax rates, the bill requires that the book include a table showing the estimated impact of the change on different income categories: Less than $15,000, $15,000-$30,000, $30,000 to $40,000, $40,000 to $50,000, $50,000-$70,000, $70,000 to $100,000, $100,000 to $150,000, $150,000 to $200,000, $250,000 to $500,000, $500,000 to $1 million, and greater than $1 million.

If a ballot measure will reduce state revenue, the title of the measure must start with “Shall there be a reduction to the [description of tax] by [percentage of reduction in first full fiscal year] thereby reducing state revenue, which will reduce funding available for state services expenditures that include but are not limited to [insert three largest areas of expenditure by the state] be impacted by an reduction of estimated [insert reduction in first full fiscal year] in tax revenue…” Note that right now, under TABOR, ballot measure titles that affect tax rates must include the amount of total taxes altered in first full fiscal year. That is unchanged by this bill, it just adds to it.

Similar idea for measures that reduce local district property taxes with slightly different wording “Shall funding available for public services offered by counties, school districts, water districts, fire districts, and other districts, funded, at least in part, by property taxes be impacted by a reduction of [insert reduction in first full fiscal year] in property tax revenue…”

For any increase in taxes that specify public services to be funded by the increased revenue, the title must say, after the TABOR required language about the tax increase, “in order to increase or improve levels of public services, including, but not limited to [public service specified in measure]…” If there is no specified public services in the measure, then the same language minus the specific public service.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • This is just providing the full picture to voters so they can make an informed decision
  • When you start dealing with percentages or enormous numbers it can be difficult to understand how this will affect you personally, the bill provides that missing information
  • While no one can say exactly how revenue decreases will hit the budget it is a fact that they will. $200 million less to spend is $200 million that must be cut from somewhere (or taken away from tax breaks). Reminding people of that fact is not misleading
  • If people still make the decision to reduce state revenue or refuse to implement a tax increase with all of this added information then fine, that is their decision. But they deserve to have all of the information

In Further Detail: This is all about helping voters make the most informed decision possible. Ever since the implementation of TABOR we’ve had one-sided information provided with these ballot measures, just the amount of total increased tax revenue screaming at you in all-caps. This bill simply provides the entire picture. When we start dealing with enormous numbers, it is easy to lose sight of individual impacts. Let’s take last year’s ballot measure that reduced the state income tax rate as an example. The ballot measure itself just said reduce the income tax rate from 4.63% to 4.55%. This bill would require the measure to say that the change would reduce state revenue by $200 million dollars which would impact K-12 education, health and human services, and corrections, and provide the information that if you made less than $200,000, your annual taxes were going to be affected by less than $100 (in more detail of course but we won’t reproduce the entire table here, you get the point). How many folks saw that percentage decrease and jumped for it without realizing that they were only going to get $20 out of the deal, while millionaires got over $2,000? Remember, most people get their state taxes withheld out of their paycheck by their employer. They never see that money and have little idea of how much is actually being taken each month. So then asking them to figure out how a small percentage change is going to affect them is too much. And those are just the facts, that decrease would decrease state revenue by $200 million and the tax effects would be exactly as stated. Of course those exact programs would not necessarily be cut, but if you have $200 million less revenue than you have to cut $200 million in spending (or $200 million in tax breaks, which is what the legislature decided to do). We don’t have lots of extra money just sitting around the state capitol. There is a reason why Arguments Against doesn’t want this information out there and it’s because they are worried that given the full picture, people will choose the greater good over $10 extra in their pocket. And if people still decide, given that full information, to lower taxes or decline ballot measures, then fine, that is the people’s decision. But that decision should be made with full information, not by hiding the actual impacts of these measures and hoping people don’t connect the dots or figure out exactly how much this will affect their individual finances.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • This could be misleading, no one knows how revenue decreases will affect individual budget lines and it changes from year-to-year. That ballot measure last year, for instance, would have misleadingly said K-12 education, human services, and corrections were on the chopping block but instead the state cut $200 million in tax breaks for special interests
  • The individual tax brackets are also designed to engineer an emotional reaction. People are smart enough to figure out how small percentage changes in taxes will affect them without trying to instigate class warfare
  • The language required by TABOR for ballot measures was approved by voters as a constitutional amendment. This doesn’t ask the voters at all

In Further Detail: The bill is not necessarily providing a full picture, in fact it might end up being misleading. Continuing with the example in Arguments For for the tax decrease last year, the ballot measure title would have implied that if you voted for it you were going to cut spending in K-12 education, health and human services, and corrections but that is just because those are the three largest ticket discretionary spending items. In fact that is not at all what happened and no one can say at election time what is precisely going to happen. What in fact happened is the state removed $200 million worth of tax breaks for special interests. But the state could have also put $200 million less into state reserves, or cut $50 million from health care, $50 million from the department of revenue, $50 million from transportation spending and $50 million from higher education spending. The point is that no one can possibly know, so putting anything in as a “suggestion” of what might get cut is misleading. The individual tax bracket breakout is also clearly designed to influence a final outcome. People are smart enough to understand what a small percentage change in their personal taxes will mean without trying to instigate class warfare. TABOR was also a constitutional amendment approved by the voters of the state, so any language required to be in ballot measures because of it was approved by the voters. This does not ask the voters at all.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1321

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))

KILLED BY SENATE COMMITTEE

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

SB21-010 Colorado Ballot Signature Verification Act (Woodward (R))

KILLED BY SENATE COMMITTEE

AMENDED: Significant

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: Negligible in year one

Goal:

  • Require any witness to someone casting a ballot who is unable to sign it themselves to provide their voter identification number address and their signature for the county clerks to verify. Currently nothing is required of the witness.

Description:

The return envelope for ballots must be altered to have a space for both of these items. The witness must be registered in the same county as the voter (this allows the county to verify the signature, just as they would on regular ballot). Any ballot that doesn’t meet these criteria, either because the signature can’t be verified or because it is missing, will be treated as a provisional ballot. Currently all that has to happen on these ballots is that the person casting it make a mark on the signature line witnessed by someone. That witness does not have to identify themselves or attest to anything on the envelope or make any mark of any kind. Provisional ballots go through extra verification after election day to ensure the eligibility of the person to vote and that they did not vote twice.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • This closes a bit of a loophole in our current system without impinging on anyone right to vote. Right now the complete lack of requirements for the witness to the ballot means these ballots can be marked without anyone being present and no one would be the wiser
  • Even in a case where the witness affirmation is done incorrectly, the ballot will still count if the county can determine it should

In Further Detail: Our current system has a loophole when it comes to these witness attested ballots. There is no way to know there even was a witness, much less that they are who they say they are. Our elections are one of the most sacred institutions that exist in this country and any potential fraud needs to be guarded against. And this change won’t disenfranchise anyone who voted properly but didn’t get this witness attestment right. Their ballot will simply become provisional and get closer scrutiny. If it turns out the ballot should have counted despite issues with the witness portion, then great, it will still count.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • Like many anti-fraud proposals this is a solution in search of a problem. Voting fraud is virtually non-existent in the US in general and in Colorado in particular
  • This sets up too complex a solution to an actual issue of lack of a place for a witness to attest. Who knows what their voter identification number is? The result is likely to be fewer people actually voting, because of an additional barrier to do so, not fraud being prevented

In Further Detail: Voting fraud simply does not exist even on a small scale in the US. Study after study after study has shown this, and whenever supposed anti-fraud advocates come up with some big number to scare people, on closer inspection it always turns out that when it comes to actually illegally voting, the big numbers don’t exist. In Colorado, the conservative Heritage Foundation found only 9 cases of voter fraud since 2013. Nine in 7 seven years! On the other hand, voter fraud initiatives tend to make it harder to vote, which can act as a damper on turnout. In this case, the voter has to find a witness who will make the effort to find out their voter ID number (no one knows this off-hand) and who is actively registered in the same county as they are. Yes, it is a bit odd that you are supposed to have a witness and there is no place for the witness to do anything on the envelope. But this solution, even if it doesn’t prevent any properly cast ballots from being counted, may prevent some people from voting at all, to prevent something that just doesn’t happen.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-010

SB21-012 Former Inmates With Fire Service Experience (Donovan (D)) [Roberts (D)]

SIGNED INTO LAW

AMENDED: Minor

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

  • Encourage the state’s wildfire management division to hire ex-convicts who worked in the inmate disaster relief program fighting wildfires while in prison, in part by removing the prohibition on hiring felons in the division, through awareness materials, and through a peer mentor program

Description:

State law bans not hiring ex-felons solely on the basis of their criminal history for government positions but excludes the department of public safety from this ban. In effect that means the department of public safety, which includes the state’s wildfire management section, cannot hire ex-felons. The state also runs a program called the State Wildland Inmate Fire Team (SWIFT) as part of its inmate disaster relief program. SWIFT has been fighting wildfires in the state since 2002. Members must be non-violent offenders eligible for parole within three years.

