Weekly Legislative Update January 23, 2015

100 Days left until May 6 – 244 bills introduced – 132 House – 112 Senate – 72 Bipartisan

While many believe that divided government is good for business, it does come with a cost to legislators and advocacy groups trying to maintain existing programs or introduce new ideas.  This week may be a preview of how the next 100 days will play out.

Senate Republicans

After being in the minority for ten years, Senate Republicans are using their majority to make a statement about programs they don’t support by eliminating or de-funding them.

A Senate Committee voted to sunset the pay equity commission created in 2010 to study salary gaps between men and women.  The commission has a 2015 sunset clause that required the legislature to vote to continue the program.  Timing is everything.  Had this bill been introduced in last year’s session, it would have likely been continued.  A Democrat legislator in the House is considering introducing a new bill to continue the commission but the chances of it surviving the Senate are unlikely.

The equally divided (three members from each party) six member Joint Budget Committee (JBC) saw the Republicans take advantage of a temporary majority to eliminate $166,000 in funding for drivers licenses for undocumented immigrants.  The Democrats cried foul as one of their JBC members was temporarily away from the meeting to get his legislative photo taken.  The motion was brought forward again before the full committee but died on a three/three tie vote.  The issue may not be dead as the budget process continues.  Supporters are concerned about the impact on the program and the motor vehicle offices designated to handle these licenses.

House Democrats

The House controlled Finance Committee killed a proposal along party lines from Rep. Jon Becker (R) Ft. Morgan.

“It is important to note, this bill will not affect the Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights (TABOR) refunds; only excess revenue falling below the TABOR limit will apply. All revenue above that limit will be returned to the taxpayers, as required by Colorado’s Constitution.  The funding structure House Bill 1058 creates will direct 70% of excess General Fund revenue to the State Education Fund, which is held in trust for Colorado K-12 public schools. The remaining 30% will be directed to a new fund to boost higher education funding. These transfers will continue until the funding disparity for our K-12 public schools and higher education institutions is fully resolved.”  Rep. Jon Becker House GOP Newsletter January 20, 2015

The bill had the support of several education advocacy groups, rural school district superintendents and no public opposition in committee.  This was the first time that the Colorado Education Association supported one of Becker’s bills.  One committee member who voted against the bill suggested that it was too early for the bill because it was before the March economic forecast on the state’s finances.  Might a Democrat legislator bring this bill back after the forecast?

Bipartisan Agreement

Questions continue about spending, executive bonuses and operational efficiencies for the State’s Healthcare Exchange.  Last year an attempt to give the State Auditor more authority to review the exchange was killed by the democrat majority.  This year’s proposal which calls for a performance audit was unanimously approved in a Health and Human Services Committee hearing by both Republicans and Democrats.  If the measure makes it through the whole process, the exchange will face some tough questions from the auditor.

Up next week

The House Education Committee will hear several measures dealing with funding for full day kindergarten and scholarships for early childhood educators.

The House Finance Committee will hear a bill from Minority Leader Brian DelGrosso to maintain transportation funding transfers created by SB 09-228 but in jeopardy due to possible TABOR refunds in 2015 and 2016.


IMG-PeteKirchhofPete Kirchhof

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303 507-9587 (C)

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