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Colorado Gov Jared Polis responds to a question during a news conference in the State Capitol, Tuesday, May 9, 2023, in Denver. Democratic lawmakers spoke about the recently-concluded legislative session. (Philip B. Poston/Sentinel Colorado via AP)

Gov. Jared Polis on Tuesday vetoed a bill that would have given local governments a right of first refusal to purchase certain multifamily properties listed for sale. The Democrat sided with business interests that have been pressuring him to reject the measure, angering the legislation’s Democratic sponsors in the General Assembly. 

House Bill 1190 was aimed at boosting affordable housing options across the state by giving municipalities and counties a leg up in purchasing properties and converting them into publicly owned affordable housing units. The right of first refusal would have applied to residential properties built more than 30 years ago with five units or more in rural areas and 15 units or more in urban and suburban areas.

“I support local governments’ ability to buy these properties on the open market and preserve low-cost housing opportunities, but am not supportive of a required right of refusal that adds costs and time to transactions,” Polis wrote in a letter explaining his veto. “Additional incentives or policy levers such as a notice requirement or financing mechanisms for cities could be used to further encourage local governments, and I would be supportive of this kind of approach.”

The governor said, however, that he is “wary of placing more pressure on the market that could raise housing costs with this approach.”

The veto of House Bill 1190, announced as the Colorado political community was focused Tuesday night on the outcome of Denver’s mayoral race, represents another big failure at the Colorado Capitol this year for affordable housing advocates. Democrats declared the state’s 2023 lawmaking term the year of affordable housing, but many of their priority measures failed, including a rewrite of Colorado’s land-use policies and an eviction protections bill.

All four of the bill’s prime sponsors — Democratic Sens. Faith Winter and Sonya Jaquez Lewis and Democratic Reps. Andrew Boesenecker and Emily Sirota — released a remarkably fiery statement Tuesday night lambasting the governor.

“The governor has sided with the interests of private equity, hedge funds and their powerful corporate lobbyists over and against the affordability concerns of people in our state,” the statement said. “It should be alarming to all of us that the governor has failed to usher these proven affordability measures across the finish line.”

The sponsors called the governor’s commitment to affordable housing “rhetorical” and said they had been assured on “numerous occasions” that he wasn’t considering a veto for the bill. The statement said the governor’s office was even involved in efforts to pass the legislation.

“​​It is alarming that the governor has vetoed HB23-1190, given the fact that the governor’s office was engaged in helping us count votes on the policy as late as the last week of session,” the statement said.

The statement also criticized the groups that called for the bill’s veto, specifically Colorado Concern, the Colorado Real Estate Alliance, the Colorado Bankers Association and the Land Title Association of Colorado, accusing the groups of either not engaging in debate over the policy or negotiating in bad faith. 

“The only currency you have in the state Capitol is your word — and with today’s actions and the behind-the-scenes campaign leading up to the veto, several organizations have demonstrated that they are indeed bankrupt,” they wrote.

Colorado Sen. Faith Winter, D-Westminster, was one of four lead Democratic sponsors of House Bill 1190. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Under House Bill 1190, local governments would have had seven days to indicate that they were interested in buying an eligible property before it was listed on the open market, and then 30 days to make an offer and 60 days to close. The local governments would have had to pay market value for the properties and use them to increase their community’s affordable housing stock. 

Business groups, however, said the measure would damage the housing market. 

Colorado Concern, a nonprofit that represents business CEOs in the state, was the most vocal opponent of House Bill 1190.

“The legislature’s focus on housing costs is well-placed,” Mike Kopp, who leads the organization, said in a written statement last month urging the governor to veto the measure. “This bill, however, would effectively weaken the private housing marketplace.”

Colorado Concern argued the bill would have reduced the value of residential properties subject to the law. 

Adam Burg, vice president of government affairs for the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, said in a statement Tuesday before the veto was announced that the legislation would only “add complexity and red tape to real estate transactions” by slowing down how fast eligible properties  can be listed and potentially preventing them from being offered on the open market for two months. The chamber said the legislation represented a breach of private property rights by forcing owners to accept a less advantageous offer. 

Three other bills vetoed 

The measure was one of four bills Polis vetoed Tuesday. 

The other measures Polis vetoed were:

  • Senate Bill 60, which aimed to boost consumer protections for event ticket sales. Online ticket retailers would have been required to show buyers all ticket fees up front as opposed to at checkout. The measure also would have banned speculative ticketing, which is when ticket resellers set prices for tickets before they go on sale. It would also have banned tickets from being sold by websites with deceptive names that make patrons believe they are buying directly from a venue. In a letter explaining his veto, Polis wrote that while he supported some elements of the measure, there were “significant problems” that could upset the state’s entertainment ecosystem. The bill had the “potential to discourage competition in the sector, ultimately harming consumers,” the letter said. The prime sponsors were Democratic Sen. Robert Rodriguez, Republican Sen. Mark Baisley, Democratic Rep. Lindsey Daugherty and Democratic Rep. Mandy Lindsey.
  • House Bill 1258, which would have created a task force to study the costs associated with enforcing drug laws, as well as the effects of investigating drug crimes and rehabilitating those convicted of drug crimes. Polis wrote in a letter explaining his veto that he rejected the measure because he said such a task force should also study the costs and risks of reducing such enforcement. He added that the study would have been an appropriate project for the Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice, which the House Judiciary Committee voted this year to disband. Polis said in his letter that he will soon take executive action to continue the commissions’ work and may present a request similar to what was in House BIll 1258 to that new panel. The prime sponsors were Reps. Said Sharbini and Lorena Garcia and Sens. Lisa Cutter and Kevin Priola — all Democrats.
  • House Bill 1259, which would have changed how open meetings law violations related to executive, or closed-door, meetings are handled. Typically, when a court finds a government entity in violation of Colorado’s open meetings laws, the person who brought a lawsuit challenging the actions is entitled to costs. House Bill 1259 would have created an exception so that plaintiffs who represent themselves in open meetings challenges aren’t awarded such fees. Polis wrote in a letter explaining his veto that the bipartisan bill could impede legitimate challenges to open meetings. “We should strive for increased transparency and accountability,” he wrote. The bill appeared to be aimed at addressing issues around school board executive sessions across the state, he added. The prime sponsors were Democrats Rep. Lindsey Daugherty and Sen. Rachel Zenzinger and Republicans Rep. Gabe Evans and Sen. Cleave Simpson.

Polis has until 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday to sign or veto any bills passed during the 2023 legislative session, which ended May 8. Any bills he doesn’t sign or veto will automatically become law.

CORRECTION: This story was updated at 8:34 a.m. on Wednesday, June 7, 2023, to correct a source’s error. A statement from House Bill 1190’s sponsors criticized the groups that called for the bill’s veto, specifically Colorado Concern, the Colorado Real Estate Alliance, the Colorado Bankers Association and the Land Title Association of Colorado, accusing the groups of either not engaging in debate over the policy or negotiating in bad faith. 

Jesse Paul is a Denver-based political reporter and editor at The Colorado Sun, covering the state legislature, Congress and local politics. He is the author of The Unaffiliated newsletter and also occasionally fills in on breaking news coverage....

Elliott Wenzler is a reporter for the Colorado Sun, covering local politics, the state legislature and other topics. She also assists with The Unaffiliated newsletter. Previously, she was a community reporter in Douglas County for Colorado Community...