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LIVE BLOG: Final days of the Colorado 2021 legislative session

The 2021 legislative session in Colorado will wrap up in the coming days and state lawmakers are quickly passing a long list of bills.

Check back here for updates on what’s advancing — and failing — as sine die approaches.



Colorado General Assembly adjourns 2021 Legislative Session

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The 2021 Legislative Session is over after 116 days. 

House lawmakers adjourned at 7:41 p.m. Tuesday. 

Republican lawmakers in the House spent the final three hours of the session raising objections to House BIll 1266, a bill aiming to enforce greenhouse gas emissions reductions.

The legislation was heavily amended to include most of Senate Bill 200, a further reaching bill. Democrats abandoned Senate Bill 200 after Gov. Jared Polis threatened veto it.

The Senate adjourned earlier in the day just after 4 p.m.

Lawmakers have already set a date for the start of the next session: Jan. 12, 2022. 

–Thy Vo, The Colorado Sun


Colorado Senate adjourns for 2021

2:55 PM | 06-08-2021🔗

The Colorado Senate adjourned Tuesday at 4:05 p.m.

The House is still in session as it considers House Bill 1266, a sweeping greenhouse gas emissions reduction measure.

— Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun


Colorado cities could more easily adopt ranked-choice voting under bill headed to governor

9:45 AM | 06-08-2021🔗

Colorado lawmakers on Tuesday approved a measure that would make it easier for cities and towns to adopt an alternative voting method known as ranked-choice voting.

Under ranked-choice voting, instead of casting a vote for a single candidate, voters rank candidates in order of their preference. The votes are tallied based on each voter’s first choice, and if a candidate gets a majority, they win outright. 

But if no candidate gets a majority of voters, contenders with the fewest votes are eliminated in rounds, with their votes redistributed to the next highest-ranked candidate on voters’ ballots. That continues until one candidate receives a majority of votes. 

House Bill 1071, which now heads to the governor, aims to make it easier for cities to adopt the voting method by requiring the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office to develop standards and pay for voting software to hold ranked-choice elections.

MORE: Just four Colorado cities use ranked-choice voting. Democratic lawmakers want to make it easier for others to adopt.

A few Colorado municipalities have already adopted ranked-choice voting. Boulder residents will elect their mayor with the system in 2023, and the mountain towns of Telluride and Basalt already use the method in some municipal elections. 

Carbondale adopted ranked choice voting in 2002, but the town yet to use it in an election.

-Thy Vo, The Colorado Sun


Measure to regulate Colorado sales of cannabis concentrates heads to governor

9:41 AM | 06-08-2021🔗

A bill to regulate sales of cannabis concentrates to medical marijuana patients as part of an effort to curb illegal teen use and adult overuse of high-potency THC products is headed to the governor.

The House voted 58-7 to pass House Bill 1317, which would limit and track how much marijuana concentrate that medical marijuana patients can buy daily. It would require concentrated cannabis called wax or shatter to be packaged in individual doses and asks the Colorado School of Public Health to study high-potency cannabis products and their effect on adolescents. 

The legislation would also require county coroners to use toxicology testing to determine if there was marijuana in the system of anyone age 25 or younger who died by suicide or any another nonnatural death. 

Although the policy had broad bipartisan support, it also had bipartisan opponents who felt the bill played into marijuana prohibition, were concerned about the data collection required under the bill and whether research mandated by the measure would be skewed. 

-Thy Vo, The Colorado Sun 


Colorado restaurants would be able to continue takeout alcohol sales for four years under measure headed to governor

9:26 AM | 06-08-2021🔗

Colorado restaurants would be allowed to continue takeout alcohol sales for at least another four years under a bipartisan bill that cleared the legislature on Tuesday. 

House Bill 1027 restricts restaurants to selling to-go booze from 7 a.m. to midnight, but continues a coronavirus-era change in Colorado’s liquor laws until at least July 1, 2025.

The bill needs Gov. Jared Polis’ signature to go into effect.  

— Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun


Democrats pass measures to cut tax credits for businesses and the wealthy, expand credits for lower-income Coloradans

9:03 AM | 06-08-2021🔗

Two sweeping tax measures that would cut tax exemptions for businesses and the state’s wealthiest residents and in turn expand tax programs for lower-income Coloradans, are headed to the governor’s desk.

House Bill 1311 and House Bill 1312 passed the House on a party-line vote late Monday night. That was their final hurdle in the legislature. 

The two measures would eliminate $350 million to $400 million in tax breaks and use the recouped revenue to fund expansions in three major programs aimed at assisting working families and small businesses, including the earned income tax credit, the child tax credit and the business personal property exemption.

