Colorado’s current flat income tax isn’t quite as flat as it seems. The reality is that the highest income Coloradans pay a much lower share of their income than everybody else.
This year, we have an opportunity to ask the top 5% of Coloradans to pay their fair share while reducing income tax rates for the other 95% of us. Initiative #271 does just that, while also generating an estimated $2 billion in state revenue, with half going to raising pay for public school teachers and support staff and the other half going to addressing the impacts of our growing population on infrastructure and other state programs.
In light of the impacts of the global pandemic on our state budget, this measure is needed now more than ever. And it’s only fair to ask those whose incomes were not affected by the pandemic to pitch in a little bit more. And for those of you who have been calling for TABOR reform, this is the best shot we’ve had in years to offset TABOR’s negative impacts on state priorities.
But before it gets onto the November ballot, we need to help the campaign gather the required number of signatures. Click here to find out where you can sign a petition in the weeks ahead. Or if you live in Lakewood, super-volunteer Sarah Nelson has petitions at her home and would love to have you stop by (six feet away, of course) to sign, almost every day after 10am. She lives at 893 Oak Street. Please call/text her first at 720-579-1485 to make sure she’s home or to schedule an appointment.
If you need more information, there’s a lot available. See the links below or visit FairTaxColorado.org to explore for yourself:
Yesterday was the last day of the 2020 legislative session. Over the last few months, we found ourselves called to respond to an extraordinary set of challenges in addition to continuing last year’s progress on education, health care, environment, and other priorities. Not only did we face the most significant global pandemic of any of our lifetimes, but we also experienced a major focusing event in the civil rights movement with yet another murder of an innocent black man at the hands of law enforcement officers.
This is the story of what your state legislature did over the last six months to rise to the occasion and fight for the rights, freedoms, and well-being of every Coloradan. Buckle in; it’s a long one.
It started out as an ordinary session (not that any of them are all that ordinary). The economy was growing and we were expecting a TABOR surplus, which meant that some of the proceeds of the economic growth would have to be returned to taxpayers according to an archaic formula rather than reinvested in K-12 and higher education, transportation, mental health, affordable housing, environmental protection, criminal justice reform, and other state priorities. House and Senate Democrats opened the session with bills and budget discussions oriented around these priorities on which we had made such incredible progress in the 2019 session. And we were off to a pretty decent start.
But then, COVID-19 struck. There was talk around the capitol that the pandemic was much more serious than the ones that had arisen over the last few decades. I’ll admit, I was a little slow to recognize how serious it really was and I kept pushing my legislative ideas forward until the last possible second. But after several briefings from the Department of Public Health and Environment, it hit home. We were going to have to radically change course. Not only would the legislature need to go into a multi-week temporary adjournment to protect the public (who tend to gather in large numbers at the Capitol for the more controversial debates), but state and local governments would also be considering distancing provisions, and ultimately, stay-at-home orders. And those choices to protect public health would have direct impacts on state and local government budgets, too.
On Wednesday, March 11th, we had a late-night committee hearing on one of the biggest bills of the session: the Colorado health insurance option, commonly known as the “public option.” Representative Dylan Roberts and I presented the bill in front of the House Health and Insurance Committee with hours of testimony and a half-dozen amendments that came from intense stakeholder work. But it wasn’t meant to be, and within days, we had to set the bill aside to focus on more urgent priorities.
On Friday, March 13th, House and Senate leadership made the call to go into a temporary adjournment. Thus began the “quarantine phase” of the 2020 legislative session. We all became quite familiar with several pieces of webinar software that we used for briefings from the executive branch, discussions among legislators, stakeholder meetings, and even social events with friends and family. Believe me when I tell you that the work didn’t stop just because we weren’t at the Capitol.
Meanwhile, my amazing fiancé, Kyra, and I were supposed to be planning our wedding, which was originally scheduled for the weekend of June 13th. We agonized for weeks about whether we’d need to postpone it or downsize it. All options were bad, and doing a June wedding—especially after I was likely to have gone back to the Capitol for a few weeks—meant I was very likely to be a carrier of COVID-19, and it was just too risky that I might expose our parents or our friends with small children.
