2020 Legislative Wrap-Up - July 6, 2020
Legislative Action Committee Members
Jeanette Abelman, Education
Frank Bennett, Behavioral Health
Fern Black, Government Administration, Judiciary
Gerry Cummins, Ballot Issues
Jo Feder, Housing, Income Assistance
Jean Fredlund, Gun Safety, Death Penalty, Civil Rights
Harry Hempy, LWVCO Newsletter Editor
Jeannette Hillery, Water, Recycling, Land Use
Toni Larson, LWVCO Director of Action & Advocacy
Peggy Leech, Elections, Voting
Cameron Manning, LWVCO Operations Manager & Newsletter Web Publisher
Holly Monkman, Elections, Voting
Carol Pace, Health Care
Amy Sherwood, Environment, Natural Resources
Kathy Smith, Housing, Renter Protections
Linda Sorauf, Elections, Voting
Ann Sutton, Environment, Prescription Drugs, Transportation
Debby Vink, Natural Resources, Family Leave
Gaythia Weis, Voting Methods, Health Care, Environment
Andrea Wilkins, LWVCO Legislative Liaison
The LWVCO Legislative Action Committee (LAC) convened on a bi-weekly basis for the first half of the 2020 legislative session, until the General Assembly was forced to temporarily adjourn on March 14 due to public health concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 300 bills were pending at the time of the adjournment. We resumed our meetings via Zoom after the legislature reconvened on May 26.
In total, LAC followed more than 100 bills this session, providing testimony, speaking with legislators, following the budget deliberations, attending stakeholder meetings, and issuing action alerts on priority bills to mobilize our membership. A full list of the bills LAC followed this session, with information on position taken, tracking information, and bill status, can be accessed below.
Once the economic impact of the stay-at-home orders started to emerge, intense focus was devoted to balancing the budget and finding ways to recover the economy. The Joint Budget Committee was forced to make dramatic cuts to the budget to account for a projected $3.3 billion revenue shortfall resulting from the economic shutdown and skyrocketing demand for state services such as unemployment payments. The fiscal crisis resulted in many bills being postponed indefinitely due to a lack of funding to support new programs or services. As a result, several of the bills LAC supported during the early stages of the legislative session did not move forward.
Ultimately, at least 59 bills died without final action and more than 250 were postponed indefinitely. Other measures were able to pass setting new policy, but without a corresponding appropriation. And still other measures were developed and approved late in the session to address urgent issues that arose from the COVID-19 pandemic, the fiscal crisis, and the nationwide demand for action for police reform. Surprisingly, more than 650 bills were introduced in 2020 compared to 598 bills in 2019, despite the fact that there were 36 fewer days in session this year.
The final days of the 2020 legislative session were heavily focused on addressing budget issues and development of a variety of new measures aimed at generating badly needed revenue for the state’s general fund, as policymakers struggled to establish a path toward economic recovery.
The state budget, HB20-1360 The 2020-21 Long Bill, was passed on June 12 and included cuts across state government to compensate for the $3 billion shortfall.
The $30.3 billion budget represents a 25% reduction over the current year’s operating budget. Some of the biggest cuts were made to K-12 education and higher education. Federal stimulus payments are helping with some of the budget shortfall and the June revenue forecast indicates that more revenue may become available than initially anticipated, largely as a result of the elimination of certain tax breaks, though significant shortfalls will remain for FY 2021-22. The June revenue forecast was presented to Joint Budget Committee on June 19 and slides from the presentation can be accessed here.
Given the deeply concerning fiscal reality in the state, the General Assembly passed several bills in the final days of the session aimed at generating revenue. These include:
HB20-1420 – Adjust Tax Expenditures for State Education Fund eliminates certain tax breaks for businesses to generate revenue in FY 2020-21 and FY 2021-22 for K-12 education and will extend the state Earned Income Tax Credit to many people who were not eligible before, including undocumented people.
HB20-1427 – Cigarette Tobacco and Nicotine Products Tax is a referred measure that will ask voters to raise taxes on cigarettes and implement a tax on vaping products.
SCR 001 – Repeal Property Tax Assessment Rates is another referred measure that will ask voters to repeal the Gallagher amendment, which restricts the amount state and local government can generate in property taxes. A companion measure, SB20-223 Assessment Rate Moratorium, will freeze assessment rates on any class of property beginning with tax year 2020, contingent on voter approval of SCR 001.
HB20-1418 – Public School Finance Act sets funding levels for Colorado's 178 school districts. Due to the current budget shortfall, funding for K-12 education was cut significantly, resulting in a nearly 15% reduction in state spending on education. In an effort to correct Colorado’s long-standing education funding challenges, this bill includes a mechanism for changing school district property taxes throughout the state, shifting more of the cost of K-12 education to school districts and local taxpayers.
A more extensive discussion of these revenue generating bills can be found in the Education, Fiscal Policy, and Initiatives and Referred Ballot Measures sections below.
