WESTERN TIGER SALAMANDER CRAWLS ALONG AT STATEHOUSE
A bill that would name the Western Tiger Salamander as the official state amphibian passed the House on third reading on Monday.
Students across the state who are tiger salamander enthusiasts initiated House Bill 1147, sponsored by Rep. Angela Williams, D-Denver. Children testified in support of the bill, citing multiple reasons why the tiger salamander should be the state amphibian — including that it is found in all 64 counties of Colorado and has fossils dating to prehistoric times.
Williams said she was happy to support the students and their efforts on behalf of the tiger salamander.
HB 1147 now moves to the Senate where Sen. Joyce Foster, D-Denver, is sponsoring it.
A BILL TO FEEL GOOD ABOUT
Sen. Irene Aguilar’s 911 Good Samaritan Bill continued on its path through the Senate Monday, passing its second reading on the Senate floor with overwhelming bipartisan support. The bill aims to save lives and improve public health by encouraging those in the presence of a drug overdose to put thoughts about a victim whose life may be in danger above fears of arrest or criminal prosecution for being in the presence of illegal drug use. “The bill sends a very strong message that saving lives is much more important than putting people into the criminal justice system,” Aguilar, D-Denver, said. “If we can get this information to people who are using prescription and other drugs and let them know that they’re not going to be arrested for helping someone who overdoses, we can help save lives.”
The Good Samaritan Bill would create limited immunity for persons who report an emergency drug or alcohol overdose event if one or more person calls 911 to make a good faith report of the emergency, if the person remains at the scene until a first responder arrives, and if the person cooperates with the first responder. The limited immunity extends to use and possession of minor quantities of a controlled substance. There are approximately 28,000 deaths from overdoses each year on the national level, and in certain Colorado counties, as many as 16.2 percent of all deaths result from overdoses. Most overdoses occur in the presence of other people and take several hours to cause death, but research finds that in up to half of all overdose cases, no one calls for help, and those calls that are made are often delayed as witnesses try ineffective methods of reviving people.
The bill had strong bipartisan support, with Sens. Shawn Mitchell, R-Broomfield, and Ellen Roberts, R-Durango, joining Sen. Morgan Carroll, D-Aurora, to rise during the debate and speak in support of the bill. Powerful testimony also came during an earlier Judiciary Committee hearing, when Samantha Ortiz from the Dean of Student’s office at the University of Colorado testified in support of the bill. Ortiz cited the encouraging results since a similar law passed offering immunity to minors in possession of alcohol who make 911 calls, noting a significant decrease in alcohol overdoses on campus and an increase in the number of students seeking medical assistance.
MEDICATION TAKE-BACK PROGRAM TAKEN BACK
A House committee on Monday killed a bill that would have implemented a medication take-back program to ensure clean water for Coloradans.
House Bill 1122, sponsored by Rep. Roger Wilson, D-Glenwood Springs, would have created the take-back program in the Department of Public Health and Environment, which supported the measure along with Colorado counties, the Colorado River District and the Colorado Senior Lobby, to name a few.
Despite there being no testimony in opposition of the bill, HB 1122 was defeated by the House Agriculture Committee on a Republican party-line vote.
This bill was introduced in response to growing concerns about trace amounts of prescription drugs found in Colorado’s water.
The program would have set up collection centers where consumers could bring their unused or expired prescription drugs, rather than flush them down the toilet and, eventually, into Colorado’s rivers and reservoirs.
“The bill had an array of support of outside groups and is a bill to protect Coloradans,” Wilson said.
GUN BILLS SHOOT FORWARD
The battle over relaxing gun control legislation fired off again at the Legislature last week, with Democrats calling Republican proposals “Wild West” gun bills, and Republicans arguing for constitutional rights.
House Bill 1064, introduced by Rep. Amy Stephens, R-Monument, would prohibit the confiscation of firearms from citizens during declared emergencies. The bill passed the House Tuesday on a second reading voice vote.
House Bill 1092, introduced by Rep. Kevin Priola, R-Henderson, would end the requirement to possess a permit in order to carry a concealed handgun in Colorado. The bill passed the House Tuesday on a second reading voice vote.