But then, at the end of April, Kyra had a brilliant idea. What if we move up the date instead? People were generally still following the stay-at-home orders, and we could safely gather 10-20 people at our own home without significantly risking anyone’s health. So with one whole week to rewrite all of our plans, we scheduled the wedding for May 2nd and pulled together a small-but-sweet ceremony and reception in our backyard. And you know what? It was perfect.
And it was a good thing we moved up the wedding, too, because I ended up being at the Capitol all day on the day we were originally supposed to get married. But I’m getting slightly ahead of myself.
The Monday after our wedding day and a one-day staycation for a honeymoon, Kyra and I both went back to work. In addition to participating in the discussions about what else the state needed to be doing to address the public health and economic impacts of COVID-19, I was part of a House Democratic task force looking into the legal and technological challenges involved with allowing some legislators to participate remotely when we reconvened. You see, we have a number of members who have health vulnerabilities who could die if exposed to COVID-19, and we wanted to make sure they could continue to represent their constituents from home. We bent over backwards to bring in Republicans to help come up with the protocols, but they locked down against us and refused to help. Despite their votes against allowing remote participation, several House and Senate Republicans ultimately took advantage of the system we created and opted to participate from home in the final days of the legislative session.
On May 12th, we were presented with an updated revenue forecast from the legislative and executive branches (who typically only present such forecasts in March, June, September, and December). The news was grim. We were looking at a $3.3 billion hole in the budget, and believe me when I say that we can’t make up for that kind of revenue loss by tinkering around the edges of the budget and trying to root out waste, fraud, and abuse. To the contrary, we had to make truly painful cuts to K-12, higher education, health care, housing, human services, transportation, and every other part of the state budget. Fortunately, some of these cuts were offset by federal action. I am grateful that Congress and the President put aside their differences to pass a trio of meaningful COVID-19 relief bills, which in turn gave us resources to address the direct effects of the disease and the economic downturn. I continue to hope that they succeed in passing a fourth bill, the HEROES Act, which will go beyond the first three by giving aid to states to backfill the devastating budget cuts. Until such legislation passes, however, the cuts to education and other state programs will be deep.
As you might surmise, cutting the budget also means postponing any new legislation that was expected to have a fiscal impact. Furthermore, we were hearing that we would only have three weeks once we returned to finish all of our work, which also meant that we had to limit the number of controversial bills that were likely to generate hours and hours of filibustering. As a result, I had to set aside almost all of the legislation I was working on prior to the pandemic, including the public option.
Of the twelve bills I had introduced (plus five more that were still in the drafting/stakeholding phase), I was only able to preserve five of them. One was a technical clean-up that passed before the crisis; three were referred from the Opioid and Other Substance Use Disorders Interim Committee, which I was able to pass after removing all of the pieces that cost money (House Bills 1017, 1065, and 1085); and one was a priority health care bill to restructure the financing for the reinsurance program, which became even more important after the economic downturn took away the original funding stream. Lastly, I introduced one new bill with Representative Lisa Cutter to allocate some of the CARES Act money to helping low-to-medium income families impacted by the recession to afford their utility bills.
Lest you think that is the end of the story, think again. We resumed session on Tuesday, May 26th—one day after the murder of George Floyd by four Minneapolis police officers. Since the beginning of the Black Lives Matter movement after the murder of Michael Brown by the Ferguson, MO police in 2014, we have seen far too many deaths of people of color at the hands of law enforcement officers. There were far too many prior to 2014 as well, but Ferguson was a focusing event that generated a real response. Colorado passed a series of laws that year to try to rein in abuses by law enforcement officers, but those laws didn’t go far enough. And 2020 was different. Perhaps it was because there were too many similar events that had happened in Colorado over the last year—most notably De’Von Bailey on August 3, 2019 in Colorado Springs and Elijah McClain on August 30, 2019 in Aurora. Perhaps it was because the protests didn’t fizzle out in one day, but continued day after day after day. Perhaps it was because the Colorado legislature currently includes a remarkable team of black and latinx leaders who helped the rest of us see what we could do to save lives of innocent people of color. Whatever the reason, the majority of us at the legislature knew that we needed to find a meaningful set of policy changes that would break away from the status quo and prevent the further loss of life. While there were several legislators who contributed to the success of the Law Enforcement Integrity and Accountability Act, I would be remiss if I didn’t recognize the courageous leadership of my colleague and friend, Representative Leslie Herod. She was the driving force, the builder of the coalition, and the principal negotiator who engaged with stakeholders from communities across the state as well as law enforcement leaders. And at the end of the day, the bill passed with the support of every Democrat and nearly 2/3 of the Republicans. Learn more about what was in the Law Enforcement Integrity and Accountability Act here.
