We are officially past the halfway point of my last session in the Colorado House of Representatives. We’ve made a lot of progress, and the next two months will be full of hard work.
As I look back on my legislative accomplishments and my time as Chair of the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, I know that Colorado is moving closer to the day that all people are treated equally and every Coloradoan has a chance at success. My time spent at the Capitol has given me the utmost respect and appreciation for my fellow legislators, local government officials, state employees, chamber of commerce members, and each and every citizen of our great state.
Thank you for taking this ride with me. I am sad to be leaving, but I look forward to spending quality time with my family in Alamosa. The following is a list of bills in various stages of the process in the year’s General Assembly.
– Edward Vigil, State Representative for House District 62
Metro Districts Authority Promote Business Development ( HB16-1011) – Rep. Vigil and Sen.Garcia and Sen. Grantham
Currently, a business district can only receive funds to aid in business development from its municipal board if it is valued at over $1.25 billion dollars. This high appraisal has denied access to many business districts around the state from receiving funds to stimulate growth and development. This bill will omit the minimum valuation of a commercial property to receive funds from its municipal board and will hopefully encourage business expansion and progress around the state of Colorado. This bill has passed in the House and is undergoing its second reading within the Senate.
Black Bear Hunting in August (HB16-1220) – Rep. Vigil and Rep. Willet
During mid-late summer months, employees of the Parks and Wildlife Department are often tasked with euthanizing bears around the state that have been known to cause harm to humans. Often times, many human conflicts with black bears occur during August- a month before hunting season for this creature begins. The bill will push back the beginning date for legal black bear hunting from September 1 to August 1, aiming to ease the load of the Parks and Wildlife Department in its efforts to mitigate black bear caused injuries. In February, this bill was assigned to the House State, Veterans & Military Affairs Committee.
Manage Forests to Improve Water Conditions (HB16-1255) – Rep. Vigil and Sen. Baumgardner
This bill will direct the state Forest Service Department to employ a local business to help conduct programs that will enact forest management treatments to improve the general health and well-being of forests. Of the $1 million dollars granted to the department for watershed restoration, $200,000 will be used for this program. Along with programs that will assist forest resilience, this bill will also permit a study to be conducted to illustrate the relationship between forest management and water conditions. This bill has passed its second reading within the House and is awaiting its third.
Sunset Division Racing Events (HB16-1170) – Rep. Vigil and Rep. Coram
This bill will extend the sunset on Colorado Division of Racing Events. This division is responsible for collecting taxes and regulating greyhound and horse races around the state. This bill will allow the division’s existence up until 2023. It had passed its third House reading at the end of February and is currently in the Agriculture, Natural Resources and Energy committee within the Senate.
Bills Signed into Law
Rules for Allowed Marijuana Pesticides (SB16-015) – Rep. Vigil and Sen. Baumgardner
Prior to the creation of this bill, the Colorado Department of Agriculture provided a compilation of banned pesticides regarding the cultivation of marijuana within the state. This bill will grant the Department of Agriculture the legal capacity to provide marijuana growers with a list of acceptable pesticides. After bipartisan support, SB16-015 was passed through both chambers and on March 09, it was signed into law by Gov. John Hickenlooper.
Municipal State Highway Off-highway Vehicles (SB16-08) – Rep. Vigil and Sen. Crowder
Allows off-highway vehicles to cross state highways, even within a municipality. If a city or town wants to regulate the crossing of a state highway, it must request permission from the Department of Transportation in writing. If Department of Transportation does not act on the request within 60 days, the request is deemed approved. This bill was amended in the Senate and signed in to law on March 16, by Gov. Hickenlooper.
Democratic Party Bills
State Contractors Certify Compliance with Equal Pay Laws (HB 16-1001)– Rep. Danielson and Rep. Buckner
Independent businesses that bid for a contract with a Colorado body of government are not required to adhere to current Federal and State equal pay laws . If passed, this bill will guarantee that contractors working with a government agency within the state must comply with equal pay laws; regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, and national origin. HB16-1001 has been assigned to the Business Affairs and Labor committee earlier this session.
Measurable Goals Deadline for Colorado Climate Action Plan (HB16-004) – Rep. Winter and Rep. Arndt
This bill will require the State of Colorado to implement measurable and attainable goals to combat climate change. Efforts in accordance to this bill will prevent further greenhouse gas emissions and also increase Colorado’s adaptability to climate change. This bill will require the Governor’s office to provide annual reports regarding the state’s climate conditions to committees within the House and Senate. These reports will include the relationship between climate change, wildfires, beetle infestation, snowpack, water storage,drought and greenhouse gas emissions. After HB16-004 passed in the House, it was introduced to the Senate in early March.
Employee Leave to Attend Child’s Academic Activities (HB16-1002) Rep. Buckner and Sen. Kerr
In 2009, the “ Parental Involvement in K-12 Education Act” was passed in the Colorado General Assembly. It gave an employee the right to take up to 18 hours of leave within an academic year to attend critical events of their child’s education; specifically parent-teacher conferences, interventions, special educational services, and disciplinary actions. HB16-1002 will expand this act by allowing employees to use their permitted 18 hours of leave for academic activities. This bill was passed through the House and was assigned to the Senate State,Veterans and Military Affairs committee.
Define Tuition Status for Homeless Unaccompanied Youth (HB16-1100) Rep. Petterson and Rep. Escar, Sen. Cooke
Homeless youth around the state are at a disadvantage when it comes to college tuition. Many youth around the state are deferred from receiving in-state tuition from Colorado college’s due to their inability to provide proof of residency. This bill give homeless individuals the ability to determine their own ‘domicile’ for the intent of more accessible higher-education. This bill is undergoing its third reading within the House.
Middle Class College Savings Act (HB16-1003) Rep. Petterson and Rep. Young, Sen. Merrifield and Sen. Todd.
This bill will make college tuition more affordable for the middle class by providing deductions and tax credits to those contributing to college savings plan. Financial aid is denied to many middle class Colorado families struggling to pay college tuition, however; this bill would level the playing field for the thousands of parents and students around the state saving for higher education. After its introduction to the House, it was assigned to the Finance committee earlier this month.
Budget Talking Points
What is the big picture of the budget? This year Colorado’s budget total is $27 billion. Our state saw an $830 million increase in new costs and healthy revenue growth of $457 million (2.4%). Unfortunately due to the Gordian Knot of TABOR and Constitutional amendments, the budget has a $373 million surplus that is required by law to be cut from the budget or allocated by referendum.
The General Assembly can still prevent those across the board cuts. However, the impact of the budget cuts will increase every year if action is not taken. One such solution is a simple accounting shift involving the hospital provider fee, which would free up nearly $300 million to invest in programs we want our state government to provide for us – good K-12 schools and affordable colleges; transportation infrastructure like roads and bridges; better medical care in rural and underserved areas.
We face a choice between a tax refund that will average $17 per filer in 2016, or a state government that’s able to provide services at a level that will adequately support economic opportunity and quality of life in all areas of our growing state. We are committed to working across the aisle to find a solution this year that makes sure that our government can continue to on behalf of Coloradans.