Dan Jablan’s “BIG PICTURE” REPORT FOR FEB 7, 2022

An eventful week in Colorado and we aren’t just reporting on the biggest snow and coldest temperatures Denver has seen in 2+ years!

  • The stunning news of the week came on Thursday with Senate President Leroy Garcia announcing his resignation from the Senate effective February 23. In an unusual twist in our political times, this resignation is not related  to any scandal! Instead, Garcia has accepted an appointment with the Biden administration and will work at the Pentagon as the Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for manpower and reserve affairs.  He is former U.S. Marine with six years active duty service who served in Iraq in 2003. The Senate Democratic caucus will now vote to replace him in the top leadership spot.  A vacancy committee will choose his replacement to serve out his term. Garcia was term limited. Although his announcement is not a total surprise as it had been rumored he was seeking a Presidential appointment, the timing 3 weeks into a new session throws a bit of a kink into the process.

Democratic caucus elections will set off a series of dominoes for other leadership and committee chair positions.  Current Majority Leader Steve Fenberg (D-Boulder) and Senator Kerry Donovan (D-Vail) have both expressed interest in the President’s role. Should Fenberg become President, a new majority leader will be necessary. If Donovan wins, she will give up Chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee. Donovan is also term limited. Senator Dominick Moreno (Commerce City) may also be interested in succeeding Fenberg as Majority Leader, but will have to leave the Joint Budget Committee vice chair for a leadership position. We expect other candidates to emerge in coming days. Ultimately the Senate President is chosen by the entire chamber, but tradition allows the majority party to pick its own leader.

  • With a snow day on Wednesday, committee hearings were delayed.  Introductions of bills continues to be abnormally slow and fiscal notes have not been prepared for many introduced bills.  Some of this backlog is being blamed on legislative staff shortages.  Also, leadership is prioritizing bills that address spending federal dollars. 
  • On Tuesday, the Joint Budget Committee received a report on recommendations to allocate ARPA Coronavirus State Fiscal funds.  These dollars may be used to respond to the public health emergency and its negative economic impacts, including assistance to households, small businesses, and nonprofits or to aid impacted industries such as tourism, travel and hospitality; respond to workers performing essential work; for the provision of government services and the reduction in revenues; or to make necessary investments in water, sewer, or broadband infrastructure. 

Colorado received $3.8 billion in federal funds which is subject to appropriation by the General Assembly.  Based on legislative action during the 2021 legislative session, $2.6 billion remains available to be spent during the 2022 and 2023 legislative sessions.  Several task forces were created during the interim last summer and fall to make recommendations on the allocation of these funds, including: 

  • The Student Success and Workforce Revitalization Task Force’s mission was to systematically re-examine the operations and interactions of higher education institutions and how they can most effectively and efficiently meet workforce needs.  The Task Force supported a report which discussed the weaknesses in Colorado’s current educational structure, including low levels of funding and fragmentation. The report did not attach dollar amounts to recommendations, but the Governor has proposed the $95 million be spent on activities similar to their recommendations.
  • The Behavioral Health Task Force proposed using $450.7 million to create transformational changes, including:
    • $5-$10 million for Behavioral Health needs of Native American Tribes
    • $110-$141 million for youth and residential care, community services and school and pediatric behavioral care
    • $65-$71 million for increase adult and residential care
    • $65-$70 million for ensuring people aren’t arrested and jailed for behavioral health conditions
    • $80-$83 million for expanding and supporting Colorado’s behavioral health workforce
  • The Affordable Housing Task Force proposed $400 million in programs, including
    • $150-$227 million for a revolving loan fund
    • $150-$227 million for nonprofit and local govt grants
    • $350-$51 million for resident owned communities, mobile home parks and land grants
    • $40-48 million for innovative housing incentives
    • $25 million to CO Housing and Financing Authority for middle-income borrowers

In summary, Colorado government is awash in money like never before! This spending package is expected to be introduced in coming weeks.

Next week, committees have full hearing schedules. The Joint Budget Committee will begin figure setting recommendations for all departments. And with just over 90+ days left in the session, the legislature has so far accomplished very little, leaving the bulk of the work for the next 3 ½ months. As per usual!

Dan Jablan’s “BIG PICTURE” REPORT FOR JAN. 28, 2022

Dan Jablan’s Big Picture   for Jan 29

A slow week in Colorado with little to report!

With just about 100 days left in the legislative session, the pace of business at the Capitol remains slow. Agency oversight hearings, required in Colorado under the so-called SMART ACT, concluded today. Next week House and Senate committee work will finally begin in earnest.

The introduction of bills has also been slow. Thus far there are only 225 bills published – 133 in the House and 92 in the Senate. Today is the final deadline for Senate bill introductions. The House bill introduction deadline is next Wednesday, February 2d.  importantly, these deadlines largely apply only to members of the minority party and are considered suggestions or guidelines for majority Democrats. Legislators in Colorado are permitted 5 bills each per session and anecdotally we have heard many legislators are seeking “late bill” status from leadership for some of their 5 deadline bills because the bill drafts are not in final form. We expect many more bills – and especially the controversial and party base messaging bills – well after the official introduction deadlines have passed.