Over the course of the three-week session, we passed a balanced budget, allocated all of the federal dollars to help families and small businesses get through the pandemic and its economic repercussions, passed the aforementioned police accountability bill, and passed several dozen other pieces of legislation that will help Coloradans get through this difficult time. At a later date, I’ll share a comprehensive list of what we got done, but for now, I’ll finish this email with just a few more highlights.
We finally passed the bill to improve our state’s low vaccination rates. We mandated licensure of all tobacco retailers across the state to ensure no one under 21 will be able to buy cigarettes or vape products, and we referred a nicotine tax increase to the voters this November.
While the cuts to K-12 schools were really painful, we did three big things to offset those costs in the future. First, we built a provision into the school finance act that will allow school districts in future years to go back to the mill levies they had in place at the time they passed their de-Bruce measures (which were subsequently reduced because of the Gallagher amendment until the 2007 mill levy freeze). Second, we referred a measure to the voters to repeal the Gallagher amendment itself, which if passed will stabilize school district and other local mill levies against future downward ratcheting. Finally, we ran a bill to close several corporate loopholes that primarily benefited huge businesses so we could reallocate those dollars to the state education fund (as well as an increase in support to working families through the earned income tax credit). Unfortunately, pressure from the business lobby was intense and we had to scale back the measure considerably in order to get the governor’s commitment to signing it. But even with the compromise, we were able to retain $190M over two years to reinvest in education and working families. And that’s a big deal.
Last but not least, I want to talk about the bill that occupied the bulk of my time and energy over the last three weeks. Together with Senators Dominick Moreno and Kerry Donovan and the remarkable Representative Julie McCuskie, we passed a bill to restructure and expand the Colorado reinsurance program, Senate Bill 215. In 2019, we passed the first bill to establish the reinsurance program, funded by a combination of general fund and hospital assessments. The program allowed for more effective spreading of risk between insurance markets, reducing premiums in the individual market by an average of 20%, and stabilizing the group markets by avoiding an increase in uncompensated care, which drives hospitals to shift costs to those other markets. When the recession struck, hospitals were hit so hard that they could not afford the assessment, and we needed to find another funding stream to avoid the general fund expense that we needed to transfer to stabilizing education funding. We learned that a federal assessment on insurance plans was set to expire in January 2021, and we knew it was very likely that insurance companies would be able to keep those dollars as windfall profits. Instead of letting that happen, we stood up for people over insurance industry profits and passed a bill to collect those fees at the state level instead. What that means is that, without increasing costs for businesses, we have replaced the bulk of the funding stream for the reinsurance program so that it can continue for another five years in Colorado, stabilizing insurance markets and increasing health insurance enrollment. On top of that, we allocated funding to provide additional subsidies to low and middle income Coloradans, including those impacted by the “family glitch” and, for the very first time in Colorado, undocumented residents of our state. These families have been among the hardest hit by the pandemic and recession, and I’m so proud that we finally took action to make sure they’re not left behind to go without medical care, food, or housing in these difficult times.
This is hardly an exhaustive list of the work we did this year, but since I’ve already written a newsletter about five times longer than most people will read, I’m going to stop here.
Hard times are ahead for too many Coloradans, but today I feel gratitude. I’m grateful that I’m lucky enough to have a job in which I get to focus my energy every day on trying to help people. I’m grateful that the voters elected Democratic majorities in the State House and Senate in 2018, without which we would not have accomplished half of what we did. I’m grateful for the staff, advocates, and protestors who made all of our progress possible. And I’m grateful for the remarkable legislators (including a handful of thoughtful, compassionate, and courageous Republicans) who came together to solve problems for the people of Colorado this year. I’m so proud to serve as one of 100 Representatives and Senators who were sent to the state Capitol from all across the state to do this work for all the beautiful people of our beautiful state.
