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Colorado General Assembly Democrats, who control both chambers of the state legislature, late Monday issued the following press release rounding up their legislative accomplishments as the session came to a close:
DENVER, CO – The First Session of the 74th General Assembly adjourned today. Democratic lawmakers passed legislation that focused on the issues that matter for Coloradans: addressing the cost of living, protecting reproductive rights, reducing gun violence and improving public schools.
“From improving public education with a record investment in our schools, teachers and students, to reducing the cost of health care and prescription drugs, this session delivered real results on the issues that matter most to Coloradans,” said Speaker Julie McCluskie, D-Dillon. “The legislation we passed will protect access to abortion, support our workforce and save people money on housing. I’m proud of our work to boost rural economies, protect our water future, and pass bipartisan legislation that will uplift people all across our state and help everyone reach their Colorado dream.”
“Coloradans demanded bold action on the issues that matter most to them, and this session we delivered,” Senate President Steve Fenberg, D-Boulder, said. “From passing landmark gun violence prevention laws and working to lower your energy bills, to improving our gold standard elections and taking action to lower property tax bills for families and businesses, we fought tirelessly this session to make a real difference in our communities and for the people who make this state great.”
“This session, we worked to address the most pressing needs in Colorado and did what we told voters we’d do when they elected the largest Democratic majority since the 1930s,” said House Majority Leader Monica Duran, D-Wheat Ridge. “Democrats passed a landmark package of commonsense gun violence prevention laws, increased funding for crime victim services, and worked across the aisle to protect our freedoms, support working families, and improve public safety. We rejected the GOP’s extreme abortion bans, bills that would upend our gold standard election system, and anti-science climate denialism that threatens our future and our Colorado way of life.”
“Democrats delivered real results for Coloradans this session that meet the needs of our growing state and position us well for the future,” Senate Majority Leader Dominick Moreno, D-Commerce City, said. “We remained laser-focused on the issues that matter most to Colorado families: making Colorado a more affordable place to live, building safer, healthier communities, and setting students, teachers, and our workforce up for success. I’m proud of the progress we made this year, and I look forward to building a better Colorado for generations to come.”
This year, the General Assembly passed packages of legislation to make housing more affordable, reduce health care costs, advance affordable clean energy, cut property taxes, prevent gun violence, increase access to protected health care, improve public education, and boost Colorado’s workforce.
Reducing Housing Costs
Building Homes for Every Colorado Budget: Lawmakers encouraged affordable housing development by making it possible to build housing on state-owned property through public-private partnerships (SB23-001). Democrats also passed legislation to eliminate arbitrary local caps on new housing that restrict supply and drive up costs for families, thereby increasing our housing supply, saving people money on housing, improving our environment, and allowing people to live where they work (HB23-1255). Lawmakers also passed first in the nation legislation that will give local governments a right of first refusal r on a multifamily or mixed-use rental property, if they commit to maintaining the property as affordable housing for at least 100 years (HB23-1190).
Proposition HH, which will appear on the ballot in November, would reduce property taxes, help seniors and veterans on fixed incomes stay in their homes, and boost TABOR refunds for everyone making under $100,000 to help renters, lower and middle income Coloradans, and put more money back into the pockets of the people who need it the most (SB23-303; HB23-1311).
Creating New Renter Protections and Saving Renters Money: Democrats passed landmark laws to protect renters. New legislation will limit security deposit amounts, cap income requirements, and reduce barriers to housing eligibility (SB23-184). Lawmakers saved Coloradans money on rental applications by allowing potential renters to reuse a rental application for up to 30 days without paying additional fees (HB23-1099). Democrats also strengthened residential lease agreements to protect renters against leases with hidden language that negate legal protections for excessive fees and legal rights (HB23-1095).
Lawmakers protected lower-income Coloradans and Coloradans living with disabilities who rely on critical safety net programs from unjust evictions by providing for mandatory mediation prior to an eviction being filed (HB23-1120). Lawmakers also passed a bill to allow Coloradans to participate in eviction proceedings remotely, so renters can avoid a default judgment from not being able to attend in person (HB23-1186).
