2019 Legislation

Below are measures I sponsored in the 2019 legislative session 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.

You can also see my 2017-2018 legislation here or read a PDF newsletter for 2017-2018 here.

AFFORDABLE HOUSING

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

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.

Other measures to increase access to affordable housing – 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).

CONSUMER PROTECTION

Those who rip people off should face consequences

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.

HEALTHCARE

Healthcare should be more affordable and easier to access

This 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).

CONSERVATION

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

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).

SUPPORTING OUR VETERANS

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

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.

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.

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).

CAMPAIGN AND GOVERNMENT TRANSPARENCY

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.

EDUCATION

Education opens doors. This year the legislature 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.

I also 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).

TRANSPORTATION

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

I supported bipartisan legislation this year 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). Previous bipartisan legislation, which I supported, will increase transportation funding by another $200 million this year in addition to $495 million last year, while keeping the budget balanced. This funding also supports both state as well as county and city roads (SB18-001 – signed into law in 2018). 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.