-Thy Vo, The Colorado Sun


Bill to close “Charleston loophole” on firearm background checks in Colorado heads to governor

8:59 AM | 06-08-2021🔗

A measure that would expand background checks for firearms transfers in Colorado is headed to the governor after House lawmakers gave it final approval late Monday night. 

Under current federal law, a licensed gun dealer can transfer a gun to a person before receiving the results of a background check if three business days have passed. House Bill 1298 would close that loophole, called the “Charleston loophole,” by requiring a gun dealer to wait for the background check to be completed before handing over a firearm. 

The measure also prohibits the transfer of a gun to a person with certain violent misdemeanor convictions, such as assault, child abuse, sexual misconduct or hate crimes. 

MORE: Here’s the gun legislation Colorado Democrats are pursuing in response to the Boulder King Soopers shooting

The measure is part of a slate of bills proposed by Democrats after the March mass shooting at a King Soopers grocery store in Boulder. 

Thy Vo, The Colorado Sun


Colorado legislature passes bill to limit when ketamine can be used in situations involving law enforcement

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The Colorado legislature on Tuesday passed House Bill 1251, which restricts when the powerful sedative ketamine can be administered in situations outside of a hospital setting that involve law enforcement.

The measure came in response to the death of Elijah McClain, who was given ketamine in a 2019 encounter with police officers and paramedics in Aurora. McClain, 23, went into cardiac arrest and died at a hospital days later. 

TODAY’S UNDERWRITER

The encounter is being investigated by Colorado’s attorney general. 

The bill would require that:

  • Someone be weighed before they are given ketamine, or that their weight be estimated and considered by two people who are trained in weight assessments
  • Equipment to monitor vital signs be available when ketamine is being administered
  • Law enforcement officers not “unduly influence” the use of ketamine, or compel medical responders to administer the drug

The measure also has a clause requiring data on the use of ketamine in nonhospital settings involving law enforcement to be collected and provided to the legislature.   

— Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun


Colorado’s hate-crime law would be expanded under bill heading to governor’s desk

8:35 PM | 06-07-2021🔗

Colorado’s laws around bias-motivated crimes — also known as hate crimes — would be expanded under a bill heading to Gov. Jared Polis’ desk. 

Senate Bill 280 cleared the legislature after the Senate on Monday night approved House amendments to the measure. 

The bill clarifies that bias only needs to be part of a defendant’s motivation for a crime to be considered a hate crime.

The bill also makes the crime of harassment, when motivated by bias, a Victim Rights Act crime, which provides a victim certain rights.

— Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun


Effort to make it easier for Colorado workers sue employers for workplace harassment fails in committee

6:48 PM | 06-07-2021🔗

A bill to expand the definition of workplace harassment and make it easier for Colorado workers to file claims against their employers is dead.

The House Judiciary Committee voted 9-2 to reject Senate Bill 176. Only Democratic Reps. Steven Woodrow of Denver and Mike Weissman of Aurora supported advancing the measure. 

Senate Bill 176 would have made it easier for employee to sue for workplace harassment or discrimination by changing the existing legal standard. Instead of harassment having to be “severe or pervasive” for a claim to move forward, the legislation would have allowed legal challenges on the basis that behavior was “offensive to a reasonable person.” 

The bill’s prime sponsors argued the measure would create accountability for workers who have been unable to sue for legitimate harassment because of a prohibitively high legal bar. Businesses — and most Republicans — were strongly opposed to the measure, arguing it would open the door for meritless claims. 

— Thy Vo, The Colorado Sun


Conservation easement tax credit bill dies in Colorado House committee

6:50 PM | 06-07-2021🔗

Democrats in the Colorado House killed a conservation easement tax credit reparations bill on a party-line vote Monday evening, apparently reneging on what Republicans assumed was a pact to support parallel easement bills. 

Senate Bill 33 was rejected by the House Appropriations Committee in a 7-4 vote. It was advanced 7-4 earlier Monday in the House Finance Committee. 

Rural Republican sponsors and supporters of the bill expected it to win final passage after they helped push a companion measure, House Bill 1233, which expands future easement possibilities. Senate Bill 33 cleared the Senate with bipartisan support.

But the House Appropriations committee voted down the reparations half of the pairing, doing exactly what senators had warned in an earlier discussion by “pulling the football” away from an assumed agreement. (In “Peanuts” cartoons, Lucy continually promises to hold the football for Charlie Brown to kick, only to pull it away every time at the last second, leaving him on the ground.)

Senate Bill 33 would have set aside up to $149 million from the state treasury to pay out conservation easement tax credits the state Department of Revenue had rejected before 2013 because appraisers said they were overvalued. 