May we all continue moving forward with patience, wisdom, courage, and grace.
This has been a strange time to be a state legislator, and it’s kind of amazing how quickly the days fill up with new tasks. I have been on dozens of Zoom calls with fellow legislators, the governor’s office, various executive branch departments, local governments, and our federal delegation about our COVID-19 response. Every day, I hear from constituents and local organizations about new issues and challenges they’re facing. I spend time following up to get them connected to the state agencies leading the response for that particular issue. We’re constantly assessing the federal, state, and local responses to date and identifying gaps that we need to figure out how to fill.
On top of that, we’re preparing to go back into session in mid-May in order to fulfill our constitutional obligation to pass a balanced budget by the end of the fiscal year. This is a challenge in the best of years, but the reduced revenue projections this year are setting up some very difficult decisions and some likely cuts to priorities that are already underfunded. It’s going to be painful, but we will be doing everything we can to minimize the harm and prepare to bounce back when this crisis is over.
What’s especially tricky is that the pandemic won’t exactly be over by the time we have to resume legislative business, so we have set up working group to figure out how legislators with health conditions or vulnerable family members can debate and vote from home, and how the rest of us inside the capitol can maintain safe distances and other best practices.
Safer-at-Home On Monday, April 27th, 2020, Colorado will likely enter the“Safer-at-Home” phase of our COVID-19 response. Because our COVID-19 response must be a marathon and not a sprint, Governor Polis is emphasizing sustainability and individual responsibility in this new phase. Vulnerable individuals should continue to stay home through the safer-at-home phase. Key changes include:
The general population will no longer be ordered to stay at home. You are encouraged to stay at home except when absolutely necessary and strongly advised to wear face coverings in public.
Retail may open for curbside delivery, with phased-in public openings with strict distancing precautions.
Personal services like hair and nail salons, tattoo parlors, dog grooming, personal training, etc. can reopen with strict precautions.
Visit cpr.org to see the full list of changes that will likely come into effect next week. Please also note that local public health officials may implement different COVID-19 response strategies at the local level to better meet the needs of our community. Jefferson County Public Health officials, county leadership, and businesses are currently working on determining what a gradual and safe opening will look like. Please continue to stay home as much as possible and stay tuned for Jeffco updates.
Unemployment Expansion Applications for unemployment insurance benefits for independent contractors, self-employed workers, and other persons in similar situations went live this week. Visit the CDLE website for more information and to apply.
If you are or will be receiving unemployment benefits, you will soon start receiving an additional $600 per week as a result of the CARES Act. This additional benefit, known as Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation or FPUC, does not require you to take any action. It is retroactive to March 29th, 2020.
Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) The Small Business Administration is currently unable to accept new applications for PPP loans. We at the legislature recently learned that when the PPP went live, banks and credit unions were not given adequate guidance on how to administer the loans. As a result, bank policy will likely dictate how these loans will be processed. I understand that this uncertainty is frustrating and we are working with our Congressional delegation to address this very serious issue. We are also advocating that franchises who may not qualify as a small business still be considered for PPP. If your small business is in need of a loan, please explore these resources in the meantime. Additionally, try contacting the Small Business Navigator with your questions: Hotline: (303) 860-5881 (Mon – Fri, 8am – 5pm) Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Federal Legislation I want to take a moment to thank Congressman Ed Perlmutter for introducing new federal legislation that would provide additional financial support to states as we manage the economic impacts of this COVID-19 pandemic. If passed into law, the Coronavirus Relief for States Actwould provide $500 billion in flexible funding to states to respond to the current crisis, backfill state budgets, and support economic recovery. These dollars could be especially meaningful for our K-12 and higher education budgets where they could help reduce the cuts that will be coming due to the economic downturn. This is an important conversation and I am grateful for Congressman Perlmutter’s leadership in making state and local aid a priority during this pandemic.
