2017 Legislative session: Snapshot of key municipal issues

As the First Regular Session of the 71st Colorado General Assembly prepares to get to work starting on January 11, 2017, the Colorado Municipal League is preparing to ensure that legislators – new and returning – understand key municipal issues that may be impacted by their decisions. While CML is planning to initiate some legislation, the League generally responds to legislation that is encouraged by others. In some cases, the state budget drives the discussion. Below is a brief description of some of the key issues that CML will be following on behalf of our 269 member cities and towns.

Transportation

Colorado’s state transportation funding revenues have not kept pace with the demands to maintain, improve, or expand infrastructure. The most recent state tax increase was the FASTER fee legislation in 2009.

In recent years, there have been various groups that have tried to find viable statewide funding or financing solutions – both through proposed initiatives and legislative proposals. Bonding proposals face the challenge of finding the resources within the state budget to pay the debt service. One approach would be to pay for debt service out of CDOT’s HUTF budget. However, his would result in reduction in the resources to maintain or operate state highways. Further, since there are not sufficient resources from the fuel tax to make the minimum annual debt service payments of $250 million for one particular proposal, the State General Fund would have to be used as well.

Because of the current constraints on the state’s General Fund, debt service payments would have to be offset by reducing spending in the state’s General Fund programs, unless there are new voter approved taxes or legislatively approved fees. CML believes additional revenue is needed to meet the burgeoning demand for transportation and transit infrastructure, in addition to the current need to bring road and bridge structures up to safe standards. The League will continue advocate for a statewide solution to address the transportation and transit needs of all municipalities in partnership with the state.

Municipal Courts

After the adoption of HB 16-1309, which mandated defense counsel at first appearance in certain municipal cases, CML worked with the governor’s office to fund the state mandate through the Office of the State Public Defender. CML will support a program for municipalities to utilize the state public defender at local discretion. In addition, restorative justice has proven to be an important tool to reduce recidivism in the state criminal justice system. CML supports state assistance for municipal courts to expand their use of restorative justice.

Sales and Use Tax

On average, more than 70 percent of municipal tax revenues are derived from sales and use taxes. CML discourages state sales tax exemptions that negatively impact statutory municipalities and cities without any local input. CML supports the state as a partner with the business community and municipalities that self-collect their sales and use taxes, but efforts to simplify local sales tax cannot be addressed by state legislation and cannot undermine constitutionally granted municipal home rule authority.

Marijuana

Private clubs and on-premise consumption

The ambiguity of the legal status of private clubs is an issue that is essential to clarify and local control should dictate whether or not they are ultimately allowed in any jurisdiction. The legislature fumbled the ball in 2013 when it eliminated consensus language from SB 13-283 that provided a definition of “open and public” to give meaning to the prohibition of open and public consumption in Amendment 64. CML will help initiate legislation creating an opt-in provision for private marijuana clubs and creating a statewide minimum definition of “open & public consumption.”

Black and gray markets

CML always supports maximum local control of medical and recreational marijuana issues. CML has argued that significant additional state resources and personnel are needed to mitigate the impact on local law enforcement of gray and black market marijuana activity. However, the League will support legislation that provides some revenue to local law enforcement to combat this illegal activity while noting that it may only make a small dent in this growing problem.

Maintaining prior agreements on taxation

A delicately forged compromise with counties on special excise taxes – an agreement that prevents double-taxation – was enacted in 2015. A similar proposal to give counties authority for special sales authority failed to advance because counties refused to agree to similar langauge prohibiting double taxation. Recently, the Court of Appeals affirmed that counties lack any authority to enact a special sales tax, and one county would like to change the terms of the 2015 deal special excise taxes. CML will oppose any legislation that changes compromises on local special excise taxation and supports barring counties from collecting a special sales tax from within a municipality without consultation and an intergovernmental agreement.

Severance Tax & Federal Mineral Lease

Declining extraction activity has reduced the revenue available to local governments to address ongoing impacts through direct distribution and grants from the Energy Impact Assistance Fund. Prior raids by the General Assembly from 2008-2013 siphoned off around $300 million to balance the state’s general fund – revenue that is sorely needed now to address ongoing issues. CML opposes reductions of severance tax and federal mineral lease revenue to municipalities and opposes the appropriation of local governments’ energy impact or direct distribution revenue to finance state programs and administrative costs of state government.

Telecommunications & Broadband

With voters in 65 municipalities and 27 counties having overwhelmingly voted to exempt themselves from the requirements of SB 05-152, CML would support repealing this unnecessary hurdle to bringing fast, reliable broadband to areas of the state where the private sector has not made it available. In addition, wireless companies are looking at proposals to amend statutes governing placement of telecommunications facilities in public rights of way, known as SB 10, to address “small cells.”  It is not clear that the language is needed, and initial proposed langauge included substantive changes that would further impair municipal authority. Discussions continue, but CML would oppose the legislation if introduced in its most recent form.

Urban Renewal & Downtown Development

Prior legislation impacting the effective and efficient use of urban renewal to remediate blight and restore prosperity to core areas of municipalities was somewhat improved with substantive cleanup legislation in the 2016 session. However, the statute is still replete with ambiguities that have placed a chilling effect on urban renewal plans that were already in place. CML supports continued repair to ambiguous language added to urban renewal statutes. Unfortunately, two counties that have issues with their local downtown development authority (DDA) wish to apply this same flawed language to DDA’s, which are similar but also distinctly different from their URA cousins. CML will oppose any legislation that would damage the ability of downtown development authorities to function properly.

As the legislative session unfolds, this site will continue to highlight details of key issues. For a snapshot of all the bills CML is tracking, links to the CML Statehouse Report (updated weekly), and a box score of legislation CML supports and opposes, please go to and bookmark this link to the current legislative session.

A brief summary of CML’s 2017 legislative priorities is available here, and the more detailed 2016-2017 CML Annual Policy Statement is available here. Each of these documents provide the foundation for CML’s established positions and guide CML’s deliberations on legislation that will soon be introduced in 2017.

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