Saving People Money on Health Care
Saving People Money on Prescription Drugs: Democrats strengthened the Prescription Drug Affordability Board (PDAB) to lower out-of-pocket prescription drug costs (HB23-1225), held pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) accountable for cost saving requirements (HB23-1227), and made it an unfair business practice for PBMs to charge employers more for a drug than what they pay pharmacies for the same drug (HB23-1201). With the cost of critical drugs skyrocketing, lawmakers also tackled the high price of EpiPens so that Colorado residents can better afford this life-saving medication (HB23-1002).
Lowering Premiums, Reducing Costs and Increasing Transparency: Democrats passed laws to lower insurance premiums and make it easier for consumers to shop for high value health plans that work for them and their families (HB23-1224), expanded access to affordable community health service workers in health-care settings (SB23-002), ensured hospitals are reinvesting in their communities in ways that align with community needs (HB23-1243), and improved hospital transparency requirements to identify ways to reduce costs for patients (HB23-1226).
Enhancing Medical Consumer Protections: Democrats created additional consumer protections from high interest rates for medical debt and confusing debt collection practices that lead to long-lasting financial instability (SB23-093; HB23-1126) and protected patients, doctors, and hospitals from exorbitant costs in the case that a health insurance company becomes insolvent (HB23-1303).
Improving Access to Behavioral Health for Colorado Youth: Lawmakers passed bills to support the mental well-being of Colorado’s students by offering mental health screenings in schools (HB23-1003) and by streamlining the hiring process for licensed mental health professionals and expanding access to mental health resources and support in schools (SB23-004). New legislation will require insurance to cover multiple types of therapy and treatment planning services for Medicaid members who are under the age of 21 (SB23-174).
Investing in Education and Workforce
Providing Record K-12 Public Schools Funding, Boosting Math Achievement, Increasing Special Education Resources: Democrats put more money into classrooms to increase teacher pay, reduce class sizes and set up students to thrive by increasing public school funding by $660 million next year– increasing per pupil funding to $10,614 per student on average. Lawmakers provided $30 million to rural schools and committed to fully eliminating the Budget Stabilization Factor for the 2024-2025 school year (SB23-287). Bipartisan legislation will ensure students get the support they need to improve their math skills by increasing access to affordable programs inside and outside of the classroom (HB23-1231). The General Assembly also significantly increased funding for special education programs (SB23-099).
Boosting Colorado’s Workforce: Democrats invested $45 million over two years for aspiring professionals in high-demand fields to receive free training toward certificates and degrees in fields such as elementary and early childhood education, firefighting, law enforcement, forest management, nursing, and construction trades (HB23-1246). Bipartisan legislation will provide qualifying students with a scholarship up to $1,500 for an apprenticeship or on-the-job training at a trade school, community college, or college and university (SB23-205).
To help working families, the legislature increased the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit by over $170 million, putting hundreds of dollars directly into the pockets of hundreds of thousands of Coloradans (HB23-1112).
Addressing the Teacher Shortage: Lawmakers passed legislation to get more teachers into classrooms through the creation of an apprenticeship program as an alternative route to teacher licensure (SB23-087), and created new pathways for qualified out-of-state teachers to more quickly gain professional licensure in Colorado and start teaching in our schools (HB23-1064). A new law will save educators money by expanding the pool of student educators who qualify for stipend programs (HB23-1001).
Preventing Gun Violence
Expanding the ‘Red Flag’ Law: Democrats expanded who can file an Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) to now include district attorneys and other law enforcement officials, health care providers, mental health professionals, and educators (SB23-170).
Creating a Three Day Waiting Period: A new law will require a gun seller to wait for an approved background check or three days from the initiation of the background check – whichever is later – to deliver a firearm. Creating a waiting period delays immediate access to firearms and can help prevent suicides and impulsive acts of violence (HB23-1219).
Raising the Minimum Age to Purchase a Firearm to 21: Under current federal law, individuals must be 21 years old to purchase a handgun but only need to be 18 years old to purchase long guns. To reduce youth access to firearms and prevent gun violence, this law raises the age limit to purchase any firearm to 21, with limited exceptions (SB23-169).