In addition to encouraging the state to hire these individuals once they are out of prison, the bill also mandates that by July 2022 the state develop information materials on career opportunities in wildland fire services to SWIFT members, including minimum qualifications and how someone can pursue and acquire those qualifications. The state must also develop a peer mentoring program for ex-SWIFT members it hires. This program must provide resources for developing and sustaining professional skills.

Also requires the wildfire matters interim committee (legislative committee that meets in-between sessions) to review this program in 2021 and 2022.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • What we want more than anything out of ex-felons is for them to become productive members of society—and fighting wildfires for a living in Colorado certainly counts. This allows these people to use skills they learned while in prison to get regular employment (which can be tough for ex-felons)
  • As the law stands right now we use people making almost nothing (less than $10 per day when they are fighting fires and even less than that when they aren’t) as part of the backbone of our fire response, then don’t let them actually make real money for their skills once they are out of prison
  • Current law doesn’t allow the state to tap a pool of highly trained applicants with lots of relevant experience doing the exact job it needs. It’s nonsense

In Further Detail: What we ask of those we put in prison is fairly basic: atone for your mistake and be a functioning member of society when you leave prison. We spend money on all sorts of programs to try to setup ex-felons for a life free of crime, which in the main involves trying to get them steady employment. We stress education and career training. And then there is this certain set of people who we quite frankly take advantage of. SWIFT members get paid less than a dollar per day (per DAY) on normal work days, which jumps to over $1 but still less than $2 for non-field days and all the way up to $6 a day for fighting fires. Yes, we pay inmates $6 a day to fight wildfires. This saves the state large amounts of money as SWIFT crews routinely battle double-digit numbers of fires, even approaching 50 in really bad years. Yes, this is volunteer work and the crews earn days off their sentence. But what happens when they get out of jail is a travesty. They cannot work for fire departments because they cannot get EMT certifications in most cases. They cannot work for the state’s wildfire division, which is the area where they have true experience (wildfire fighting is different than the duties of a city firefighter). In other words, once we really have to pay these people real wages, we aren’t interested. It is wrong and it is wrongheaded when our fire danger is so high that we ignore trained and experienced and willing individuals. This bill starts to rectify this situation by allowing and recommending the state tap this pool of workers.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • There are material differences in supervision and incentives for those working while incarcerated and someone in a regular job—the regular job removes a lot of the strict supervision and incentives to be on your best behavior

In Further Detail: Someone who is incarcerated is literally trying to become free again. They are strictly supervised and know that every move they make can add or subtract days to the amount of time they have to spend in jail. Someone in a regular job of course wants to keep the job, but otherwise operates in a very different environment. The reason we have the ban on hiring ex-felons in this field in the first place is that we recognize the job is too sensitive to risk. Whether or not we decide to change the practice of heavy reliance on SWIFT teams to fight fires at literal pennies on the dollar is a separate issue.


Bottom Line:

  • This does not end the practice of using near slave labor to fight fires

In Further Detail: The SWIFT program either needs to be modified to pay more in line with real wages or ended. These volunteers are risking their lives for literal pennies to save lives and homes. It is wrong to the core and no post-prison pipeline to employment can fix that.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-012

SB21-023 Restrict Nondisclosure Agreements State Government (Kirkmeyer (R))

KILLED BY SENATE COMMITTEE

AMENDED: Minor

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

  • Prohibit the state from requiring any employee to sign a non-disclosure agreement to be employed or as part of being let go unless it is necessary to prevent disclosure of reasonable privacy interests or matters required to be kept confidential by federal or state law or state constitution or specialized details of security arrangements or investigations

Description:

Specifically non-disclosure agreements cannot be made that deal with facts surrounding the employee’s employment with the state as terms of employment or as part of a settlement with an ex-employee. Any non-disclosure agreements that violate this bill are deemed unenforceable and anyone who attempts to enforce one is liable for the employee’s reasonable attorney fees and costs in defending the enforcement action. Bill also prohibits retaliation against an employee who refuses to sign a non-disclosure agreement that is invalid under the provisions of the bill.

Bill applies to the legislative and judicial branches as well as the executive branch.

The privacy interests are the privacy interest of the employee themselves and it is up to the employee’s discretion to include them.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • Non-disclosure agreements are a tool of private business and do not belong, for the most part, in our government. We pay the salaries of everyone working in government and we have the right to know if someone wants to speak up about their employment at the state
  • We have seen several recent high-profile examples of this in action, where employees are essentially terminated but instead of being fired receive a softer landing in exchange for signing a non-disclosure agreement. Again, that should not be happening in our government
  • The bill has exceptions for any non-disclosures required by law and only deals with forced non-disclosure agreements, not voluntary ones

In Further Detail: This is about transparency in our government. Non-disclosure agreements do not belong in our government except in very limited circumstances and those circumstances do include their duties as public employees. We pay their salaries, we are owed the chance to hear what state employees have to say, in particular when someone leaves government service. We ran into this just last year, when a former employee of the secretary of state’s office could not reveal anything about her time at the secretary of state’s office because she had a non-disclosure and non-disparagement agreement in exchange for being allowed to resign instead of being fired. This has popped up in our judicial division as well, where there is currently an ongoing scandal regarding sexual discrimination. These are tools of private business that do not belong in our government. The bill has exceptions for any non-disclosures required by law. Regarding the issue of non-disclosures required in the course of duties with outside parties, the bill does not forbid voluntary entrance into non-disclosures, simply the use of them as terms of employment or as part of a settlement with an ex-employee.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • This is too broad a ban, it might cover aspects of work that are not explicitly required to have non-disclosures in law but nevertheless touch on proprietary or confidential information about the state’s operations, third-parties that contract with the state, or individuals in state programs (there is information here beyond simple personal privacy)
  • This could also run into trouble with third-party non-disclosure agreements
  • If someone simply refuses to sign a routine non-disclosure agreement, what then? State has no recourse to force it anymore

In Further Detail: The scope of this ban is extremely wide—it might cover aspects of work that we want to keep out of the public eyes around proprietary information on how the state does business and might touch on a lot of the information that is kept by the state in various programs of private businesses and individuals that is not about privacy but about grants, business operations, and other such things that the specific law creating the program didn’t expressly forbid. There could also be trouble with third-party non-disclosure agreements that state employees sometimes have to sign when working with contractors or vendors that again are not spelled out in state law but are part of working for the state. The problem with the idea of banning forced non-disclosure agreements is what if an employee refuses to sign a perfectly reasonable one that is about confidential matters not spelled out specifically in law but reasonably required?


Bottom Line:

  • The bill doesn’t address local governments, transparency should extend down to all levels of government.

SB21-068 Concerning the enactment of the Colorado Revised Statutes 2020 as the positive and statutory law of the state of Colorado (Gardner (R), Lee (D)) [Soper (R), Snyder (D)]

TECHNICAL BILL

SIGNED INTO LAW

Description: Enacts the 2020 revised Colorado statutes as the law.

