The Colorado Legislature
The Colorado Legislature

 

 

2018 Session Ends at the Stroke of Midnight

Dear Friends,

The 2018 legislative session literally ended at midnight on May 9, with tough decisions still to be made on the final day. Looking back just after the session ended, it’s still tough to fathom how much work we did. Just by the numbers, legislators introduced nearly 800 pieces of legislation, which includes bills, memorials, and resolutions. Of the 721 bills introduced, 432 passed both the House and Senate, and while we won’t know how many of the 432 bills Gov. Hickenlooper will have signed in total for a few weeks, typically only a handful of bills are vetoed each year. I didn’t vote on all 721 bills since some were defeated before they got to the House floor, but I had to be prepared to decide on hundreds of them. Needless to say, this meant lots of meetings and conversations, along with hours spent reading bills or other literature – and it was all worth it.

Personally, I believe I had a productive session, between sponsoring my own bills, working so the House and General Assembly could pass good bills, and voting to defeat bad bills in committee. I also believe we had a very productive session as a team, reaching tough decisions on big issues – and passing about 60 percent of bills despite having a split legislature, with Democrats controlling the House and Republicans controlling the Senate. In this letter, I’ll talk about some of the highs and lows of the session. Also, now that the session’s over, I’m looking forward to spending more time in Boulder and talking to you about what we should address next year!

Sincerely,

Edie

IT’S NOT JUST A BILL ANYMORE!
Bill signing ceremonies are happy occasions with recognition for hard work. Gov. Hickenlooper signed several Statutory Revision Committee bills I sponsored into law on this day.

A Productive Session

In 2018, I was a prime sponsor of 23 bills – 11 House bills and 12 Senate bills. As of May 17, 13 of the bills had been signed into law, and another six had passed both the House and Senate but were awaiting the Governor’s signature. So, it’s possible that 19 of the 23 bills I sponsored this year will become law!

When considering the bills that have been signed, I’m especially proud of HB 18-1154, a consumer protection bill to help limit fees to obtain documents for elderly and new homeowners. Currently, third-party entities can take advantage of people, especially the elderly, by charging excessive fees for documents that people might be able to get much cheaper from County Clerk’s offices. Among other things, the new bill limits the maximum fees these predatory businesses can charge, requires entities to provide a copy of the documents to County Clerk’s offices, and requires entities to state that their solicitations are not coming from local governments. HB 18-1154 officially takes effect on Aug. 8, 2018.

While this bill hasn’t been signed yet, I was proud to sponsor a bill to authorize the use of medical marijuana by people with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), HB 18-1263. In drafting, this bill was originally intended to allow medical marijuana as an option to prescription opioids, since opioid abuse and addiction are major problems in Colorado and nationally. During the session, a group of mothers with children who have ASD approached me and shared information about how medical marijuana has been effective for them, and I added ASD to the bill as a result. About a third of children with ASD also have epilepsy, which Colorado law already allows as one of the conditions treatable with medical marijuana. Parents and children having both conditions discovered that not only did epileptic seizures stop with treatment, but autism symptoms improved significantly. The supporters and I both hope to see this bill signed into law soon!

During the budget debate process, I successfully added two amendments to the Long Bill (our state budget bill). One provides $6 million to home health care agencies who serve Medicaid recipients – low income elderly people and people with disabilities. The other amendment will provide an additional $300,000 to Community Advocacy Centers – nonprofits who serve sexually abused children. Both of my budget amendments passed with broad bi-partisan support.

There was one major personal disappointment in 2018, as my bill to create a Task Force for Youth Experiencing Homelessness, HB 18-1021, passed the House but was defeated in a Senate committee. Youth homelessness is a heartbreaking problem, as it threatens the health and safety of young people who ought to have stable shelter, and Colorado’s numbers of homeless youth are too high. The bill would have simply assembled a wide range of stakeholders to study the problem, identify redundancies or gaps, and offer recommendations for future action. Despite the bill’s defeat, I know it’s an issue we need to address, and I’ll try again.

To read about my other bills, visit the web page https://www.ediehooton.com/bills/,and you can read the text of any bill introduced this year on the General Assembly site, https://leg.colorado.gov/.

33 PLUS 18 PLUS 1
It takes majorities in the House (at least 33 votes) and Senate (at least 18) plus the Governor’s signature to make a law. We don’t yet know how many will be signed into law, but the House and Senate worked together to pass more than 400 bills this year!

Tackling Tough Issues as a Team

We tackled some big issues this year, and despite “conventional wisdom” saying that Republicans and Democrats can’t work together, we actually got some solid work done through negotiation and compromise.

Transportation: Transportation has been underfunded in Colorado for a long time, and while both Republicans and Democrats generally agree on this point, there were strong disagreements about what to do. We eventually passed SB 18-001, which in its final version would devote $645 million to transportation projects over the next two years, with $50 million from the General Fund for transportation over the following 20 years. The $50 million would go directly toward transportation projects if voters approve new tax revenue for transportation this year. If voters do not approve, SB 18-001 calls for a referred measure in 2019 to approve bonding, and if it passes the $50 million would be used to pay down bonds.

However, the bill went through major changes during the session. The original Senate version was too heavy on bonding, taking money from elsewhere in the General Fund, and highway funding without acknowledging urban needs for transit or multi-modal projects for the House majority, so we needed to compromise. The final bill requires devoting 15% of the money to transit or multimodal projects and 15% for local projects over the first two years, and 15% for transit or multimodal over the next 20 years.

