Progress on the Challenges We Face

The 2020 Legislative Session: 

Highlights and Accomplishments

IMG_1230The 2020 legislative session was unlike any other session before it. From an unprecedented global health emergency and the dire budget consequences we faced, to the chaotic flashpoint of a centuries-long struggle for justice taking place outside of the Capitol, we’ve had everything but business as usual at the General Assembly this year.

I am proud of how the House of Representatives rose to the occasion and worked to pass responsible laws to protect the health and safety of hardworking Coloradans and get our state back on track to a full economic recovery.

The Long Bill…better known as the State Budget

The economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic caused an unprecedented $3.3 billion state budget shortfall.  As the newest of the six members of the Joint Budget Committee, I’m proud to say we took our responsibilities seriously in crafting Colorado’s budget.  We spent weeks agonizing over very difficult funding decisions while we prioritized resources for public schools, higher education and critical health and safety services. For a complete overview of the long bill, including the funding narrative and state agency budgets, click here.

COVID-19 Relief Package

While I was busy with the State’s budget, my colleagues were busy responding to the needs of the hardworking people of Colorado.  They put together a robust package of relief  bills aiming to provide safety net services and spark a sputtering economy.  Here’s the list of bills we consider to be a part of the COVID-19 Relief Package:

Small Business Recovery Loans – HB20-1413 — Reps. Shannon Bird and Lisa Cutter

Small Business Grant Program – SB20-222 Reps. Mary Young and Perry Will

Coronavirus Relief Funds for Housing Assistance – HB20-1410 — Reps. Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez and Tony Exum, Sr.

Coronavirus Relief Funds for Utility Assistance – HB20-1412 — Reps. Chris Kennedy and Lisa Cutter

Coronavirus Relief Funds for Mental Health and Substance Abuse Programs – HB20-1411 — Reps. Dafna Michaelson Jenet and Tracy Kraft-Tharp

Earned Sick Leave for Employees – SB20-205 — Speaker KC Becker and Rep. Yadira Caraveo

Expand Unemployment Insurance – SB20-207 — Reps. Matt Gray and Tom Sullivan; 

SB20-170— Reps. Dominique Jackson and Monica Duran

Protections Against Price Gouging – HB20-1414 — Reps. Mike Weissman and Brianna Titone

Whistleblower Protection for Public Health Emergencies – HB20-1415 — Reps. Leslie Herod and Tom Sullivan

Limitations on Extraordinary Debt Collection – SB20-211 — Rep. Leslie Herod

2-1-1 Statewide Human Services Referral System – HB20-1197 — Reps. Marc Snyder and Janice Rich

Food Pantry Assistance – HB20-1422 — Reps. Daneya Esgar and Lisa Cutter

Telehealth Services Expansion – SB20-212 — Reps. Susan Lontine and Matt Soper

Extend Restaurant Takeout & Delivery of Alcoholic Beverages – SB20-213Reps. Dylan Roberts and Colin Larson

My Legislation

Cigarette, Tobacco and Nicotine Products Tax

HB20-1427 — Reps. Julie McCluskie and Yadira Caraveo

This bill refers a measure to voters in November 2020 that would raise taxes on cigarettes, tobacco and for the first time, apply a tax on nicotine vaping products that is equal to that placed on tobacco.  In the first two and a half years, the resulting revenue would provide resources to public schools with additional funding directed to rural schools.  After that initial period, the revenue would be devoted to nicotine education and cessation programs and toward giving every child in Colorado access to early childhood education.

Expanding Health Insurance Affordability 

SB20-215 — Reps. Chris Kennedy and Julie McCluskie

With Coloradans facing some of the highest health insurance costs in the country, Democrats have prioritized saving people money on their care. The Reinsurance program has lowered premiums by thousands of dollars for families across the state. The program has been an effective way to offset high-cost health care claims in order to lower premiums for consumers in the individual market. This bill establishes a sustainable funding structure to extend the Reinsurance program for an additional 5 years, and expand coverage for undocumented people and those caught in the family glitch.

Higher Education Funding Allocation Model 

HB20-1366 — Reps. Julie McCluskie and Daneya Esgar

Colorado’s Institutions of Higher Learning came together to create a funding allocation model that supports Colorado’s goals to see 66% or more adults earn a postsecondary credential, eliminate equity gaps and support student success.  This new funding formula ensures smaller and rural colleges and universities receive additional funding support.

Emergency Telephone Service Charges – NextGen 9-1-1

HB20-1293 — Reps. Julie McCluskie and Rod Pelton

Nothing is more important than access to emergency services during a crisis.  This legislation provides the resources for all 9-1-1 call centers in the state, particularly in rural Colorado, to migrate to the next level of technology, and ensure more accurate and timely responses during an emergency.

Rights for Mobile Home Park Residents

HB20-1196 – -Reps. Edie Hooton and Julie McCluskie 

This bill further strengthens tenants’ rights by preventing park owners from retaliating against residents for filing a complaint, and prohibits them from removing residents from their homes over minor violations. It requires transparency in utility billing and secures a right to tenant privacy by requiring owners to give notice and obtain consent before entering.