This is an incredibly difficult time for our country, and I am grateful every day for the front line health care workers, the government workers, the grocery store and food delivery workers, and everyone else who is doing work that we couldn’t live without.
FRAUD WATCH: A number of bogus products are being circulated as COVID-19 cures. At this time, there is no cure for COVID-19. Remember, scammers follow headlines. Visit StopFraudColorado.gov for more information.
CALL FOR VOLUNTEERS: We’re fortunate to have several organizations in JeffCo that are working to provide food to those who need it. In order to continue providing this essential service, they need volunteers or donations. Stay-at-home and workplace restrictions do not apply to volunteers at these organizations. Please visit one or more of the following websites to see how you can help feed our community: The Action Center * ECCHO * JeffCoEats * Mountain Resource Center * Food Bank of the Rockies * BgoldN *** If you are a medical or public health professional, you can sign up to volunteer here. To donate or volunteer in another capacity, visit HelpColoradoNow.org.
If you have urgent questions regarding COVID-19, please contact the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment (CDPHE).
JeffCoMakes! – ideas for family activities while everyone is social distancing
Newsletter, March 16, 2020
Neighbors and Friends,
You’ve probably heard that Governor Polis declared a state of emergency in Colorado to address COVID-19 (coronavirus). The Colorado General Assembly has been doing everything in its power to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in Colorado and protect those who have come in contact with coronavirus. We are working closely with the Governor’s office to take swift and necessary actions as we continue to monitor COVID-19 in our communities, state, country, and across the world.
This is an uncertain time to say the least, and I know that most of us have never experienced anything like it in our lifetimes. That said, we will be able to minimize the harm and protect our most vulnerable populations by taking smart precautions and following the advice of experts. We will all need to make short term sacrifices, but by working together, we’re going to pull through this together.
One of the measures that the General Assembly found necessary was pausing the legislative session for at least two weeks. We are scheduled to reconvene on March 30, 2020. The Capitol building is closed today and tomorrow for cleaning. It will reopen on Wednesday, March 18, 2020, but public tours are not available until further notice. The Lakewood legislators have also decided to cancel our Town Hall that was scheduled for March 28, 2020.
If you have urgent questions regarding COVID-19, please contact the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment (CDPHE).
COVID-19 symptoms include coughing, fever, and shortness of breath. If you have symptoms and believe that you may be exposed, please contact a health care provider immediately.
According to the CDPHE, certain people are at higher risk of getting very sick from COVID-19, including:
People over the age of 60, especially those over 80
People who have chronic medical conditions (heart, lung, or kidney disease; diabetes)
Individuals who are at higher risk should avoid crowds and practice social distancing. Regardless of your risk level, please review the recommended prevention strategies below:
Frequently and thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash. If no tissues are available, use your inner elbow or sleeve.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
Stay home if you’re sick and keep your children home if they are sick.
Clean surfaces in your home and personal items such as cell phones.
We are facing this uncertainty together and it is crucial that we all do our part to protect each other. As always, please do not hesitate to contact me with your concerns and questions: call (303) 866-2951 or email email@example.com.
Thank you for staying safe,
P.S. For any of you who were elected delegates to your county assembly/convention, the General Assembly passed emergency legislation to give the parties the ability to allow remote participation or mail voting. Please look for information from your county party soon on how to participate.
With everything going on at the capitol, I have to admit I’ve barely given any thought to the precinct caucuses coming up on Saturday, March 7th at 2:00pm. Fortunately, we have a wonderful team of volunteers working incredibly hard to get everything ready to go!
Many voters have expressed confusion about why caucus is still happening since we’ve moved to a presidential primary this year. Before I tell you, I want to make sure you’ve all already returned your primary ballots. If not, drop them off by 7:00pm on Tuesday, March 3rd at any of Jeffco’s several locations (or if you’re not in Jeffco, google your county clerk’s website). If you’re struggling to make up your mind, you can read about my endorsement of Elizabeth Warren here. I continue to believe she’s the most thoughtful, bold, sincere, and electable candidate running.
