2016 legislative session – not quite done

Legislators left May 11 but session actually ends on June 10

It is always interesting to read the final review of any legislative session written by legislators, lobbyists, and associations very soon after the final gavel falls. For legislators, their work is done, for the most part, and the campaign season (for many) kicks into full swing. For others, assessments are due to members, constituencies, and clients – and all begin writing reports right away.

That includes CML.  Lobbyists quickly compiled an article for the most recent CML Newsletter quickly summarizing “immediate attention” items have already been signed into law or that will become law upon the signature of Gov. John Hickenlooper. In addition, CML will publish online the 2016 Laws Enacted Affecting Colorado Municipalities once all legislation has been signed or vetoed. Finally, the CML advocacy team will spend time with our members assisting with inquiries about new laws and briefing members at sessions at the CML Annual Conference later this month.

However, all of this reporting and activity trying to let people know what happened often ignores that the legislative session is not over under the final vote has been cast.  Gov. Hickenlooper has the final vote, and the League asked him to cast it in favor of municipalities on two critical issues.

Municipalities in control of municipal streets

The governor has already vetoed HB 16-1231, which was both expected and appreciated. The bill would have implemented a total ban on the use of red light cameras as a public safety tool. The legislature wanted to act like a city council and take away the right of local citizens and their elected leaders to govern local themselves on local issues , and Gov. Hickenlooper correctly and thankfully said “no.” He stated that “the bill [denies] communities the right to decide for themselves based on their own traffic safety needs.”

Still one more vote to cast against a costly unfunded mandate

Both the Denver Post and the Pueblo Chieftain – and CML plus a whole lot of municipalities – have urged the governor to prevent a costly and unnecessary unfunded mandate on municipal courts by vetoing HB 16-1309. The key issues of opposition are in the editorials, as well as CML’s veto request, but essentially the legislation is based on the false premise that Colorado municipal courts are intentionally trying to jail indigent and homeless people or trump the right to counsel of all defendants in court.

These spurious accusations are as inaccurate as they are offensive, especially to dedicated municipal judges and court administrators, and the “solution” offered by HB 1309 is a costly unfunded mandate on municipal courts. It would require an attorney to be paid to be on standby in every municipal court on the offhand chance a defendant requested an attorney for an advisement (first appearance). It far exceeds the constitutional allowance for “reasonable time” to assign a defender, if one is requested. Without state funding to implement the requirement, it violates state law and the Taxpayers Bill of Rights prohibiting unfunded mandates.

gavel

An otherwise productive session

While the fate of HB 16-1309 will not be known until June 10, at the latest, all but one other bill supported or opposed by CML have been acted upon. The goal is to defeat 100% of oppose bills and pass as many support bills as possible. Depending on the outcome of this week, between 92-100% of the bills CML opposes will have been defeated and nearly 70% of the bills CML supports will be enacted.

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