Legislation

Below are measures I sponsored in previous legislative sessions as well a few other significant bills that I supported. To see details on any of these, you can visit the Colorado General Assembly web site at http://leg.colorado.gov/bills.

You can read a PDF version of my 2019 legislative newsletter here.

And you can read a PDF version of my 2017-2018 legislative newsletter here.

AFFORDABLE HOUSING

It is hard for Coloradans to find an affordable place to live. In 2019 in particular, the legislature increased investments in affordable housing and took action to protect renters.

Affordable housing bill signing, May 2019.
Affordable housing bill signing, May 2019.

Increased Funding for Affordable Housing (HB19-1245) – Whether you’re looking for a place to rent or a home to buy, housing is increasingly out of reach. Yet Colorado has been one of only a few states without a dedicated source of funding for affordable housing efforts. I sponsored this bill to create sustainable funding for housing efforts without raising taxes. By closing a loophole in our existing tax code, this bill will invest nearly $16 million over the next 2 years and $45-50 million per year thereafter for construction of new housing units for sale and for rent and to support other housing efforts. STATUS: signed into law.

Improving Colorado’s “Warranty of Habitability” (HB19-1170) – For over 10 years Colorado has had weak tenant protection laws. If you are paying rent, you deserve a home that is safe and livable with basics like functioning heat and plumbing. No one should have to move to escape an unsafe apartment, and in our tight rental market, it’s hard to find an available unit anyway. I sponsored this bill to improve tenants’ rights, limit landlord retaliation, and allow tenants to initiate repairs if landlords are not addressing problems impacting safety of a rental unit. STATUS: signed into law.

Expanding the Property Tax, Heat and Rent Credit (HB18-1380) – Low-income seniors and people with disabilities are able to claim a credit against state income taxes to offset the cost of property taxes or rent. The credit amount is very modest and has not been updated in several years, despite the rapidly increasing cost of housing. I sponsored this bill to adjust the amounts available to eligible seniors by inflation and to allow the amounts to increase for inflation going forward to help seniors stay in their homes. STATUS: killed on a party-line vote in GOP state senate.

Budget Amendment (HB18-1322) – I sponsored an amendment to the budget to increase funding to the Division of Housing by $5 million. The Division of Housing is the primary unit of our state that funds construction and renovation of affordable housing units for both ownership and rental. This amendment did not pass, but a similar amendment to increase funding by $1 million was approved. We need to do more to fund affordable housing, but every bit helps. STATUS: signed into law.

Budget Amendment (HB18-1322) – I co-sponsored another budget amendment to unlock $4.7 million for supportive housing for individuals with behavioral health conditions transitioning out of the criminal justice system. This funding would otherwise have gone unused, but now will help people in need avoid homelessness. STATUS: signed into law.

Property Tax Information (HB17-1311) – With property values rising in Arapahoe County and around the metro area, Coloradans should be able to make informed decisions about the true cost of buying and owning a home, including having a full picture of the taxes. I sponsored this bill to direct the state Division of Property Taxation to develop an informational tool on its website that Coloradans could use to estimate their property tax liability based on specific mill levy information.   STATUS – killed on a party-line committee vote in GOP state senate.

Other measures to increase access to affordable housing – In the 2019 legislative session I supported bills to further increase funding for affordable housing efforts (HB19-1322 – signed into law); to limit rental application fees (HB19-1106 – signed into law); to allow renters more time to catch up on a late rental payment in the case of an emergency (HB19-1118 – signed into law); and to increase housing tax credits to incentivize construction of more housing units (HB19-1228 – signed into law).  In the 2017 and 2018 sessions I supported bills to extend the affordable housing tax credit (SB18-007 – signed into law); to reduce double-taxation on mobile homes (HB18-1315 – signed into law); to make sure renters can get receipts for payments made (SB18-010 – signed into law); and to limit rental application fees (HB18-1127 – killed on a party-line vote in GOP-controlled senate.)

CAMPAIGN & GOVERNMENT TRANSPARENCY AND ELECTIONS

People should have the right to know who is spending money to influence our elections and our laws.

More Frequent Reporting By Lobbyists (HB19-1248) – In Colorado’s time-limited, 120-day legislative session, the legislative process moves quickly, but lobbyists are only required to report monthly. It shouldn’t be possible for a bill to be introduced and to move much of the way through the legislative process before the public knows what interests are lobbying for or against the bill. I sponsored this bill to require 72 hour reporting of lobbying during the session and to close loopholes that can arise when attorneys also act as lobbyists and sometimes do not report their lobbying activity. STATUS: signed into law.