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

SIGNED INTO LAW

AMENDED: Minor

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)]

SIGNED INTO LAW

AMENDED: Minor

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

SB21-141 Statewide Internet Portal Authority Competitive Solicitation Method (Priola (R), Kolker (D)) [Bernett (D), Baisley (R)]

From the Joint Technology Committee

SIGNED INTO LAW

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

  • Give the state more flexibility in choosing its contractor for the statewide internet portal integrator by allowing for alternatives to request for proposals, so long as the procurement method is competitive, and allowing invitations to negotiate

Description:

The integrator develops, supports, maintains, and enhances the equipment and systems used for the statewide internet portal.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • So long as the process is competitive, it is good to allow for some flexibility and particularly good to try to negotiate for a better deal

Arguments Against: n/a

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-141

SB21-144 Sunset Homeland Security And All-hazards Advisory Committee (Garcia (D), Cooke (R)) [Titone (D), Van Beber (R)]

SIGNED INTO LAW

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

  • Continue the Homeland Security and All-Hazards Advisory Committee permanently by removing its sunset review repeal. It was scheduled to end in September.

Description:

The committee was established to, among other things, develop recommendations and guidance for the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, the Director of the Office of Emergency Management, and the Governor’s Homeland Security Advisor. It also reviews homeland security grant applications.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • This was the recommendation of the department of regulatory agencies’ sunset review report
  • Emergencies and threats to security are not going anywhere, so there is no need to waste state resources on additional sunset review reports

In Further Detail: From the sunset review report: “…no other government entity currently provides the type of diverse expertise that the HSAC offers in its recommendations… it fulfills an essential role in the development of the state’s comprehensive emergency preparedness strategy through the expertise it provides and the relationships it develops.”

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • We use sunset review to ensure we don’t have programs that don’t do anything. That too consumes state resources. We also use the review process to uncover changes that may need to be made. Continue the committee, but not indefinitely

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-144

SB21-152 Rule Review Bill (Lee (D), Gardner (R)) [Herod (D), Soper (R)]

SIGNED INTO LAW

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

  • Extends all state agency rules that were adopted or established between November 2019 and November 2020 except for the rules listed in the bill. These rules were found to have either conflicted with or had no basis in statute. They will expire on May 15, 2021. Full list in Description, categories were chosen based on rules that were disallowed.

Description:

  • Rule from Department of Education concerning administration of the public school transportation fund which required school districts to annually submit a CDE-40 form no later than August 15
  • Rule from Department of Public Health and Environment that required oil well production facilities that begin operation after January 1, 2020, to file air pollution emissions notices for all emissions sources with reportable emissions no later than 90 days following the commencement of operation, using current air pollution emission notice forms
  • Rules from the Department of Regulatory Agencies:
    • Concerning licensing of social workers: the entire rule that deals with criteria for licensing requirement criteria, the rule that requires social workers with credentials from another jurisdiction to submit their educational credentials for Colorado licensing, and the rule that exempts providing notice of conviction or discipline of sexual misconduct if the licensee does not have a direct treatment relationship or direct contact with the patient
    • Concerning professional counselors, psychologists and marriage and family therapists, the exact same three rules
    • Concerning addiction counselors, same rule about those licensed in other jurisdictions submitting their education credentials and the same sexual misconduct notification exemption
    • Concerning chiropractic examiners, physical therapists, psychotherapists, acupuncturists, direct-entry midwives, athletic trainers, respiratory therapy, naturopathic doctors, speech language pathologists, surgical assistants and surgical technologists, and nurses, that same rule on notice of sexual misconduct exemption for no direct treatment or contact
    • Concerning barbers and cosmetologists, the rule someone with a license in good standing in another jurisdiction can apply for Colorado license by endorsement but cannot practice until they receive their Colorado license, the requirement for endorsement licensure that the applicant submit an active/valid license in good standing from another jurisdiction, and all of the additional requirements for endorsement licensure for applicants from other countries
    • For hearing aid providers and audiologists, the rule about needing an active/valid license in good standing from another jurisdiction to qualify for licensure by endorsement and that same rule on notice of sexual misconduct exemption for no direct treatment or contact
    • For massage therapists, the same rule about having a license in a different jurisdiction making someone eligible for licensure by endorsement and the same rule on notice of sexual misconduct exemption for no direct treatment or contact

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • We have to do this every year to ensure that the rules set by various state agencies are lawful. Those that are not can be rewritten to comply with law or a legislator can attempt to pass a bill that provides the missing legal authority

Arguments Against: n/a

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-152

SB21-155 Limited Gaming Commission Member From Gaming Area (Story (D), Hisey (R)) [Amabile (D), Baisley (R)]

SIGNED INTO LAW

AMENDED: Significant

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

  • Change the requirement for the one member of the limited gaming commission from a registered voter from anywhere in the state to require that they be from Gilpin or Teller county. Expands the limited gaming commission in size from 5 to 7 members and requires that one member be from Gilpin County, one from Teller County, and one from a county outside those two. Allows multiple members of the limited gaming commission from Gilpin or Teller counties (there is an existing rule that requires all of them to be from different congressional districts) and requires priority be given to residents of these counties when considering applications to be on the commission

Description:

Bill also clarifies that this registered voter, while they may have the professional requirements need for other commission slots, they may not take the slot on the commission reserved for that profession or industry. The commission also has a requirement that no two members be from the same congressional district, the bill excludes the voter member from this requirement. Bill requires no more than 4 of the 7 members be from the same political party (used to be 3 of 5).

The Commission is responsible for promulgating all the rules and regulations governing limited gaming in Colorado, including the establishment of the gaming tax rate. The Commission also has final authority over all gaming licenses issued in the state. The other four members must include a corporate manager with at least five years of business experience, an attorney with experience in regulatory law, a law enforcement official, and a certified public accountant with knowledge of corporate finance.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • We want the citizen voice on this commission to reflect the actual communities where gaming is taking place. It affects all Coloradans, but it directly affects these communities the most

Arguments Against: n/a

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-155

SB21-160 Modification To Local Government Election Codes (Gardner (R)) [Snyder (D)]

SIGNED INTO LAW

AMENDED: Minor

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

  • Provides a process for dividing special districts into sub-districts for electing board of directors. Currently the 5 or 7 directors (depending on the district) are elected at-large (across the entire district). Districts that divide into 5 or 7 sub-districts (think federal House of Representative vs Senate) each district must have, as near as possible, the same number of people and be as contiguous and compact as possible. Board of directors must then try to match its current membership to the districts, and in the next election directors must reside in their district. Board can reverse their decision by resolution at any time

Description:

Other small changes:

  • For computing time for an event to be done or held before an election, switches the calculation so that the first day is excluded and the last day, election day, is included (was reversed)
  • Removes requirement that someone complete an affirmation form that they reside in the special district in order to vote in a special district election

Additional Information:

  • Clarifies that state local government election code is the portion that applies to special elections.
  • Provides additional statutory citations for all the instances where a county assessor provides a list of property owners for an election.
  • Requires the candidate self-nomination form for special district elections must contain the county or counties where the special district is located. Requires the form to include e-mail addresses but removes requirement candidate personal information be written (think fillable PDFs).
  • Clarifies that covered voters must reside in the boundaries of the local government to receive a ballot.
  • Clarifies that electors who are authorized to vote in the local government election due to being under contract to purchase taxable property may be automatically sent a ballot

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • Most of this is simple clean-up and clarification but the section on special districts makes sense. Some special districts are quite large and stretch across multiple counties. The reason to have sub-districts is to ensure all geographic areas within a district have a voice in its governance. And of course if you are going to make sub-districts, you want to avoid gerrymandering

Arguments Against: n/a

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-160

SB21-163 Cost-benefit Analysis For Rules Additional Requirements (Rankin (R))

KILLED BY SENATE COMMITTEE

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: About $400,000 a year at full implementation

Goal:

  • Extend the time allowed for anyone to request the state do a cost-benefit analysis on a proposed rule from 5 days after publication of the notice of the proposed rule to 15 prior to the scheduled hearing, or if the hearing is only 20 days after notice was published, within 10 days of publication.
  • Changes amount of time the state has to do a cost-benefit analysis from 10 days to 5 days after request
  • Require cost-benefit analysis to include non-economic benefits, including increased transparency and if applicable, disparate geographic impacts on the state, with the costs, benefits, and adverse effects broken down by region

Description:

Regional breakdown must include, at minimum, western slope, front range, and eastern plains.

