It’s a strange run-up to the home stretch at the Legislature. This week there will be floor votes and committee hearings same as the weeks before, but the whole endeavor seems to be operating in a suspended state, the major legislative projects of the year still hanging in the balance.
The state’s $26.8 billion budget passed in both chambers but has stalled in conference committee, where members wait on essential “orbital” bills without which the figures fail to add up — and the fate of the orbital bills seems to be growing more shaky by the day.
The great transportation-funding bill — House Bill 1242, the product of a deal struck between House and Senate leadership — is moving through the building with tragic dignity, head down, pelted as it goes with the legislative equivalent of hurled vegetables and epithets. The bill has weathered three House committees and one Senate committee so far. It feels as though it still has a long way to go.
And then there is the “rural sustainability” or hospital provider fee bill, which is crucially tied to the budget for addressing what would be a catastrophic $500 million cut to hospitals across the state. Senate Bill 267 is a major building block proposal this legislative session and yet it is only getting its sea legs. Introduced at the end of March, it has made its way through only one committee. They turn off the lights this session in three-and-a-half weeks.
Colorado, your public policy future — good or bad — is arriving at a rapid pace.
Some committee highlights for the week to come. Schedule, as always, subject to change.
House Bill 1328 would require U.S. presidential and vice presidential candidates to file their most recent five years worth of tax returns with the Colorado Secretary of State in order to appear on the ballot in Colorado. The Secretary would then post the returns online. The bill, sponsored by Boulder Democratic Rep. Edie Hooton, was heard in the Democratic-controlled House Finance Committee and advanced to the House floor on a party line vote. (Related: Viral video of Arkansas U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton at a town hall defending President Trump’s position on the tax-return question.)
The House Judiciary Committee will hear a pair of sexting bills — a hearing held over from last week.
Bipartisan House Bill 1064, sponsored by Grand Junction Republican Rep. Yeulin Willett and Aurora Democratic Sen. Rhonda Fields, would make it a crime for a minor to possess or show or send “a sexually explicit image of himself or herself or of another juvenile who, as depicted in the image, is within four years of age of the charged juvenile.”
House Bill 1302 is sponsored by Pete Lee, Colorado Springs. It would make it a crime for a “juvenile to possess a sexually explicit image of another juvenile without the depicted juvenile’s consent or after the depicted juvenile rescinds his or her consent. The bill states it is not a violation of either offense if the person was coerced, intimidated, or harassed into committing the offense.”
The House Local Government Committee will hear “right to rest” House Bill 1314, which would prevent authorities from hustling up or otherwise hassling people sleeping in public spaces. It’s a civil rights bill for the homeless, sponsored by Democratic Reps, Joe Salazar from Thornton and Jovan Melton from Aurora.
House State Affairs will hear Senate Bill 156, an all-Republican construction defects reform bill. Bill sponsor House Assistant Minority Leader Cole Wist from Centennial is plowing ahead on the thorny but top-priority issue. This bill is being heard in a Democratic kill committee.
House Judiciary will hear House Bill 1313 sponsored by odd couple Leslie Herod, a Denver Democrat, and Stephen Humphrey, an Eaton Republican. The bill aims to more closely monitor the dicey business of law-enforcement civil forfeiture.