House Bill 1088, introduced by Rep. Chris Holbert, R-Parker, and Jon Becker, R-Fort Morgan, would allow business owners, managers and employees to use deadly force against an intruder, free of prosecution. The bill passed the House Monday on final reading with a vote of 35-26.
Holbert cheered passage of his legislation, saying, “People, and in this case, people in the workplace have the right to self defense. This is a bipartisan reminder that we are elected to represent law abiding citizens.”
“This bill extends the right to self defense that we’ve already afforded to citizens in their homes,” said Becker. “Whether you’re in your home or place of work, you have just as much a right to defend your life and property.”
But Democrats attempted to politicize the issue, complaining that Republicans were pushing “wedge” issues, rather than legislation that helps create jobs and stabilize the state’s economy.
“I wish the House would spend more time connecting Coloradans to good jobs and less on divisive social issues,” House Minority Leader Mark Ferrandino, D-Denver, said in a statement.
SENATE COMMITTEE PASSES BIPARTISAN BILL TO HELP GROW COLORADO INDUSTRIES
The Senate Business, Labor and Technology Committee approved bipartisan legislation sponsored by Sens. Rollie Heath, D-Boulder and Mark Scheffel, R-Parker, to strengthen and grow Colorado’s key industries as part of the state’s larger economic development plan. Senate Bill 144 directs the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade to work with stakeholders to develop a strategy to support job creation and growth in Colorado’s key industries. The state’s key industries were indentified in an independent analysis of state economic data including wages, gross domestic product, and employment figures. SB 144 builds upon Gov. John Hickenlooper’s Colorado Blueprint, a bottom up approach to economic development, designed to make Colorado more economically competitive.
“It is imperative to our future success that we work with our business leaders and stakeholders to develop a clear and comprehensive economic strategy for the industries that are driving our economy,” Heath said. “By pooling our state, local, and regional resources we can continue moving Colorado’s economy forward.”
In order to develop the key industries strategy Senate Bill 144 will require the Office of Economic Development and International Trade to:
• Indentify all stakeholders and relevant organizations related to a key industry including businesses, educational institutions, and industry and trade associations
• Provide administrative support for the creation of an economic development plan for the specific industry
• This plan will identify any current financial barriers, review government regulations related to the industry, develop marketing strategies, review educational and training availability, look for measures to support and expand, and find opportunities for increasing the industries competitiveness and innovation
• Review the plan with stakeholders to identify potential policy proposals that would help the industry grow
• Create a report for each key industry and deliver this report to the general assembly
This bipartisan legislation will be sponsored in the House Reps. Ken Summers, R- Lakewood, and Su Ryden, D-Aurora.
TOURISM BILL GETS LIFE, THEN DEATH
Democrats on Wednesday hailed passage of a measure that supporters say would have enhanced tourism in local communities, but their celebration was cut short on Friday when the House Appropriations Committee killed the legislation.
The House Local Government Committee backed House Bill 1056, introduced by Rep. Andy Kerr, D-Lakewood, by a vote of 9-2 on Wednesday. But concerns over the cost of the legislation stopped the legislation in its tracks on Friday.
The bill would have required the Colorado Tourism director to provide input on tourism projects in the state.
“It will clarify what’s in statute and provide certainty to economic developers around the state,” Kerr said on Wednesday before his legislation died. “The bar should be set high on how we spend our taxpayer dollars and proposed projects should be unique and innovative. This bill will ensure just that.”
DEMOCRATS REFUSE TO GIVE BUSINESSES A VOICE IN THE LEGISLATIVE PROCESS
The session of jobs, jobs, jobs has hit a road block in the Senate State Affairs Committee, according to Republicans. A bill that would have given businesses a voice on the affects of regulations and compliance costs was killed on a party line vote this week.
Senate Bill 80, introduced by Sen. Shawn Mitchell, R-Broomfield, would have given the Legislature a better idea of how much compliance requirements cost businesses. Once legislation is introduced, businesses would have had five days to submit their comments and concerns on how the proposed legislation would affect them financially. A business fiscal impact notice would then be made available to the legislators when voting on the bill.