While family farmers and ranchers have said they followed all the rules and needed the tax credits to keep themselves afloat, investigations also found some of the land valuations were inflated or even fraudulent. 

When donating a conservation easement, a landowner is agreeing to give up future development rights to a conservation group that will preserve it as open space or farmland. In exchange for not turning the land into a subdivision or a gravel pit or a mine, the landowner receives lucrative tax credits from the IRS and the state. The state tax credits can be sold for cash to investors who need tax write-offs. 

The legislature has argued about reparations for years, after finally making fixes to the easement program in 2013 that supporters say has made valuations and credits fair. There are up to 800 landowners or tax credit investors from before that period who claim they should be paid for tax credits that were denied and often clawed back by the state.

— Michael Booth, The Colorado Sun


Lawmakers approve bill removing requirement that Coloradans prove legal residency to access public benefits, professional licenses

10:07 PM | 06-04-2021🔗

Lawmakers have approved a measure pushed by Democrats to repeal state requirements that Coloradans prove their legal residency in the U.S. to access a broad slate of state and federal aid or to get a business or professional license.

The House voted Monday 41-23, with no Republicans in support, to send Senate Bill 199 to Gov. Jared Polis’ desk. The legislation would roll back restrictions enacted by lawmakers in 2006 that prohibit immigrants living in the country illegally from accessing housing assistance, welfare, food assistance and other public aid. 

MORE: Democrats advance historic slate of legislation to aid Colorado’s unauthorized immigrants, roll back restrictions

The measure also expands the types of documents that state agencies can accept to verify identity. Many people living in the U.S. illegally don’t have access to the types of identification paperwork required to apply for licenses and other state programs, advocates say. 

Thy Vo, The Colorado Sun

The earliest the Colorado legislature will adjourn is Tuesday

7:00 AM | 06-07-2021🔗

The Colorado legislature reconvenes on Monday for what will be its last week of regular work this year. 

The earliest lawmakers are likely to adjourn the 2021 session is Tuesday given the status of dozens of still-pending bills. They have until midnight on Saturday to complete their work.

Some big-ticket items still on the agenda include:

  • Legislation to regulate greenhouse gas emissions that is pitting Gov. Jared Polis against Democrats in the House and Senate
  • Senate Bill 88, which would give historic child sexual assault victims an opportunity to sue their abusers and the institutions that allowed the abuse to happen despite the civil statute of limitations having run out
  • An $800 million state coronavirus stimulus package
  • A measure to allow restaurants to continue to-go sales of alcohol

It takes a minimum of three days to pass legislation in Colorado. Some of the outlasting bills still need two days of debate to pass.

There are dozens of bills still pending.

— Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun


Colorado House will return on Monday

10:07 PM | 06-04-2021🔗

The Colorado House adjourned on Friday at about 11 p.m. until Monday, meaning the chamber’s lawmakers also won’t work over the weekend. 

The 2021 lawmaking term will likely adjourn no earlier than Tuesday as a result. The session must end by June 12, but Democratic leadership is hoping to wrap things up early next week. 

The Senate is also not working over the weekend.

— Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun


The Colorado Senate won’t work over the weekend

4:32 PM | 06-04-2021🔗

The Colorado Senate adjourned on Friday until Monday, meaning the chamber’s lawmakers won’t work over the weekend. 

The 2021 lawmaking term will likely adjourn no earlier than Tuesday as a result. The session must end by June 12, but Democratic leadership is hoping to wrap things up early next week. 

— Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun


Republicans argue property-tax reduction measure is “chicanery” aimed at further-reaching ballot measure

4:31 PM | 06-04-2021🔗

Colorado Republicans on Friday evening pushed back on a bipartisan measure to reduce property taxes, calling it an effort to confuse voters and stop a 2021 ballot measure that would go further in slashing people’s payments. 

State Sen. Paul Lundeen, R-Monument, went so far as to accuse the proponents of Senate Bill 293 of “chicanery.”

“Are we intruding into a process that the people already have underway?” Lundeen said.

Senate Bill 293 comes as proponents of Initiative 27 are trying to collect about 125,000 signatures to get the property-tax slashing ballot question before voters in November. Senate Bill 293 would limit the effects of Initiative 27 by changing the underlying law the ballot question would alter.

MORE: Colorado lawmakers launch last-minute effort to drive down property taxes and combat skyrocketing assessments

Senate Bill 293 would create new subclasses of residential and nonresidential property, dropping the property-tax assessment rate for single-family homes to 6.95% and for multi-family homes to 6.8% from 7.15%. Initiative 27 would go further, slashing rates to 6.5%, but would only affect multi-family homes if Senate Bill 293 passes first. 

