Hickenlooper signs pension-reform bill; vetoes 2 measures

Author: Marianne Goodland - June 4, 2018 - Updated: June 5, 2018

foster childrenColorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (File photo by Joey Bunch/Colorado Politics)

Gov. John Hickenlooper signed several pieces of legislation Monday but also added to his veto tally.

The governor signed into law a bill that lawmakers and pensioners hope will start the state on a path to shoring up a $32 billion shortfall in the Colorado Public Employees Retirement Association (PERA) pension plan for state workers and teachers.

Hickenlooper signed Senate Bill 200 in a signing ceremony Monday. The bill includes a one-time appropriation of $225 million in the 2018-19 budget to help start the process of fixing PERA’s underfunded defined benefit plan, which covers 585,000 state and school employees.

The measure also reduces annual cost-of-living adjustments, increases the age at which new employees hired after Jan. 1, 2019 can retire, and will require current employees to contribute an extra 2 percent of their pay.

The bill drew criticism from the Colorado Education Association, a teachers union, and many Democrats in both the House and Senate voted against it. But it got enough votes to get to the governor’s desk.

Hickenlooper also vetoed two bills on Monday: A bill that would have allowed cannabis-product tasting rooms and another that went after conflicts of interest within the state’s sex offender management board.

House Bill 1258 would have allowed marijuana dispensaries to operate tasting rooms for cannabis products, but not for smoking pot. It was seen as a way around the constitutional ban on public consumption of marijuana.

In his veto letter, Hickenlooper said that Amendment 64 is “clear: marijuana consumption may not be conducted ‘openly’ or ‘publicly’ on ‘in a manner that endangers others.’ We find that HB 18-1258 directly conflicts with this constitutional requirement.”

The marijuana industry blasted the governor for his veto. Terrapin Care Station spokesman Peter Marcus said Hickenlooper’s veto “ensures continued gray market activity when it comes to public consumption, an odd choice for an administration that has focused heavily on marijuana gray market enforcement.”

It also ensures people will continue to smoke cannabis in “unregulated indoor clubs, also a strange choice for a governor who has been adamant that public consumption should not include smoking. Hickenlooper’s veto also sets the state back in regulating and curbing drugged driving,” Marcus added.

On a related measure, Hickenlooper signed into law House Bill 1286, which allows children who hold medical marijuana licenses to receive their medication from school personnel. But the governor signed it with misgivings, primarily concerns that recreational marijuana should not get into the hands of children.

Hickenlooper said he found the reasoning behind the bill compelling, particularly after the testimony of young Quintin Lovato, who has battled epilepsy and Tourette Syndrome, and that he appreciated the efforts of the bill sponsors to add safety features to ensure that non-smokable medical marijuana is kept out of the hands of other students.

Hickenlooper also signed into law a bill that will authorize prescription-level cannabidiol (CBD) oil to be sold in pharmacies once approved by the Food and Drug Administration, which is expected to happen later this month. The medication at the heart of the bill, Epidiolex, is awaiting FDA approval for children with several rare seizure disorders.

The governor also signed into law Senate Bill 243, which puts into place some of the guidelines for grocery and convenience stores for selling full-strength beer when that law goes into effect January 1.

The bill allows 18 to 21-year olds to sell beer in grocery, convenience and liquor stores; those who deliver groceries that include beer must deliver them in a company vehicle.

Finally, the governor issued his fifth veto of the year, on a measure that would have put restrictions on members of the state’s sex offender management board. House Bill 1427 would have prohibited members of that board from accepting contracts with the state that deal with sex offenders.

In his veto letter, Hickenlooper said: “We all support proper handling of conflicts. We veto this bill today, however, because it is redundant and overbroad.” But “despite the issues with HB 18-1427, recent media reports raise important issues as to the need for better conflict of management interests,” Hickenlooper also wrote.

Senate President Pro tem Jerry Sonnenberg of Sterling, the bill’s Senate sponsor, told Colorado Politics that several members of that board have multi-million-dollar contracts with the board for programs serving sex offenders.

For example, according to a fiscal analysis, board member Missy Gursky, who has served on the board since 2006, is clinical director of Redirecting Sexual Aggression Inc. (RSA). RSA, which employs treatment providers approved by the board, is a contractor to the Department of Corrections, Department of Human Services/Division of Youth Services and the Judicial Department.

Another board member since 2008, Jeff Jenks, is a certified polygraph examiner whose company has received $987,000 in contracts to administer polygraphs to the Department of Corrections and Judicial Department’s probation program.

It’s these kinds of conflicts that led to House Bill 1187, Sonnenberg told Colorado Politics. “It’s concerning that the governor is willing to protect known conflicts of interest when board members are entering into contracts for millions of dollars with the board they serve on.

Marianne Goodland

Marianne Goodland

Marianne Goodland is the chief legislative reporter for Colorado Politics. She's covered the Colorado General Assembly for 20 years, starting off in 1998 with the Silver & Gold Record, the editorially-independent newspaper at CU that was shuttered in 2009. She also writes for six rural newspapers in northeastern Colorado. Marianne specializes in rural issues, agriculture, water and, during election season, campaign finance. In her free time (ha!) she lives in Lakewood with her husband, Jeff; a cantankerous Shih-Tzu named Sophie; and Gunther the cat. She is also an award-winning professional harpist.

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