2016 Legislative Session

2 days down, only 118 to go

The Second Regular Session of the 70th Colorado General Assembly kicked off yesterday with all the fanfare and speeches, recognitions and tributes that usually accompany the beginning of a session. As leaders from both parties in both the House and Senate laid out their priorities – followed by Gov. Hickenlooper’s State of the State address today – it remains to be seen if any of the critical issues facing the state will be successfully resolved.

While many bills pass with bipartisan support, lines are already drawn over significantly different policy positions on the state budget, and whether or not the state in is a crisis of budgetary constraints or unwillingness to reduce the size of state government. Just yesterday, several mayors agreed that the state should take a page out of the municipal playbook and ask voters to de-Bruce certain revenues.  It is widely known that when municipalities ask voters to allow retention of excess revenues for specific purposes, those questions overwhelmingly pass. There is little doubt that no proposed questions will be submitted to voters by the General Assembly, leaving only the possibility of citizen initiatives.

At the Colorado Municipal League, the advocacy team is focused on key legislative issues for Colorado municipalities in the Statehouse as identified through our policy development process. These include major issues such as:

  • Urban renewal/Downtown development: The League supports repairing damage done to the urban renewal laws of Colorado with a sloppy, last minute rewrite of legislation ramrodded through in the waning hours of the 2015 session. While it appears consensus on how to fix those problems is a strong likelihood, the League is prepared for a  similar assault on downtown development authorities (DDA’s), which is an identified legislative priority of Colorado Counties, Inc.
  • Fiscal fair play: The tiff over TIF has been couched by our colleagues in other local governments as a matter of fiscal fair play. Indeed, the League has long been a proponent of fiscal fair play between the state and municipalities – but also between other local governments and municipalities. In 2016 and beyond, CML will back efforts to ensure that fiscal fair play is a two-way street.
  • Local land use authority: Whether it be in reaction to state preemption efforts on oil & gas issues, well-meaning water conservation proposals in support of the Colorado Water Plan, or something as simple as the proper zoning for certain types of businesses or activities, CML has always supported keeping local land use authority local.
  • Transportation and infrastructure: Both the state and local governments have the responsibility to provide safe and reliable roads, water and wastewater systems, and other critical infrastructure. Ensuring a viable partnership between the state and local governments, as opposed to “passing the buck” is the only acceptable path forward.
  • Local tax authority: Protection of local taxing powers is critical to Colorado municipalities that rely upon sales and use taxes for more than 70% of their revenue. At the same time, municipalities know that simplification efforts, in cooperation with the state and business interests, ensure greater clarity in the system and ease the reporting and remitting burdens on business. CML is committed to these efforts and supports collaboration without mandates in legislation.

The full list of legislative priorities can be found on CML’s website.  In the coming days, a large majority of bills that will be considered during the 2016 session will be introduced.  There will be a lot of bills to read and, no doubt, plenty of bills to bring to CML’s Policy Committee when it meets on February 12. For the latest on legislation that CML is following and those bills on which the League has a position, the CML website and Statehouse Report will be the  best sources of information on the specifics of legislation and its status.

Over the weeks ahead, this blog will take a deeper look into legislative issues, the impacts they create, and some of the “inner workings” of the process at the Statehouse.

 

 

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