Before the 2012 legislative session began, House Democrats pledged to partner with Gov. John Hickenlooper and their colleagues across the aisle to start up the engine of economic recovery with practical solutions and innovative programs. To bring proposals that supported Colorado workers and Colorado businesses to create more good-paying jobs. To reform inefficient programs that do not meet Colorado’s high standards for return on investment. And to fight for a public education system, from preschool through grad school, that lifts up Colorado’s students, prepares them for a challenging and changing world, and provides them with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed. This report summarizes the 2012 session.
Creating Jobs and Growing Colorado’s Economy
The Skills for Jobs Act – HB12-1061 by Rep. Daniel Kagan (D-Englewood) helps ensure that Colorado students get the skills they need to succeed in Colorado’s changing economy by connecting colleges and universities with companies to enhance course offerings, and providing a guide to Colorado students so they can receive the right training for the jobs of the future. The bill bridges an information gap by directing the Department of Higher Education and the Department of Labor to develop workforce projections, using data already being collected. Colleges and vocational schools can use the reports to adjust their course offerings, students can use them to make better career choices and course-selection decisions, and businesses can use them to make smarter personnel decisions.
Enhanced Employment Training for Unemployed Coloradans – HB12-1272 by Reps. Crisanta Duran (D-Denver) and Robert Ramirez (R-Westminster) invests $8 million in enhanced unemployment benefits for Coloradans who want to learn new workforce or entrepreneurial skills so they can return to the workforce. This bill would help those currently out of work get training while also receiving critical support for their families.
Enterprise Zone Designations – HB12-1241 by Rep. Mark Ferrandino (D-Denver) creates a task force to recommend changes to the state’s enterprise zone system, which has become bloated and inefficient. The goal of this legislation is to ensure that Colorado gets the best return on investment on the limited economic development dollars we have by targeting those dollars at the programs that work best.
Film Production Incentives in Colorado – HB12-1286 by Reps. Mark Ferrandino (D-Denver) and Tom Massey (R-Poncha Springs) incentivizes the film industry to make more movies in Colorado – and with those movies, bring more good-paying jobs to Colorado – by increasing Colorado’s film incentive from 10 percent to 20 percent.
Enhanced Economic Development to Create Colorado Jobs – HB12-1360 by Reps. Claire Levy (D-Boulder) and Cheri Gerou (R-Evergreen) transfers $4 million to the state Office of Economic Development and International Trade to incentivize companies to move to Colorado or expand here, bringing more good-paying jobs to this state.
Unemployment Insurance Savings for Businesses – HB12S-1002 (Special Session) by Reps. Dan Pabon (D-Denver) and Larry Liston (R-Colorado Springs) allows the state to issue bonds to repay unemployment insurance loans more quickly and at a lower interest rate. The estimated saving to employers is $75 per employee – a total of $5 million a year, statewide – at no cost to the taxpayer.
Upholding Our Colorado Values
Medicaid Payment Reform – HB12-1281 by Reps. Dave Young (D-Greeley) and Cheri Gerou (R-Evergreen) moves Colorado away from costly fee-for-service programs toward more cost-effective and outcomes-oriented payment systems. This groundbreaking legislation establishes pilot programs as alternatives to the current “fee for service” payment system, which compensates health professionals according to how many times their patients visit their offices, and toward a system that rewards health professionals according to how well they achieve positive results for their patients.
Forest Restoration and Wildfire Mitigation – HB12-1032 by Rep. Millie Hamner (D-Dillon) reauthorizes a forest restoration program and three associated funds to promote the health of Colorado’s beetle-ravaged forests and protect our watersheds, tourist economy and local mountain communities from the devastating impacts of wildfires.
Income Tax Credit for Estate Taxes on Agricultural Land – HB12-1042 by Rep. Sal Pace (D-Pueblo)cuts taxes for farmers and ranchers if they paid an inheritance tax, so long as they keep the land in agricultural use. This bill will provide much-needed assistance to Colorado’s family farmers and maintain Colorado’s rich agricultural heritage.
Non-game and Endangered Wildlife Tax Check Off – HB12-1050 by Rep. Roger Wilson (D-Glenwood Springs) extends the non-game checkoff on the Colorado state income tax form through 2015 to enhance our public lands and promote Colorado’s unique biodiversity.