Current law requires the state to inform the public about negative impacts of potential rules. The bill changes this to material negative impacts and requires information about counterbalancing positive impacts as well, by either a public presentation at the beginning of the rule-making hearing or a written report that is made part of the administrative record.

Bill allows anyone to request an update to cost-benefit analysis to reflect material changes made to a proposed rule by amendment. In this case the state may postpone the rule-making hearing to prepare the analysis.

Members of the legislature may also request a cost-benefit analysis of a rule be done after at least a year has passed since the rule’s implementation. Maximum of one such request every two years.

Bill also requires the public utilities commission, the department of natural resources, and the department of health and environment to allow public testimony on the cost-benefit analysis at the rule making hearing.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • Rule making is the secret sauce in our government, it’s how our state agencies take the laws passed and turn them into a set of rules that people and companies have to follow. And while currently anyone can request a cost-benefit analysis of a proposed rule, the system could use some upgrades. Non-economic benefits can be extremely important to many rules, different parts of the state may fare quite differently, and we shouldn’t just present negative potential impacts from rules at hearings
  • We also need more backward looking thought put into our government. We tend to just steam ahead to the next new thing rather than seeing if what we did last year is actually working as intended. This function is limited by the bill to once every two years so it will not result in constant checking of the same thing
  • As for the discrepancy with the one department in the fiscal note, it is not unheard of for departments to vastly exaggerate the fiscal impact of something they don’t want to do in order to try to kill it. We pay the non-partisan legislative staff to construct these notes and they are the final word on the matter

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • This is a bit expensive, both the need to look at non-monetary impacts (which can be hard to quantify) and regional impacts has us spending a non-trivial amount of extra money each year, not to mention legislators continuing to fight their battles for years after a bill has been passed. The fiscal note makes a point of saying that one state agency, the Department of Public Health and Environment (which hosts all of the environmental/energy rules), actually thinks the bill will cost them an extra $1.5 million a year, not $110,000 a year as the non-partisan legislative council staff believes. If that department is more right than the fiscal note authors, we are talking about potentially millions a year in extra spending

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-163

SB21-166 Colorado Fire Commission Recommendations (Rankin (R), Fenberg (D)) [McCluskie (D), Will (R)]

PASSED

AMENDED: Moderate

Appropriation: $1,108,800
Fiscal Impact: $1.1 million in new spending annually

Goal:

  • Creates a Regional and Statewide Mutual Aid System, which must create four sub-districts in the state to create and coordinate mutual aid agreements within those areas to fight larger fires. Each district must have a coordinator. The state must create a state coordination center which is responsible for coordinating all four districts
  • Creates the State Responsibility and Large Wildfire Fund to pay for the state’s share of suppression costs of large fires that are deemed to be the responsibility of the state. Money must be transferred from the general fund each year in an amount that is the average of past five calendar years of the state’s share of fire suppression costs. This will be approximately $20 million this year
  • Directs any unspent money in the state’s aviation resources appropriation to be put into the existing wildfire preparedness fund for use in traditional fire mitigation efforts

Description:

Changes liability in mutual aid scenarios by putting the liability on the department providing the aid. In other words, departments are responsible for their own firefighters, even if they are working under another firefighting jurisdiction.

The coordinator of the mutual aid districts must: gather and provide information for a statewide common operating procedure; coordinate, assist and bridge gaps with the intra-agency dispatch system; bridge gaps with the state emergency operations center; facilitate transition from initial response to extended and large scale resource mobilization; develop mutual aid plans where none exist; ensure an accurate inventory of resources in the region; ensure the participation of all agencies; and exercise mutual aid plans and activate them.

Emergency responders are part of these regional districts unless they opt-out. Responders do not have to supply their equipment and personnel to help if they: are needed within their own area, are not available because they are in-use somewhere else, or are not available because of mechanical failure or insufficient personnel.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • All of these were recommendations of the state fire commission, which was created to figure out what changes we need in our laws to better prevent and fight fires
  • Robust mutual aid agreements are the best way to hit fires hard early, before they spread uncontrollably. That obviously requires a lot of coordination—which is why the bill creates district authorities and a central command. This will cost us some money each year, but the extent to which we can pounce on these fires early could save us money in the long-run. Departments are also free to opt-out
  • The new fund is simply a better way to manage our financial resources. Right now the state has about $1 million each year to pay for the fires that it has to step in and in part pay for. Any money beyond that requires disaster money and a disaster declaration from the governor. That delays fire response. We should instead just plan ahead and put the money in
  • We also need more resources in mitigation efforts to stop these fires from exploding in the first place, and moving those unspent aviation funds toward that effort will help

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • Opt-out programs are not as healthy a way to work with partners as opt-in programs. We should be selling districts on being part of this statewide effort and having them join freely and happily, not pushing this on them and hoping they don’t opt-out

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-166

SB21-177 Restrict Foreign-influenced Money In Politics (Bridges (D)) [Woodrow (D)]

KILLED ON SENATE CALENDAR

AMENDED: Technical

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: Not yet released

Goal:

  • Bans foreign influenced corporations from electioneering communications or anyone from knowingly accepting donations from foreign influenced corporations

Description:

Foreign owned companies are already banned from this behavior. The bill defines foreign influenced corporations as one of:

  • Single foreign owner has 5% equity or ownership interest or controls such interest in a company
  • Two ore more foreign owners have 20% equity or ownership interest or control such interest in a company (think five owners each with 4%, low enough to skirt first requirement)
  • Single foreign government, including central banks and sovereign wealth funds has 1% equity or ownership interest or controls such interest in a company

Non-profits are excluded.

Entities who are part of a widely diversified fund based in the United States are excluded from foreign owned definition. These must have more than 100 participants, hold more than 55% of value in securities of any issuer other than the US, hold no more than 20% of its value in any particular economic or geographic region, and are independently managed so that no investor has the ability to exercise control over the fund.

Bill requires anyone raising money to require corporations to attest they adhere to the requirements of this bill before making a donation.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • In 2019 we passed the law that bans foreign corporations and governments from these actions but left a bit of a loophole with corporations that have heavy foreign influence. This bill ensures that we are truly keeping foreign money and influence out of our elections, a goal everyone should agree with

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • The thresholds for foreign influence are way too low and will exclude a lot of American firms. Just 5% ownership is unlikely to do much on its own and even 20% couldn’t do much diluted across so many people
  • Excluding non-profits injects some partisanship here: Republicans are more likely to get donations from for-profit companies and Democrats are more likely to get donations from non-profits

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-177

SB21-178 Extend Care Subfund Deadline For COVID-19 Programs (Moreno (D)) [McCluskie (D)]

SIGNED INTO LAW

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

  • Extend all CARES act deadlines from December 30, 2020 to December 31, 2021.

Description:

2020 was the original deadline for spending this money from the federal government, but the federal government subsequently extended the deadline to the end of this year. Not all of the $70 million the legislature set aside from the CARES act has been spent yet, with about $1.8 million left.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • Pretty simple, the federal government changed the rules, we still have some money left, so it should be spent

Arguments Against: n/a

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-178

SB21-221 Projects Under Wildfire Risk Mitigation Grant Program (Hansen (D), Rankin (R)) [McCluskie (D)]

Note: This bill is part of the overall budget package

From the Joint Budget Committee

SIGNED INTO LAW

Appropriation: None (this program is given money directly through budget)
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

Remove a $1 million cap on grants that the Wildfire Risk Mitigation Grant Program can award, this program is for reducing hazardous fuels and promoting forest health to reduce risk of wildfire. Also put in some prioritization for hazardous fuels grants for local governments that have or plan to have measures in place that reduce wildfire risk (like building codes or land use codes).

Description:

Removes the $1 million cap on grants from the Wildfire Risk Mitigation Grant Program. Grants must still be a maximum of 50% of the project, or 75% in areas with fewer economic resources. For hazardous fuel reduction projects, requires prioritization of applications that have adopted or plan to adopt local measures that reduce wildfire risks to people, property, and infrastructure that complement grant. Stronger measures get even greater preference.

