2017 Legislative Session in Retrospect

When the 120-day legislative session concluded on May 10, a lot of legislators and lobbyists wrote their “session in review” blogs to declare whether or not the session was an overall success. In reality, the legislative session often is not officially over until the governor takes action on the last bill, which can come thirty days after the session ends – as it did this year on June 9.

The League was pleased to report to our 269 member municipalities that, as of May 10, 61 percent of the bills CML supported passed and expected to be signed into law.  Now, on June 21, we can look to the entirety of the session and the impacts of the actions taken by Gov. John Hickenlooper between May 10 and June 9.

By the numbers

During the 2017 session of the Colorado General Assembly, CML tracked 257 of the 684 bills and concurrent resolutions introduced. Of the 41 bills that CML supported, nearly 61 percent passed. Of the 29 bills CML opposed, 93 percent either were defeated or were amended such that the League dropped its opposition.

Those numbers remained unchanged after May 10, but the League was hoping for the defeat of one oppose bill, HB 17-1313, via the governor’s veto pen. We were extraordinarily disappointed that didn’t happen.  More on that below.

CML’s advocacy team places our primary emphasis on defeating legislation that harms municipal operations or contradicts municipal priorities.  We strive for 100% and are disappointed with anything less than that. Legislation supported by CML is important, but it is always harder to pass a bill than to defeat one. The team is very proud of the 61% success rate in the 2017 session.

How did municipalities fare?

Prior to the commencement of the session, the League published its “2017 Legislative Priorities of Colorado Cities and Towns.” The League was largely successful in meeting the goals established by these priorities.

  1. Affordable Housing: CML supported the preservation of the Affordable Housing Grants and Loans line items within the Division of Housing in the Department of Local Affairs. Outcome: The division received $8 million in the upcoming fiscal year beginning July 1. 
  2. Broadband: CML supported legislation that would have repealed the unnecessary hurdle of the election required by SB 05-152, given 68 consecutive successful municipal elections by voters wanting fast, reliable broadband service. Outcome: The bill was defeated, primarily due to opposition from broadband providers, many of which later proposed legislation that would have made it more difficult for local governments to meet the needs of their communities. CML’s opposition helped prevent that legislation from ever being introduced. 
  3. Construction defects: CML supported legislation to provide a statewide solution for the issue of construction defects promote the construction of owner-occupied attached housing, while maintaining the local control of municipalities that have adopted their own ordinances. Outcome: Out of the various legislative proposals, one bill passed that met these goals. More progress is needed in this area, but this outcome was a major success for Colorado municipalities.

  4. Marijuana: The League initiated legislation to establish a statewide minimum definition of “open & public consumption” to effectively address the failure of the state to clarify where marijuana consumption can occur and where it is prohibited. CML advocated for maximum local control of medical and recreational marijuana issues, and argued for additional state resources and personnel are needed to mitigate the impact on local law enforcement of gray and black market marijuana activity. Outcome: Defining a standard “open and public consumption” continues to be elusive. The limits of “private” consumption divided the legislature and CML’s bill died on the last day of the session. The League was successful in defending local control and supporting additional resources and changes intended reduce gray and black market activity. 
  5. Municipal courts: In order to force the state to back up the unfunded mandate it created by enacting HB 16-1309, CML advocated for a program for municipalities to utilize the state public defender at local discretion. The League also supported state assistance for municipal courts to expand their use of restorative justice. Outcome: For a variety of reasons, collaborating with the state public defender would be problematic, and the League changed course to support a delay of HB 16-1309 to 2018 so that a plan to directly reimburse municipal courts for the cost of the mandate can be developed. Municipal courts are now part of the state restorative justice council and can apply for grants for local programs. 
  6. Oil & gas: CML advocates for the legislature to resist preemptions upon traditional municipal authority – and where such authority may need clarification, advocating for the state to work collaboratively with municipalities. Outcome: The League supported legislation that would have increased setbacks from schools. Other issues arose during the session, particularly after the explosion in Firestone, and the League maintained its position that any legislation should respect traditional municipal authority. 
  7. Public safety: CML supported retention of the Wildfire Risk Reduction Grant Program, as well as defended traditional municipal authority in local public safety issues. Outcome: The state used $2.5 million of its share of severance tax dollars to continue the grant program. Other than the setback of enactment of HB 17-1313, municipal authority over public safety issues was successfully defended.