Other major legislation to pass in the final days was SB20-217 Enhance Law Enforcement Integrity. This bill was introduced following the outrage in Colorado and the U.S. more broadly following the death of George Floyd and other Black Americans killed by deadly police force. Protests surrounded the Capitol building for several days and at times resulted in damage to the buildings that comprise the Capitol complex and downtown businesses. SB 217 had significant bi-partisan support and bans chokeholds, changes the way officers can use deadly force, requires use of body cameras, and allows officers to be sued in an individual capacity. A more detailed discussion of the bill can be found in the Citizens’ Rights section below.
Finally, as we look ahead to next session, we expect to continue work on many bills that had to be abandoned this session, though the state’s fiscal challenges will remain. The 2021 Legislative session will convene on January 13.
Holly Monkman, Linda Sorauf
The League supported HB20-1081 Multilingual Ballot Access which was postponed indefinitely at the request of the Senate sponsor. The bill would have expanded on the federal Voting Rights Act by requiring counties to provide multilingual ballots when a county’s population has 2,000 people or 2.5% of the population that speak a minority language and do not speak English fluently. Currently 4 counties provide multilingual ballots and the bill would have resulted in 22 counties meeting the requirement for multilingual ballots. It had already passed the House. The League has long supported extending the Voting Rights Act and expanding its coverage of language minorities.
Holly Monkman, Linda Sorauf
Several bills were passed in 2020 to improve elections! The successful bills, supported by the League, include the following:
HB20-1066 Contribution Limits School District Director Candidate establishes contribution limits for School District candidates. This plugs a gap that was left open while contributions to other campaigns were limited.
HB20-1010 Accurate Residency for Redistricting requires that Colorado prisons report the home address of inmates for the purposes of redistricting. This is important as people need to be represented at their home addresses not at their temporary prison address, which averages about 3 years and often as little as a few months.
HB20-1156 CO Colorado Municipal Election Code Administrative Modifications was a clean-up bill changing various parts of the Colorado Municipal Election Code to keep the code in compliance with federal code.
HB20-1132 County Reimbursement for Election Supplies was another clean-up bill related to last year’s bill HB19-1278 which provided grants to counties purchasing election supplies and voting equipment by expanding the definition of voting equipment to include laptops, tablets, servers & printers which are necessary for setting up additional Voter Service and Polling Centers (VSPCs).
Redistricting Legislative and Congressional Districts
SB20-186 Concerning the Independent Redistricting Commissions in Colorado adjusts the former redistricting legislation to conform with the Colorado Constitutional amendment passed by the voters in November 2018. It also corrects a clerical misprint. A total of $2,000,000.00 is transferred to the Legislative Cash Fund to two newly created accounts, the Congressional Redistricting Account and the Legislative Redistricting Account within the fund. The money will be used to run and manage the two commissions. No appropriation is required since money in the Legislative Cash Fund is continuously appropriated to the Executive Committee of the Legislative Council to pay for the expenses of the Legislative Department. The legislation takes effect August 5, 2020, just in time for the legislative staff to develop the required application.
Missing from the anticipated costs of funding the two commissions is money for outreach. This is of concern to supporters of the constitutional amendment and the redistricting process, including the League of Women Voters. Private parties, including the League, will be called upon to do what is necessary to publicize the application process and the public participation in various hearings.
Initiatives and Referred Ballot Measures
The Colorado General Assembly referred three measures to the voters for their consideration in November 2020:
HB20-1427 Cigarette Tobacco and Nicotine Products Tax
This bill gradually increases the taxes on a pack of cigarettes to $2.64 by July of 2027 from the current 84 cents per pack and gradually imposes a new tax on nicotine products such as vaping devices over the next seven years. If it passes in November, the measure is estimated to raise $82.7 million in FY 2020-21 and $167.6 million in FY 2021-22 for the general fund and then starting in 2023, money generated will support an expansion of the Colorado Preschool Program.
SCR 001 Repeal Property Tax Assessment Rates
Senate Concurrent Resolution 001 asks the voters to repeal the requirement created by the Gallagher Amendment that the general assembly periodically change the residential assessment rate in order to maintain the statewide proportion of residential property as compared to all other taxable property valued for property tax purposes and repeal the nonresidential property tax assessment rate of twenty-nine percent.
SB 223 is companion legislation. The bill only takes effect if the voters statewide approve the repeal of the Gallagher Amendment related to the ratio of valuation for assessment for residential property and nonresidential property set forth in Senate Concurrent Resolution 20-001. Section 1 of the bill states that beginning with the property tax year that begins on January 1, 2020, there is a moratorium on changing the ratio of valuation for assessment for any class of property. Remaining sections make conforming amendments to reflect the provisions repealed.
HCR 1001, Conduct of Charitable Gaming Activities (Bingo/Raffles) to allow paid help and amend 5-Year Requirement
HCR 1001 asks voters to approve an amendment concerning the conduct of charitable gaming activities by allowing bingo-raffle licensees to hire managers and operators of games and reducing the required period from five years to three years of continuous existence of a charitable organization before obtaining a charitable gaming license.
