In broad strokes, here’s what the first session of the 72nd General Assembly looked like. Democrats held a majority in both chambers, the Governor’s Office and all of the statewide offices. They took very little time in showing they were going make hay while the sun shined.
Environmental bills were everywhere and passing with regularity. At first glance the environmental legislation may have appeared random, given the number of bills and various sponsors, but they all work together for the same common goal. Even the PUC Sunset bill, which was renewed for 11 more years, more than doubled in length with the addition of a huge carbon and environmental piece.
That, combined with the Governor’s appointments, which were more than normal due to his willingness to remove Governor Hickenlooper’s more moderate appointees to install his green agenda people, will change the face of industry in Colorado, reduce employment in many rural counties and add millions of dollars to the budget in new programs and regulations.
Attempts were made, and we hope successfully, to reduce the cost of health care and the cost of health insurance, particularly in rural Colorado, where rural folks can pay twice as much for health insurance as their urban counterparts.
Criminal justice was also worthy of much legislation. Penalties were lowered for minor drug possession, bail can be waived for some offenses, and it is much easier to seal a criminal record for many offenses than it used to be.
Free-full-day kindergarten was passed at a cost of about $178 million, the IOU to education was paid down another $100 million, and so many grant programs were approved for the education system than you can’t keep track of them without an Excel spreadsheet.
Sex education was approved in a much amended form on the last day, one of those cases where you vote for the amendment but against the final version of the bill. Most of the education bills were a case of 100 legislators deciding they will impose their will on 178 locally elected school boards around the state.
Good news that transportation ended up with $300 million; $36 million less than the stated goal of the Republicans on opening day but still a substantial amount.
Unions won big, except for unionizing state employees, which was killed in the House Appropriations Committee. The unions were able to add language to existing bills that favored their members by narrowing the definition of qualifications to perform any number of tasks from solar panel installation to plumbing inspections and include apprenticeship requirements in others.
I welcome your thoughts and comments and will try to stay in touch while we are not in session. Feel free to contact me. My office phone is 303-866-4877.