Under the Dome, Week 6 (2017)

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February 22, 2017
DCBA Bill Tracker: http://www.statebillinfo.com/SBI/index.cfm?fuseaction=Public.Dossier&id=22915&pk=619&style=pinstripe

Highlights of the Week

Another busy week at the Capitol wrapped up early Friday so legislators could make it home for a long President’s Day weekend. Each day saw committee meetings late into the night debating a host of issues. The week was bookended by lengthy consideration of legislation to once again roll back Colorado’s rigorous K-12 accountability system and teacher evaluation law. On Monday, the House Education committee compared three different bills to eliminate the required 9th grade PARCC tests as well as the social studies assessments. However, only one passed committee – HB 1181. The bill sponsored by Representative Pettersen and Representative Lundeen repeals the requirement to administer the PARCC test in 9th grade and replaces it with a requirement that a local education provider must administer a state-selected ninth-grade assessment that is aligned with the 9th grade content standards and the assessment administered to 10th grade students (i.e. the PSAT). HB 1181 passed on a unanimous vote which is almost unheard of in the House Education Committee. It also has the blessing of the Governor, the only assessment bill that can make this claim.
The Senate side didn’t want to be left out and Senate Education spent Thursday afternoon/evening debating legislation by Senator Merrifield (SB 067) to eliminate the requirement that 50% of a teacher’s evaluation be based on the academic growth of students and that all teachers must be evaluated every year. Senator Merrifield has run legislation to roll back SB 10-191 in the past. Organizations testifying in opposition included Democrats for Education Reform, Colorado Succeeds, teachers from several schools, Ready Colorado, and the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce. Organizations in support ranged from the teachers union, League of Women Voters, the Colorado Rural Alliance, and the Colorado Association of School Boards. The bill died on a vote of 2-5 with Senators Todd and Merrifield as the yes votes. The Senate Education Committee also took up SB 101 by Senator Todd. The bill repealed the requirement that Colorado participate in a consortium of states that develops assessments for K12 public education and also repealed the requirement to use those tests in 9th grade. SB 101 also died on a 2-5 vote with several committee members stating they will support HB 1181 when it is in the Senate.  Charter schools took a first step towards receiving an equal share of mill levy dollars from district authorizers with the passage of SB 061 on a 4-3 vote Wednesday. 

Transportation Options in 2017 Legislative Session In addition to ongoing conversations between the House and Senate leadership, other members of the legislature have introduced their own bills to tackle the complex issue of transportation funding in Colorado. This week Senator Marble introduced SB 188 to repeals the existing tax credit for alternative fuel vehicles in Colorado, refer a measure to the ballot to ask for voter approval to keep the funding, and direct the funding to the Highway User Tax Fund. The credit is worth an estimated $8-10 million for the next few years. The bill is scheduled to be heard in the Senate Finance Committee on February 28th. HB 1153 sponsored Representative Williams from Colorado Springs (South I-25) and Representative McKean from Loveland (North I-25) introduced legislation to allow all vehicles with two or more people to travel in HOV lanes (on some roads now you must have three passengers) and also raises the priority of currently unfunded projects to expand the capacity of interstate highway 25 between the town of Castle Rock and the town of Monument and between state highway 14 and state highway 66 by limiting the time for EIS to be completed and requiring all federal money received by CDOT that the federal government does not require to be allocated for other projects and that CDOT has not previously allocated for other projects to be used to fund the high priority projects before being used to fund other projects. The bill is assigned to the Transportation and Energy Committee. Once again there is a bill from to put in place trans bonds to help pay for critical projects. However, with no stable revenue source to service the bond payments or new funds, the likelihood of it passing is pretty low, the bill was assigned to  House State Affairs. 
In addition to bills in committee, the Select Committee on Energy and Environment met to hear a presentation on CAFÉ standards. Speakers included representatives from the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, Colorado Automobile Dealers Association, the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project, Protera, and environmental professors from University of Colorado among others. Presenters pointed out that since 1975, emissions from cars and trucks have decreased by 75%. Environmental advocates pointed out their interest in building up infrastructure for electric vehicle charging, and expressed dismay that Colorado only has 8 EV models while California has 25. 
Budget  and Supplemental The House reviewed and voted on the budget supplemental package for FY 2016-17 this week. Although most bills saw little discussion and easy passage, House Republicans were not pleased that Medicaid was costing the state an additional $126 million in supplemental costs. Approximately $66.1 million of the $126 million increase was tied to a change in the criteria to access drugs to cure Hepatitis C. Representative Beckman ran an amendment to defund the $66.1 million, arguing that it isn’t appropriate for Medicaid to cover such an expensive drug, especially when the recipients weren’t required to be substance free. The amendment did not pass but it will surely be a conversation moving forward. The supplemental bills are headed to the Governor’s desk for signature. 

The Joint Budget Committee considered figure setting for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment this week as well. The all-day hearing saw mixed results for the Department. The JBC voted to continue funding for the long acting reversible contraceptive program (LARC) within the Department. However, the motion to fund the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey died on a 3-3 partisan vote and the committee tabled votes that would have continued funding for Colorado’s school based health centers and immunization registry. The JBC also failed to provide funding for the implementation of Colorado’s medical aid in dying law – proposition 106 which passed with overwhelming support at the ballot. Two big tickets items were also tabled for further consideration: the line item to fund all immunizations activities undertaken by the Department and fees for the clean water sector permits. For over three years, industry, local governments and the Water Quality Control Division met to discuss different proposals for the structure of water fees within the Division. In the winter of 2016, the diverse group of stakeholders finally came to an agreement for fees which resulted in a 61% increase for industry. However, the JBC staffer did not agree with the proposal and suggested the JBC reject it. Senate Leadership has decided they will spearhead the effort and the decision was put on hold for the time being. 
Bills of the Week
Prohibit Tampering with Oil and Gas Equipment SB 035, which was in the Senate Agriculture Committee Thursday evening, adds “placing another person in danger of death or serious bodily injury” to the crime of tampering with oil and gas gathering equipment (pipeline). More than sixty people signed up to testify for and against the bill. Opponents argued that the bill violated their first amendment right of free speech while others argued a proper punishment was already in place. The bill hearing went late in to the evening, and ultimately passed on a party line vote of 6-5. 
Distributed Energy Resources On Wednesday, the Senate Agriculture Committee heard a bill from Senator Fenberg to require investor-owned utilities and cooperative electric associations to create distributed energy resources plans. Distributed energy resources are small-scale power sources that can be combined to diversify the electrical grid to protect it from disruptions. The unintended consequence of the bill is that it made weaknesses in the electrical grid public information which is a public safety hazard. The bill was postponed indefinitely.