Increased Transparency for “Independent Expenditure Committees” (HB19-1318) – Every year more and more money is spent through independent expenditure efforts. Sometimes it’s even questionable how “independent” this campaigning is. I sponsored this bill to increase disclosures required by independent expenditure committees, penalize illegal “coordination” of campaign activity designed to evade campaign finance laws, and require more “disclaimers” on campaign mail pieces, online ads and other political communications so voters can see clearly who is trying to influence them. STATUS: signed into law.

Increased Transparency for “Electioneering Communications” (SB19-068) – Campaigns seem to start earlier every year but current law only requires more frequent reporting 60 days before the general election — even though voters have already been getting mail and seeing ads on TV and online for months by that point. I sponsored this bill to require more frequent reporting earlier in a general election year so more information is available to voters in a timely fashion. STATUS: signed into law.

Enforcement Of Campaign Finance Laws (SB19-232) – Our campaign finance laws need robust enforcement to have their intended effect of transparency. At the same time, one side should not be able to use the law to play “gotcha” on the other side. I sponsored this bill to codify a new system of investigating campaign finance violations, while screening out honest mistakes. STATUS: signed into law.

Colorado Open Records Act Updates (SB17-040 – Sen. Kefalas & Rep. Pabon) – Someone requesting public records should be able to access them in a usable electronic form rather than on paper. This bill modernizes Colorado’s open records law to require that if a public entity has records in a digital format, it must make those records available digitally. The bill also adds protections for the privacy of electronic health records and for security of critical infrastructure like water systems. While not a prime sponsor of this bill, I worked with the sponsors to help get it passed to improve government transparency in our state.  STATUS – signed into law.

Closing Mystery Money Loopholes (HB17-1259) – Voters are tired of “dark money” in elections, but a recent Colorado court case created the risk of a loophole by which candidates could set up an “independent expenditure committee” to raise or spend unlimited money to influence their own election, thereby circumventing candidate limits approved 2:1 by voters.  I sponsored this bill to close the loopholeSTATUS – killed on a party-line committee vote in GOP state senate.

Updating Time Off To Vote (HB18-1033) – Under existing law, voters can take 2 hours off to vote, but only on Election Day. This bill would have updated the law to match the reality of how we vote in Colorado by allowing 2 hours off within the days leading up to Election Day as well, to drop off a ballot, obtain a ballot or replacement ballot, or obtain ID or other necessary documents as well as to vote. Voting is a fundamental right and it’s how we choose our leaders and decide big questions as a society.  I sponsored this bill to make voting easier.  STATUS: killed on a party-line vote in GOP state senate.

Stand By Your Ad Act (HB18-1403) – This bill would have expanded the types of political advertising required to contain a “disclaimer” indicating who paid for the ad. More money is spent on campaigns with every passing year, and usually the less apparent it is who’s spending the money, the more negative the advertising is. This is no good for our democracy. I sponsored this bill because transparency in campaign ads lets voters make informed choices.  STATUS: killed on a party-line vote in GOP state senate.

CONSERVATION

Let’s make sure our state remains a place we love to live.

Optional electric vehicle charging in new residential construction (HB18-1107) – This bill asked home builders to offer pre-wiring suitable for electric vehicle charging to buyers of new single family dwellings.  I sponsored this bill because it costs a few hundred dollars to get the wiring in place at the time of construction, compared to potentially thousands of dollars later.  With big changes coming to our vehicle fleet in the next several years, this bill aimed to save home buyers money. STATUS: killed on a party-line vote in GOP state senate.

In the 2019 legislative session I supported legislation to create a climate action plan to reduce pollution that causes climate change (HB19-1261 – signed into law); collect better data on climate change emissions (SB19- 096 – signed into law); grant more local control over oil and gas operations while prioritizing community health and safety in state permitting (SB19-181 – signed into law); expand community solar gardens to generate clean energy and create jobs that can’t be outsourced (HB19-1003 – signed into law); and fund wildfire mitigation in forest-urban interface areas (HB19-1006 – signed into law).

CONSUMER PROTECTION

Those who rip people off should face consequences

Consumer protection bill signing, May 2019.
Consumer protection bill signing, May 2019.