TODAY’S UNDERWRITER

“You’re changing rules in the middle of the game,” said Sen. Barbara Kirkmeyer, a Brighton Republican. 

The bill passed on a preliminary vote in the Senate after a handful of amendments were adopted, including one instructing state officials to make sure voters know how Senate Bill 293 and Initiative 27 would and wouldn’t affect each other.

Senate Bill 293 now heads to a final vote in the Senate. Its prime sponsors are Sen. Chris Hansen, a Denver Democrat, Sen. Bob Rankin, a Carbondale Republican, and House Majority Leader Daneya Esgar, a Pueblo Democrat. 

— Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun


Number of bills introduced up in the Colorado Senate, down in the House

10:43 AM | 06-04-2021🔗

The past three years of Democratic control in the legislature and Democrat Jared Polis in the governor’s office resulted in fewer bills being introduced than in each of the four prior years, when Republicans controlled the Senate and Democrats controlled the House.

Of this year’s 623 bills, 330 were introduced in the House and 293 were introduced in the Senate. The House numbers are the second-lowest in 10 years. But the number of Senate bills is second-highest over 10 years, most likely because the Joint Budget Committee had so many more bills to introduce as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Thus far, 220 bills have become law, two without Polis’ signature. Only one bill has been vetoed so far. In 2019, Polis vetoed five bills. Last year, the governor vetoed three.

Sandra Fish, The Colorado Sun


People arrested in Colorado would get a bond hearing within 48 hours under measure passed by lawmakers

10:40 AM | 06-04-2021🔗

People arrested in Colorado would get a bond hearing within 48 hours under measure passed by lawmakers. House Bill 1280 now awaits the governor’s signature after the Senate on Friday passed the measure 30-5. 

MORE: Colorado courts could soon be forced to hold bond hearings within 48 hours of someone’s arrest

House Bill 1280 would also allow bond hearings to be held by phone and video conference. It would create a statewide bond-hearing officer that could hold hearings remotely and on weekends and holidays, when local courts, particularly in rural areas, are closed. 

District attorneys in some rural parts of Colorado raised concerns about the bill increasing their costs and requiring extra staffing on weekends. In response, lawmakers added grant funding to help DAs comply with the bill. 

Thy Vo, The Colorado Sun


Bill to grant Colorado legislative aides health insurance gets approval

9:24 AM | 06-04-2021🔗

The legislative aides who serve Colorado’s citizen lawmakers could soon be eligible for health benefits year-round after the House on Thursday gave final approval to a measure funding the change. The bill now heads to the governor’s desk.

Senate Bill 244, reclassifies legislative aides as permanent, part-time employees from temporary workers. Under the measure, aides who work at least 17 hours every two weeks would have access to the same state health, dental and life insurance benefits given to lawmakers. 

Democratic lawmakers in the House approved the bill on a party-line vote, noting that many aides, who make $15 an hour and often work full-time during the legislative session and more inconsistent hours outside of it, take up second or third jobs to make ends meet. 

“We are creating a system where people who are the haves can afford to work here as an aide,” said Rep. Susan Lontine, a Denver Democrat, arguing in favor of the bill. “If you don’t have some other support, you can’t afford to work here.”

Most Republicans weren’t happy about the measure. Rep. Kim Ransom, R-Littleton, offered an amendment to require aides work an average of 30 hours a week to claim benefits. But it was unsuccessful. 

“If you grant part-time staff this level of benefits, what you’re doing is creating a new, privileged class,” said Rep. Andy Pico, a Colorado Springs Republican. 

–Thy Vo, The Colorado Sun

Effort to allow local governments in Colorado to enact stricter gun regulations heads to governor

8:38 AM | 06-04-2021🔗
Temporary fencing around the Table Mesa King Soopers store in Boulder where 10 people were killed on March 22, 2021, has become a place for mourners to post memorials and protest signs. (Steve Peterson, Special to The Colorado Sun)

The Colorado legislature on Thursday sent Gov. Jared Polis a bill that would allow local governments to pass gun control regulations that are more strict than what is in state law. 

Senate Bill 256 was introduced in the wake of the Boulder King Soopers shooting in March, in which 10 people were killed. The measure would repeal a 2003 Colorado law prohibiting municipalities and counties from enacting firearm laws that are more stringent that what is in state law. 

Boulder had an assault-weapons ban that was struck down by a judge days before the March shooting. While the ban likely wouldn’t have stopped the attack, its disqualification prompted calls for a change in state law. 

Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun


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