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#Coleg Week 11: GOP tax proposal shot down, Transpo bill grumbling, fracking school setbacks, gay conversion, gun bills, budget countdown

Author: John Tomasic - March 20, 2017 - Updated: March 21, 2017

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Colorado's "gold dome."
Colorado’s “gold dome.”

The week is already moving fast.

Republican-sponsored House Bill 1187 was shot down by Republicans in the Senate State Affairs committee. It was an important bill. Here’s a magazine-like summary of what it proposed to do, as best as I can write it at this stage: The bill aimed to allow the state to collect and spend more tax money by basing the limit of collectable money on Colorado personal income levels tabulated over the last five years. The sponsors think their formula is a better way to arrive at the tax-and-spending limit than the current formula, which adjusts the limit each year based on inflation and population changes. Any boost in tax money collected as a result of the new formula would be set aside to pay for education, health care and transportation projects. The bill would have had a ballot question outlining the plan submitted for voters to approve.

The State Affairs Republicans opposed the bill for the plain fact that it looked and smelled like a tax increase.

Supporters of the bill were outraged.

“More than 30 organizations representing interests from across the political, business, nonprofit and civic spectrums joined forces to support this modest, moderate, commonsense proposal for Colorado,” said Colorado Fiscal Director Carol Hedges. Yet a small group of extremist interests locked arms to block its consideration even by the full membership of the Senate, where it very well could have passed.

“All this bill would have done was ask Colorado voters if they wanted to adopt the same metric for economic growth used by the majority of other states with revenue limits — instead of the one we have now that simultaneously results in cuts and tax rebates. All this bill would have done is give Coloradans the chance to choose what to do with their dollars.”

That’s your Monday afternoon legislative bang on the ear.

The end of the session, sine die, is May 10. Seven-and-a-half weeks to go.

Here’s some of what else is happening this week. As always, the schedule is subject to change.

Tuesday

Senate Bill 71 is scheduled to step out from behind the curtain on the Senate floor for a second reading. As the Statesman reported this week, the elections administration bill is being wrangled over and watched closely by many interested parties. It would allow large counties to decrease the number of voter centers set up during the first week of the 15-day early voting period. Supporters say it recognizes the reality of how people vote and looks to more efficiently serve them. Opponents say relatively small efficiencies aren’t worth disenfranchising even the least amount of Coloradans — but they also say small tweaks to the bill that could be made through amendments on the Senate floor could bring them around. All eyes on bill sponsor Jack Tate, a Republican from Centennial.

The Senate Finance committee will hear House Bill 1104, which aims to exempt Olympics medal winners, who also receive prize money, from state income tax. The bill has plenty of supporters, not many detractors. Colorado is an athletic place. In the Olympic seasons 2014 (winter) through 2016 (summer), 65 participants were Coloradans. Of those, seven won a medal. So the bill would concern something like 10 residents on a really good year. The amounts to the state are minor. As the state fiscal analysts put it: “The value of the state income tax would have been approximately $2,400 in tax year 2014 and nearly $2,800 in tax year 2016.”

Why not do what we can to support these champs? On the other hand, Olympians may know as well as anyone that everyone on the team has got to pull their oar!

In the House Judiciary committee Rep. Jovan Melton, a Democrat from Aurora, will begin shepherding Senate Bill 027 through the lower chamber. The bill would increase penalties for the plague of texting-while-driving, or Driving Under the Influence of Texting (DUIT), or You’re So Crazy Risking All of Our Lives to Send that Dumb Text (YSCRAOLSDT).

Wednesday

The House Transportation committee will hear House Bill 17-1242, the big deal transportation-upgrade-funding compromise years in the making. No one seems to like this bill, which means the committees that hear it have their work cut out for them. Here’s a place to start:

Fix Colorado Roads, the main lobby group working the bill, wrote in a statement on Monday that “the proposal falls short in several key areas.” That sounds familiar. Specifically,the group believes the bill “fails to provide sufficient, significant and equitable resources to the state system from the new revenue source; fails to include a reasonable level of existing general funds (and instead a depletes such resources); and fails to identify a list of projects from which the citizens of Colorado will benefit.”

Democratic-controlled House State Affairs will kill three gun-rights-expansion bills, one on gun training for school employees, another that would push down the age for concealed carry permits to 18 for members of the military, and another that would repeal the state’s 15-round ammunition magazine limit.

The Republican-controlled Senate State Affairs committee will hear another of Sen. Steve Fenberg’s bills. The Boulder Democrat takes a licking but keeps on ticking. His Senate Bill 1156 would ban licensed therapists from practicing discredited “conversion therapy” that is meant to turn gay people straight. That the bill was assigned to the State Affairs “kill committee” instead of the Senate Health committee signals how Senate leaders view the bill.

Thursday

The House Health committee will hear Rep. Mike Foote’s House Bill 1256, which would clarify that the minimum 1,000-foot distance separating schools from new oil and gas wells must be measured from the school property line, not from the school building. It’s the first Democratic bill concerning the drilling industry this session. Last week, industry was saying it looked redundant.

Friday

The state budget is set to drop on Monday. That’s when the long hours at the Capitol will begin. So: Which walking-distance establishment will offer the best happy hour deals?

john@coloradostatesman.com

John Tomasic

John Tomasic

John Tomasic is a senior political reporter for The Colorado Statesman covering the Colorado Legislature.


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