Last week Mitchell sent a letter to Gov. Hickenlooper asking for his support of the bill. In his 2011 State of the State speech Governor Hickenlooper said, “Just as we require a fiscal note for every new bill that estimates the costs to state government, we could also include an estimation of the cost to businesses of additional regulations.” SB 80 would have done just that, supporters said. Mitchell asked the Governor’s office to attend the committee to support his bill, but the office didn’t appear.
FILM INCENTIVES ROLL
A House committee backed legislation on Thursday that would provide incentives to the film industry.
House Bill 1286, introduced by Reps. Mark Ferrandino, D-Denver, and Tom Massey, R-Poncha Springs, was backed by the House Economic and Business Development Committee on a vote of 9-3. The legislation now heads to finance.
HB 1286 would incentivize the film industry to make more movies in Colorado by increasing Colorado’s film incentive from 10 to 20 percent. The bill would also create a loan guarantee program where Colorado would take an up-front 5 percent facility fee, paid by the production company, in exchange for the guarantee, and then a bank, not the state, would provide the loan.
“I am steadfast in my support of the arts and, with the help of bills like the one I’m sponsoring, I am confident Colorado’s film industry will continue to grow,” said Ferrandino. “Our number one focus in the state legislature is to create and retain jobs, and film-making in Colorado offers a great opportunity to help boost our economy.”
STALKING BILL CREEPS FORWARD
A bill aimed at strengthening Colorado’s stalking laws unanimously passed the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday.
Its passage came following a rally held earlier in the day on the Capitol West Steps by supporters of the bill and organized by family members of Yvonne “Vonnie” Flores, who was murdered by a stalker a year and a half ago in Leadville.
House Bill 1114, introduced by Rep. Millie Hamner, D-Dillon, would strengthen current stalking laws by requiring an arrested alleged stalker to go to a bond hearing before a judge and be issued a restraining order before release from jail.
“I am honored to carry this bill geared toward protecting victims of stalking,” Hamner said. “I’m grateful this bill passed committee so our neighbors, family members, friends and loved ones will have more security when living under the shadow of a stalker.”
The legislation now moves to the House floor for debate.
ECONOMIC GARDENING BILL WILTS
The House Economic and Business Development Committee on Thursday killed a bill that would have created an economic gardening pilot program.
House Bill 1133, introduced by Reps. Pete Lee, D-Colorado Springs, and Dickey Lee Hullinghorst, D-Gunbarrel, would have enabled the Office of Economic Development to contract with entities to provide management and technical assistance to eligible businesses participating in the pilot program.
Chris Gibbons, director of business and industry affairs for the City of Littleton, which has used a similar program to spur homegrown companies, developed the economic gardening concept.
The legislation died on a 6-5 Republican party-line vote.
“This was a good-government bill that Republicans chose to play politics with and killed,” Hullinghorst said after the vote.
UNANIMOUS CREDIT GIVEN TO STUDENT BILL
The House on Tuesday unanimously backed legislation that would grant students at state colleges and universities credit for work and military experience.
House Bill 1072, introduced by Rep. Tom Massey, R-Poncha Springs, would require the Commission on Higher Education to develop criteria that allows students enrolled in institutions of higher learning to be given academic credit for prior real world experience.
“By giving credit to students who have real world experience, we will help them save on costs and the amount of time it takes to earn a degree,” said Massey. “This bill will help students striving to create a better life for themselves and their families.”
HB 1072 is cosponsored by Rep. Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora. The measure now moves to the state Senate for further consideration, where it will be carried by Sens. Keith King, R-Colorado Springs, and Bob Bacon, D-Fort Collins.
MEASURE TO FUND CANCER PREVENTION, DETECTION AND TREATMENT SENT TO SENATE
A bill that many hope will raise more money to combat cancer has received unanimous support from the House of Representatives.
House Bill 1104 will change the Colorado Breast and Women’s Reproductive Cancers Fund checkoff to the Colorado Cancer Fund checkoff. The measure also expands the areas where cancer funds collected from the tax checkoff go, including early detection, treatment, and survivorship care for those suffering from all types of cancer.