  8. Severance tax and federal mineral lease (FML): CML opposed the governor’s proposed transfer of severance tax to backfill the General Fund or finance state programs and administrative costs of state government. Outcome: The Joint Budget Committee proposed a balanced budget that did not include reductions in local government severance tax revenue available to local governments.

  9. Tax authority: CML advocated against state sales tax exemptions that negatively impact statutory municipalities. CML advocated for legislative restraint in simplification efforts, reminding the legislature that efforts to simplify local sales tax cannot be addressed by state legislation and cannot undermine constitutionally granted municipal home rule authority. CML opposed business personal property tax reductions/exemptions that did not backfill reductions to municipalities. Outcome: An interim committee created to study simplification efforts will have local government representation and its members are fully aware of limitations on the state to interfere with home rule authority. Business personal property tax legislation negatively impacting municipalities was defeated. 
  10. Transportation: CML supported the concept of increased state transportation and transit funding that includes the return of an equitable portion of new revenue to cities, towns, and counties – and including a statewide solution with funding for all public roads, not just state highways. Outcome: Legislation that would have allowed voters to decide on a statewide sales tax increase that would have fairly distributed revenue was defeated, and the state continues without a comprehensive statewide solution to address the billions of dollars of need. 
  11. Urban renewal and downtown development: CML supported repair of ambiguous 2015 legislation impairing urban renewal. CML opposed legislation that would similarly do damage to the ability of downtown development authorities to function properly. Outcome: Collaboration led to passage of a bill that addresses urban renewal statutory problems. The League opposed and defeated legislation that would have violated the will of voters directing their property taxes be used for downtown development authorities. 
  12. Workers’ Compensation: CML supported reasonable reform to the workers compensation statutes to address issues of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in public safety employees. CML supported the notion of development of a statewide employee assistance program (EAP) for public safety employees that do not otherwise have access to one. Outcome: Legislation that creates uniform definitions of “psychologically traumatic event” universally applicable passed overwhelmingly. A second bill creates a grant program law enforcement agencies may use for mental health assistance for personnel.

The last bill

The last legislative action of the 2017 session was the enactment of HB 17-1313 concerning civil asset forfeiture. CML – joined by a coalition of counties, sheriffs, police chiefs, and law enforcement organizations – requested Gov. John Hickenlooper’s veto of the bill.  HB 1313 was a haphazard bill pitched as consensus by proponents that agreed with themselves and with no basis in fact in Colorado. The gist of the bill is that it is intended to reform the manner in which law enforcement agencies seize assets related to criminal enterprises and use those assets to backfill the cost of complicated and costly enforcement efforts. Proponents argued – without offering any proof – that the assets of innocent people were seized…that local law enforcement was violating the rights of honest citizens.

The arguments against the bill are clear and well-founded – the arguments for it much less so. However, the final vote of the session was cast by the governor, who chose to sign the bill, and the League and our members must now grapple its impacts and also with a task force that will be created that appears to be charged with a potential expansion of the legislation.

While it is always disappointing to lose the last bill of the session, municipalities fared very well in the 2017 session. It is a continued point of pride to defeat detrimental legislation (or keep it from being introduced at all), as well as passing legislation that will help municipal officials govern locally.  Despite the battles that are often fought in the Statehouse, we continue to view the General Assembly as an essential partner for good state-local governance.

And on January 10, 2018, we will roll up our sleeves and do it all over again.

The Colorado General Assembly “municipal caucus”

When the Colorado Municipal League asks members of the General Assembly to “keep local control local and home rule at home,” cities and towns can rest assured there are at least twelve legislators that know exactly what it means.

Former municipal elected officials make up over ten percent of the 71st General Assembly, with several holding key leadership positions and committee chairs. CML already noted the significance of the selection by his peers of former Cañon City councilmember Kevin Grantham to lead the Senate as its president.  It has been 96 years since the Senate President has been a former municipal elected official!

Also in the Senate, Sen. Leroy Garcia, D-Pueblo, was a councilmember in Pueblo, Colorado before coming to the statehouse. His caucus peers in the Senate selected him as assistant minority leader to back up Minority Leader Lucia Guzman, D-Denver. Sen. Dominick Moreno, D-Commerce City, also picked up a key committee assignment in his freshman year by being appointed to the powerful Joint Budget Committee.