Citizen Initiativesthat have qualified for the ballot as of June 29, 2020 include:
National Popular Vote
The National Popular Vote was passed a year ago (SB19-042) without the safety clause. A citizen group petitioned to refer it to the ballot.
The ballot question will ask voters to adopt an agreement among states to elect the President of the United States by National Popular Vote.
Citizenship Qualifications of Electors
Changes the language from “Every Citizen” to “ONLY A CITIZEN” of the United States who has attained the age of 18-years, has resided in this state for such time as prescribed by law and has been duly registered as a voter if required by law shall be qualified to vote at all elections.
Restoration of Gray Wolves in Colorado
This proposal would require the re-introduction of gray wolves on designated lands west of the continental divide, public input in commission development of restoration plan, and compensation to owners of livestock.
Prohibitions on Late-Term Abortions
Currently an abortion can be performed at any time during pregnancy. This proposal would prohibit abortion after 22 weeks of gestational age of the fetus.
SB20-217 Enhance Law Enforcement Integrity. This very important bill was the most comprehensive police accountability law passed in the country following the murder of George Floyd. Provisions of the law include:
Body cameras - All police officers and sheriff’s deputies will be required to wear body cameras when they make stops and during most interactions with the public
Use of force
- chokeholds and carotid control holds are banned
– An officer is only able to use deadly force if there is an imminent threat of the person using a weapon as part of their escape
Failure to intervene
- An officer who fails to try to stop another from using excessive force could face a class 1 misdemeanor or greater charge
– An officer can be sued individually for misconduct up to $25,000Police prosecution – The Attorney General has the power to investigate police departments for civil rights violationsProtesters protection
- Officers must announce the use of tear gas and give adequate time for people to disperse; targeting rubber/foam bullets to head, torso or back is prohibited
– Make permanent POST (Police Officer Standards and Training) board decertification for officer convicted of misconduct
Passage of HB20-1014 Misuse of Human Reproductive Material created a new civil cause of action and a crime if a health care provider, in the course of assisted reproduction, uses a gamete from a person without the written consent of the patient.
The League did not support the following bills that were postponed indefinitely:
HB20-1075 Protect Human Life at Conception, HB20-1068 Born Alive Child Physician Relationship, SB20 -077 Born Alive Child Physician Relationship, and HB20-1098Prohibition On Abortion After Twenty-two Weeks.
However, Initiative 120, an abortion ban at 22 weeks, gathered enough signatures to appear on the November 2020 ballot. This initiative was granted an extension of time for signature gathering by a Denver District judge because of difficulties created by the statewide stay at home order, due to the COVID-19 epidemic.
Ann Sutton, Holly Monkman
Maintenance and improvements to Colorado’s transportation infrastructure is estimated to require between $7-9 billion. Legislative objectives at the beginning of the session included making regional funding of transportation projects easier, modernizing modes of travel, and greater use of technologies. Some progress was made toward these objectives but the shortened session caused some measures to be postponed.
SB20-017 Transportation Public-private Partnership Reporting has been signed by the Governor. The League supports this bill that directs the High-Performance Transportation Enterprise (HPTE) to provide certain specified information on each executed or proposed public-private partnership (P3) in their annual reports that are already required. Such reporting will increase public participation and result in more transparency in decision-making toward a balanced transportation system. The bill was amended to assure that state legislators and local elected officials are kept informed and updated on projects in their areas.
SB20-167 Electric Motor Vehicle Manufacturer and Dealer has been signed by the Governor. The bill allows a new exception in the current law to allow direct sales of EV to consumers without requiring sales through a dealership. The restrictions in the current law may be preventing new entrants in the EV market and additional consumer options. The League is pro-active in combatting the threat of climate change and supports measures to reduce vehicular air pollution.
The League supported HB20-1151 Expand Authority for Regional Transportation Improvements that did not pass. The bill sought an alternative approach to addressing transportation needs after many years of funding shortfalls and the rejection by voters of bond issuance, sales tax increases, and retention of funds in excess of TABOR limits.
The League supported SB20-094 Plug-in Electric Motor Vehicle registration fees. The bill was postponed indefinitely at the request of the sponsor who expressed a desire to continue to expand the conversation on moving our transportation system forward. Bill opponents were concerned that raising the fee would have an effect of discouraging EV adoption and did not directly address air pollution.
The League supported the following proposed new transportation safety rules but only one bill was successful.
SB20-061 Requirement to Yield to a Bicycle in a Bicycle Lane has been signed by the Governor. The bill created a new traffic offense for failing to yield to an authorized user of a bicycle lane. Authorized users currently include bicyclists but other modes of transportation such as e-scooters may be included in the future. Previously, the law was being applied unevenly around the state especially in regard to bicycle lanes that continue through intersections.
