State Legislative Update
Special Session Report
sponsored by Jensen Public Affairs, Inc.
Governor John Hickenlooper included 7 items for consideration on the special session agenda that were stacked behind civil unions in the regular session of the General Assembly and seemed poised to pass. However, just three of those measures passed the legislature during what is properly called the First Extraordinary Session of the 68th General Assembly. There were members missing who had important family or business obligations that could not be changed. One or two members can make a big difference, as witnessed by the outcome of the bill that would have established limits on the amount of marijuana that causes driving impairment. This bill passed the Senate by one vote during the regular session, but died because one of those members was missing during the special session. Law enforcement and other proponents of a standard for marijuana impaired driving will surely try again. The bills that were able to gather bipartisan support and which passed the special session and moved on to the Governor were the following.
A water projects bill
The legislation will create jobs and protect water supplies for towns and agriculture through $61 million worth of loans and grants from the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB). "These projects are critical to communities and regions across the state, and we commend lawmakers for their broad support," Hickenlooper said. "This bill pays for a variety of projects that improve existing reservoirs, secure and protect water rights for Colorado and assist in flood prevention, among other important work. The measure also translates to good jobs in many rural communities." The measure appropriates $6.6 million for grants to 11 programs and studies affecting water supplies and flood prevention statewide and $55 million for water infrastructure projects and water purchases in the San Luis Valley, the Animas-La Plata project near Durango and at Chatfield Reservoir southwest of Denver. Passage of the bill also leverages additional funds from water providers and other organizations necessary for completion of the projects. Dollars granted for programs and studies in the bill account for nearly 50 jobs, while more than 100 additional jobs are tied to the water infrastructure projects. "It's the model of the public-private partnership in getting existing reservoirs rehabilitated for multiple beneficiaries," Smith said. "It maintains compliance with the Rio Grande Compact, helps the agricultural communities and the water users and has benefits for recreation, the environment and sportsmen."
An unemployment insurance bill
The legislation will help return Colorado's Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund to solvency by allowing employers to receive credit within their individual accounts for repayment of principal-related bonding amounts. The rationale for proceeding with this bond issue is that the state stands to benefit financially from the favorable differential between the low interest rates which would be paid on the bonds and current federal rates.
"The people of Colorado, employers and employees alike, expect an efficient, well run, and dependable Unemployment Insurance program," Hickenlooper said. "While more remains to be done to improve the UI program overall, passage of HB 112S-1002 is a key first step in ensuring that Colorado employers receive the benefit of positive experience rating and premium rates for pitching in to return the UI Trust Fund to financial solvency." This legislation was supported by the business community.
A bill dealing with Special Mobile Machinery Fleets
The law changes registration procedures for Special Mobile Machinery Fleets to allow owners of 10 or more pieces of rental special mobile machinery to register their fleet once per year.
"This legislation cuts red tape for business by creating a streamlined collection process for counties," Hickenlooper said.
Bills that failed
The General Assembly rejected other bills after finally being able to fully debate and vote on the proposed legislation, specifically: penalties for persons who drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs; creating "benefit corporations" in Colorado; and submitting to the registered electors of the State of Colorado an amendment to the Colorado Constitution repealing provisions deemed obsolete. The bill to authorize civil unions died again without debate or vote in the full House, despite clear indications that a majority of state Representatives supported the measure.
"We wanted to see a debate about civil unions on the floor of the House and a vote by all the legislators," Hickenlooper said. "That's what Coloradans deserved and would have kept faith with our constitutional obligation to support equal rights. We are disappointed that didn't happen. "It is also perplexing that a simple measure to clean up language in the Constitution died in the House after receiving a two-thirds vote in the Senate."
With 33 members of the General Assembly not returning next year, it will be a very new General Assembly that could take up some of these failed issues for future consideration.
End of Regular Session Report
The second regular session of the 68th General assembly has come and gone, and bills that created jobs, addressed efficiency in governing, or helped create a good business climate had strong bipartisan support. The legislature frequently exhibited an interest in working across the aisle for sensible solutions to our state's problems. There were often debates about regulation - with some business interests indicating that a lack of regulation makes for a better business climate, and others who believed regulation for the environment, for employees, and for communities makes for better business. Sometimes there were arguments about just how far to go with regulation. Those arguments were for the most part, done with civil discourse and discussed on their merits. Jensen Public Affairs will be providing the Boulder Chamber of Commerce with a complete summary and wrap up on bills of interest within the next week.
The end of the legislative session did get bogged down in late night shenanigans that were unprecedented and left most observers feeling incredibly uncomfortable. Those of us who work in the legislative process carefully guard the integrity of the process and want the process to be fair. There were certainly many who did not feel that what happened on Tuesday evening reflected the best that representative democracy offers. However, once again, in bi-partisan fashion, on Wednesday, the members of the legislature worked together to salvage as many bills as could be salvaged and find a way to repair the damage done. Nonetheless, several bills, including civil unions, could not be salvaged, and thus the Governor has called a special session to begin Monday. Below is the full text of his message about that special session. Of particular interest to Boulder Chambers may be the improvements to the administration of the state's unemployment insurance program.
Gov. John Hickenlooper today called the General Assembly to meet in special session beginning Monday to consider seven legislative issues the Colorado House of Representatives failed to act on earlier this week.
“Much of this legislation had significant bipartisan support and addressed subject matter crucial to the people of Colorado and the effective, efficient operation of state government,” Hickenlooper wrote in an Executive Order. “The ramifications of the General Assembly’s inability to take up the business of its people will negatively impact the State of Colorado and hamper its ability to serve its people. These extraordinary circumstances require a special session of the General Assembly.”
The governor’s Executive Order, by law, does not prescribe the specific form that the legislation should take; rather, it defines the appropriate subject matter for legislative consideration.
“There was good legislation that did not pass out of the General Assembly for one reason or another during the recently-concluded session,” Hickenlooper wrote. “We are limiting the agenda for this special session, however, to the subject matters of legislation that died on the Colorado House calendar on May 8, 2012, for lack of a full debate and vote on second reading, clearly had bipartisan support in the legislature, and advance good government and economic development, public safety, or other important policy objectives.”
The seven specific subjects that should be considered in the special session are:
- Funding of Colorado Water Conservation Board projects.
- Penalties for persons who drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
- Authorization of civil unions.
- Administration of the unemployment insurance program to stabilize unemployment insurance rates, facilitating the issuance of unemployment revenue bonds and accelerating the creation of the Division of Unemployment Insurance in the Department of Labor and Employment.
- Creating “benefit corporations” in Colorado.
- Registering Special Mobile Machinery Fleets.
- Submitting to the registered electors of the State of Colorado an amendment to the Colorado Constitution repealing provisions deemed obsolete.
The General Assembly determines how long the special session will last. The cost to taxpayers is $23,500 per day; there are 15 days already budgeted in the current fiscal year.