In the House of Representatives, two significant leadership positions are occupied by former municipal elected officials.  House Majority Leader KC Becker, D-Boulder, was a councilwoman in Boulder prior to being elected to the General Assembly, and her district includes many rural mountain towns. House Minority Caucus Chair Lori Saine, R-Dacono, was a councilmember in Dacono.

Finally, the chairs of the House and Senate Local Government Committees are former city councilmembers…both from the City of Thornton! Sen. Beth Martinez Humenik, R-Thornton, and Rep. Steve Lebsock, D-Thornton, are both prime sponsors of legislation supported by CML and are key allies on municipal issues.

Individually and as a group, the twelve former municipal elected officials are critical connections in the General Assembly for Colorado municipalities. While the League could not reasonably expect them all to vote with CML 100% of the time, we do believe that our advocacy team and municipal officials will be understood when we speak to them about impacts of legislation on municipalities. These twelve have talked the talk and walked the walk.

CML encourages our members to reach out to each of these members, regardless of whether or not their districts happen to cover a member municipality. The senators and representatives are, unofficially, a “municipal caucus” that cities and towns should keep updated on municipal issues, trends, requests, concerns, and celebrations. They understand the jobs that municipal elected officials have, and they want to hear what you are doing in your community.

In the future, perhaps CML can organize an official “Municipal Caucus of the General Assembly” with the cooperation of those that have previously served in a local elected office. The League is grateful to have them in the statehouse and thanks them all for their service.


Former municipal officials in the Colorado Senate

  1. President Kevin Grantham, R-Cañon City
  2. Sen. Kerry Donovan, D-Vail
  3. Asst. Minority Leader Leroy Garcia, D-Pueblo
  4. Sen. Beth Martinez Humenik, R-Thornton
  5. Sen. Dominick Moreno, D-Commerce City
  6. Sen. Rachel Zenzinger, D-Arvada

Former municipal officials in the Colorado House of Representatives

  1. Majority Leader KC Becker, D-Boulder
  2. Rep. Lois Landgraf, R-Fountain
  3. Rep. Steve Lebsock, D-Thornton
  4. Rep. Hugh McKean, R-Loveland
  5. Rep. Lori Saine, R-Dacono
  6. Rep. Faith Winter, D-Westminster

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.

Rarified air

Rarified air

Former city council member will lead the Colorado Senate

It only took 96 years!

The recent selection of Sen. Kevin Grantham, R-Cañon City, as the next President of the Colorado Senate signified a rather historic event that will likely go unnoticed by most people.  But not those of us in the municipal world that first knew Sen. Grantham as a city council member in Cañon City from 2007-2010!

President-designee Grantham will be the first Senate President that was also a former municipal elected official since Sen. George Stephan, R-Delta, who led the Senate from 1919-1920. Prior to that, there were only two other Senate Presidents with roots as local municipal elected officials:

  1. Erastus R. Harper, Jr., R-Denver, (President, 1907-1908) served as a council member for and mayor of Akron Ohio from 1893 – 1897. 
  2. Moses E. Lewis, R-Florence,(President, 1915-1916) was a Florence council member from 1899-1901.

Of additional significance, Sen. Grantham will be the first rural Senate President since John Vanderhoof from, R-Glenwood Springs, who served in that capacity from 1971-1973. A link to full, updated biographies of Colorado’s past Senate Presidents and Speakers of the House can be found on the General Assembly’s website.

It is not rare to have former municipal elected officials in leadership positions in the Statehouse.  In the House, the Majority Leader-designee is Rep. KC Becker, D-Boulder, a former Boulder city council member. Rep. Lori Saine, R-Dacono, is the Majority Caucus Chair-designee and served on the Dacono city council. In the Senate, Sen. Leroy Garcia, D-Pueblo, is the Assistant Minority Leader-designee and was a member of the Pueblo city council. In a future post, CML will profile these and other former municipal officials that will serve in the 2017 General Assembly.

Congratulations, again, to President-designee and former Cañon City council member, Kevin Grantham!

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.

 

 

The 2016 Session

As 2015 winds down, the Colorado Municipal League is putting the finishing touches on its legislative agenda for the 2016 session.

As usual, most of the legislation that CML gets involved with is introduced by others, and the League ends up playing a lot of defense.  However, this coming session may see as many as three bills initiated by CML.

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. Those are information resources that will describe the specifics of legislation and its status. 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.

Stay tuned!

– Kevin Bommer, CML Deputy Director