Broadband for Small Rural Communities

HB20-1137 — Reps. Julie McCluskie and Matt Soper 

At a time when many Colorado students are learning at home, and even more families are working at home, access to reliable internet has never been more important. This bill offers a more efficient way to determine an “unserved area” and help small rural communities get the resources they need to develop and deploy critical broadband technology.

Allowing PERA Retirees to Work after Retirement Limit for BOCES

HB20-1127 — Reps. Julie McCluskie and Barbara McLachlan

This bill will allow retired educators an opportunity to work for school districts in rural Colorado while retaining their retirement benefits – a win/win for retirees, educators and students!

County Licensing Authority for Short-Term Rentals

HB20-1093— Reps. Julie McCluskie and Jim Wilson

The short-term rental market has exploded in rural resort communities.  This bill gives county authorities a chance to license and regulate short-term lodging rentals.  This ensures fewer issues with trash, noise, parking and sewer problems.

Eligibility Expansion for Wildfire Grants

HB20-1057 — Reps. Julie McCluskie and Terri Carver 

Rural communities in Colorado are at high risk for wildfires. This bill changes the program to ensure that lower wealth communities in greater need of wildfire mitigation assistance can take advantage of these grants.

Early Childhood Workforce, Mental Health Consultation and High-Quality

HB20-1053 — Reps. Emily Sirota and Jim Wilson

When the world hands you lemons, make lemonade!!  I was honored to carry HB20-1006 and HB20-1016 – two early childhood bills that would have brought an evidence-based mental health consultation system to our state and opportunities for improving the quality of all early childhood care and learning centers.  But a pandemic threw a wrench into that plan.  In the end, we were able to incorporate both of my bills into an excellent early childhood workforce support bill.  While we were unable to fund these efforts at the levels we hoped, I am confident we will prioritize this funding when our economy rebounds.

For a more in-depth overview of the 2020 Legislative Session, click here.

A Look Back at the 2019 Legislative Session,…

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The first session of the 72nd General Assembly of the Colorado House of Representatives adjourned for the year on Friday, May 3, 2019 with enthusiastic applause for one of the most successful and transformative sessions in recent memory.

Our legislative body is diverse in backgrounds, experiences and ideals. It’s in the recognition and honor of these differences that we were able to find common ground and solve problems for the people we serve.  Of the 23 bills I carried my first session, I am proud that I had a Republican co-sponsor on 11 of them. To my friends on both sides of the aisle, thank you for your partnership.  It has been my privilege to serve with you.

I am proud to say we delivered on promises to support working families and to protect our Colorado way of life. This includes the passage of significant policies in health care, education, climate action, affordable housing and so much more: 

In HEALTH CARE,…we are dramatically reducing insurance premiums on the individual market with the passage of my reinsurance bill, increasing transparency for health care costs in Colorado’s hospitals, prohibiting surprise out-of-network billing, and reducing the price of insulin.  We are creating a pathway for an affordable and competitive public health care option and health care co-ops in the state of Colorado that will be available to families and individuals when purchasing health insurance. 

In EDUCATION,…we are bringing fully funded full-day kindergarten to every community in the state, investing in early childhood literacy with the renewal of the READ Act, and expanding opportunities for high school students to earn college credits through concurrent enrollment programs across Colorado.  Additionally, the legislature went outside the school finance formula and reduced the budget stabilization factor by $100 million and secured $20 million in one-time funding for rural schools. For more on our accomplishments in education, read this great article from Chalkbeat.

In CLIMATE ACTION,…we are putting pollution reduction goals into statute to reduce Colorado’s greenhouse gas pollution by 26 percent by 2025, 50 percent by 2030, and 90 percent by 2050 of 2005 levels.  We also are increasing the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) oversight authority, strengthening protections for consumers, prioritizing safety, and reducing carbon pollution for our state’s largest power company. We’re moving Colorado forward while ensuring workers and communities dependent on the fossil fuel industry are not left behind as the state transitions to a cleaner economy.  We are updating Colorado’s antiquated oil and gas laws to put health and safety first by increasing local government authority over oil and gas development and empowering affected communities to protect our air and water. 

In AFFORDABLE HOUSING,…we are investing nearly $156 million in housing over the next three years by expanding the existing Affordable Housing Income Tax Credit from $5 million to $10 million,  directing $30 million annually (starting in 2020-21) from the Unclaimed Property Trust Fund for three years ($90 million total), and investing $8 million to housing needs in the first two years ($16 million total) and then $45-50 million annually thereafter from a statutory change in the administration of the state’s vendor fee.   I am particularly proud of two bills I co-sponsored – the creation of an Eviction Legal Defense Fund for low-income Coloradans who face eviction, and The Mobile Home Park Oversight Act which expands county authority and creates a conflict resolution process for aggrieved mobile home owners.

We passed legislation allowing local governments to adjust their minimum wage, and we proudly passed an “equal pay for equal work” bill ensuring women earn the same as their male counterparts.  We passed life-saving gun legislation, expanded access to existing broadband infrastructure throughout rural Colorado, and took one step closer to making sure every Coloradan has a retirement savings plan.

It’s been a remarkable and exciting session, but the work continues. I’ll be traveling House District 61 in the months ahead and look forward to connecting with the good people of the Western Slope. It’s an honor and privilege to serve!