This program is designed for grants that reduce hazardous fuels (so dead trees, dense underbrush) and those that promote forest health to make it more fire resistant.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • We have a ton of forest to mitigate, over 368,000 acres, and not enough resources to do it all. Our current approach is far too patchwork, with small grants here and there rather than making larger, more coordinated efforts because of the current cap. Removing the cap allows us to do this, with the natural cap of just how much money is allocated to the program. Research has also demonstrated that local actions like land use and building codes can have a multiplier effect on forest mitigation (which is just common sense), so we want to encourage that activity

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • The reason for the cap is to spread these grants around, so that poorer counties can still do smaller scale projects. Removing it and prioritizing counties that can enforce building codes could have a double whammy effect of removing these poorer counties entirely from this program

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-221

SB21-237 Create Forest Health Council In Department Of Natural Resources (Donovan (D)) [McCluskie (D), Lynch (R)]

PASSED

AMENDED: Minor

Appropriation: $668
Fiscal Impact: Negligible

Goal:

Moves the state’s forest advisory council from the state forest service (which is housed within Colorado State University) to division of forestry in the department of natural resources, extend the council through 2026 and tweak the council’s membership.

Description:

Moves the state’s forest advisory council from the state forest service (which is housed within Colorado State University) to division of forestry in the department of natural resources. Extends the council, set to repeal this year, to September 2026 as recommended by the department of regulatory agencies’ sunset review report.

Bill shrinks keeps increases council membership at 24 to 26 to 23 members and moves state government agency representatives from full voting members to ex-officio members who do not vote. Number of county commissioners increased from two to four. One water supplier member removed, one public utility member removed, fire chief removed, sportsman organization removed, one recreation representative removed and the other changed to be an employee of the state’s office of economic development with expertise in outdoor recreation, economic development organization removed, one wood products member removed. Two legislators added (one appointed by House speaker and one appointed by Senate president), one researcher added, and one member of forest collaborative added. Ex-officio executive director of department of natural resources, director of division of fire prevention and control, regional forester, forestry program lead for federal bureau of land management, and state conservationist for national resources conservation service in department of agriculture added.

Governor would make all outside government appointments, instead of mixture of governor, House speaker, and Senate president.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: September 2026 with sunset review

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • From the sunset review report: “The members of the FHAC encompass broad and well-informed forestry expertise, and the FHAC helps to inform the state forester regarding the state’s most pressing natural resource issues… The FHAC provides important natural resource expertise to the state forester and to policymakers that is necessary to protect the health of the state’s forests. Therefore, the General Assembly should continue the FHAC.” As for moving the council, our need to manage our forests has never been higher, with the conditions for destructive and massive wildfires liken to worsen over the coming years. This makes it all the more critical for the state to have an active role in this counsel, which will also give it a lot more power than being sheltered off at CSU

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • The council seems to be doing fine where it is and the sunset review report made no mention of problems with the council getting what it wanted or the need to move it somewhere else

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-237

SB21-244 Funding Health Benefits For Legislative Aides (Garcia (D), Fenberg (D)) [Garnett (D), Esgar (D)]

PASSED

Appropriation: $617,348
Fiscal Impact: Same $617,348 every year going forward

Goal:

Allow the state to provide health benefits for legislative aides by converting these positions into permanent part-time state jobs.

Description:

Allows the state to provide health benefits for legislative aides by converting these positions into permanent part-time state jobs. There are about 100 staffers who will be affected (about 1 per legislator). Aides make $15 per hour currently, the budget for this year is increasing that to $16 per hour. Each lawmaker has 1,300 hours of time they can use, which amounts to full work weeks during the session and after that around 6 hours a week. Lawmakers can pay for aides out of their own campaign finances.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • These aides are tremendously important to the functioning of the legislature but we are not treating them that way. During the legislative session this is a full-time job (beyond that at times) and so these aides are not going to be able to get health benefits through another employer but will instead be on their own in the personal marketplace. This bill instead allows them access to the same health care our “part-time” legislators receive. If we are going to argue that giving out health benefits is akin to full-time legislating then that horse is already out of the barn and the legislators themselves should be giving up their benefits (good luck with that)

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • This is an ominous step in the direction of a full-time legislature. These positions are designed for just what they are: high-turnover jobs for kids just getting into this profession to get a session or two under their belts and then move on, in part through all of the connections they’ve made during their time at the Capitol. These positions are not supposed to be akin to real staff that stays with a politician for years and works the job year-round

Bottom Line:

  • This is a step in the right direction but nowhere near enough. We have an essential government job here that we are treating like an entry level position or even a part-time job at a fast food restaurant. If we want our legislature to be effective and have its own voice, distinct from all of the lobbyists at the Capitol, then we need to provide some permanent infrastructure that allows for the accumulation of some expertise, rather than pushing folks out the door just when they’ve figured everything out

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-244

SB21-247 Adjust Redistricting Commission Procedures (Fenberg (D), Holbert (R)) [Esgar (D), McKean (R)]

From the Executive Committee of the Legislative Council

KILLED ON HOUSE CALENDAR

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

Adjust the state redistricting process as required by the constitution in order to deal with delays in the US census by dealing with preliminary data to begin its work and then switch to final data for the final maps.

Description:

Requires the state redistricting commissions to use the preliminary data released by the federal census bureau on April 30 to begin its work and prepare the preliminary plans required by the state constitution. The commissions must use final census data, as released by the federal census bureau, once it is available and the final district plans, approved by the state supreme court as required by law, must be based on the final data. Requires the commissions to hold their required public hearing for comment after final plans with final data are released.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: July 2023

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • This is the only way we can meet our constitutionally required deadlines and still produce final new maps in time for the 2022 election cycle. If we wait until the final census data is released to begin the process (September 30 is the current target date) we will miss constitutionally required mile markers in the process and probably be too late to hold true primaries for the 2022 election in the spring. This is the only way to both meet our constitutionally required deadlines and have a correct redistricting process that is properly in place by 2022. Note that the final maps use the final data

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • It is not clear that we can change a constitutional requirement in this manner, no matter how necessary it may be

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-247

SB21-250 Elections And Voting (Fenberg (D), Gonzales (D)) [Lontine (D), Caraveo (D)]

PASSED

AMENDED: Minor

Appropriation: $306,500
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

Makes numerous changes to state election laws, the most notable around recalls, which the bill brings into line with how most other elections in the state operate, including rules around gathering petitions and post-election audits. The bill does add two new features, that the petition must include the estimated cost of holding the recall election and a statement from the official who the petition wants to recall. The bill also makes a few changes to voter registration, including allowing registration or changes with the last four of a social security number (instead of needing state ID), requiring Medicaid to inform the secretary of state of any address or name changes of an enrollee, and requiring colleges to provide students information on voter registration twice a year. Lots more changes in the Description and Additional Information sections.

Description:

