Halftime Report – Less than 60 days left in the 2017 Legislative Session
Courtesy of Nicholas Colglazier of the Colorado Competitive Council
To date, 462 bills have been introduced. Of those, 27 have been signed by the Governor and 89 have been killed. There are still over 340 bills in play and many more “late bills” will drop before May 10. The session has seen numerous measures addressing healthcare, education, and construction defects, among others. The Legislature still has a lot of work to do and the clock is ticking.
As in past sessions, healthcare continues to be a central policy debate this session. There has been no shortage of contentious issues within that topic, including rural healthcare, repealing the state exchange, and coverage of drugs in a health plan. The Colorado Medical Society dropped a package of bills earlier in the session that has led to long debates and contentious committee hearings, including measures that address provider payments and network contracting. Just this week, the Governor’s Office dropped the first part of a package of healthcare bills, which will include measures that address pharmaceutical cost reporting and quality metrics. There are still several big healthcare bills in play, with likely more to be introduced in the coming weeks.
There has been a lot of conversation regarding a statewide transportation fix this session. In January, Senate President Kevin Grantham (R-Canon City) and House Speaker Crisanta Duran (D-Denver) expressed that transportation needs to be a top priority for the Legislature. The transportation agreement bill was recently introduced, marking months of negotiations between leadership in both chambers around what the fix should look like. HB 17-1242, sponsored by Senate President Grantham and Transportation Chair Randy Baumgardner (R-Hot Sulfur Springs) and Speaker Duran and House Transportation Chairwoman Diane Mitsch Bush (D-Steamboat Springs), would increase the statewide sales tax to 3.52 percent from 2.9 percent for 20 years, starting in January 2018, if approved by the voters this November. The bill would redirect $50 million in existing revenue to roads and decrease annual vehicle registration fees by $75 million a year. In total, the bill would generate an estimated $677 million a year for transportation. The majority of the money ($350 million) would go toward paying off a potential $3.5 billion bond package. Of the remaining revenue, 70 percent would go to local governments for road improvements and 30 percent for transit-oriented projects. There is likely much debate and negotiation that will take place as the bill moves through the process in the final half of session.
In the next few weeks, the Joint Budget Committee will draft the “Long Bill” (State budget) that will be introduced in the Senate. The state is facing a substantial revenue shortfall and it is going to be an interesting fight to see which departments and programs will be preserved as the Legislature works to balance the budget.
Like some folks around the capitol say, after the halfway point, it’s all up hill from here! Long nights, contentious debates and the introduction of many more bills – including numerous “partisan message bills” from both Democrats and Republicans – await us in the last half of the session.