Cracking Down on Ghost Guns: This bill prohibits the possession, sale, or transfer of an unserialized firearm, frame or receiver. It also prohibits manufacturing a frame or receiver, including via a 3D printer, unless done by a federally licensed firearm manufacturer (SB23-279).
Improving Gun Violence Survivors’ Access to Justice: Previously, gun sellers and manufacturers enjoyed broad protections under the federal PLCAA law from most types of civil lawsuits – and Colorado law had a punitive provision that forced survivors of gun violence to pay legal fees in dismissed cases. This law removes Colorado’s overly-broad immunity protections to allow for legitimate lawsuits to move forward to hold bad actors in the firearm industry accountable (SB23-168).
Taking Bold Climate Action and Wildfire Mitigation
Lowering the Cost of Clean Energy, Electric Vehicles and E-Bikes: This legislation will save Coloradans money and help meet our climate goals with approximately $60 million in annual tax incentives to businesses and consumers for electric vehicles, e-bikes, and investments in clean energy and industrial emissions reductions (HB23-1272). Other laws will reduce the cost of energy bills by aligning utility company incentives with consumer interests (SB23-291) and making electric vehicles more accessible (HB23-1233).
Reducing Emissions From Energy Sources: Democrats passed legislation to reduce the time and cost of residential solar installation and permitting to save Coloradans money on their energy bills (HB23-1234), and lower Colorado’s greenhouse gas emissions through new reduction targets, electrification incentives, and climate-aware investments (SB23-016).
Conserving and Protecting Water Resources: Conserves fresh water by requiring oil and gas operators to reduce, reuse and recycle water in their drilling operations (HB23-1242) and allows all homeowners in HOAs to pursue water-wise landscaping (SB23-178). Invests $12.6 million towards the implementation of the state Water Plan to support the Colorado River, outdoor recreation and agriculture (SB23-237).
Protecting Against Wildfires: Supports local governments to better investigate and prevent the causes of wildfires (SB23-013), and invests in Colorado’s forestry and wildfire mitigation workforce and tree nursery to more effectively mitigate and recover from wildfire destruction (SB23-005, HB23-1060). Helps restore natural stream systems and freshwater resources to mitigate floods and wildfires (SB23-270), and secures a second Firehawk helicopter, the most technologically advanced firefighting aircraft available (SB23-161).
Protecting Our Freedoms and Access to Reproductive Health Care
Protecting Reproductive Health Care Patients and Providers: Establishes a shield law to protect those receiving, providing, or assisting with legally-protected health care – including abortion and gender-affirming care – from criminal prosecutions. Prevents Colorado state employees from assisting with interstate investigations in order to protect patients traveling to Colorado from other states to access protected health care (SB23-188).
Increasing Access to Reproductive Health Care: Limits surprise medical billing and removes patient cost sharing for reproductive health care services and treatment, including but not limited to sterilization, sexually transmitted infections (STI) and abortion care. Modernizes a 1971 law to expand access to contraception for all Coloradans, increases family-planning related services, and prioritizes access to life-saving HIV medication (SB23-189).
Cracking Down on Deceptive Practices by Anti-Abortion Centers: Protects Coloradans seeking reproductive health care by making it a deceptive trade practice to advertise providing abortion care, emergency contraceptives or referrals of either of these services when the service is not actually provided. Clarifies that it is unprofessional for health care providers to administer or prescribe a “medication abortion reversal” (SB23-190).
Expanding Access to Contraceptive Care: Improves access to the single dispensing of 12 months of contraception and ensures health insurance plans and PBMs are providing coverage in compliance with current law (SB23-284).
Defeating Dangerous Bills to Criminalize Abortion: Democrats in the House defeated dangerous Republican bills that would have criminalized abortion in Colorado and spread harmful disinformation about so-called “medication abortion reversals”. The efforts would have eliminated access to safe, legal reproductive health care in Colorado (HB23-1150; HB23-1119; HB23-1097).