  • Requires all recall petitions to include the estimated cost of holding the recall election and a statement from the elected official who the petition is seeking to recall (if they provide one). State will provide the petitioners with the cost within three days of receiving notice of intent to circulate petition. State must send official a copy of the proof of the petition (planned printing) and the official then has three days to provide statement. Requires the risk limiting audits that are performed after all other elections (to ensure accuracy of count) to also be performed after recall elections.
  • Makes it illegal for anyone to pay people to collect signatures for a recall of an elected official without first obtaining a license from the state. People who are gathering petitions must wear an identification badge that is clearly legible. Volunteer’s badges say “VOLUNTEER CIRCULATOR” while paid gatherers must have “PAID CIRCULATOR” and the name and phone number of their employer. In either case gatherers must include their name and address on the affidavit they already must submit with the signatures and that the gatherer followed all state laws for petitions (which include gatherer is US citizen over 18, all signatures made in their presence, no signers paid to sign, and all signers eligible to sign best of gatherer’s knowledge). Notaries must notarize the form in person. Committee in charge of recall efforts must keep records of names and addresses of all gatherers and names and section numbers of all notaries used
  • Gives the state more time to inspect recall signatures, 28 days up from 15 business days. Specifies petitioners have five days to appeal petitions found insufficient. Allows anyone who signed a petition to withdraw their signature anytime before it is certified (previously was three days after petition was filed) and allows them to be e-mailed. If the petition was found insufficient and is still in the appeals process, the name is to be withdrawn, even if the petition was already certified. Bill gives anyone subject to a successful petition 5 days to resign before an election must be scheduled. Gives candidates looking to run against the elected official more time, 25 days instead of 15 prior to the election to file their candidacy. Requires polling centers to be open for eight hours Monday through Friday and four hours on Saturday during recall elections, with hours from 7 AM to 7 PM on final day of voting. If there is an exact tie in a recall election, the incumbent stays in office
  • Requires state Medicaid, subject to compliance with federal law, to provide the secretary of state’s office notice of any change of address or name by anyone enrolled in Medicaid. The secretary of state is to then provide the information to the appropriate county clerk, who must send a notification of the change to the voter with a postage paid preaddressed form for the voter to return to the clerk confirming the change. If the voter responds that the change was an error, it must be reverted
  • Requires each institution of higher education in the state to e-mail all of their students information on voter eligibility and how to register to vote or update registration. This must be sent during the first full week of the fall semester and the last full week of the spring semester
  • Allows proof of identity for registration to vote or changing registration by providing last four digits of social security number (this replaces need to show state ID). Altered registration form that allows for these digits must inform voter that they will be required to provide copy of ID with their mail ballot when they vote for the first time If the county clerk finds no signature on file, then the record must be approved but a the voter sent a preaddressed return form which they can use to return a signature and information on how to submit a signature electronically. If this notice gets returned by the postal service as undeliverable, the registration or change in status is cancelled
  • Moves back deadlines for changing voter registration for primaries from 29 days to 22 days prior to the election. Gives a little more flexibility for primary elections by allowing them to occur anywhere between the first Tuesday and the subsequent Saturday of March (right now must be on that Tuesday). Requires county assemblies to be held at the most 21 days after precinct caucuses (now is 25) and allows them to both be held on the same day if permitted by party rules. Must notify the secretary of state if a party is going to do this
  • Adds some considerations to how many voter service and polling locations to place in the state, including if a proposed location was used in a previous election, number of voters who used it and the recorded wait times and need to place centers in population areas that had low turnout in previous elections. Requires each county to solicit public comment on their proposed drop box and voter center locations, request for comment along with proposed locations must be up on the county website at least 55 days before the deadline for the county to submit their election plan to the state. Comments must be accepted up until 40 days before the deadline
  • Bans electioneering or wearing of materials that promote or oppose a candidate or ballot issue while serving as an election judge
  • Requires all drop boxes in the state to remain open until after every voter who was in line at 7 PM on election day at the box has deposited their ballot
  • Requires each county to try to coordinate with local sheriff at each jail or detention center in the county to facilitate voting for all eligible voters. This coordination plan must be included in the election plan submitted by the county to the state
  • Allows voters to request an emergency replacement ballot if they or a member of their immediate family is confined in a hospital or place of residence on election day or they cannot vote in-person on election day due to emergency conditions that arose after the mail ballot request deadline or their mail ballot did not arrive and they will be out-of-state on election day, or they had arranged to receive their ballot in a temporary location and didn’t get it. This emergency request must be made by 5 PM on election day and can designate someone else to pick up the ballot for the voter. Such a person must sign for the ballot and provide their own name and address
  • Widens where a voter can return a replacement ballot by also allowing voter and service centers, drop boxes, or drop off locations (currently is just clerk’s office)
  • Bans challenging mail votes solely on the basis of their signature (all signature are already checked for matches)
  • Repeals ability for unaffiliated candidates to make the ballot for president by paying a fee (has to meet signature requirements instead)

Additional Information:

  • If an unaffiliated candidate selects a poll watcher, that watcher must also be unaffiliated
  • Adds federal holidays into consideration for deadlines for registering to vote in a voter registration drive
  • Affirms that a participant at a precinct caucus may participate remotely, including casting votes by e-mail or phone or Internet-based application, if allowed by party rules
  • Allows county political party chairs to fill vacancies for committeepeople if the central committee vacancy committees fails to do so within 30 days. If the county chair fails, the state chair may do so within 60 days. If there is no vacancy committee, then the central committee of the jurisdiction serves as the vacancy committee
  • Requires anyone wishing to be a candidate designated as such by the party assembly (there are multiple ways to get onto a primary ballot, this is one) to provide notice at least 30 days prior to the assembly unless otherwise provided by party rules. County assembly notice must go to county chair, multi-county assembly must go to multi-county chair and state chair, and state assembly must go to state chair
  • Allows the secretary of state to e-mail notices of approval or disapproval of petitions (if they met or didn’t meet signature requirements). Right now they must be mailed. Same for notices of recounts
  • Requires anyone assisting a disabled voter with a petition signature to provide the assistor’s address
  • Requires write-in candidates for president in a general election to designate their vice-president and slate of electoral college electors with the state
  • Allows the state to use data from the fall semester of 2019 instead of 2020 in any case where 2020 data would have been used to determine drop boxes for college campuses
  • Requires voting service centers to provide ability for voters to cure errors on ballots, including signature mismatch or failure to provide identification if required
  • Bans drop boxes in the future at police stations, sheriffs’ offices, or town marshall’s offices unless the building also includes the clerk’s office. Current locations are grandfathered in
  • Requires a minimum of one outdoor sign at each entrance to the parking lot or building where a polling location is located and indoor signs sufficient to locate the polling location once inside the building
  • Changes the deadline for election plans to be submitted by counties to the state from 120 days to 110 days for elections conducted by counties. Changes the time the secretary of state has to approve or deny a plan from 15 days to 20 days after receiving it
  • Gives a little more specificity to election challenges from judges (right now just says if they believe the person is not an eligible voter), which include that the person is not a US citizen, that they haven’t resided in the state for at least 22 days prior to the election, that they won’t be 18 or older on election day, or that if being a property owner or spouse of a property owner is required, that they aren’t. Bill only allows election judges or supervisors to ask questions required and complete challenge form. A different judge or supervisor must ask from the one that is challenging the voter
  • Changes the monetary requirement for surety bonds for anyone contesting a state legislative contest from an amount chosen by secretary of state to $15,000 (this is in cases where someone must pay for the recount themselves because it does not meet automatic triggers


Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • There’s a lot here but much of it is simple clean-up work and tweaks that aren’t worth going into detail over. The biggest part of the bill is overhauling recall elections so that they more closely resemble other elections in the state, from the requirements on petition gatherers to the post-election audit. Almost all of those details are simply about making these elections like all others we have in the state with the same rules for petitioning. The big differences are requiring the cost of the election to be included in the petition and the statement from the official. The cost part is simple: elections actually cost a lot of money to operate and we want to be sure someone signing a petition like this understands the bill they are handing the entire state. No one really serious about recalling an elected official will flinch at the price tag. The statement from the official provides a simple mechanism for them to defend themselves. Remember that most people who see these petitions aren’t reading Engage bill summaries and probably don’t know much about any of these people. False information breeds easiest in such an environment
  • For the changes around voter registration, this follows in the tradition of making it easy to vote in Colorado (where it is important to remember, despite a lot of people trying really hard to find it, we’ve had single digit cases of real voter fraud), in particular young voters who make a driver’s license, those at college campuses, and people in the Medicaid system

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • The bill is trying to put a thumb on the scales for recall petitions with the two additions that aren’t a part of other petitions processes. First, the cost is a great scare tactic that doesn’t contextualize it within the budgeting process of a $30 billion plus annual state budget. Second, the bill gives the elected official a complete preview of exactly what the recall petition will look like and then a chance to give a targeted rebuttal with no real guidance or guardrails on the process. There’s been a lot of noise about recalls lately for sure, but we haven’t actually gotten many in awhile and this may be a solution in search of a problem
  • The voter registration changes are part of making it too easy, which doesn’t have to do with voter access but with preventing voter fraud and registration fraud. We also don’t need college campuses doing state-mandated get-out-the-vote work
  • The sections on emergency ballots seem potentially unworkable, with a clerk scrambling to get an emergency ballot out on election day, and not even to the person who actually requested it. Too ripe for abuse

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-250

SB21-258 Wildfire Risk Mitigation (Ginal (D), Rankin (R)) [Snyder (D), Froelich (D)]

SIGNED INTO LAW

Appropriation: $28 million
Fiscal Impact: None beyond appropriation

Goal:

Create a new fund to address wildfire mitigation on a statewide level, including a strategic risk assessment, efforts at collaboration across governments, and mitigating areas identified by the assessment. Appropriates $17.5 million to this fund. Create another new fund to help local governments get matching funding for grants for mitigation. Appropriates $3 million to this fund. Appropriate another $7.5 million to existing loan and grant funds for mitigation efforts. Allow existing grant fund to fund projects that are partly on federal lands (so long as the majority isn’t federal land) and focus more on planning and staffing support. Allow the forest service to do more permanent hires and spend more on administrative costs.

