by Julie Pelegrin
Last night—May 10, 2017—at 9:29 p.m. in the Senate and 9:39 p.m. in the House, Senate President Kevin Grantham and Speaker of the House Crisanta Duran, respectively, dropped the gavel on the first regular session of the 71st General Assembly. With this legislative session, the General Assembly negotiated resolutions to several long-standing issues, including how to address construction defects, the status of the hospital provider fee, and whether school districts must distribute a portion of their local tax dollars to the charter schools of the district.
During the 120 days since opening day in January, the House introduced 375 bills and the Senate introduced 306. Both houses also introduced a total of three concurrent resolutions (to amend the constitution), nine joint memorials (to memorialize previous legislators who recently passed away or ask Congress to consider a particular issue), and 80 joint resolutions (to address or comment on a variety of issues).
Overall this year, the General Assembly passed 423 bills—a passage rate of about 62%. The Governor has already signed 206 of those bills and vetoed one: S.B.17-139, concerning the extension of the credit for tobacco products that a distributor ships or transports to an out-of-state consumer. He has until June 9th to act on the remaining 216 bills or, at 12:01 a.m. on June 10th, they will become law without his signature.
Although it took longer than usual, the General Assembly passed the bills it is required to pass each year: The general appropriations, or “long,” bill (S.B.17-254) and the school finance bill (S.B.17-296). The long bill was finally passed on May 3. It authorizes spending $28.7 billion (state general fund, cash funds, and federal funds) for the expenses of the executive and judicial branches of the state. The school finance bill, which sets the amount of statewide base per pupil spending each year and the amount of the negative factor (to be known going forward as the “budget stabilization factor”), finally passed on May 10, the last day of the session. For the 2017-18 school year, on average, schools will receive $7,662 per student in state and local money, an increase of $242 over the 2016-17 school year. The Governor has not yet signed this year’s long bill or school finance bill.
Despite the fact that the houses were controlled by different parties, the General Assembly managed to negotiate to common ground on many issues this year:
- Putting some limits on construction defects lawsuits (H.B.17-1279);
- Establishing the hospital provider fee as an enterprise (S.B.17-267), one benefit of which is helping rural hospitals to continue operating;
- Reducing the constitutional cap on state spending by $200 million (S.B.17-267);
- Increasing the sales tax rate on recreational marijuana to 15%, and using $30 million of the revenue for rural school districts in 2017-18 and all school districts and institute charter schools starting in 2018-19 (S.B.17-267); and
- Requiring school districts to equitably distribute the local property tax money they collect to benefit the students enrolled in all of the schools of the school district, including charter schools and innovation schools authorized by the district, and requiring each school district and charter school to post on its website a list of the statutes for which it has received a waiver and the plan for meeting the intent of the waived statute. (H.B.17-1375).
That’s not to say that all issues were resolved. Despite best efforts in the last hours of the session, the houses were not able to agree on what limits to impose on the social use of marijuana, they could not agree on several changes to the duties of the Colorado Energy Office, and they did not agree on significant increases in transportation funding. Any or all of these issues are likely to make a return appearance in the 2018 regular legislative session….if not before in a special legislative session.
They did pass the joint resolution that sets the start date for the 2018 legislative session: January 10, 2018. Mark your calendars!
Between now and then, several interim study committees will meet, including committees to study school finance, opioid addiction, supporting young and beginning farmers, comprehensive sentencing reform, and county courthouse and jail funding and overcrowding solutions.
* A gavel drop is similar to a mic drop, but it carries much more authority.