Session delivers bills on transportation, pension reform
By Ellis Arnold (May 18th, 2018)
n a work season buoyed up by unforeseen revenue, Colorado lawmakers passed a deal to put more money toward the state’s deep transportation needs, gave the green light to a last-minute compromise on its public-retirement system and made progress on curtailing the opioid epidemic.
As conservative lawmakers note, the Legislature passed heavy spending lifts without a tax hike — enabled by favorable forecasts to the tune of a $1.3 billion increase in state revenue from last fiscal year. Strong economic growth and changes in federal tax policy set the state up to take in more revenue.
But Democrats and Republicans still battled on how to split that pie, and compromises left both sides without their ideal path forward.
Meanwhile, developments were less noteworthy on affordable housing, as prices continue a years-long spike.
The regular session — the 120-day term when bills can be passed — ended May 9. Here’s a look at some of what was accomplished.
Wheels turn on transportation
Colorado landed itself in a $9 billion hole as of 2016, according to state projections of transportation-spending needs through 2025, and lawmakers aimed to chip further away at that price tag.
“Transportation was a — if not the — priority for Republicans this session,” said state House Minority Leader Patrick Neville, R-Castle Rock. Roads and bridges had been “neglected by the Democrats for 13 years,” he added.
For the Democrats’ part, state House Speaker Crisanta Duran supported an unsuccessful bill last year to ask voters to raise sales and use taxes by 0.62 percentage points to raise about $375 million per year for the Colorado Department of Transportation, with other revenue going to counties and municipalities.
Senate President Kevin Grantham, R-Cañon City, supported that bill along with Duran, D-Denver.
This time around, lawmakers passed a $645 million boost over the next two years in a bill that would also ask voters in 2019 to approve about $2.3 billion in bond funding for transportation. That option would put Colorado on the hook for up to $3.25 billion in borrowing costs over 20 years.
But before that, outside groups may ask voters in 2018 to approve either another spending requirement without taxes, or allow a sales-tax increase.
“The Legislature will have no choice, I think, but to spend more on transportation and spend less on other things” if the first option passed, said Chris Holbert, state Senate majority leader. Holbert, R-Parker, was skeptical of the tax increase passing, “given the voter reaction to prior tax increases.”
Senate Bill 18-001, the deal lawmakers passed, headed to the governor’s desk May 17.
Small steps on housing
Housing affordability, on the other hand, didn’t see a grand bargain that would move the needle much.
“There was more lip service than anything else,” said Eric Sondermann, a Colorado independent political analyst.
Democrats unsuccessfully tried to pass a tax on shopping bags to fund affordable-housing assistance, while Republicans focus on what they say are regulations that make construction unaffordable.
“House Republicans are optimistic that the construction-litigation reform law passed in 2017 will spur more affordable home construction, but we need to give the market time to adjust before enacting more legislation,” said Cole Wist, state House assistant minority leader, R-Centennial.
Lawmakers passed a bill that extends the state’s ability to allocate affordable-housing tax credits through the year 2024. It would have expired at the end of 2019, according to the Legislature’s website.
It was a welcome move, but Coloradans need more support, state Rep. Faith Winter said.
“I’m excited that we were able to (extend) affordable-housing tax credits so that more affordable-housing projects can get off the ground,” said Winter, D-Westminster. “However, the response from the Legislature was woefully inadequate in addressing the affordable-housing crisis in Colorado.”
The Legislature passed what state Rep. Chris Kennedy called a “renters’ rights bill” that would require landlords to provide a copy of a lease to each tenant, as well as receipts for cash rent payments, he said.
Read Full Story at ArvadaPress.com
State Bill Aims To Relieve Rental Applicants From Burden Of Multiple Fees
By Tyler Young (March 05, 2018)
GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. – Rental application fees, they can run as high as $50 to $60 dollars and do not have a cap on what a property management can charge.
“We do have a rental application fee of $35. That fee just covers our background checks which in covers credit criteria background check and felony criminal background check”, says Cindy Hoppe a property manager for Bray Property Management.
Every property management company charges an application fee to cover background check costs, with background checks pricing around $32 combined both credit and criminal background check.
“It’s making them fully disclose what their fees are and we’re already doing that”, says Hoppe, “Now, different companies have different fees and they’re probably using different processing companies and the fees will fluctuate based on who you use and how many credit applications you put through a month, that kind of thing.”
Read full story at WesternSlopeNow.com
Colorado landlords would have to limit rental application fees and explain why tenants were rejected under measure
By Jesse Paul (February 26, 2018)
Landlords would be required to tell prospective rental-property tenants more about their application costs and requirements in a measure that passed the Democratic-controlled House on Monday.
House Bill 1127 also seeks to limit rental application charges to the costs of background and credit checks and mandate that landlords spell out to applicants the requirements for approval — such as rental and credit histories and income.
The legislation would also require landlords to provide a written notice to rejected tenants, as well, explaining on what grounds they were turned away. Landlords, under the measure, would also be barred from charging different rental application fees to different applicants and from changing those fees between different properties they might be offering for rent.
Read full story at DenverPost.com
Dems try to ease cost of apartment screenings
By Charles Ashby (February 18, 2018)
DENVER — Landlords who charge for rental screening applications would be restricted on just how much they can charge under a bill the Colorado House is to debate this week.
The measure, HB1127, which has no support from House Republicans so far, is aimed at making it less expensive for low-income people to get affordable housing, said its main sponsor, Rep. Dominique Jackson, D-Denver.
“The fact of the matter is, this is pretty common-sense stuff,” Jackson said. “Everybody knows that we’ve got a massive affordable housing problem. If you can’t even get into a piece of property because you’re paying so much for application screening fees, the bill limits the amount that a landlord can charge to screen a prospective tenant to their actual cost of those screenings.”
Jackson said many people can’t afford to spend money on multiple screenings at different apartments they are considering renting, and then come up with first- and last-month’s rent along with a security deposit.
Rep. Chris Kennedy, D-Denver, who also is sponsoring the bill with Jackson, said he’s hopeful changes to this year’s bill will win the approval from the Colorado Apartment Association with some changes, which haven’t been worked out yet.
Read full story at TheGJSentinel.com
State Lawmakers Push For ‘Renter’s Rights’ Bill
By Shaun Boyd (February 12, 2018)
DENVER (CBS4) – Finding an affordable apartment in Colorado is tough enough, but some people are spending hundreds of dollars just to apply for places.
Two state lawmakers say it’s time renters had some rights.
Rep. Dominique Jackson and Rep. Chris Kennedy are carrying a bill that would limit application fees to the actual cost of screening a prospective tenant.
“We talked about whether we wanted to set a specific dollar amount. We decided we did not, that it was okay for the landlords to figure out what those costs were,” said Kennedy.
Read full story at CBS Denver
Lawmakers seek to give renters more rights when applying for an apartment
By John Herrick (February 12, 2018)
Renters looking for a more affordable place to live are spending hundreds of dollars applying for apartments, prompting Democratic lawmakers to set limits on how much landlords can charge for these applications.
A bill to cap apartment application fees cleared the House Finance committee on Monday by a 7-6 vote along party lines. The bill would cap the fee at the actual cost to screen the applicant.
There is no legal limit on how much landlords can charge for applications. Rep. Chris Kennedy, D-Lakewood, a lead sponsor on the bill, said he wants to make sure landlords are not profiting off these fees. He also said renters should have more rights.
“It’s tackling just another facet of the affordability problem,” Kennedy told The Colorado Independent.
Read the full story at ColoradoIndependent.com