SB20-065 Limiting the Use of Mobile Electronic Devices While Driving was postponed indefinitely at the request of the House sponsor citing that it deserved time for vigorous debate in both the House Transportation and Judiciary Committees. It had already passed the Senate. Expect this bill to return next year.
HB20-1118 Careless Driving Serious Bodily Injury was postponed indefinitely at the request of the Senate sponsor since it required a fiscal appropriation. The bill had passed the House overwhelmingly in March. In essence, the bill expanded a charge of “serious bodily injury to a vulnerable road user” to serious bodily injury of anyone as a result of a driver’s careless driving. The existing statutes have a list of vulnerable road users that is more than a page in length.
HB20-1420 Adjust Tax Expenditures for State Education Fund changes the calculation of some tax expenditure categories to increase state revenue for two years but reduces revenue after that. The revenue obtained from this action is estimated to generate $94 million in FY 2020-21 and $32 million in FY 2021-22. The bill requires the transfer of $136 million to the State Education Fund over the next two years. The fiscal note states that for tax year 2020, the bill requires additions to the taxable income of pass-through businesses and C corporations. For the purposes of computing state taxable income, these additions effectively reverse certain expanded income tax deductions allowed under the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act).
Revenue for the state will also be reduced due to changes to the Earned Income Tax (EITC). The EITC is extended to taxpayers without valid social security numbers beginning tax year 2021 and increases the state EITC to 15 percent of the federal EITC beginning 2022.
Environmental Planning and Management
Ann Sutton, Amy Sherwood
The League celebrates Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. It recognizes the disparities and inequalities that exist regarding lives at risk due to environmental injustices. Many citizens have no option but to live in environmentally hazardous communities. The front range's EPA air quality rating was recently lowered to "serious".
Passage of SB20-201 Species Conservation Trust Fund met a statutory requirement for legislative approval of the authorized expenditures. The largest project (out of four authorized) this year is the Platte River Recovery program. The League supports decision-making for creation of a clean and healthy environment and in recognition that long-term ecological effects have greater importance than short-range problems.
The League supported two bills that were postponed indefinitely: HB20-1047 Develop Statewide Organics Management Plan was postponed in the Senate due to initial cost. HB20-1163 Manage Single Use Plastic Products was laid over in the House until December 31, 2020 due to the need for plastics for the COVID-19 pandemic.
The objective of SB20-159 Global Warming Potential for Public Project Materials was to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from construction of public projects by applying standards for maximum global warming potential for several categories of building materials. The “embodied carbon of a building” accounts for about one quarter of a building’s total lifecycle carbon emissions. The bill was laid over at second reading in the Senate.
The League supported air quality bills that all passed: HB20-1265 Increase Public Protection Air Toxic Emissions, HB20-1143 Environmental Justice Increase Environmental Fines and SB20-204 Additional Resources to Protect Air Quality. These bills will help regulators with resources to monitor industries, especially protecting communities that are disproportionately and negatively impacted.
Ann Sutton, Gaythia Weis, Amy Sherwood
The League supported HB20-1155 Higher Efficiency New Construction Residence to give new home buyers clean energy pre-wiring choices. It was signed by the governor.
The League supported several bills in the energy sector that failed to advance. In general, these bills had objectives that included promotion of renewable energy and transition from fossil fuels to clean energy.
HB20-1064 PUC Study of Community Choice Energy. We supported this bill to evaluate the wholesale, opt-out model of community choice energy (CCE) that included promotion of renewable energy and addressed availability of assistance for low-income individuals. The bill required an appropriation of $688 million and failed to advance in Appropriations.
SB20-168 Sustainable Severance & Property Tax Policies. The League supported elimination of the severance tax subsidy of coal and further incentivized transition to renewable energy (solar). Assistance to communities and workers impacted by the loss of coal-related industries would have been funded. Estimated revenue from coal severance tax was $2.9M in FY 2020 (part year) and $5.7M in FY 2021. The bill was postponed indefinitely in Appropriations at the request of the sponsor.
HB20-1059 Valuation of Energy Storage Equipment. League supported this bill to facilitate expanding renewable energy resources by providing a tax rate incentive for developing energy storage infrastructure. The Fiscal Note noted loss of local tax revenue for schools and could not estimate the impact on the state’s replacement share. The bill was postponed indefinitely in Finance.
SB20-038 Statewide Biodiesel Blend Requirement Diesel Fuel Sales, postponed indefinitely, was opposed by the League because this biodiesel bill could actually have had a negative effect on global sustainability. The conversion of cropland to fuel production can have grave ecological consequences. The vast majority of current production of liquid biofuels is based on crops that can also be used as food. One desirable element of this bill was an amendment that would have directed the Regional Air Quality Council and CDOT to consider replacement of diesel trucks and commercial vehicles manufactured before 2010, which generally have less effective pollution controls in engine designs. This, along with overall reduction in diesel vehicle use, should be a focus of future efforts.
HB20-1126 Local Control Approvals Oil and Gas Applications, postponed indefinitely, was opposed by the League since it conflicts with last year’s law, SB19-181, to regulate drilling permits based on health and safety.