Description:

Creates the Wildfire Mitigation Capacity Development Fund, to first initiate a federal national incident management organization comprehensive risk analysis for identifying the most strategic parts of the state for wildfire mitigation and fuel reduction projects. This must be started by June 15. On an ongoing basis, the fund is to support engagement of the conservation corps and state wildland inmate fire teams (this is the prison program that fights fires) in priority mitigation projects identified by the risk analysis as well as projects or grants for fuel reduction and mitigation in these areas, and hire staff to coordinate cross-boundary mitigation efforts, facilitate engagement, and connect projects with resources. Staff must consult with federal and state agencies, local governments, communities, forest collaborative groups, and other entities to identify and implement priority projects. Fund must also conduct assessment of mitigation efforts to determine the most efficient and effective organizational structure. Fund is to prioritize projects with the greatest potential impact on saving life, property, and infrastructure. $17.5 million appropriated to fund, of which up to $200,000 can be used for the risk analysis, up to $550,000 for project coordination efforts, and up to $500,000 for assessment efforts. Up to 5% of the funds can be used for administrative costs.

Creates the Hazard Mitigation Fund to help local governments obtain matching money for federal grants. Transfers $3 million to this fund.

Appropriates $5 million to the existing healthy forests and vibrant communities fund. Appropriates $2.5 million to the existing wildfire risk mitigation revolving loan fund.

Allows the existing forest restoration and wildfire risk mitigation grant fund to fund projects that are partially on federal land, so long as the area of the federal land does not exceed the combined non-federal land area of the project. Tweaks the grant program mission by adding staffing support and planning efforts to possible grant uses, which includes community outreach and engagement and identifying priority areas.

Raises the amount of funds the forest service can use for administrative costs from 3% to 7% of funds appropriated. Allows hiring of permanent staff for multiple wildfire mitigation programs (right now the law says these hires must be temporary).

Extends expiration of the community watershed and wildfire risk mitigation program from September 2023 to September 2028.

Moves $1.2 million from the wildfire preparedness fund and $2.4 million from the firefighting air corps fund to the wildfire emergency response fund.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • Wildfires are one of the biggest threats facing the state and they keep getting worse. With climate change we can expect to have more summers like last year, which saw our three deadliest fires in history and over $200 million spent fighting fires
  • Mitigation and fuel reduction is one of our best tools, but the scope of the problem is simply beyond our resources to tackle all at once, even with unlimited money you’d run out of people and time. So we need a statewide assessment of where our efforts would be best focused and then a more collaborative effort to hit those targeted areas
  • We also need more capacity in the forest service, which is what raising the administrative cap and allowing permanent hires is about

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 and saw the three deadliest fires in our history. 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. So it is extremely appropriate to spend a good chunk of our state stimulus funds on mitigation efforts (this isn’t the only mitigation stimulus bill) but we don’t have the resources to do it all. 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. This isn’t just about money, at some point we run out of people and time to do this much activity. So this bill first takes a statewide inventory of where our efforts would best be focused and then concentrates on wider-scale projects that involve multiple governments or even federal land. The bill also focuses on increasing the permanent workforce involved in these efforts, that is what raising the amount of funds the forest service can spend on administrative costs and allow permanent hires is about. Remember that these are one-time funds, while state infrastructure is a permanent thing: if you go out and hire 50 people this year you’ve got to be able to pay them next year when the stimulus money is gone. Moving the money into the emergency fund is preparing for this summer, those are the funds the state taps to fight active fires.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • There isn’t enough capacity building in this bill—as Arguments For points out, we couldn’t do all the mitigation needed even with unlimited funds because of lack of people. So let’s mandate hiring those people and set targets for the mitigation arm of the state to build a large permanent capacity. It will be money well spent to avoid spending hundreds of millions of dollars fighting the fires after they are out of control. Yes we’ve spent quite a bit in this area in multiple bills in this session, but we could do even more

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-258

SB21-262 Special District Transparency (Zenzinger (D), Gardner (R)) [Bird (D), McKean (R)]

PASSED

AMENDED: Moderate

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

Increase transparency requirements for special districts, in particular metropolitan districts, by requiring an up-to-date website that includes financial information and the district map, changing the annual report requirement for districts from opt-in to opt-out from their host county, and require more information to be given to new home buyers about the district and how it may affect them. Also tweaks notice requirements for nominations for elections by giving more options and requires districts to obtain professional certification that work done for pay was reasonably priced and completely correctly.

Description:

Requires metropolitan special districts to maintain websites that are readily accessible to the public. Website must contain names, terms, and contact information for the current directors of the district and of the manager (if applicable), current fiscal year budget (including amendments), prior year’s audited financial statements, annual report of the district, date and time and location of scheduled meetings for the year (by January 30), if required by law call for nominations at least 75 days prior to district elections, official results of elections within 30 days, and a map depicting current boundaries of the district. Districts that serve the same community can use one consolidated website. Districts that are inactive or don’t have the power to impose property tax are not required to do this.

Requires all special districts to file annual reports with the governing body with jurisdiction over them (previously was by request of county commissioners, this flips it around so that county commissioners can waive the requirement). Report must include any boundary changes made to the district, intergovernmental agreements the district entered into, access information to obtain a copy of rules and regulations adopted by the district, a summary of litigation involving public improvements owned by the district, status of construction of those improvements, list of facilities or improvements constructed by the district that it gave to cities or counties, assessed value of the district, current year’s budget, last year’s audited financial statements, notice of any unsecured defaults that exist for more than 90 days, and any inability to pay debt that continues beyond a 90 day period. Again districts that serve the same community can use one consolidated report and again inactive districts are not required to file a report.

Requires districts to obtain a written certification from a professional engineer for any contracts or agreements with private entities or people that involve exchanging money for design or construction of public improvements for the district prior to payment. The certification must state that the costs are reasonable, construction is in substantial compliance with the plans and construction standards, and the improvements are fit for their intended purpose.

Changes the public notice for nominations for elections in a special district from requiring them to be published to requiring them to be made public in the old public newspaper method and at least two one of the following ways: old publication in newspapers method; mailing the notice to each household in the district 150 days before election (can use e-mail if the district has it); including the notice as a prominent part of a newsletter, annual report, billing insert, billing statement, letter, voter information card, or other notice of election or other informational mailing sent to electors in the district; posting the information on the district website if there is a link to that website on the state website; or for districts with fewer than 1,000 voters in a county with less than 30,000 people, putting the notice in at least three public places inside the district and in the clerk and recorder’s office in the county.

Requires anyone who sells property in a special district that includes a newly constructed residence to provide the buyers with a copy of the most recent notice to voters from the district (this notice is an already existing requirement for districts), the service plan or statement of purpose for the district, a statement of how much debt the district is allowed to issue and that the debt may be repaid through taxes on district residents, the maximum amount of property taxes the district is allowed to levy to repay its debts and how this is adjusted, an estimate of the property taxes the district will collect for the current year, and a copy of the most current county assessor’s property tax certificate for the property. Property tax estimate is to assume purchase price is value of property and comes with a disclaimer that it is just an estimate.