“Cancer touches everyone,” said the bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Keith Swerdfeger, R-Pueblo West. “It is my hope that expanding the tax checkoff will encourage additional voluntary donations that benefit those Coloradans who are impacted by these diseases.”
The fund has raised over $429,000 in voluntary donations since it first appeared on Colorado’s income tax return forms in 2007.
Increasing funding for cancer prevention, detection and treatment is a long time goal of House Republicans. In 2011, Speaker of the House Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch, announced that the House GOP will not support diverting Amendment 35 dollars, which voters approved to combat cancer. Gov. John Hickenlooper subsequently sided with the House GOP.
“Cancer doesn’t recognize party affiliation,” Swerdfeger added. “I’m proud that I could work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to fight this common foe.”
The measure now makes will now make its way through the Senate, where it will be carried by Sen. Angela Giron, D-Pueblo.
FEDERAL FUNDING TRANSPARENCY MOVES
The House on Wednesday gave final approval to legislation that aims to increase transparency and accountability over the federal funds Colorado receives.
House Bill 1009, introduced by Rep. Cheri Gerou, R-Evergreen, would require an annual report that details the amount of federal funds state departments receive. The legislation would add more substantive reporting requirements, which give lawmakers a greater level of detail and transparency to scrutinize what federal funds the state receives and where they are spent.
The House backed the measure on third reading by a vote of 54-8. It now heads to the Senate for debate.
OUT-OF-STATE LICENSED PROFESSIONALS GAIN SUPPORT
A House committee on Tuesday gave approval to a measure that would recognize out-of-state licensed professionals to practice in Colorado.The Economic and Business Development Committee backed House Bill 1210, introduced by Rep. Don Beezley, R-Broomfield, on a vote of 8-4. The measure is now awaiting debate by the full House.
HB 1210 would allow persons who move to Colorado with a valid license, certificate or registration in good standing in another state to practice in Colorado for up to one year.
“This is a common sense jobs bill,” said Beezley. “By allowing new Coloradans to begin practicing as soon as they move into the state, they can immediately start working, supporting their families and contributing to our state’s economy.”
The bipartisan measure is sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Cheri Jahn, D-Wheat Ridge.
PROTECTING AGAINST NEW LEGISLATION
The House Economic and Business Development Committee passed a bill on Tuesday that supporters hope will safeguard the interests of business owners from potential damaging impacts of new legislation.
Rep. Larry Liston is sponsoring House Bill 1115, which would create a five-day period for business owners to submit comments and input regarding the fiscal impact new legislation might have on their establishments. After the five-day period ends, Legislative Council would summarize the comments and prepare a fiscal impact statement for lawmakers reviewing the bill.
The committee backed the measure on a vote of 8-4. It now awaits debate by the full House.
“This bill will bring in job creators and involve them in the legislative process,” said Liston. “It helps raise transparency and awareness, as well as ensure lawmakers have the resources available to them to make responsible decisions that will not derail our economic recovery.”
The Senate State Affairs Committee on Monday killed a similar bill, Senate Bill 80. Like HB 1115, SB 80 would have given businesses five days to submit comments and concerns on how introduced legislation would affect them. SB 80 would have made available a business fiscal impact note. Sen. Shawn Mitchell, R-Broomfield, sponsored it.
The House Local Government Committee on Wednesday unanimously backed Senate Bill 94, which would ensure food meant for home consumption remains eligible for a Colorado state sales tax exemption regardless of how the food is marketed.
Rep. Libby Szabo, R-Arvada, is sponsoring the measure in the House. Under current law, food sold for home consumption at grocery stores, supermarkets or convenience stores is exempt from state sales taxes. Any “convenience food” that is prepared for immediate consumption, like hot food sold at restaurants, is taxable.
Some municipalities in Colorado have attempted to levy taxes on foods for domestic consumption because they have been marketed as “convenience foods.” Szabo’s measure would end the practice.
“It’s almost unconscionable to see the lengths some will go to circumvent state and federal law in order to tax traditionally non-taxable food,” said Szabo. “We’re in the middle of the worst recession in over 80 years. This bill protects struggling families and keeps government within its bounds.”