This area fared better than some, mostly due to the fact that these bills required no, or very low, appropriations. Two bills that the League supported passed:
HB20-1042 Modification of Notice Requirements for Manufacturers of Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances was a clean-up bill from a previous session.
HB20-1119 Authority of the State Government to Regulate Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroakyl Substances passed at the end of the session. PFA’s as they are known are the “forever chemical” and have caused impairment to water sources in this state and across the country. More control is necessary to protect the environment.
Another bill supported by LWVCO, HB20-1069 Inspection of Water Wells, was laid over daily and died in the final days of the session. We look for the bill to be reintroduced next year with hope that there will be better protection for water systems.
The 2020 Legislative session was expected to be a banner for year for plastics and recycling legislation. However, the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in postponement of all but one bill supported by the League.
SB20-055 Expansion of Market Mechanisms for Development of End Markets was passed at the end of the session. The bill will look at how Colorado can expand markets for recycled material.
HB20-1162 Prohibit Retail Food Establishments Use of Polystyrene was postponed but is expected to be reintroduced next session.
HB20-1180 Protect Pollinators Through Pesticide Regulation, postponed indefinitely, was supported by the League. This bill would have directed the Commissioner of Agriculture, on or before March 1, 2021, to adopt rules to regulate the use of neonicotinoid pesticides and sulfoximine pesticides by classifying specific neonicotinoid pesticides and sulfoximine pesticides as restricted-use pesticides.
SB20-189 Local Government Pesticide No Preemption, postponed indefinitely, was introduced just as the COVID-19 pandemic was taking effect and LAC had not yet considered supporting it. The bill would have authorized local governments to regulate pesticide use and application. It clarified that a local government must have met the requirements of state and federal law, and it gave state courts exclusive jurisdiction to review local pesticide laws.
The League actively supported two income assistance bills that passed in the 2020 Legislative Session.
SB20-200 Implementation of CO Colorado Secure Savings Program (“Program”) will increase the amount of retirement savings by Colorado’s private sector workers. It is intended to address the problem that nearly half of all families in the United States have no retirement assets, an especially precarious predicament in this time of pandemic and economic hardship. All private employers operating in the State of Colorado would be required to have their workers participate in the Program if they don’t already provide a retirement savings program. Workers would be automatically enrolled to contribute to this retirement plan unless they opt out. The implementation of the Program is based on a bill that passed in 2019 (SB19-173) to study the feasibility and set-up of this Program, after two previous attempts in 2016 and 2018 to set up this program had failed. While it’s surprising that a bill with even a relatively small cost would pass given present financial constraints, the Program will likely be able to make use of unspent money in a TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) Federal Block grant program to Colorado that will help pay the start-up costs. The Program expects to be revenue neutral to the state within 5 years. Private financial management of the retirement funds will be recruited and overseen by the Program’s board.
SB20-029 Cost of Living Adjustment for Colorado Works Program grants families already receiving income assistance through the Colorado Works Program an additional one-time $500 payment within one month of the effective date of the bill. This payment is an attempt to help families affected by the economic downturn and to make up for the fact that basic cash assistance has not been adjusted for inflation since the program was created in 1996. The bill’s original provision to annually adjust the payments per family for inflation was dropped due to the current fiscal constraints. It is hoped the legislature will be able to make this annual adjustment for inflation in the future.
Kathy Smith, Jo Feder
The League supports measures that (1) promote equal opportunity for access to housing without discrimination, (2) ensure fair treatment under the law for all persons, and (3) provide a decent home and a suitable living environment for every American family, while protecting the rights of both tenants and landlords.
Last year the legislature passed SB19-180 Eviction Legal Defense Fund (League supported) that created the Eviction Legal Defense Fund, which expands the availability of legal representation and information for indigent tenants experiencing an eviction or at immediate risk of an eviction. Legal counsel can provide significant help to tenants and can be critical in facilitating a resolution that allows tenants to remain in their homes, arrange additional time to find another home, or keep a judgment off a tenant's record. Availability of legal counsel is especially important during the pandemic and accompanying unemployment and economic crises. At present, funding for the Eviction Legal Defense Fund comes from the state’s General Fund. In 2019-20, $750,000 in general funds were provided. The recent session allocated $600,000 from the General Fund and transferred $350,000 from federal CARES Act funding to the Eviction Legal Defense Fund. The Fund may also benefit from allocations from HB20-1427 Cigarette Tobacco and Nicotine Products Tax, which will be a ballot issue. HB20-1405 Funding for Eviction Legal Defense Fund attempted to change the funding source for the Eviction Legal Defense Fund but lost in the House Finance Committee. In this bill, an additional $30 fee on eviction filings would have been assessed and deposited into the Eviction Legal Defense Fund. There will likely be another attempt next year to change the funding source for the Eviction Legal Defense Fund to ensure its preservation during these challenging budgetary times.