Advanced Practice Nurses Assistance – HB12-1065 by Rep. Pete Lee (D-Colorado Springs) assists Colorado’s highly skilled nurses by allowing the state board of nursing to extend a filing deadline to Sept. 30 of this year so experienced advanced practice nurses, who are especially important in delivery of health care in rural areas, can regain their authority to write prescriptions.
Promoting Government Accountability
Strengthening Government Ethics Rules – HB12-1070 by Rep. Cherylin Peniston (D-Westminster)modifies statutory provisions concerning the reporting of gifts and honoraria, lobbyist disclosure, the statutory rules of conduct for government officials and employees, and campaign contributions to legislators and the governor to harmonize those provisions with the requirements of Amendment 41 to the state constitution.
Legal Investments for Public Funds – HB12-1005 by Rep. Dan Pabon (D-Denver) allows counties to invest public funds in securities that have less than two triple-A ratings. Rep. Pabon and House Democrats fought to pass this bill as quickly as possible, but Speaker Frank McNulty and the House Republican leadership let the bill languish for a month, costing taxpayers more than $4 million.
Support for Victims of the Lower North Fork Fire – HB12-1361 by Reps. Cheri Gerou (R-Evergreen) and Bob Gardner (R-Colorado Springs) Democrats negotiated with Governor Hickenlooper, Attorney General Suthers and House Republicans to craft legislation to provide potential recourse to victims of the devastating Lower North Fork Fire and for other fires caused by controlled burns by waiving the state’s sovereign immunity in those instances.
State Personnel Reform – HB12-1321 and HCR12-1001 by Reps. Ferrandino (D-Denver) and Glenn Vaad (R-Mead) make a wide range of changes to the personnel system, from expanding the competitive hiring process to implementing merit pay to limiting the “bumping” of state workers.
Enhancing Our Communities
Stronger Penalty for Hit-and-Run Accidents – HB12-1084 by Rep. Rhonda Fields (D-Aurora) makes hit-and-runs a Class 4 felony, which carries the same penalties as driving under the influence of alcohol. The bill closed a loophole that encouraged DUI drivers to leave the scene of an accident.
“Vonnie’s Law”: Strengthening Colorado’s Stalking Protections – HB12-1114 by Rep. Millie Hamner (D-Dillon) strengthens stalking laws by requiring an arrested alleged stalker to go to a bond hearing before a judge and be issued a restraining order before release from jail.
HB12S-1001 (Special Session) by Rep. Randy Baumgardner (R-Hot Sulphur Springs) will appropriate millions of dollars from the Colorado Water Conservation Board to fund vital water projects around the state.
Improving Colorado’s Schools
Enhancing K-3 Literacy Education – HB12-1238 by Reps. Millie Hamner (D-Dillon) and Tom Massey (D-Poncha Springs) provides better assessments and enhanced early intervention services for students in kindergarten through third grade to help children who are struggling to read.
Effective Educators in Low-Performing Schools – HB12-1261 by Rep. Judy Solano (D-Brighton)extends a successful stipend program for board-certified teachers who commit to teach in low-performing Colorado schools.
School Discipline – SB12-046, by Reps. Claire Levy (D-Boulder) and B.J. Nikkel (R-Loveland) gives schools discretion over zero-tolerance policies, eliminates mandatory expulsion, streamlines reporting and enhances the training program for school resource officers. The goal is to help keep kids in school and prevent unnecessary referrals of students to law enforcement while keeping school safety a number one priority. This bill was one of 30 killed by Speaker McNulty at the end of the session, but was salvaged when it was attached to the School Finance bill.
2012 Colorado State Budget Highlights
It’s a rare event when a vast majority of state legislators agree on anything this important, but the state budget, HB12-1335, is one area where a true spirit of compromise prevailed in the statehouse this session.
Everyone thought a big sticking point would be the senior homestead property tax exemption, nearly $100 million worth of tax credits for elderly homeowners. But the improving economy not only let us preserve the exemption, it gave us almost $200 million more, allowing us to cancel most of the new round of cuts that had been proposed for education spending.
