2022 Legislation

Below are bills and resolutions I sponsored in the 2022 legislative session.  To see details on any of these, you can visit the Colorado General Assembly web site at http://leg.colorado.gov/bills.

ADDRESSING THE HIGH COST OF LIVING

2023 & 2024 Property Tax Reduction (SB22-238) – Property taxes fund our schools, counties and sometimes other services like firefighting and libraries. But when property values increase sharply in a short amount of time, as they have in Colorado in recent years, property taxes go up quickly too, and that can be hard for household budgets. I sponsored this bill to reduce the property taxes Colorado residents and businesses will pay for two years, saving the average homeowner hundreds of dollars and keeping taxes from going up at all for some small businesses. Due to existing school finance law, school funding will not be reduced by these property tax reductions, and the state will use its some its revenues to “backfill” other local government budgets. STATUS – signed into law.

Senior Citizen Income Tax Credit (HB22-1205) – Colorado’s “Senior Homestead Exemption” is a property tax break that helps many seniors make ends meet by reducing the property taxes they are required to pay. However, this exemption is not available to seniors who rent their homes or haven’t lived in the same home for at least 10 years. I sponsored this bill to create a 1-year refundable income tax credit of up to $1,000 for lower- and middle-income Colorado seniors (up to $75,000 adjusted gross income) who are not eligible for the property tax reduction. This tax credit will benefit around 150,000 Colorado seniors, saving them a total of $100 million to help meet the challenges of rising costs. STATUS – signed into law.

Expanding Access to Free Community College (HB22-1002 & HB22-1390) – For over 10 years Colorado has had a program called ASCENT that enables qualifying high school seniors to take an additional or fifth year of high school to pursue concurrent enrollment courses at a local community college (like CCA). This allows students to complete a 2-year degree with no tuition cost, saving thousands of dollars. Historically, ASCENT has been capped at 500 students per year, fewer than the number of students the state’s own data shows would like to pursue ASCENT. I sponsored HB 1002 to eliminate the cap, making ASCENT eligible to any qualifying student.  During the legislative process, HB 1002 was incorporated into the annual “School Finance Act,” HB22-1390, and became law that way. STATUS – signed into law.

Metro District Debt Reform (HB22-1363) – Almost no new housing in Colorado is built without a “metro district” (short for “metropolitan district”), which is a kind of government that can issue debt and impose taxes. As metro districts have proliferated – they now number more than 2,000 statewide, mostly in the metro Denver area – more and more residents have begun to question the amount of debt they issue and lack of transparency about their operations. I sponsored this bill to try to increase transparency surrounding metro district finances, to give cities and counties more oversight of metro districts on behalf of their taxpaying residents, and to prevent developers from buying debt that they themselves voted to issue (acting as directors of metro districts). However, this bill was defeated due to lobbying by the metro district industry.

Increased Oversight of Insurance Rates (HB22-1357) – Car insurance is legally required, and homeowners insurance is required to have a mortgage, which most homeowners do. But Colorado law offers less oversight over insurance rates than some other states have. I sponsored this bill to require certain minimum “loss ratios” for auto and homeowners insurance – so that auto insurance policies would have to pay policyholders 75% of premium dollars in benefits (claims paid after an accident) and homeowners policies would have to pay 80%. Just a 1% improvement in these “loss ratios” would save Coloradans $80 million per year. However, this bill was defeated due to lobbying by the insurance industry.

GOVERNMENT TRANSPARENCY & EFFICIENCY

Protecting Taxpayers from False Claims (HB22-1119) – In recent years, Colorado has dedicated billions of dollars of state and federal funds to COVID recovery through unemployment benefits, small business grants and loans, and more. Unfortunately, some unscrupulous actors have perpetrated fraud on the state, which really means fraud on taxpayers. I sponsored this bill to give the Colorado Attorney General authority to take action against those who defraud taxpayers, enabling recovery of improperly claimed state funds with added penalties. This creates consequences for bad actors and, hopefully, an incentive against attempting fraud in the first place. STATUS – signed into law.

Reforms to Judicial Discipline (SB22-201) – Confidence in our judicial branch ought to be a foundation stone of state government, but that confidence has been shaken in recent years by reports of financial irregularities and questionable conduct. I sponsored this bill to increase the independence of Colorado’s Commission on Judicial Discipline so that the commission can more vigorously investigate judges whose conduct has come into question. The bill also created an interim committee that is meeting through the summer and fall of 2022 to consider further changes to Colorado’s system of judicial discipline. STATUS – signed into law.

More Efficient Review of Occupational Regulation (HB22-1291) – When a proposal arises for potential legislation concerning regulated profession, non-partisan state employees in the Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) conduct a thorough “sunrise review” to study the profession, how other states do or don’t oversee the profession, and best practices. These are laborious reviews and can take nearly a year. I sponsored this bill to streamline this process, make the reviews more objective, and allow DORA to save time and resources by declining a formal review if a super majority of other states already have laws in place about the profession under consideration. STATUS – signed into law.

Additional Voter Information for Tax Ballot Questions (SB22-222) – Coloradans are often asked to vote on extremely consequential income tax ballot measures whose impacts can reach into the hundreds of millions of dollars. However, it’s not always clear who benefits more or less from proposed tax cuts, or who would pay a little or a lot more from a tax increase. I sponsored this bill to add a “tax table” providing more specific information about the impact of income tax ballot measures to future ballot titles. Colorado voters will see this question on their November 2022 general election ballots and will have the final say whether they want to see this tax table in the future. STATUS – referred to the 2022 ballot. A YES vote means there will be an information tax table in connection with future ballots.