For example, the Democrats have yet to introduce many of their platform bills – including one proposed by Majority Leaders Senator Fenberg (D-Boulder) and Representative Esgar (D-Pueblo) to allow public employees at all levels of government to join a union and enjoy collective bargaining rights. Interestingly, this proposal may have already encountered a major roadblock – Governor Polis. Earlier this week, Polis publicly announced his opposition to the idea in its current construct.  Currently, only certain public employees may unionize, but not employees of cities, counties and universities.  Polis said he could support more narrowly drafted legislation to expand collective bargaining and engage local governments much earlier in the process, but not full unionization. Polis often uses his media appearances to influence legislative proposals.

So, starting next week expect a wave of new bills and increasingly busy committee hearing schedules.

Dan Jablan’s “BIG PICTURE” REPORT FOR JAN. 22, 2022

The second week of the session has been completed. The hearing of bills in the chambers and committees is off to a slow start. Please see a summary of the week below:

·  The Capitol is still in its “new normal” operating mode – social distancing, testing protocols, and remote or in-person participation.  Several legislators still chose this week to participate virtually, and at least six members of the legislators and multiple lobbyists were home with a positive covid diagnoses. 

·  222 bills have been introduced as of 01/23/2022. 133 in the House and 89 Senate bills. What is interesting, is that 74 have Democrat only sponsors, and 63 have Republican only sponsorship. So much for the bi-partisan talk on opening day.

·  Although the bills have not reached committee hearings yet, the behind-the-scenes negotiations on the bills’ language is moving full steam ahead.

·  SMART Act hearings are still taking center stage at the Capitol. We anticipate these hearings will consume much of the next several weeks and committees will begin hearings on introduced legislation sometime after that.

Dan Jablan’s “Big Picture” Report for Jan. 17, 2022

Greetings from Colorado. The 2d session of the 73rd General Assembly convened on Wednesday and we are underway! Please see a summary of the week below:

  • The Colorado General Assembly convened Wednesday, in its “new normal” operating mode – masks required, social distancing, testing protocols, and remote or in-person participation.  Several legislators chose this week to participate virtually, and at least one member was home with a positive covid diagnoses. 
  • House and Senate Democrats rolled out their legislative agenda in opening day speeches. Not surprisingly, both parties’ priorities are similar and differ only in their methods/approaches: cost of living/affordability, crime, education. The Democrats agenda “Moving Colorado Forward” promises to save people money, create a safer and healthier Colorado and set students up for success.  This includes proposals to fund behavioral health programs to cut down on crime rates and recidivism, boosting education funding to increase teacher pay and reduce classroom sizes and fee relief. Meanwhile, the Republicans see the 2022 session as an opportunity to demonstrate that they can best govern the State. They laid out their “Commitment to Colorado” which outlines their agenda, including 44 specific bills that focus on policies aimed at reducing the cost of living, decrease crime and improve student outcomes, most of this by rolling back Democratic policies and cutting taxes and fees.
  • Governor Polis delivered his State of the State address on Thursday, sticking to the very same themes of saving people money, public safety, clean air, and investing in the future.  The Governor even distributed a list of 50 ways the Polis Administration is saving Coloradans money.  Polis’ priorities include additional funding for behavioral health, public safety programs and education; reducing fees; funding the Unemployment Trust Fund; affordable housing and reducing homelessness; investing in clean air programs; and protecting Colorado’s water rights.
  • SMART Act hearings scheduled the next two weeks for state agencies.  Much like congressional oversight hearings each year, Colorado Executive Branch agencies present a SMART Act performance plan which identifies meaningful performance objectives, and strategies to achieve same. Progress on the agency’s goals is reported monthly on the Governor’s Dashboard.  Departments present performance plans, regulatory and legislative agendas, and budget requests to Joint House and Senate Committees of Reference. We anticipate these hearings will consume much of the next several weeks and committees will begin hearings on introduced legislation sometime after that.
  • In the political realm there was a seismic event this week with longtime Democratic U.S. Representative Ed Perlmutter (D-CD7) announcing that he will not seek reelection in November 2022. Perlmutter is moderate Democrat, former state legislator, and longtime member of Congress who is beloved by all. His announcement was a shock to the political world, but quickly followed by State Senator Brittany Pettersen (D-SD22) announcing that she will seek the Democratic nomination to replace Perlmutter in CD7. Republican State Representative Colin Larson (R-HD22) is considering entering the race on the Republican side.
  • Two other political dynamics to watch this session. (1) Several legislators are rumored to be preparing to run for Denver Mayor in the April 2023 election. This includes Speaker Alec Garnett, Senator Chris Hansen, and Representatives Leslie Herod and Alex Valdez. They will be moving legislation and voting in ways that help ensure their viability as Denver’s next Mayor. (2) the Governor is exhibiting characteristics of an elected official who is seeking reelection in November and his relationship with the more progressive Democratic members of the legislature is strained and likely to become more so. We will be watching and working these dynamics carefully as the session develops.

Nearly 100 new bills were introduced this week. None of our bill dropped last week.

Thanks- Dan Jablan