Clarifies that metropolitan districts cannot exercise their right of eminent domain outside the district boundaries without a written resolution approving the action from the district’s governing body.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • This is mostly about increased transparency of district operations, by requiring a website and making annual reports an opt-out on the county level rather than opt-in (as well as requiring more detailed information in those reports). The public notice for elections was a bit outdated, this should serve better. We certainly want to make sure new home owners in these districts are aware of the district operations and how it may affect them. And it is just good governance to make sure these districts aren’t deliberately or accidentally misusing their funds for projects that are either vastly inflated in price or don’t meet the contract requirements

Arguments Against: n/a

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-262

SB21-266 Revisor's Bill (Gardner (R), Lee (D)) [Weissman (D), Soper (R)]

TECHNICAL BILL

PASSED

Description:

Non-substantive changes to state laws to make them clearer and remove obsolete provisions.

SB21-283 Cash Fund Solvency (Moreno (D)) [McCluskie (D)]

From the Joint Budget Committee

PASSED

Appropriation: $4.3 million
Fiscal Impact: None beyond appropriation

Goal:

Create a reserve fund in the state that can be used by fee-generated funds as a backstop if the fund is going to run a deficit. Transfers $3.1 million into the fund. Also repays the marijuana cash fund to avoid a deficit there.

Description:

Creates the Cash Solvency Fund, which is designed as a backstop against other funds that may run a deficit unless fees are increased or a loan is made. In order to qualify for funds from the solvency fund a fund’s primary source of revenue must be fees and it must have a significant decrease in fees collected. State comptroller is to control the fund and set agreements for paying the money back, which can occur over multiple fiscal years. Bill transfer $3.1 million into the fund.

The bill also transfers $1.9 million from the marijuana tax cash fund and $1.2 million from the general fund to the marijuana cash fund to avoid a deficit and repay money taken out of the fund.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • This is just good government. Some fee funded programs use multi-year licensing or service periods so that they only charge an entity every few years, which makes their collections potentially extremely uneven and the fund prone to shortages during off-peak years. COVID has made this situation worse. Rather than short-term fee increases or loans, it makes much more sense to just have a reserve fund for this purpose. That is what the bill does

Arguments Against: n/a

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-283

SB21-284 Evidence-based Evaluations For Budget (Hansen (D), Rankin (R)) [Herod (D), Larson (R)]

From the Joint Budget Committee

PASSED

Appropriation: $41,245
Fiscal Impact: About $130,000 a year

Goal:

Set terms for levels of confidence in the efficacy or lack of efficacy of programs or practices that the state must use when evaluating these programs or practices during the budgeting process if, and only if, an evidence-based evaluation is included. These range from proven (high confidence) to evidence-based (moderate confidence) to theory-informed (low-mid confidence) to opinion-based (low confidence or no data).

Description:

Requires that anytime a state agency or the office of state planning and budgeting includes an evidence-based evaluation of a program or practice in a budget request or a budget amendment request, that they use the definitions created by the bill.

To describe something as evidence-based, a program or practice must reflect a moderate, supported, or promising level of confidence in the evaluation of the program (good or bad) as determined by evaluation with a comparison group, multiple pre- and post-evaluations, or an equivalent measure. A program can be described as proven (one step up) if it reflects a high or well-supported level of confidence in evaluation as determined by one or more high-quality randomized control trials, multiple evaluations with strong comparison groups, or an equivalent measure. If a program has moderate to low levels of confidence in evaluation based on pre- and post-intervention evaluation of program outcomes, evaluation of program outputs, identification of and implementation of a theory of change, or equivalent measures than the program is theory-informed. If it has low levels of confidence based on satisfaction surveys, personal experience, or if there is no evidence at all, then it is opinion-based.

The bill also requires the state office of planning and budgeting to provide any research that supports increases or decreases in program funding, continuation, expansion or contraction and information on how the evidence referenced was used in the development of the budget request. The joint budget committee staff is to independently analyze these submissions and include their analysis in their recommendations. Bill appropriates $41,245 for the joint budget committee to fund these efforts.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • Words matter and having a single standard of reference when we discuss programs or practices is important so that when one program comes in with a request for an increase in their budget and claims it is because their program is evidence-based or proven or whatever, we have a common language with which to interpret those claims. We want to spend our taxpayer money as wisely as possible and this will help. This in no way shape or form precludes spending money on something that has no evidence (opinion-based in the bill’s terminology), sometimes we spend money on promising ideas in the hopes that we are proven correct. It does not preclude spending money on expanding a program if the only evidence we have is that the outcomes are better with the new program than they were before (theory-informed). It doesn’t force us to spend money on a proven program either. And it does not force us to evaluate every program in this manner. It just gives us more tools to make these decisions in an informed manner

Arguments Against: n/a

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-284

SB21-288 American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 Cash Fund (Moreno (D), Rankin (R)) [Esgar (D), A. Valdez (D)]

SIGNED INTO LAW

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None (we are getting the money regardless)

Goal:

Creates a fund in the state government to house federal stimulus money from the American rescue act, except for $380 million that is already designated for transportation. Transfers $3.4 billion into the fund (federal money).

Description:

Creates a fund in the state government to house federal stimulus money from the American rescue act, except for $380 million that is already designated for transportation. Transfers $3.4 billion into the fund (federal money). Transfers from the fund to the general fund are prohibited, only transfers into other funds designated for federal recovery act money. Money can be spent from the fund only for purposes approved by the federal recovery act (there are a lot of stipulations on how states can spend this money).

All money must be spent or obligated by the end of 2024. Any money left at that point gets transferred to the state’s unemployment fund (which is currently over $1 billion in the red).

State comptroller is to establish compliance requirements for money coming out of the fund and require repayment into the fund for any spending that does not meet compliance. Must report annually to the legislature on money coming out of the fund, including program performance evaluation.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: July 2027

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • This is mostly just an accounting procedure. We need a place to house these federal funds and a way to ensure we are only spending federal funds on things we are allowed to do so. The $380 million in transportation is already accounted for in SB260. If we can’t find something to spend the money on, it is natural to put into the deeply in debt unemployment insurance fund

Arguments Against: n/a

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-288

SB21-289 Revenue Loss Restoration Cash Fund (Moreno (D), Rankin (R)) [Herod (D), Bird (D)]

PASSED

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None (we get this money regardless and the bill doesn’t actually spend any of it)

Goal:

Create a fund to hold the $1 billion of federal stimulus money that represents the state’s revenue loss from COVID, which has wider spending latitude than the rest of the federal stimulus money. $357 million can be spent this year, then $333 million next year, and $310 million in 2023-24. Money can be spend out of the fund for: K-12 education, housing, state employees, asset maintenance, seniors, criminal justice, state parks, agriculture, and transportation infrastructure.

Description:

Creates the Revenue Loss Restoration Cash Fund and appropriates $1 billion of federal stimulus money into the fund. This is the amount that represents the state’s revenue loss from COVID, calculated using federal guidelines. This is important because the things you are allowed by the federal American recovery act to spend money on are in part defined by if the money is a revenue backfill, like this bill, or not (where it is much more limited).

$357 million of the $1 billion is allocated for this year, $333 million for next year, and $310 million for 2023-24. Money can be spend out of the fund for: K-12 education, housing, state employees, asset maintenance, seniors, criminal justice, state parks, agriculture, and transportation infrastructure. Beginning in 2022 money can only be spent out of this fund through the budget bill or supplemental budget bills. So no individual stand-alone bills can take money out of the fund.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • It makes sense to maximize our use of the more flexible revenue replacement funds. It also makes sense to spread this money out over several years, as we already are flush with cash this year and frankly probably couldn’t spend $1 billion on one-time uses very well if we tried without causing problems down the road. This is also not a slush fund for people to raid whenever they need money for their bill: keeping appropriations in the budget process keeps the reins tight and ensures we are meeting federal guidelines and spending the money wisely. The decision on the state unemployment fund can also wait a few years, as increased taxes won’t kick in on businesses until then, and you can also argue that the remaining $2+ billion of federal stimulus is also a better place to use funds for unemployment as that is one of the allowed purposes of the remaining spending

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • This may not be a generally available slush fund but it still functions as one for the budget process. This is one of the places where we could make a massive investment in our K-12 teachers by filling the bonus fund that another bill floating around in this session creates

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-289