Back to caucus. Here’s the deal. Colorado still gives candidates two paths to get their names on the June primary ballot. Candidates may either collect petition signatures or go through the caucus-assembly process. If the latter, delegates elected at caucus will attend county, congressional district, and state assemblies to nominate those candidates (as well as to elect delegates to the national convention based on the results of the presidential primary). That’s how I’m running this year, and that’s how many of the candidates for US Senate are running, too.
Caucuses will elect delegates this year based on their preference in the US Senate race, and I’ll be caucusing for Andrew Romanoff. While I like and respect John Hickenlooper, I believe we need more courageous leadership in the US Senate in the years ahead. I’m hopeful that we will defeat Trump this November, but it’s unlikely we’ll have 60 votes in the Senate to pass any significant legislation. That’s why we need a US Senator who’s not afraid to say that the filibuster is outdated and must be abolished. Andrew was a master legislator during his eight years in the Colorado House of Representatives, and he’s a strong supporter of Medicare for All and the Green New Deal. This is no time for small solutions. We need courageous leadership to get our country back on track. And yes, I’m confident Andrew will be able to defeat Cory Gardner this November.
This is an exciting time to be involved in politics, and if you’re not yet involved, now’s the time. So many of the events of the last few years have been deeply troubling, but we’ve seen the way local action can bring about big changes. When voters in 2018 elected Democratic majorities in the State House and Senate, we passed significant legislation in so many policy areas and we’re already seeing the way those reforms have improved the lives of hard-working Coloradans. We can do the same thing in 2020 by electing a Democratic President, and Democratic US Senator for Colorado, and holding on to our Democratic House Majority. Change is in the air, and now is the time for us to do the work to persuade and turn out the voters of Colorado to support a vision for the future that gives real opportunities to everyone who works hard and does their fair share, ensures basic human rights, and protects our environment for the next generation.
I’ll look forward to seeing you at caucus!
P.S. I want to specifically recognize the hard work of Theresa Tomich, Chair of the HD23 Democrats, who is running the show at our caucus location (Carmody Middle School) this year. She and her team have been working so hard for weeks to make sure everything runs smoothly next weekend. These events wouldn’t be possible without amazing volunteers like Theresa.L
Live in HD23? If you live in my district, here’s where our caucus will be meeting:
I don’t know about you, but I can’t get enough of the news about the Democratic presidential primary. So much is at stake for the future of our country, and I’m feeling very invested in putting forward a candidate who can defeat Donald Trump and get our government back into the business of solving problems and making life better for the hard-working familes across our country.
Every Democrat on the debate stage is more qualified and has more integrity than the current occupant of the White House, and come November, I’ll be proud to support any one of them. But I really, REALLY, hope it’s Senator Elizabeth Warren.
Beating Trump is the #1 priority, and I believe Elizabeth Warren is the most electable candidate. She is an incredibly powerful communicator, and she speaks directly to the people who are feeling most left behind–including those in the midwestern swing states.
Her policy ideas are bold, thoughtful, and thorough. Seriously. Just read any one of her plans. She certainly took some heat in the press over elements of her health care plan, but I read it twice and I can tell you she knows her stuff. She recognizes we cannot solve the big problems without disrupting the status quo, and she also establishes realistic steps and timelines.
She has a real theory of change that starts with tackling corruption in Washington. Debate moderators have asked numerous times how candidates would accomplish their policy goals if elected, and I find Warren’s theory most compelling. That’s because I’ve experienced the power of special interests first hand. There are days at the state capitol where I can’t walk down the hall without bumping into a dozen insurance lobbyists, a dozen hospital lobbyists, and a dozen pharma lobbyists. And most of the time, their efforts are directed towards blocking progressive change.
Elizabeth Warren is a fighter for regular people who are just trying to get good jobs, support their families, and afford health care, housing, child care, and higher education. After four years of Trump, that’s what we need in the White House.
The Iowa caucus is Monday, February 3rd. But before we see the results of the New Hampshire primary at 7:00pm EST on Tuesday, February 11th, you will likely already have your Colorado presidential primary ballot in hand!
That’s right, we have a presidential primary in Colorado this year! Ballots are mailed out starting February 10th and are due back by 7:00pm on Tuesday, March 3rd.