Szabo’s measure now moves to the House floor for further consideration.
TEACHER EVALUATION SIGNED INTO LAW
Gov. John Hickenlooper on Wednesday signed House Bill 1001 into law, implementing rules establishing a teacher evaluation system.
The rules were written and approved by the State Board of Education, as a result of last year’s Senate Bill 191. HB 1001 passed the legislature with wide bipartisan support.
“A good education system is key to having a robust economy,” said Rep. Carole Murray, R-Castle Rock, the bill’s cosponsor.
6 PERCENT CAP COMING BACK?
Republicans on Wednesday pushed through the House Finance Committee legislation that would reinstate the 6 percent general fund cap that Democrats eliminated in 2009.
The committee backed House Bill 1075, introduced by Reps. Don Beezley, R-Broomfield, and Brian DelGrosso, R-Loveland, by a vote of 7-5. Rep. Daniel Kagan, D-Cherry Hills Village, was excused from the vote. HB 1075 would once again limit growth in general fund appropriations to 6 percent of the prior year’s appropriations. Fifty percent of the funds above that limit would be allocated to a state reserve fund that could only be utilized by a two-thirds majority vote of the House and Senate. The remaining 50 percent would be split equally between transportation and capital construction. “Colorado’s working families and small businesses must live within their means, and they expect government to live within its means too,” said Beezley. “This bill ensures that.”
The measure now moves to appropritions. If it makes its way to the Democratic-controlled Senate, it would likely be killed in committee.
RELIEF FROM BIZ PERSONAL PROPERTY TAX
A bill aimed at offering business owners relief from the business personal property tax was unanimously backed by the House Finance Committee on Thursday.
House Bill 1029, introduced by Rep. Chris Holbert, R-Parker, would allow local governments, including counties, to exempt up to 100 percent of locally assessed business personal property taxes.
“This bill not only makes Colorado more welcoming to the needs of our state’s job creators, it will save jobs and raise revenue — without increasing taxes — from expected gains in sales and income taxes,” said Holbert.
MORE SEVERE PENALTIES FOR HIT-AND-RUN
The House Judiciary Committee on Thursday unanimously backed legislation that would increase penalties for hit-and-run incidents.
House Bill 1084, introduced by Reps. Kathleen Conti<strong>, R-Littleton, and Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora, would make hit-and-runs a Class 4 felony, which carries the same weight as driving under the influence of alcohol.
“Just like a person who gets behind the wheel drunk, people who flee the scene of an accident make a conscious decision that puts others in danger,” said Conti. “This bill corrects an injustice that is long overdue.”
The legislation now moves to appropriations.
DRIVING JOB AND INDUSTRY GROWTH
Legislation that would direct the Office of Economic Development and International Trade to develop a strategy to support job and industry growth in Colorado received support on Monday from the Senate Business, Labor and Technology Committee.
Bipartisan Senate Bill 144, introduced by Sens. Rollie Heath, D-Boulder, and Mark Scheffel, R-Parker, passed the committee on a vote of 5-2.
The legislation would direct the Office of Economic Development and International Trade to work with stakeholders to develop a strategy to support job creation and growth in Colorado’s key industries. The state’s key industries were indentified in an independent analysis of state economic data including wages, gross domestic product and employment figures.
“It is imperative to our future success that we work with our business leaders and stakeholders to develop a clear and comprehensive economic strategy for the industries that are driving our economy,” said Heath. “By pooling our state, local, and regional resources we can continue moving Colorado’s economy forward.”
The legislation now moves to appropriations.
CHECK ON CREDIT CHECKS FOR EMPLOYMENT
The Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday approved a measure that would prohibit credit check practices that can limit a jobseeker from finding employment.
Senate Bill 3, introduced by Sen. Morgan Carroll, D-Aurora, would prohibit employers from using credit checks when considering employment.
The Senate Judiciary Committee backed the measure on a Democratic party-line vote of 4-3. It now moves to the Senate floor for debate.
“Credit scores were never intended to be used in hiring practices,” said Carroll. “Tying credit scores with employment opportunity creates a vicious circle that unfairly punishes struggling Coloradans.”