Strengthening the Colorado Consumer Protection Act (HB19-1289) – Until this year, Colorado’s consumer protection laws were rated among the weakest in the nation. I sponsored this bill to strengthen protections for consumers harmed by irresponsible corporations by removing barriers to enforcement, updating penalty amounts for the first time in decades, and allowing action against reckless anti-consumer conduct. STATUS – signed into law.

Arbitration Fairness Act (HB18-1261) – Forced arbitration practices in consumer and employment contracts abridge people’s rights. Instead of resolving a debate before a neutral judge, arbitration privatizes the justice system, lacks transparency, and lacks protections against conflicts of interest by arbitrators and companies that force arbitration on consumers.  I sponsored this bill to require greater disclosures and transparency in arbitration and to provide remedies for non-compliance.  STATUS: killed on a party-line vote in GOP state senate.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM

Public safety must be evidence-based and use tax dollars wisely.

Funding for Justice Reinvestment Efforts (SB19-064) – Since 2013, the “offender re-entry grant program” has been shown to reduce recidivism by up to 80% by more effectively supervising parolees. I sponsored this bill to extend funding for this effective approach to public safety. This bill also extends funding for pilot programs to fund crime victim support efforts and to make business loans and non-profit grants available in crime- impacted communities, including North Aurora, to increase economic opportunity and reduce crime. STATUS: signed into law.

Improving Data Collection for County Jails (HB19-1297) – Currently state officials have no comprehensive picture of who is in our county jails and for what reason, making it harder to know what legislation is effective and what is not when it comes to public safety. I sponsored this bill to generate better data about our criminal justice system by directing county jails to submit quarterly reports to the state’s Division of Criminal Justice. STATUS: signed into law.

Eligibility for Record Sealing (HB19-1275) – Since the 1980s, eligibility to seal criminal records in Colorado has been relatively limited. Data shows that even lower level offenses decades ago can prevent former offenders who have turned their lives around from gaining employment or stable housing. I sponsored this bill to allow former offenders an opportunity to seal records of lower-level offenses after the sentence has been served and if no further crime has been committed. Notification is given to the district attorney and impacted victims, and sealing requires judicial approval for all but the very lowest-level offenses. STATUS: signed into law.

Faster Resolution of Competency Determinations (SB19-223) – “Competency” means that a defendant is mentally able to understand the criminal proceedings and to assist in his or her own defense. It is not constitutional to proceed against a defendant who is not competent. However, for years Colorado has had large backlogs in competency evaluations and restorations. I sponsored this bill to reform our competency system so that evaluations and restorations are made more efficiently and humanely and in a way that complies with constitutional requirements and people do not languish in our jails for years. STATUS: signed into law.

Reforms to parole (HB18-1209) – for 25 years Colorado has sentenced certain offenders to serve a mandatory 5 years of parole once released from a correctional facility. However there is little evidence that 5 years of parole contributes to public safety or reduces recidivism despite an average cost to taxpayers of over $6,000 per year per person on parole. Therefore the bill makes the maximum term of parole 3 years instead of 5 for most offenders (lower level offenders already serve 3 years parole or less). We have incarcerated too many people, with too much racial disparity, for too long, and it’s time to start changing that.  STATUS: signed into law.

Oversight of Bail Bonding (SB17-236) – Under existing law, someone obtaining a bond may pledge real property as collateral to secure the bond, but sometimes the bonding agent cannot be located later to release the lien on the property.  I sponsored this bill to add a new consumer protection by allowing the property owner to file a complaint with the state’s insurance commissioner to have the lien released by a court.  The bill also continues existing oversight of bonding agents by the Division of Insurance. STATUS – signed into law.

Criminal Record Sealing (HB17-1208) – Record sealing is an important mechanism to make sure that defendants will not face barriers to employment and housing.  I sponsored this bill to clarify Colorado’s sealing process so that when a defendant has had charges dropped, or has been acquitted, or has completed a deferred judgment or diversion agreement, the defendant will be eligible to have the related criminal records sealed via an expedited and less expensive process.  STATUS – signed into law.

Updates to compassionate release parole (HB18-1109) – Colorado spends an average of $38,000/year to incarcerate someone. For older and sicker inmates, the cost can be two or three times as much. It is not necessary for public safety, a bad use of taxpayer dollars, and morally questionable to incarcerate the most ill and incapacitated inmates.  I sponsored this bill to give the Department of Corrections more discretion to send older and ill inmates to the state parole board to be considered for compassionate release.  STATUS: signed into law.

