Opening Day of the 2020 Legislative Session
Legislator Changes Under The Golden Dome
House Committee Schedule: https://leg.colorado.gov/sites/default/files/houseschedule2020.pdf
Senate Committee Schedule: https://leg.colorado.gov/sites/default/files/senateschedule2020.pdf
House Committee Assignments: https://leg.colorado.gov/sites/default/files/2020_house_committee_membership.pdf
Senate Committee Assignments: https://leg.colorado.gov/sites/default/files/2020_senate_committee_membership.pdf
Leading up to the first day of the legislative session, several elected officials announced resignations and Representative Kimmi Lewis passed away after a battle with cancer. Senator Lois Court resigned effective January 16 after she was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease that affects the peripheral nerves. It is anticipated that Representative Chris Hansen will run to fill the vacancy left by Senator Court’s resignation. If Representative Hansen fills the vacancy for SD 31, this would leave a vacancy for HD 6 and importantly an open House Democrat seat on the Joint Budget Committee. Several days before the legislative session started, Senator Angela Williams announced that she would not run for re-election to her state Senate seat, leaving Representative Coleman without a challenger in the SD 35 Democrat primary, at least for now. It is anticipated that Representative Perry Buck will run to fill Weld County Commissioner Sean Conway’s seat after he announced that he would resign effective January 31. If Representative Buck leaves the legislature, Senator Marble is expected to run to fill the vacancy in the House of Representatives from Representative Buck’s seat. Richard Holtorf filled the vacancy for HD 64, an eastern plains district, after Representative Kimmi Lewis passed away in December following a third battle with cancer. Representative Mary Young was appointed to fill a vacancy for the Greeley area HD 50. Senator Ray Scott is running for a county commissioner seat, so he stepped aside from his leadership role as Senate Minority Whip. Senator Paul Lundeen was chosen by his peers to serve as whip for the Senate Republicans. District vacancies can lead to the domino effect just described as House members often move to open Senate seats, so stay tuned for updates as new legislators are sworn in throughout the next month.
Opening Day Speeches
In this morning’s opening speeches by the Senate President, Speaker of the House, and minority leaders, Representative Kimmi Lewis and Senator Court were recognized for their service to Colorado during their time in the legislature. Opening speeches are a time to set the tone and give a preview of priority issues for the caucuses for the 120 legislative session. Senate President Leroy Garcia and Speaker KC Becker both recognized the work done last session, and both indicated no sign of slowing down. Garcia and Becker discussed ways to address the high cost of living that many Coloradans face with high costs for health care, higher education, and housing and called for continued reforms to the criminal justice system. While both Democrats discussed health care transparency and other ways to lower the rising costs of health care, neither explicitly mentioned the Public Option bill that is expected to be one of the most hotly contested health care bills this session. The speeches from republicans Senate Minority Leader Chris Holbert and House Minority Leader Patrick Neville contained parallel themes as well, focused on prioritizing issues within the state budget such as transportation funding from the General Fund and improving teacher compensation for quality educators.
Senate President Garcia
Senate President Garcia reminded the chamber of the division and gridlock that the Senate experienced in 2019. He offered that they share the common ground and belief in justice, opportunity, and the pursuit of happiness. After sharing successes from the 2019 session, Senate President Garcia moved into issues to tackle in 2020. He called out high hospital costs and CEO salaries, stating that they will push for increased health care price transparency and aim to drive down health insurance costs through legislation that encourages innovation. He also highlighted intent to address a changing economy that affects Colorado industries such as recreation and agriculture, to provide a just transition for workers in the energy sector, to impose harsher penalties for negligence related to polluting the state’s air and water, and work to pass paid family leave.
Senator Minority Leader Chris Holbert
Senate Minority Leader Holbert began, as is common for his speeches, with a description of several sections in the state constitution. The descriptions included that the regular session will last 120 days, that caucus positions are prohibited, and the requirement that a bill be read at length if that is requested by a legislator. The rest of his speech was framed around the rejection of Proposition CC on the November 2019 ballot, a measure which would have removed the state’s revenue limits and devoted the resulting funds to K-12 education, transportation, and higher education. On transportation, he continued the call for $300 million in General Fund devoted to roads and bridges in next year’s budget. While he expressed appreciation for the Governor’s request of over $600 million for transportation, he made it clear that the majority of those dollars would come from COP issuances and that he wouldn’t settle for the $50 million General Fund for transportation proposed by the request. In an allusion to one transportation funding measure being discussed, an increase of the state gas tax, he asked that the majority consider using part of the increase for bonding. On education, he announced that Republicans would introduce a package of bills focused on school choice, taxpayer accountability and transparency, school safety, and teacher compensation. For higher education, he applauded efforts to improve concurrent enrollment that lowers the cost of higher education for students who are able to take college courses while in high school and recognized that for some institutions such as the University of Colorado system, the state provides a very small part of their overall funding.
Speaker of the House KC Becker
Speaker Becker began her speech sharing some of successes from last year including passing free full day kindergarten, setting emissions reductions targets, creating college savings accounts to help parents save for their child’s future education, strengthening renters rights, and increasing K-12 school funding through buying down the Budget Stabilization Factor, capping the cost of insulin and addressing surprise medical billing. Turning to the 2020 legislative session, she does not intend to slow down. She said that in 2020 they should focus on building a more just economy by passing a paid family leave program, tackling a looming retirement crisis, find creative solutions to increase transportation funding, increase transparency in prescription drug pricing, create a more rational criminal justice system, head the call on climate change and help the communities affected by a changing climate and a changing economy, and deliver on school safety initiatives through improving mental health access. Speaker Becker ended her speech with a call to stakeholders and interested parties to come to the table to solve these issues for Coloradans.
House Minority Leader Patrick Neville
House Minority Leader Neville began his speech discussing the values that he and his caucus bring to the capitol including working to preserve freedom and promote justice. He discussed how the government doesn’t create prosperity but sets the conditions for prosperity to exist and these conditions are when people have freedom and are not burdened by hefty taxes. Moving to the state budget, he shared that the amount of tax revenue Coloradans contribute to state government has increased, and that voters have continually told the legislature to set the priorities within existing resources. Similar to Senator Holbert’s speech, Minority Leader Neville shared that they would introduce several education bills to improve educational choices for parents and provide financial supplements for great teachers to ensure that exceptional teachers are rewarded. He committed to fight against policies that interfere with a parent’s ability to make decisions around vaccinations, interfere with the rights of gun owners, a payroll tax under the guise of a worker benefit (paid family leave), or cause people to suffer as a result of new environmental regulations.