Education: Thanks to strong economic performance in Colorado and a windfall to state revenues due to the new federal tax plan, we were able to devote new funding to education. We bought down the state’s budget stabilization factor, once known as the “negative factor,” by $150 million, and the School Finance Act for this year funded K-12 education by roughly an additional $475 per student. Also, this year’s budget boosted higher education funding by $114 million. In the cases of both higher education and K-12, we are still below average in state support compared to other states, and we will continue to work for better funding in the years to come.

Firearms: Shortly before the session began, Douglas County Deputy Zackari Parrish was killed in an ambush, and members of the shooter’s family had previously reported concerns about his mental health status to authorities. Douglas County Deputy Jeff Pelle, son of Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle, was also injured in the ambush. Several states already have “Red Flag” laws that require people to surrender firearms if the courts grant an Extreme Risk Protection Order after determining that the person poses significant risks to themselves or others. In Colorado, we introduced HB 18-1436, our version of a Red Flag law, with positive testimony from the Colorado Sheriff’s Association, the Colorado Chiefs of Police, the Colorado District Attorneys, in essence saying it was the single most effective tool they could have to deescalate imminent danger when a person is at risk for attempting homicide or suicide. HB 18-1436 passed the House but was defeated in the Senate State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee. It was an unfortunate end for a bill that might save lives, but expect this bill or something similar to come back in future sessions.

PERA: The state’s public pension fund, the Public Employees’ Retirement Association (PERA), has $32 billion or more in unfunded liabilities.  With such a large gap, we had to make some major adjusments – this year or soon – to make sure PERA is solvent into the future. Under SB 18-200, employees will need to contribute two percent more into the fund, and the cost of living adjustment (COLA) on retirees’ benefits will decrease from the current two percent to zero for the next two years. The COLA would increase to 1.5 percent in 2020, but it could be adjusted based on PERA’s financial situation. A two percent increase in teacher contributions will be phased in over a three-year period, starting in 2019. The retirement age for new employees will increase from 58 to 64. Also, the state will contribute $225 million yearly from the General Fund into PERA. This was a very tough issue to address, but we had to take action to protect the retirement security for hundreds of thousands of Colorado public employees.

In short, all of these discussions involved large amounts of money and/or deep disagreements. With a split legislature and competing interests, nobody walked away completely happy. Please know that we had to take action, and even though we passed bills this year, these issues will still be up for discussion and negotiation for years to come.

A TOUGH DAY IN THE HOUSE
The House voted to expel Rep. Steve Lebsock in March, and his name was removed from the board immediately after expulsion.

Sexual Harassment: Toward Policy and Culture Change

The 2018 session will be remembered for emotional yet needed discussions over sexual harassment in the Capitol culture. In early March, I had one of my most difficult days as a legislator, and after a seven-hour hearing the House voted to expel former Rep. Steve Lebsock for his conduct. This was the first expulsion of a Colorado state legislator in more than 100 years, and allegations surfaced against multiple other legislators.

Clearly, it was time to reassess our workplace harassment policies and, more broadly, the culture at the Capitol. We responded by hiring a human resources officer and by commissioning a review of our policies and procedures. That review has now been completed, and a legislative committee will be meeting over the interim to draft rule revisions to promote a safe, healthy work environment, where harassment and intimidation of any kind is not tolerated and all workers are judged by their qualification, dedication, skill, and merit.

A LITTLE RAIN WON’T STOP ME!
I’m running for re-election this year, which means I’ll be out knocking on doors and making other appearances throughout the summer and fall.

2018 Election: Back on the Campaign Trail

I am running for re-election in 2018. I have absolutely loved this job, and I’m looking forward to seeing what good things we can accomplish in the years to come. I won the Democratic Party’s nomination by acclimation at the Boulder County Assembly in March, but will face competition from a Republican and a Libertarian in November. This means we will need your help in the months to come.

As you know, campaigns need to get the word out, so we’ll appreciate anything you can do – including financial support, putting up a yard sign, volunteering, writing letters to editors, and more. Visit my website ediehooton.com if you’d like to donate or offer help, and I thank you in advance for anything you can share.

IT’S ABOUT THE PEOPLE
I hope to earn another term in the House so I can work for the people I represent, and they’ll visit the Capitol to make sure their voices are heard!

2019 Session: Not That Far Away

Assuming I win in 2018, I’ll be able to introduce and vote on bills again in 2019. As your Representative, I value your input and look forward to hearing what types of legislation you believe will help us create a better state. It’s a fair guess that I might run the Task Force for Youth Experiencing Homelessness bill again, but beyond that, I will spend some time the rest of this year deciding what else to propose.

Please feel free to reach out, and since we’re not in session, I’ll be spending more time in Boulder and might be able to sit down for a cup of coffee and talk about the issues.  Also, stay tuned for a calendar of town hall events and community coffees starting in July. Thanks for reading, and let’s keep working together to make Colorado the best state it can be!

LET’S KEEP IN TOUCH!

I am proud to serve you, so please don’t hesitate to reach out to me at edie.hooton.house@state.co.us if you ever have any questions, concerns, or ideas on how to move Colorado forward.

All the best,

I want to hear from you!

Email: edie.hooton.house@state.co.us

                 Phone: 303-588-7494

 

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