Continuity of Judges for Transition to New Judicial District (HCR22-1005) – In 2020, just before COVID struck, I passed HB20-1026, to separate the current 18th Judicial District into two new districts starting in 2024 and 2025. Going forward, Arapahoe County will be the 18th Judicial District and Douglas, Elbert and Lincoln Counties will be the 23rd District. In the last 50 years, no other district has grown as quickly as the current 18th Judicial District, and it’s by far the largest in the state. To ensure a smooth transition, I sponsored this measure to ask Colorado voters to approve one-time transition authority, if necessary, for judges serving in the current 18th Judicial District to the new districts. Judicial retention elections are not impacted. STATUS – referred to the 2022 ballot. A YES vote means approval of this mechanism to avoid disruption in judging.

Ending the “Colorado Filibuster” (HCR22-1002) – Since Colorado became a state in 1876, our constitution has allowed any one legislator to require a bill to be read out loud in full, preventing further debate and voting on that bill until the reading is done. Back then, that made some sense, because we didn’t have smart phones, tablets, laptops, laser printers, photocopiers, and many other ways for legislators and others read and comprehend bills on paper or on a screen. Now, sadly, “reading at length” has become a delay tactic in our legislature. I sponsored this measure to put a question on the general election ballot so that voters could decide whether they want to continue to have this reading at length provision in our state Constitution. However, it did not pass because time was running too short in our limited, 120-day legislative session.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE & PUBLIC SAFETY

Increasing Funding To Support Survivors of Crimes (SB22-183) – Historically Colorado and other states have received funding from the federal government to support a wide variety of services for crime survivors. However, due to federal law changes in recent years that the state had no control over, this funding has dropped significantly, threatening reduced services for crime survivors and layoffs of staff in non-profit organizations who provide counseling and other support to survivors. I sponsored this bill to commit $41 million dollars of state funding to these services, with a specific emphasis on services for survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence. STATUS – signed into law.

Improving Screening & Services Brain Injury Survivors (SB22-057) – Brain injuries are insufficiently understood but can have long-lasting impacts on those who suffer them, including survivors of violent crimes like assaults. I sponsored this bill to create a task force of experts that will work through the summer and fall of 2022 to bring recommendations to the legislature in time for our 2023 legislative session on how to best create screening and treatment programs for people who experience a brain injury due to surviving a crime. STATUS – signed into law.

Continuing Transparency of Jail Population Data (HB22-1208) – We can’t pass good laws without good data, but until recently we had no statewide picture of who was in our county jails and why. For example: were people being held pre-trial or serving a sentence; how long had someone been in jail; and did people have substance use disorders. In 2019 I sponsored HB 1297 to create a state data dashboard to provide this information. In the initial pilot phase, the dashboard was completed on time and on budget. I sponsored this bill to make the data dashboard permanent so everyone interested in criminal justice and public safety can continue to have access to this information. You can see the dashboard here – https://ors.colorado.gov/ors-jaildata. STATUS – signed into law.

Implementing Recommendations of the Commission on Criminal & Juvenile Justice (HB22-1229 and HB22-1257) – Colorado’s Commission on Criminal & Juvenile Justice (CCJJ) is a bipartisan group of prosecutors and defense attorneys, survivors of crimes and people who have committed offenses in the past and served their time, local and state government officials, and others, who work to bring evidence-based recommendations for changes to our criminal justice laws to the legislature. I sponsored these bills to implement the recent recommendations of CCJJ, including procedures for assessing penalties for low-level offenses; punishment for the crime of “possession of a weapon by a previous offender” and making sure that probation supervision is consistent across our state. STATUS – signed into law.

CONSERVATION

Cleaning up “Orphan Wells” from Oil & Gas Drilling (SB22-198) – Colorado is one of the top states for production of oil and gas, when but an oil or gas operating company goes bankrupt, it may not be able to fulfill its responsibilities to clean up its well sites. That means the cost falls on the taxpayers, or worse, well sites aren’t cleaned up at all, posing environmental and health risks. I sponsored this bill to make sure the oil and gas industry, not taxpayers, takes care of this cleanup work. Companies will pay a modest fee per well to create a “mitigation fund” to address orphan wells. This will allow thousands of existing orphan wells to be cleaned up while providing funds for future needs. Well cleanup will help create jobs as well. STATUS – signed into law.

Incentives for Forest Health, Wild Fire Mitigation and Timber Industries (HB22-1166) – Wildfire is a growing threat in Colorado as in other western states. I sponsored this bill to create tailored, limited tax incentives for companies trying to expand operations to undertake fire mitigation and related activities in our state, with a requirement to buy equipment made in Colorado, if any is available. However, this bill did not become law for budgetary reasons.

HONORING OUR VETERANS

Remembering World War II Veterans (HJR22-1009) – As the grandson of World War II veterans, I sponsored this resolution to honor the contributions of Colorado veterans in the war, particularly the 10th Mountain Division and the Colorado National Guard’s 157th Infantry Regiment that liberated Dachau. This resolution also recognizes the Colorado Freedom Memorial in Aurora, which has compiled the names of all Colordans killed in action since the Spanish American War. STATUS – passed by both House and Senate.