Continuing the Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice (HB18-1287) – For 10 years the Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice or “CCJJ” has studied the effectiveness of Colorado’s criminal laws and has helped bring about major reforms in areas like drug sentencing.  I sponsored this bill to continue CCJJ for another five years while adding new representatives including a crime victim, a victim advocate, and a former offender so that CCJJ will benefit from many perspectives.  Criminal justice is too important not to be based on research and deliberationSTATUS: signed into law.

Collateral sanctions relief (HB18-1344) – Even after completing a sentence, there are hundreds of “collateral consequences” of a criminal conviction that prevent people from getting back to work and earning a living.  I sponsored this bill to expand the ability of adult offenders to seek an order of collateral relief — an individualized determination by a judge that the person has been rehabilitated and should be allowed to seek a professional license to work. The bill also allows orders of collateral relief for juvenile offenders.  STATUS: signed into law.

Collateral consequences reduction in licensing and employment (HB18-1418)I sponsored this bill to reduce the collateral consequences of prior justice system involvement and help people get back to work and re-integrate into society. The bill provides that individuals who have been charged but not convicted, or have been pardoned, or have had records sealed or expunged may not be barred from a state or local government agency license or certification or job opening. The bill also increases data collection so we can better understand the scope of collateral consequences in the future.  STATUS: signed into law.

Other criminal justice measures – I supported bipartisan bills to enhance victim notification (HB19-1064 – signed into law); increase access to mental health support for peace officers (HB19- 1244 – signed into law); prohibit cash bail for low-level offenses (HB19-1225 – signed into law); and limit extraneous fees related to posting bail (SB19-191 – signed into law).

EDUCATION

Education opens doors. In recent years the legislature has made historic new investments to create opportunity for kids.

Funding For Full Day Kindergarten (HB19-1262) – I supported this bipartisan bill to provide state funding for full day kindergarten for any student, anywhere in the state, who wants to attend. STATUS: signed into law.

ASCENT Concurrent Enrollment Data (HB17-1294)ASCENT is a program that allows high school students to take college courses during a “5th year” of high school, at no tuition cost to the student, making progress toward or even completing a 2-year degree.  Aurora and Cherry Creek schools have more students taking advantage of ASCENT than most other districts in the state. Until recently, ASCENT students were not counted as high school graduates until the end of the 5th year. Thus, high-achieving ASCENT students used to be counted as “failing” to graduate high school on time in 4 years, creating a potential obstacle to utilization of ASCENT. I sponsored this bill to correct the problem by counting an ASCENT student as having graduated from high school when the high school graduation requirements are met.  STATUS – signed into law.

Budget Amendment – ASCENT Funding (SB17-254) – I won passage of an amendment to Colorado’s 2017-18 budget to increase funding for the ASCENT concurrent enrollment program by about 10%. More students will now have the opportunity to take college courses through ASCENT than ever before.  STATUS – signed into law.

Budget Amendment for ATC Funding (HB18-1322) – I sponsored an amendment to the budget to increase funding to Area Technical Colleges (ATCs), including Pickens Tech in Aurora, by $1.2 million to help keep up with enrollment growth. Area Technical Colleges like Pickens offer valuable technical training that helps students of all ages compete for good- paying jobs and funding the ATCs to fulfilll their mission is a smart investmentSTATUS: signed into law.

Transparency for Private Occupational Schools (SB17-118) – With student indebtedness becoming a bigger problem, students need to be able to make informed decisions before committing to a degree or certificate program, particularly at expensive private schools.  I sponsored this bill to require private occupational schools to provide information to prospective students on metrics like graduation and employment rates and debt levels.  STATUS – killed on a party-line committee vote in GOP state senate.

Other measures to improve education funding – In the 2019 legislative session I supported bipartisan legislation to boost K-12 funding by $100M (SB19-246 – signed into law); to make new funding available for career and technical education (HB19-1008 – signed into law) and special education (SB19-066 – signed into law); to oversee student loan servicers who collect on education debt (SB19-002 – signed into law); and to keep tuition flat at our public colleges and universities (SB19-207 – signed into law).  In the 2017 and 2018 sessions I supported bills to increase K-12 education funding by $150 million, an increase of over $200 per student, statewide (HB18-1379 – signed into law); to increase higher education funding by 9% in order to reduce the rate of tuition increases (HB18-1322 – signed into law); to increase school safety & security funding by $30 million (SB18-269 – signed into law); and to reduce teacher turnover (HB18-1412 – signed into law).

