When things get crazy here at the Capitol, the following lines from one of George Jones’ hit songs come to mind: “Well, the race is on … and the winner loses all.”
We recessed in mid-March and reconvened May 26 with the commitment to only deal with bills on the calendar that were “fast, free and friendly.”
Well, the race has been on with the dust flying to get everything finished, but somehow 65 brand new House bills and 19 brand new Senate bills have managed to slip through the dust and sneak into the process.
The only two required bills were HB 20-1360 (the state budget) and HB 20-1418 (the School Finance Bill). All the other bills had to get late bill status, which means the majority party has to give permission for late bills to be filed.
Many of the bills were needed to balance the depleted budget, but about 40 of them were agenda bills.
Surprise. Most of those late bills were Democrat bills. The Republicans argued against agenda issues for long hours, but the outcome was predetermined; votes count.
Speaking of bills, several of my bills which were filed before the recess were still alive when the dust cleared.
Bills dealing with early childhood (HB 20-1053), opioid addiction (SB 20-007), professional educator training (SB 20-158), private investigator licensing (HB 20-1207), The Colorado Imagination Library Program (SB 20-185) and even a resolution to put improvement of nonprofit bingo on the ballot (HCR 20-1001), are still moving through the system. Good legislation is still good legislation.
Speaking of good legislation, whether you feel the 2020 School Finance Bill (HB 20-1418) is good or bad legislation, will depend upon your perspective.
For the first time in my eight years here at the Capitol, I voted against a school finance bill. As I mentioned last week, tucked away within the 40 pages is a section increasing mill levies, then giving a tax credit equal to the increase, thus no increase, in taxes. However, the Legislature is allowed to withdraw the tax credits at a future date. The result? Taxes could be increased without a vote of the people.
I have eight school districts in HD 60. Canon City is the only one which would not be affected by a mill levy increase they are already at the maximum of 27 mills.
However, my other seven school districts would face mill levy increases ranging from 4.1 mills (15.2 percent) to 11.8 mills (77.6 percent).
Combine those increases with cuts in school funding and the Democrats HB 20-1420 “Adjustment of Certain State Tax Expenditures,” (which would hammer small business owners), and you have a perfect storm of financial stress in rural communities.
The Senate severely amended HB 20-1420, but it appears it is still going to pass. School districts will be cutting programs and people, while their communities are experiencing tax increases. Even Canon City will not be exempt from the “Adjustment of Certain State Tax Expenditures.”
The “Law Enforcement Integrity Act” (SB 20-217) passed out of the Senate on a 32-1 vote and has moved on to the House. The original bill, which contained such things as $100,000 individual personal liability for officers and body cam recordings of crime scenes, suicides, interviews, was heavily amended before it cleared the Senate.
The final House vote on the bill was 52-13. The House amendments will have to be approved by the Senate. The final version retained the accountability requirements while many of the onerous overreaching restrictions were modified.
I supported the amended bill. Hopefully, our good law enforcement officers will choose to stay in Colorado.
One miracle that seems to be rising out of the dust and ashes of all the political wrangling is the Senior Homestead Exemption. Because it carried a $163 million price tag, it was assumed to be dead in the water. But it survived the gauntlet.
House Republicans argued long and hard for full funding of K-12 education and the retention of the exemption on behalf of seniors and veterans.
Miraculously, even in the face of a $3.3 billion budget deficit, money was found to keep the exemption. It is amazing what can be accomplished if no one cares who gets the credit.
In my eight years in the Legislature (2013 to the present) the total number of bills has been 613, 621, 682, 685, 681+, 720+, 587 and 651 during this historic split session.
We thought we might finish up the 72nd General Assembly last Saturday, but it was not to be. The House had cleared its calendar, but the Senate argued late on Saturday over the “Adjustment of Certain State Tax Expenditures” and the bill to put a tax increase on tobacco on the ballot this fall. So, we had to return on Monday.
Be sure to check out this “Takin’ It To The House…” column next week for (hopefully) the final wrap-up of the 72nd General Assembly.