Two bills specifically related to mobile home parks were passed this session. HB20-1196 Mobile Home Park Act Updates builds on legislation from last year (HB19-1309 Mobile Home Park Act Oversight; League supported) that granted the Division of Housing the authority to oversee the Mobile Home Park Act and administer a Dispute Resolution and Enforcement Program. HB20-1196 Mobile Home Park Act Updates addresses several harms identified in the Department of Regulatory Agencies' 2018 Sunrise Review on Manufactured Housing, including defining what constitutes retaliation, providing protections against arbitrary eviction and rules, requiring utility billing transparency, and increasing home owner rights to privacy. HB20-1201 Mobile Home Park Residents Opportunity To Purchase gives mobile home owners, or an association representing a majority of home owners, the opportunity to make an offer to buy the park where they live if the landlord anticipates selling the park or changing the use. This bill provides for transparency and notification of sale and requires good-faith negotiation. Resident ownership of mobile home parks is a proven strategy.
HB20-1009 Suppressing Court Records of Eviction Proceedings was an early bill that has been signed by the Governor and will become effective on December 1, 2020. It requires a court to suppress records from public access that are related to an eviction proceeding until an order granting the plaintiff possession of the premises is entered. Because a record is produced when an eviction is filed in court, the threat of filing an eviction discourages tenants from defending their rights as court records can be used in tenant screening, even when an eviction case was dismissed for being unfounded or retaliatory.
HB20-1332 Prohibit Housing Discrimination Source of Income, which passed late in the session, will become effective on January 1, 2021. It makes housing discrimination based on a person’s source of income an unfair housing practice. The source of income must be lawful and verifiable, including income from any lawful profession or occupation and from any government or private assistance, grant, or loan program. This bill includes some protections for landlords such that, if the initial payment is not made to the owner in a timely manner, the landlord may exercise any right or pursue any remedy available under law. Also, landlords with five or fewer single-family rentals and no more than five total rental units are not required to accept federal Housing Choice Vouchers.
SB20-224 Landlord Prohibitions Tenant Citizenship Status, which was passed late in the session, creates the Immigrant Tenant Protection Act. This bill prohibits a landlord from demanding, requesting, or collecting information related to a tenant's citizenship or immigration status. It does not prevent a landlord from requesting information necessary to determine or verify the financial qualifications of a prospective tenant. SB20-108 Landlord Prohibitions Tenant Citizenship Status was a similar bill that was postponed indefinitely on May 27.
HB20-1141 Fees Charged to Tenants by Landlords lost in the House Business Affairs & Labor Committee. This bill was an attempt to establish rules regarding late fees charged to tenants by landlords and to limit the amount of fees a landlord can charge. It would have prohibited a landlord from initiating eviction procedures on the sole basis of failure to pay late fees, while still allowing a landlord to recover late fees.
HB20-1035 Programs to Develop Housing Support Services was laid over. This bill aimed to build statewide capacity, particularly in rural communities, for access to supportive housing services that serve people with behavioral, mental health, and substance use disorders who have contact with the criminal or juvenile justice systems who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. It had a large fiscal note and required a FY 2020-21 appropriation of over $3.6M to multiple state agencies.
HB20-1351 Local Government Authority Promote Affordable Housing Units was postponed indefinitely. It clarified that the state prohibition on local rent control laws is not applicable to local laws that restrict rents on newly constructed or redeveloped housing so long as the local regulation provides options to the property owner or land developer, and creates alternatives to the construction of new affordable housing on the building site.
A late-session amendment was included in HB20-1427 Cigarette Tobacco and Nicotine Products Tax that will be on the November ballot. The amendment allocates $11.166M to the Housing Development Grant Fund (administered by the Division of Housing) and $500,000 to the Eviction Legal Defense Fund.
SB20-106 Consent to Shelter and Services by Homeless Youth was signed by the Governor on June 26. This bill allows homeless youth who are 15 years or older to consent, in writing, to receive shelter and services from a licensed youth shelter without parental consent. Under current law, licensed child care facilities, licensed homeless youth shelters, and licensed host family homes may provide crisis intervention and alternative residential services to homeless youth. This bill allows these facilities to provide shelter and family reconciliation services to homeless youth as well. It becomes effective 90 days after the June 15 final adjournment of the general assembly.
HB20-1122 Homeless Youth Services Act and Grant Program was laid over. This bill would have repealed, reenacted, and made updates to the Office of Homeless Youth Services in the Department of Local Affairs and would have created a new grant program. It had a large fiscal note and required an appropriation of $1.3M to the Department of Local Affairs.
HB20-1233 Basic Life Functions in Public Spaces was an early bill that lost in the House Transportation & Local Government Committee on February 26. This bill would have prohibited state and local governments from restricting a person from conducting basic life functions in a public space or from occupying a legally parked motor vehicle. It aimed to give people experiencing homelessness more flexibility in where they could spend the night.