The Senate on Tuesday unanimously backed legislation that aims to bolster the state’s aerospace industry.
Senate Bill 35, introduced by Sen. Mary Hodge, D-Brighton, would create the required limited liability statute in order to shield commercial space flight companies from lawsuits not based on negligence or intentional wrongdoing.
“The aerospace industry brings innovation, investment and most importantly new jobs to Colorado,” said Hodge. “This legislation takes the first crucial step toward eliminating barriers in attracting new aerospace related companies to our state.”
The legislation now moves to the House where it will be sponsored by Rep. Bob Gardner, R-Colorado Springs.
PREFERENCES FOR BUYING AMERICAN
The Senate Local Government Committee on Tuesday backed a measure that would provide incentives to companies bidding on state contracts to purchase American-made products. Senate Bill 4, introduced by Sen. Joyce Foster, D-Denver, was approved by a Democratic party-line vote of 3-2.
The measure would create a preference for companies that are able to certify that their materials, provisions and supplies were manufactured in the United States.
“This bill will give companies bidding on state contracts a preference if the majority of products they use are manufactured in the U.S.,” said Foster. “By prioritizing American goods we are creating American jobs, stimulating our manufacturing industry and continuing to strengthen the economy.”
The legislation now heads to appropriations.
DEMOCRATS HAIL PASSAGE OF CENTERPIECE JOBS BILL
Democrats cheered on Tuesday as their centerpiece legislation for the year, Senate Bill 1, made its way through the Senate Local Government Committee.
The HIRE Colorado Act, sponsored by Sen. Evie Hudak, D-Westminster, would provide a preference to companies seeking state contracts when those companies agree to employ mostly Colorado workers, certify that they are providing those workers with quality benefits and offer access to a federally qualified apprenticeship training program.
SB 1 squeaked through the committee on a Democratic party-line vote of 3-2. It now heads to appropriations.
THERE’S AN APP FOR THAT
The Senate Business, Labor and Technology Committee on Wednesday backed legislation that would authorize the creation of a Smartphone app aimed at connecting businesses with customers.
Senate Bill 143, introduced by Sen. Morgan Carroll, D-Aurora, would allow citizens to search for local businesses and provide a forum for those businesses to market their products and services.
The committee backed the measure by a vote of 4-2, sending the bill to appropriations.
“We know that our local businesses are the backbone of our economy and our communities,” said Carroll. “This legislation focuses specifically on helping our vital local businesses connect with existing customers, reach new consumers, and provide them with the opportunity to expand and grow.”
CRIMINAL LIBEL GOING WAY OF DINOSAURS?
The Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously backed a bill on Tuesday that would remove the state’s criminal libel law from statute. The Senate on Friday then backed the measure on a second reading voice vote.
Senate Bill 102, introduced by Sen. Greg Brophy, W-Wray, aims at addressing what Brophy believes is an outdated law.
The bill was brought forth due in part to a criminal libel case from 2003. A University of Northern Colorado student, Thomas Mink, posted satirical comments on his website about his professor at UNC. He was investigated for criminal libel by Weld County. A search warrant was issued giving authorities the ability to search his home and remove his computer. Mink sued the City of Greeley and the prosecuting attorney for violating his freedom of speech. Both lawsuits have been settled.
“Colorado is one of the few states that still have this law on the books,” said Brophy. “With so many people posting opinions and comments on social media these days, I am surprised we haven’t had more cases similar to the one brought against Thomas Mink.”
SB 102 now heads to the entire Senate for a vote.
REDUCING ELECTRONIC WASTE
The Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources and Energy Committee on Wednesday backed a measure that would prohibit the disposal of electronic devices in landfills.
Senate Bill 133, introduced by Sen. Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass, received a favorable vote of 6-1.
The measure aims to keep used electronic devices out of landfills, and send them to recycling facilities. The legislation would provide a waiver for communities that are not well-served by electronic device recycling facilities.
“Senate Bill 133 creates new opportunities for the recycling and responsible disposal of the electronics we all enjoy, while reducing waste, protecting our groundwater and recovering resources,” said Schwartz.