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A look at the big wins on the final week of session 

Last-minute Leg

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Everyone knew that the Colorado legislative session that wrapped up May 3 was going to be one for the record books. With a Democratic governor, and progressives controlling both the House and Senate by comfortable margins, Republicans’ sole powers were compromise and stalling. The latter proved especially useful in slowing, and ultimately stifling, some of the legislative priorities of the majority party.

Republicans debated and amended bills expressly in an effort to slow the process, and asked that bills be read at full length, including the long bill, or budget bill.

During the session, Senate Democrats attempted to dodge stalling Republicans by fulfilling a requirement to read a bill in full when requested by using a speed-reading computer. A Denver district judge ruled that violated the state Constitution. Now, House Republicans and anti-gun control group Rocky Mountain Gun Owners are suing to undo the state’s new red-flag law — which allows firearms to be removed temporarily from someone found to be a danger to themselves or others — on the grounds that the bill was not read in the manner the Constitution requires. 

Meanwhile, in the final days of the legislative session, lawmakers still had some 200 bills under consideration. The Senate made some highly unusual moves — working on a weekend and staying in session overnight from April 29 to April 30 in a desperate attempt to ram through more high-priority bills. There was even talk of a special session, though the governor had ruled out that possibility by the end of the day on May 3.

And some bills didn’t make it — notably a bid to make it harder for parents to enroll unvaccinated kids in public schools and a bid to allow communities to impose rent-control measures.

So what was achieved? Here’s a look at what made it through.

Senate Bill 188

“FAMLI Family Medical Leave Insurance Program” aimed to set up paid family and medical leave statewide, but the bill was rewritten mid-session to achieve a less lofty goal: establishing a series of studies into how the state should develop an insurance fund for paid leave. The bill passed May 1.

House Bill 1174

“Out-of-network Health Care Services” requires insurance carriers, health care providers and hospitals to disclose the costs of receiving care from an out-of-network provider or facility. 

It’s meant to combat surprise medical bills incurred when a patient unknowingly receives care not covered by insurance. Sen. Bob Gardner of Colorado Springs was among the bill’s sponsors. It passed May 2.

click to enlarge HB1261 aims to reduce pollution. - SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
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  • HB1261 aims to reduce pollution.

House Bill 1261

“Climate Action Plan To Reduce Pollution” sets statewide greenhouse gas pollution-reduction goals. They are to reduce: 2025 greenhouse gas emissions by at least 26 percent, 2030 emissions by at least 50 percent, and 2050 emissions by at least 90 percent. The reductions are based on emissions from 2005. Notably, the bill sets goals, not standards — a preference of Gov. Jared Polis. It passed May 1.

House Bill 1262

“State Funding For Full-day Kindergarten” was a top priority of Polis’. While the budget bill set aside $175 million for the state’s move to fund full-day kindergarten statewide, this bill clarifies how schools are to use the funds. It passed on April 30.

House Bill 1032

“Comprehensive Human Sexuality Education,” was heavily amended after facing opposition, mostly from religious organizations. The bill, which sets standards for public schools that choose to offer sex education classes, now focuses on consent education. The bill also gives $1 million to kickstart a grant program, which will help fund sex ed programs in rural schools and schools currently without such programming. It passed May 3.

Senate Bill 007

“Prevent Sexual Misconduct At Higher Ed Campuses” requires higher education campuses to adopt policies on sexual misconduct based on minimum requirements set out in the bill. It provides for oversight and requires training on the policies. The bill passed May 2.

House Bill 1230

The “Marijuana Hospitality Establishments” bill allows “retail cannabis hospitality and sales establishments,” where customers can buy, sample and consume cannabis on-site. Licensed establishments can even get an exception to the Clean Air Act that will allow smoking indoors, not just vaping. The bill also legalizes “cannabis hospitality spaces,” where it will be legal to smoke marijuana but not buy or sell it (think hotel lounges, cafés, or book stores where patrons bring their own weed). And it clarifies policy for mobile cannabis tours. It passed May 2.

click to enlarge Lawmakers made vaping devices subject to the Colorado Clean Indoor Air Act. - SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
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  • Lawmakers made vaping devices subject to the Colorado Clean Indoor Air Act.

House Bill 1076

This bipartisan bill makes e-cigarettes and THC vaping devices subject to the Colorado Clean Indoor Air Act, which prohibits smoking indoors in public spaces. It also increases the required smoke-free radius from 15 to 25 feet outside a building entryway. The bill passed May 2.

Senate Bill 235

“Automatic Voter Registration” registers citizens to vote when they get a driver’s license or state ID or apply for Medicaid. Thus, rather than opting to register to vote, a citizen would have to opt not to. It passed May 2.

Senate Bill 232

“Campaign Finance Enforcement” codifies the rules put in place after a U.S. District Court judge determined in 2018 that Colorado’s campaign finance enforcement system (created through a ballot initiative) was unconstitutional. The rules include procedures for filing, reviewing and investigating complaints of unfair campaign practices. The bill passed May 2.

House Bill 1318

“The Clean Campaign Act of 2019” prohibits foreign governments and corporations, as well as any person who is not an American citizen, from contributing to state election campaigns. It also requires “Paid for by” disclosures on campaign communications, and tightens rules related to independent expenditure committees, or IECs, that raise money for political candidates before they officially declare an intent to run for office. It passed May 3.

House Bill 1279

This bill prohibits the use of firefighting foam that contains certain toxic, man-made chemicals — those classified as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, better known as PFAS — for training purposes. It also bans companies from manufacturing, selling or distributing the foam except in certain circumstances, including required use by the military. Sponsored by El Paso County lawmakers, the bipartisan bill passed May 2.

House Bill 1085

This bill expands a program providing people with disabilities and seniors with help paying rent, property taxes and energy bills. Rep. Tony Exum, D-Colorado Springs, was a prime sponsor. It passed May 2.

House Bill 1257

The bill asks voters whether the state can retain and spend revenues above the spending cap dictated by the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR). It passed April 29.

House Bill 1210

“Local Government Minimum Wage” allows a local government to set a minimum wage higher than the state’s for their jurisdiction. It passed May 3.

House Bill 1269

This bill bolsters enforcement of parity laws for both commercial insurers and the state’s Medicaid system. The goal: Make sure Coloradans can get mental health and substance-use help just as easily as physical treatment. Sen. Bob Gardner, R-Colorado Springs, was among the bill’s prime sponsors. It passed April 29. 

House Bill 1327

This bill refers a ballot measure to Colorado voters to authorize and tax sports betting. The ballot measure asks voters (as required by TABOR) whether sports betting can be taxed at a rate of 10 percent to fund state water projects. The bill passed May 3.

- None of the above bills have yet been signed into law by Gov. Jared Polis as of this writing.

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