HEALTHCARE

Healthcare should be more affordable and easier to access

2019 was a banner year for reducing healthcare costs and increasing patient protections. I supported a bi-partisan bill to create a reinsurance program that is already on track to lower premiums on the individual market by an average of 18% in 2020 (HB19-1168 – signed into law). I supported bipartisan legislation to increase transparency of hospital costs (HB19-1001 – signed into law); limit out of network or “surprise” billing by health care providers (HB19-1174 – signed into law); create oversight for freestanding emergency rooms to control costs (HB19-1010 – signed into law); limit out of pocket costs for insulin, a necessary medicine for more and more people (HB19-1216 – signed into law); and reduce maternal mortality rates, which have doubled in Colorado since 2008 (HB19-1122 – signed into law). I also supported bi-partisan efforts to reduce the cost of healthcare through new approaches like a public option to increase competition in health care (HB19-1004 – signed into law) and health care cooperatives that can negotiate for lower prices (SB19-004 – signed into law).

MENTAL HEALTH

We need to invest more in mental health care and expand access to services.

I supported bipartisan legislation to increase access to counseling services for youth 12 years and older (HB19-1120 – signed into law); fund more counselors in high-need elementary schools (HB19-1017 – signed into law); require insurance companies to cover prevention and treatment of mental health conditions as well as physical conditions (HB19-1269 – signed into law); and allocate $3M in school grant funding to increase access to behavioral health services for students (SB19-010 – signed into law).

SUPPORTING OUR VETERANS

We should support those who have put their lives on the line for our country.

Receiving a Legislator of the Year Award from the United Veterans Committee of Colorado.
Receiving a Legislator of the Year Award from the United Veterans Committee of Colorado.

Recognition of Vietnam Veterans (HJR19-1009) – I sponsored this bipartisan resolution to honor those who were injured or gave their lives in the Vietnam conflict. This resolution coincides with the 50th anniversary of the peak period of fighting in 1968-69. STATUS: passed by both house and senate. I also supported measures honoring the contribution of African American veterans (HJR19-1008 – passed by both house and senate) and women veterans. (SB19-205 – signed into law).

Clarifying tax residency for active duty service members (SB19-029) – I supported this bipartisan bill to clarify availability of a state income tax deduction for active duty military pay when service members reacquire legal residency in Colorado after having acquired residency in another state. STATUS: signed into law.

Veterans Service Organizations (HB17-1056) – Thousands of low-level offenders are sentenced to perform community service each year in Colorado, often in conjunction with probation. However, until this year many Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs) were excluded from being able to supervise individuals performing community service.  I sponsored this bill to x this problem by allowing 501(c)(4) and 501(c)(19) VSOs to supervise community service just like other non-pro ts, so that they can bene t from this kind of work.  In addition, when individuals serving community service are themselves veterans, they can benefit from being in the presence of fellow veterans with shared experiences. STATUS – signed into law.

Continue Colorado Board of Veterans Affairs (SB17-212) – The state Board of Veterans Affairs is comprised of volunteers who work with the Colorado Division of Veterans Affairs to assist veterans in claiming benefits. The board also advocates for veterans in housing, employment, and other issues and oversees grant making to VSOs.  I sponsored this bill to continue the state board so it can perform this important workSTATUS – signed into law.

Angels of America’s Fallen (HJR17-1030) – I sponsored this bipartisan resolution to honor children who have lost a parent in the line of duty for our country and to recognize non-pro t organizations that support these children.  STATUS – passed by both house and senate.

TRANSPORTATION

As our state grows quickly we must continue to invest in roads and transit to keep Colorado moving.

In the 2019 legislative session I supported bipartisan legislation to increase transportation funding by $100 million while keeping the budget balanced. This funding will support improvements to state highways as well as county and city roads (SB19-207 and SB19-262 – signed into law).

In the 2018 legislative session I supported major bipartisan legislation to increase transportation funding by $645 million over the next two years while keeping our budget balanced (SB18-001 – signed into law.)  $495 million in additional transportation funding started going to work on priority transportation projects around the state as of July 1, 2018.  The final $150 million became effective July 1, 2019.

In addition to the above, I also supported bipartisan legislation in the 2017 session to invest hundreds of millions of dollars into transportation, again without increasing taxes. (SB17-267 – signed into law.)

A portion of this funding goes to transit systems like RTD because we need to invest in all the ways people get around, including cars, trains, and buses.