FUN FACT: Because of a bill we passed last year, 17 year olds who will be 18 by the November 3rd General Election will be eligible to vote in primaries and caucuses this year! Register to vote here!
Keep in mind we’ll still have precinct caucuses on Saturday, March 7th. Delegates elected at caucus will participate in the nomination of all state and local candidates (including me!), and those who go on to the state convention will elect delegates to the national convention based on the results of the presidential primary.
With that, I hope you all have a wonderful and warm winter weekend in Colorado! And don’t forget to reply to tell me about who you’re excited to support to be our next President of the United States of America!
That said, I have a great deal of confidence in my colleagues. We showed that we’re willing to do the work, researching tough topics and engaging with stakeholders in diverse communities and across the political spectrum to create the best policies. As a result, 95% of the bills signed into law by Governor Polis last year passed with bipartisan support.
It should be no surprise, then, that the first bill we introduced this session has bipartisan sponsorship in both the House and the Senate. There has been a growing consensus about the response to the developing teen vaping epidemic, and while we passed good legislation to empower local governments to regulate tobacco retailers last year, we need to do more. I’ve been part of a working group all summer/fall that successfully reached bipartisan agreement on how to increase the purchase age to 21 across Colorado with appropriate enforcement of retailers and prohibitions on direct-to-consumer online sales. Check out House Bill 20-1001.
The interim also kept me quite busy with two interim committees: the Opioid & Other Substance Use Disorders (SUD) committee and the Investor-Owned Utilities (IOU) committee. I’ll be continuing that work this session by carrying several bills through the legislative process. For the SUD committee, I’m carrying five bills that continue the effort started in 2017 to curb Colorado’s opioid epidemic and build a functional treatment/recovery infrastructure. I’m particularly proud of a provision in the prevention bill that will require insurance companies to cover alternatives to opioids with limited copays.
On the IOU committee, I was excited to once again immerse myself into renewable energy policy – a topic on which my predecessor, Rep. Max Tyler, led the state for his seven years. I will be working on a few bills in the energy policy space this year.
Much of my work this session will continue to focus on health care costs. I’m so proud of what we accomplished last session, but costs are still out of control and we need to do more. I am very involved in conversations about continuing the reinsurance program and establishing a public option – both of which are coming under extreme pressure from hospitals and insurance companies, who have invested some of their multi-billion-dollar profits into TV and mail ad campaigns over the last few months. While these stakeholders may have important feedback on how we change policy, we can’t let their desire to protect the status quo trump the needs of the people who are struggling to afford the high cost of health care (not to mention the high costs of housing, higher education, child care, and more).
My first bill, however, is about protecting our democracy.Colorado led the nation in 2018 by passing two constitutional amendments to reform the redistricting process for congressional and state legislative districts. The districts will now be drawn by nonpartisan staff according to unbiased criteria, approved by independent commissions, and subject to clear rules about public meetings and judicial review. However, for county commissioner districts, there are no such rules. In most cases, this isn’t a huge problem because most Colorado counties elect their commissioners countywide. Still, in home-rule counties and/or counties larger than 70,000 people that have increased from three to five commissioners of which at least some are elected by individual districts, there is a risk of partisan gerrymandering. House Bill 20-1073 will reform this system by following the model of Amendments Y & Z.
It feels like there’s plenty more to say, but I think I’ve written enough words for one newsletter. More soon. Until then, please feel free to reach out about anything you need this session! And if you’d like to schedule a time to visit the Capitol, please contact my legislative aide, Jakki Davison, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
P.S. Thanks to all of you who donated food and/or socks at our November town hall! We helped the Action Center break a world record when the collected 37,556 pairs of socks on one day!
It’s hard to believe this whirlwind of a year is nearly over. At the end of the landmark 2019 legislative session, I had to take a step back before I could fully appreciate everything we accomplished.
We passed legislation to lower
the cost of health care; invest in education, transportation, and affordable
housing; accelerate our transition to clean energy; make our schools safer;
expand mental health access; reform our criminal justice system; fight the
opioid epidemic; expand the rights of every Coloradan, including voting rights,
reproductive rights, and rights to self-expression; and protect the clean air,
clean water, and beautiful open spaces that make Colorado such a special place
Years like this are why
people run for office. When bills become laws and begin to impact people’s
lives, we remember that our democratic republic often succeeds at expanding opportunities
for people to live better, happier, and healthier lives – as long as we elect
the right people.
