Credit needs to be given where it is due – and the Colorado legislature deserves applause for showing up to a special session this week and hashing out 10 COVID-19 relief bills.
As members of Congress continue their hurry-up-and-wait game over another nearly $1 trillion relief package, Coloradans from both sides of the aisle rolled up their sleeves and delivered interim relief. That is exactly what good legislative work looks like.
Called by Gov. Jared Polis in mid-November, the special session comes just a month before a new legislative session is set to begin in January. But Polis and legislative leaders understood that Coloradans could not wait.
The impossible balancing act between health care necessities and economic realities have become a daily reality for businesses and the people who work for them. The long-term effects have begun to take hold and create vicious cycles just in time for the holiday season.
People out of work, facing dropping winter temperatures without heat and losing their homes is not an ideal way to bring Christmas cheer.
That is why $54 million in housing relief and $5 million for utility bill payments is so important. No gift could be more important than a roof over a family’s heads and a lit furnace heating their home during cold winter months.
Restaurants and bars will be celebrating the sales tax holiday they will receive through February. For those that struggled through a dismal spring and summer and have been faced with renewed restrictions, that reduction in liabilities may be the difference between continuing on and closing up for good.
The same restaurateurs should be overjoyed that third-party delivery services like GrubHub and DoorDash may now have their predatory fees limited by local governments.
Parents reliant on child care – including many who work in the health care industry and on the front lines of the pandemic – will rest easier knowing that $45 million in grants will be provided to help child care facilities remain open.
Of course there were legitimate disagreements. Because some counties remain steadfastly pig-headed when it comes to necessary public health protections, Democrats wanted to use business relief packages as a cudgel to help bring them in line.
Republicans objected to the heavy-handed display. While I am usually a proponent of stick-and-carrot policies, the unique circumstances lent credence to the Republican position. In dire need of immediate assistance, businesses should not be held liable for the poor choices of county leaders.
Though Democrats likely could have forced through their preferred policies due to majorities they hold in both chambers, they instead listened to their colleagues and worked toward a resolution.
In the end, compromise prevailed and stop-gap measures were enacted. In a political era defined by hyper-partisanship and tribalism, that seems like quite a miracle.
All predictions suggest that by the time legislators return a little more than a month from now, the COVID-19 pandemic will be even worse. Cold air combined with people staying in dry, heated homes will lead to surges across the country, including in Colorado. Infection, hospitalization and death records are being set and broken on a daily basis.
Amidst that chaos a new legislature will begin trying to hash out the rest of Polis’ ambitious $1.3 billion stimulus plan. Debate over the details will surely be heated. It would benefit all involved to look to the special session as a guidepost for how to reach an amicable agreement.
I do not know if the spirit of bipartisanship will dissipate as quickly as the ghosts who visited Ebenezer Scrooge, but I hope not. Instead, I hope that the collaborative problem solving we just witnessed at the state Capitol will continue past the new year and beyond. That would be a true holiday miracle.
Mario Nicolais is an attorney and columnist who writes on law enforcement, the legal system, health care and public policy. Follow him on Twitter: @MarioNicolaiEsq
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