HB20-1335 Colorado Homeless Project Contribution Tax Credit was an early bill that was postponed indefinitely in the House Transportation & Local Government Committee on May 27. This bill would have replaced and expanded a state income tax credit for contributions to enterprise zone projects meant to address homelessness. It would have decreased state revenue and increased state expenditures from FY 2020-21 through FY 2025-26.
Pandemic Economic Relief
Two housing-related COVID-19 pandemic bills were signed by the Governor on June 22. HB20-1410 COVID-19-related Housing Assistance transfers $350,000 to the Eviction Legal Defense Fund and $19.65M to the Housing Development Grant Fund (administered by the Division of Housing) from federal CARES Act funding to provide rental and mortgage assistance and guidance on other housing services. This bill allows a landlord to seek rental assistance on behalf of a tenant who has experienced financial needs due to the pandemic. HB20-1412 COVID-19 Utility Bill Payment-related Assistancecreates the Energy Outreach Colorado Low-income Energy Assistance Fund (administered by the Colorado Energy Office) and transfers in $4.8M for direct utility bill payment from federal CARES Act funding.
Jeanette Abelman, Holly Monkman
We supported nine Education bills and monitored nine. Of these eighteen bills, nine bills passed.
Because of budgetary constraints, HB20-1418 Public School Finance Act repealed several educational programs, suspended others, including some pilot programs, and reduced the capital construction assistance fund. It also diverted revenue above 40 million in marijuana excise tax into education to help with funding. The bill increased the base per pupil funding in 2020-21 by $132.08, totaling $7083.61 in per pupil funding for the next school year. The bill resets the mill levy, under certain circumstances, with respect to the 2020 property taxes.
Several bills that support teachers and early childhood professionals passed: HB20-1053 Support for Early Educator Workforce, HB20-1312 Behavioral Health Training Requirements Educator License, SB20-158 Professional Training for Educators, and HB20-1128 Educator Education Requirements for Special Education.
We followed two successful bills dealing with school curriculum, HB20-1135 Replace High School Social Studies Assessment and HB20-1336 Holocaust and Genocide Studies in Public Schools. HB20-1135 was highly supported by teacher groups. Teachers testified that the Social Studies Assessment test was not fair to minority students, that due to the time of the year the test was taken much of the material on the test had not been taught yet, that the test covered material already covered in previous years, and that the test prevented more pertinent information from being covered in the classroom. The removal of the test helps the budget as well. Holocaust and genocide studies will increase student awareness. The bill allows for funds to be contributed by the community and allows for experts in the areas of genocide and holocaust studies to provide curriculum materials to teachers
The last two Education bills followed by the League that passed are as follows:
SB20-009 Expand Adult Education Grant Program expands the existing Adult Education grant program by allowing adult education providers that partner with elementary and secondary education providers or higher education providers to apply for grants for assisting adults in basic literacy and numeracy education. Previously the pool of organizations permitted to apply for the grants was limited to those focusing on workforce development. Initially more funding was sought for the grant program, but the bill was amended to remove the funding request after the Legislative session resumed. The League supports programs focused on basic education, occupational education, and retraining when needed at any point of an individual’s working career.
SB20-185 Imagination Library was amended when the session reconvened to remove the funding request and make it subject to available appropriations. If funding becomes available, the state librarian would contract with a Colorado nonprofit organization for the implementation of the Colorado Imagination Library Program. The Imagination Library is currently operating in portions of the state via the efforts of various groups such as Rotary Clubs, Kiwanis Clubs, school districts, etc. The program mails a book once a month to a participating child from birth to 5 years old at no cost to the family.
The bills we followed that failed dealt mainly with providing support to our educators and include HB20-1007 Diverse Kindergarten through 12th Grade Educator Workforce Report, HB20-1015 Future Educator Pathways Grant Program, HB20-1016 Increase Quality in Early Childhood Education Programs, HB20-1125 Eligible Educator Supplies Tax Credit, HB20-1231 Amend Programs Addressing Educator Shortages, HB20-1235 CDE Support for Family Engagement, HB20-1357 Media Literacy Implementation, and SB20-089 Educator Pay Raise Fund. It is hard to predict, but some of these bills may have passed were it not for COVID-19 and the related fiscal crisis.
Carol Pace, Ann Sutton
Health Care bills had a promising start in the 2020 session, with several bills introduced which aimed to make health care more accessible, more affordable, and which added consumer protections. However, many bills never progressed far enough for full discussion and vetting. Disappointingly, the bills failed, as they could not be prioritized among more critical needs, given extreme revenue shortfalls as the session ended.
HB20-1008 Health Care Cost Sharing Consumer Protections offered consumer protection and increased oversight over off-grid health care plans that offered less-than-comprehensive benefits. After moving through committee, the bill stalled in the House and was laid over past end of session.
HB20-1092 Reimbursement to Federally Qualified Health Centers aimed to enhance patient access through extended telemedicine services in the Medicaid program. The bill failed in Appropriations.
