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Highlights of the Week

Monday marks 21 days remaining in the 2023 legislative session. This week brought many late nights, in committees of reference and on the floor, as leadership called members back for evening sessions to work through bills. The House adjourned at 6 pm last night and is back on the floor this morning to continue to work through bills as concerns grow that stall tactics by the minority party could tie up the calendar.

SB23-214 FY 2023-24 Long Bill, the Colorado state budget, has been approved by both chambers and sent to the Governor’s desk for action. The full Senate and House debated the budget, adding amendments to earmark funding for certain projects and this week the Joint Budget Committee met as the conference committee. The JBC ultimately incorporated a handful of additional requests from the General Assembly, approving $500,000 for family planning, $5000,000 for the Tony Grampsas Youth Services Program, $500,000 for Colorado Wildlife Safe Passages Fund, $1M for Denver Health and $1M for rural hospitals, and a few more. The Governor retains line-item veto power, and is expected to sign the budget in the coming days.

With the budget finalized, the flood gates on the Appropriations Committee schedules have opened – both chambers cleared dozens of bills through appropriations committees this week, and those bills often were brought up for second reading on the floor later the same day.

Speaker McCluskie’s bill with Representative Lukens, HB23-1287 County Regulation Related To Short-term Rentals, passed committee and second and third reading on the floor this week. Counties currently have the ability to regulate short term rentals, the bill would allow them to require short term rental platforms to include a mandatory field for a license number and take down listings if notified by a county that the license number is not valid or has been revoked. 

SB23-276 Modifications To Laws Regarding Elections, is a large omnibus election bill introduced this week by Senate President Fenberg. The bill tackles various issues such as expanding and clarify personal financial disclosures for certain candidates and elected officials, improve voter access in tribal communities, and streamline election day results, among other provisions. The bill cleared committee on Thursday evening by unanimous vote despite concerns from the Secretary of State’s Office about the bill. 

SB23-258 Consolidate Colorado Educator Programs In Colorado Department of Education passed Senate Education unanimously on Monday. The bill consolidates the review and approval process for educator preparation programs under the department of education and the state board of education. The Education Committee adopted an amendment to establish a professional standards advisory group that includes representatives from higher education. HB23-258 passed on second reading later in the week.

Mental and behavioral health issues remain a top priority in the legislature. This week HB23-1153 Pathways To Behavioral Health Care, cleared second and third reading in the House and is headed to the Senate. The bill requires the Department of Human Services to contract with a third-party to conduct a feasibility study looking at the intersection of Colorado’s behavioral health service availability and the judicial system. SB23-174 Access To Certain Behavioral Health Services, which requires select mental health services to be covered for Medicaid members under 21, passed the House Public & Behavioral Health & Human Services unanimously on Wednesday. The bill will head to the Committee of the Whole. HB23-1003 School Mental Health Assessment, which creates a mental health screening program available to public schools serving grades 6 through 12, was amended to nail down the final details of the program after a long committee hearing and witness testimony going well past midnight on Thursday night. 

HB23-1272 Tax Policy That Advances Decarbonization, which passed House Energy & Environment Committee last week faced another lengthy hearing this week in the Finance Committee. Sponsors brought an additional seven amendments to Finance, including an amendment to increase the overall value of the electric vehicle tax credit to $6,000 in year one, and provide an additional $2,500 credit for vehicles at $35,000 MSRP or below. The 97-page bill also makes other changes to state income tax credits, sales and use taxes, specific ownership tax, and severance taxes in an effort to advance decarbonization.

Health care affordability and transparency remained topics of discussion under the dome this week. HB23-1002 Epinephrine Auto-injectors, which caps the amount an insurance carrier may require a covered person to pay for an epinephrine auto-injector at $60 and creates an epinephrine auto-injector affordability program in the Department of Regulatory Agencies, was amended before clearing Senate Health & Human Services on Wednesday. HB23-1224 Standardized Health Benefit Plan also cleared Senate Heath on Wednesday following adoption of a number of amendments. The bill changes rate filling and disclosure requirements regarding the Colorado Standardized Health Benefit Plan, also known as the Colorado Option plan. SB23-252 Medical Price Transparency, which places price disclosure requirements on hospitals, passed Senate Health Thursday evening after the committee adopted significant amendments negotiated with the Colorado Hospital Association and the consumer advocate proponents. This bill heads straight to the Committee of the Whole where more amendments are expected on second reading. 

SB23-270 Projects To Restore Natural Stream Systems was heard very late Thursday evening into Friday morning. The bill was amended to just protect the “minor stream restoration activities” and remains silent on the larger, beaver dam analog-types projects. The definition of “minor stream restoration projects” was amended to be slightly more inclusive. The bill grandfathers in all projects that will have been completed or permitted before August 2023.

On Thursday, SB23-211 Federal Indian Child Welfare Act Of 1978, an attempt to codify federal law in state law under a looming threat of repeal by the Supreme Court in the Brackeen v. Haaland case, passed out of Senate State Veterans and Military Affairs unanimously. 

SB23-105 Ensure Equal Pay For Equal Work cleared the Senate this week, with amendments added on second reading Wednesday and passing on third reading Thursday. The bill requires CDLE to investigate and take enforcement action regarding complaints alleging violations of state pay equity laws, and makes updates to job posting and employee notification requirements for employers when hiring and promoting staff, including to specify that such posting and notices are not required in instances of career development or career progression.

SB23-098 Gig Work Transparency, which was routed out of the Appropriations Committee on Friday back to the Finance Committee could be heard as early as next week. The bill requires delivery network companies and transportation network companies to provide payment disclosures to drivers and consumers, requires the CDLE to enforce unwarranted driver terminations, and subjects noncompliant companies to fines. The biggest topic of discussion under the dome and the Governor’s priority bill, SB23-213 Land Use, which continues to receive media attention and push back from municipalities and local governments, will be heard for action only on Tuesday, April 18, where numerous amendments are expected. 

Next week will continue to be a jam-packed week with bills crossing to the other chamber being scheduled very quickly and long committee hearings and days of floor work expected.

Bills of the Week

HB23-1290 Proposition EE Funding Retention Rate Reduction

  • Speaker McCluskie (D), Representative Sirota (D), Majority Leader Moreno (D), Senator Fields (D)
  • Introduced April 10, scheduled to be heard in House Finance on April 17
  • The bill refers a ballot measure to voters at the November 2023 statewide election to retain excess revenue collected from Proposition EE that otherwise would be refunded, and to maintain the tax rates that were approved in Proposition EE.

SB23-273 Agricultural Land In Urban Renewal Areas

  • Senator Marchman (D), Representative Bockenfeld (R), Representative McLachlan (D)
  • Introduced April 10, passed Senate Agriculture & Natural Resources on April 12 and passed second reading as amended on April 14
  • The bill specifies that agricultural land that was added to an urban renewal area (URA) prior to June 1, 2010, can only be part of the same URA that originally included it prior to that date. By limiting the extent to which a new URA could incorporate agricultural land from an expiring URA, the bill conditionally impacts local government revenue and state expenditures related to school finance.