Democratic Jobs Bills Killed By the GOP
House Democrats introduced various common-sense reforms to grow our economy, bring more good-paying jobs to Colorado, and assist people in finding work, only to see many of those proposals get shot down on partisan votes.
Small Business Development Centers – HB12-1129 by Rep. Max Tyler (D-Lakewood) would have provided an extra $300,000 for the state’s network of Small Business Development Centers, which leverage local and federal matching funds to provide instruction and consulting to help turn entrepreneurs’ big ideas into businesses that are thriving – and hiring. Killed in committee on a party-line vote.
Start-up Colorado Technology Transfer Grant Program – HB12-1044 by Reps. Dave Young (D-Greeley) and Mark Ferrandino (D-Denver) would have made it easier for Colorado businesses to bring sophisticated new products and services out of the laboratory and into the market, producing more good-paying jobs and setting the groundwork for future economic growth. Killed in committee on a party-line vote.
The Regulator Navigator Act – HB12-1025 by Rep. Max Tyler (D-Lakewood) would have helped consumers and businesses navigate red tape and make government more efficient by requiring state agencies to provide a go-to person to help the customer navigate the regulatory systems within the agency. Killed in committee on a party-line vote.
State Public Contracts Preferences for Colorado Jobs – HB12-1113 by Rep. Pete Lee (D-Colorado Springs) would have promoted a preference for companies that hire Coloradans to execute state contracts. Killed in committee on a party-line vote.
State Economic Impact as Procurement Factor – HB12-1112 by Rep. Su Ryden (D-Aurora) would have created an advisory board to manage an online economic impact rating system to evaluate vendors of state contract proposals. Killed in committee on a party-line vote.
Economic Gardening Business Assistance Pilot Program – HB12-1133 by Reps. Pete Lee (D-Colorado Springs) and Dickey Lee Hullinghorst (D-Gunbarrel) would have provided management and technical assistance to businesses that have advanced beyond the startup phase. Killed in committee on a party-line vote.
Prohibit Job Discrimination Against Unemployed – HB12-1134 by Rep. Dan Pabon (D-Denver) would have prevented employers from discriminating against the unemployed in job opening advertising. Killed in committee on a party-line vote.
Regional Economic Development Through Partnerships – HB12-1154 by Rep. Millie Hamner (D-Dillon) would have convened panels with representation from businesses and industries, economic and workforce development entities, educational institutions, nonprofit organizations, local governmental bodies, and federal, tribal and state regulatory authorities. Killed in committee on a party-line vote.
Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training Certificate Programs – HB12-1227 by Rep. Dave Young (D-Greeley) would have directed the Colorado community colleges to design a pilot program where underemployed or undereducated Coloradans may earn a career and technical education certificate in an accelerated program that integrates literacy with technical training. Killed in committee on a party-line vote.
Reforms to Urban and Rural Enterprise Zone Act – HB12-1251 by Rep. Dickey Lee Hullinghorst (D-Gunbarrel) would have placed a $500,000 cap on income tax credits granted to any single enterprise zone claimant. Killed in committee on a party-line vote.
Veterans Jobs Act – HB12-1259 by Rep. Joe Miklosi (D-Denver) would have given people an option to waive confidentiality of some personal information the Department of Labor collects and allowed the department to share that information with job training and placement organizations. This bill would have helped connect veterans in search of work with more than 200 organizations in Colorado dedicated to finding veterans jobs. Killed in committee on a party-line vote.
Small Business Financing Interim Committee – HB12-1284 by Rep. Roger Wilson (D-Glenwood Springs) would have created a legislative interim committee to study issues related to small business financing in Colorado. The bill also tasked the interim committee with assessing whether changes couldbe made in Colorado laws affecting small business financing to better enable the formation of business capital. Killed in committee on a party-line vote.
Regional Tourism Project Application Requirements – HB12-1056 by Rep. Andy Kerr (D-Lakewood)would have strengthened the Colorado Regional Tourism Act of 2009 to clarify roles and expectations of those involved in the Regional Tourism Authority process. The bill was intended to encourage more out-of-state tourism and would have required the Colorado Tourism Director to provide input on tourism projects in the state. Killed in committee on a party-line vote.