SB20-022 Increase Medical Providers for Senior Citizens served older Coloradans by expanding student loan repayment options for certain geriatric practitioners, such as advanced practice nurses, who provided senior care in shortage areas. The bill moved through committee, stalled in the Senate and was laid over past end of session.
SB20-033 Allow Medicaid Buy-In After 65 was one of the few bills which passed. In a revised format the bill directs the state to apply for federal program considerations to close a coverage gap for specific older working adults with disabilities. The bill passed in the final days of the session.
HB20-1349 Colorado Affordable Health Care Option took aim at Colorado’s unaffordable individual insurance market through a plan which would require specific insurers to offer consumers a state option concurrent with their private option. The state option would have key state oversight over rate-setting, notably for hospital prices, the most expensive portion of the health care premium. A governor’s priority as well as that of many consumer organizations, the bill was caught in the legislative suspension and fiscal consequences. The bill was not acted upon in committee and failed as the session ended. Sponsors intend to bring the bill back in a future session.
As the session came to a rushed close, new bills related to the COVID-19 pandemic were passed, including: HB20-1425 Hospital Patient Visitation Rights During COVID19, a bill securing a hospital patient’s rights to a visitor, in spite of pandemic; and SB20-205 Sick Leave for Employees, a bill requiring employers to provide some paid sick leave.
Regrettably, one of the budget-balancing bills which passed was HB20-1362 Limit Increase to Medicaid Nursing Facility Rates which eliminated for the next two years a 2% per diem rate increase. At a time when senior care centers are sustaining serious pandemic-related outcomes, reduction in resources for facility and staff support does not help.
Pharmaceutical-related bills warrant a separate discussion and are summarized below.
Final passage of SB20-163 School Entry Immunization came late on June 13 after a conference committee report recommended that the bill be amended to accept a statement signed by a parent or legal guardian that a home-schooled student is exempt from immunization as a sufficient immunization record for students that also attend public school for part of the day. Both chambers re-passed the bill as amended. Earlier amendments in Senate committee clarified documentation and compliance requirements and privacy protections. The objective of the law is that all children be provided with the greatest protection from vaccine-preventable diseases by setting a goal of 95% vaccinated according to the school immunization schedule. League supports prevention of disease, health promotion and education within our health care system.
HB20-1061 Mandate Insurance for Certain HIV Medicines Dispensed by Pharmacists requires insurance carriers to cover costs of drugs for prevention of HIV infection as provided by specially trained pharmacists. CDPHE will develop statewide drug therapy protocols for pharmacists to prescribe and dispense HIV prevention drugs that will include physician referrals, lab testing, patient referrals and counseling, and follow-up care and counseling. This bill is likely to make HIV prevention more available, especially in smaller communities, and to reduce costs to patients.
The League supports the objective of HB20-1001 Nicotine Product Regulation for greater regulation and monitoring of the sale and use of nicotine products. The bill establishes licensing retailers and controls on locations of new retailers away from schools. Restrictions are imposed on nicotine product advertising directed to young students and on direct-to-consumer online sales. Further, there is a potential to increase state revenue from licensing fees and fines by at least $3.4 million in FY 2020-21 and at least $1.9 million in FY 2021.
HB20-1078 Pharmacy Benefit Management Firm Claims Payments has been signed by the Governor. The Act’s objective includes regulation of Pharmacy Benefit Management entities with respect to retroactive denial of clean claims and also sets a minimum reimbursement of $4 on drug dispensing fees. Pharmacies have been experiencing “claw back” on reimbursements, without explanation, often up to a year after initial claim payment. Small businesses in particular find it challenging to budget and plan forward in the face of unknowns in reimbursements.
The League supported two other bills that addressed the high costs of prescription drugs, but both bills failed to advance out of their respective chambers.
SB20-107 Drug Production Costs Transparency Analysis Report sought to determine the components of production and development in the price of prescription drugs and to enable framing policy on high-cost drugs by revealing the drivers of cost.
HB20-1160 Drug Price Transparency Insurance Premium Reductions would have required annual reporting of drug costs by health insurers, drug manufacturers, and pharmacy benefit managers for principal drugs purchased by the state in order to provide accountability for drug pricing.
SB20-100 Repeal of Death Penalty. After six tries in the last ten years, the death penalty has finally been abolished in Colorado! The LWVUS and LWVCO have supported this change since 2006 and we are very glad that it has been accomplished.
HB20-1271 Repeal Red Flag and Amend 72-Hour Hold. This attempt to repeal last year's Red Flag legislation failed quickly in its first committee hearing. The ”amendment to the 72-hour hold” sought to strengthen the existing law, but was seen as a sham.
HB20-1355 Secure Storage of Firearms. This measure was brought over from last year, was heard and passed in Committee, but the Leadership decided that, due to COVID-19, there was not enough time to get a controversial bill through the process. It will be brought back next session.
HB20-1356 Lost or Stolen Firearms. This bill suffered the same fate as 1355. It will also be brought back next year.