Legislative Session in Review: Progressive Victories in the Colorado State Legislature, But More Work to Do

May 2018

DENVER, Colo. — Colorado’s 2018 legislative session adjourned Wednesday, May 9, with numerous progressive victories including investments in public schools and roads. However, important work remains on the table for the 2019 session.

“I’m enormously proud of the work our legislature was able to get done,” said Senate Minority Leader Leroy Garcia, D-Pueblo. “We’ve secured major investments in transportation, education, and healthcare. We’ve taken crucial steps to combat the opioid crisis. We protected our Civil Rights Division. And we’ve helped Colorado lead the nation once again by advancing a bipartisan effort to end gerrymandering and ensure fair representation for all Coloradans. Our focus now turns to the interim — time we’ll use to meet with and listen to constituents, serve on interim committees, and prepare for what’s to come in 2019 and beyond.”

Session highlights include those on:

  • Transportation: The passage of a multiyear statewide transportation plan, including funding for roads and multi-modal transportation options, to relieve traffic congestion and invest in Colorado’s aging infrastructure (SB18-001).
  • Education: The increase of per-pupil public school spending to $8,137 to recover from some of the cuts that the state had to make to schools during the Great Recession (HB18-1379).
  • Broadband Access: The passage of legislation to expand broadband coverage in rural parts of the state (SB 18-002).
  • Redistricting: The passage of two initiatives that will be sent to the voters to decide if congressional and legislative redistricting maps will be redrawn by independent commissions to reduce partisan gerrymandering and to ensure all communities’ voices are represented through the process (SCR18-004 and SCR18-005).
  • Opioid Crisis: The passage of additional funding and tools to fight the opioid epidemic (HB18-1003HB18-1136, and SB18-022).
  • Health Care: More transparency for Coloradans to make informed decisions about medication and medical care at locations like freestanding Emergency Rooms (SB18-146 and HB18-1284). And, the defeat of legislation to strip Medicaid health coverage from thousands of Coloradans (SB18-214).
  • Affordable Child Care: Making childcare more available and affordable for hardworking families (HB18-1004 and HB 18-1208).
  • Civil Rights: The continuation of the Colorado Civil Rights Division (HB18-1256).

Following the end of the session, organizations representing a diverse range of communities across the state also launched a new initiative, “The Colorado Way of Life: Building an Economic Agenda for Colorado’s Prosperity,” highlighting some of the legislature’s successes while also laying out the work that still needs to be done on legislation supporting hardworking Colorado families.

Legislation highlighted by the Colorado Way of Life project includes:

  • Paid Family Leave: The CO FAMLI Act, which would have given employees access to up to 12 weeks away from work to care for a child or sick loved one (HB18-1001).
  • Retirement Security: The Colorado Secure Savings Plan, which would look at options to give all Colorado employees the opportunity to prepare for retirement by having access to a workplace retirement plan (HB17-1290).
  • Health Care: Legislation to look at various options to bring down the soaring cost of private health insurance, especially in rural parts of the state (HB18-1384).
  • Affordable Housing: Various measures to provide safe and more attainable housing to Coloradans (HB18-1127 and HB18-1397).

Polling conducted by Myers Research & Strategic Services prior to the legislative session found broad-based support for those commonsense measures. Between 77% and 79% of Coloradans support the creation of a paid family leave policy for the state. And between 74% and 78% of Coloradans support allowing people to purchase insurance from the state’s Medicaid program, including if they live in high-cost areas of the state, such as the 14 counties in Colorado that only have a single private insurance carrier. The poll was conducted between December 12-17, 2017 and surveyed 700 likely voters with a margin of error of 3.7%.

Progressives in the legislature also vowed to continue working on issues important to families in Colorado such as:

  • Community Safety: A bipartisan “red flag” bill to keep dangerous weapons out of the hands of dangerous people in the midst of mental health crises. [HB18-1436]
  • Environmental Protections: Legislation to ensure mining companies make cleanup plans before starting new projects in order to prevent future environmental disasters such as the Gold King Mine spill. [HB18-1301]
  • Affordable Housing: A bill that would limit apartment rental application fees to the costs actually required to conduct applicant screenings. [HB18-1127]