Even when Americans are
subjected to horrifying news nearly every day from the Trump administration, our
progress here in Colorado keeps me feeling optimistic about the future.
Next session, we’ll be
continuing our work on all of these issues, and believe me, it’s a lot of work.
There will be obstacles and setbacks, lies and distortions, and a whole lot of
money spent on lobbying and advertising by the defenders of the status quo. As
soon as soon as the session ends in early May, my colleagues and I will be hitting
the campaign trail again to talk to voters about the work we’ve done and ask
for their support so we can keep moving Colorado forward.
On that note, it should be no surprise that I’m running for reelection in 2020! It’s been such an honor to represent the people of House District 23 and to help lead the state as the Assistant Majority Leader of the Colorado House of Representatives. Please join me for a Holiday Happy Hour & Fundraiser on December 17th to celebrate the progress we made for the people of Colorado this year and to prepare for another great year!
Together, we really can
change the world for the better. Thank you for doing your part. I’ll certainly
keep doing mine.
I know I’m a little late in announcing my endorsements for Lakewood City Council and Jeffco School Board, but I moderated a candidate forum last weekend and I decided to wait so that all candidates would feel they were treated fairly. But now that the forum is behind us, here are my 2019 endorsements:
Lakewood City Council This year has been a contentious one with growth being the central issue on most voters’ minds. The candidates I’m endorsing have all expressed thoughtfulness about this issue. Rather than kneejerk reactions and faux-populist politics, these candidates will work to balance these growth concerns with other priorities like affordability, inclusivity, and sustainability.
With the right leadership, I believe our city is capable of managing growth the right way while increasing access to affordable housing in the parts of Lakewood that need it the most. And I believe these candidates will truly prioritize sustainability and work to make sure Lakewood is doing it’s part to fight climate change.
There are also two municipal ballot measures in Lakewood this year, and I’m voting yes on both.
2F – I’m voting yes to modernize our trash/recycling system in Lakewood. We can have better service, lower cost, and fewer trash trucks driving up our streets every week if we just choose to work together rather than choosing to have everyone go it alone.
2G – I’m voting yes to give Lakewood future opportunities to create public-private partnerships to expand broadband access.
Jeffco School Board After some turbulent years, Jeffco voters made a course correction in 2015. Since then, we’ve had a school board focused on working together for the benefit of Jeffco kids. I’m supporting candidates who will keep Jeffco moving forward.
This November, I’m voting Yes on Proposition CC, Yes on Proposition DD, and Yes on Jeffco Question 1A.
Prop CC allows the state to keep revenues above the outdated TABOR formula to increase investments in K-12, higher education, and transportation. This formula is why Colorado is $2500 per kid below the national average in funding our public schools and why we haven’t been able to adequately maintain our transportation infrastructure. While Prop CC doesn’t solve all of our budget woes, it’s a big step in the right direction. Prop CC doesn’t raise tax rates; it just lets us keep what Coloradans have already paid. And we’ll know exactly where the dollars go with an annual, independent audit. Learn more at YesOnPropCC.com.
Prop DD legalizes sports betting in Colorado, imposes a new tax on casino profits, and uses the bulk of the new revenues to fund the Colorado Water Plan. The 2018 Supreme Court decision would have made online sports betting available in Colorado regardless of whether we took action, so it makes sense to allow Colorado businesses to participate and pay taxes on their new profits to fund a critical state priority – the future of our water supply. Learn more at YesOnDD.com.
Jeffco Question 1A is similar to Prop CC but for the county budget instead of the state. If 1A doesn’t pass, the same outdated budget formula will force huge cuts to public safety and other critical county services. And here’s another fun fact. If Prop CC passes, Jeffco will receive over $1M in transportation funding from the state next year – but we won’t get to keep it unless we also pass 1A. This is an example of how badly these budget formulas need to be updated. Learn more at KeepJeffcoSafe.com.
Please email me at email@example.com if you have questions about these ballot measures or anything else!