The 73rd Colorado General Assembly adjourned Sine Die on June 8th. This was a month later than the typical close of session due to the legislature taking a recess from mid-January to February to give time to legislators and staff to receive COVID vaccines. A big thank you to all our advocates that took action on alerts throughout the session – your voices are making a difference!
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Here are a few highlights of where the top issues we were working on landed:
Alongside our partners at Nourish Colorado, we successfully advocated for an increase of $300,000 in the state budget for SNAP incentives funding. This will make it easier for families across Colorado to have access to healthy food. Thank you advocates for your help to make this a reality!
This year’s School Finance Act, SB21-268, changes the school finance formula by expanding the at-risk factor to students eligible for reduced price lunch and adding a factor for English Language Learner students. This will help provide more students who need it the most, access to free and reduced-price lunches.
We actively supported SB21-181, Equity Strategic Plan to Address Health Disparities, to increase funds for a grant program to address social determinants of health. This will provide much needed funding to specifically help historically underrepresented and under resourced communities. This bill is currently awaiting the Governor’s signature.
HB21-1304, Early Childhood Systems, creates a standalone state agency dedicated to early childhood programs. Currently, early childhood programs are spread among multiple state agencies, including the Department of Education, the Department of Human Services, the Department of Public Health and Environment, and the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing. The bill also sets up the framework for creating a universal preschool program in Colorado. The bill is awaiting the Governor’s signature.
We worked in partnership with the Colorado Nonprofit Association to request an amendment on HB21-1311, Income Tax. The bill made sweeping changes to corporate and individual taxes to raise additional revenues for the state. To do this, HB 1311 specifically capped state itemized deductions. We requested an amendment to exempt charitable deductions from the itemized cap. However, the bill passed with the itemized deduction caps in place. The bill is awaiting the Governor’s signature
Other areas of interest:
The legislature has grappled with how to fund transportation projects for decades. This year, the General Assembly passed a historic transportation funding measure. SB21-260, Sustainability of the Transportation System provides $5.4 billion in coming years for transportation infrastructure projects, expanding transit opportunities, and electrifying the transportation sector.
Restoring local control
We support efforts that make sure you are able to act locally to solve problems facing your community, especially when it impacts your health. Two bills related to this work moved this session:
- Lawmakers passed and the Governor signed, HB21-1117, Local Government Authority Promote Affordable Housing Units.This bill removed the restrictions that prevented local governments from negotiating affordable housing options in new development and redevelopment projects. By removing this barrier, local officials will be able to tailor affordable housing requirements with developers to meet the needs of their communities and support their workforce.
- HB21-1162, Management of Plastics Products, phases in a fee on plastic bags, prohibits the use of Styrofoam food containers, and removes the state restrictions on local governments enacting regulations on plastic products. The bill is awaiting the Governor’s signature.
Access to Care
Governor Polis made it a priority to seek to lower health care costs for Coloradans. Lawmakers worked with the Administration to bring forward bills with this aim. We monitored these bills closely even though we chose not to take a position:
- HB21-1232, Standardized Health Care Plan Colorado Option directs the Commissioner of Insurance to develop a standardized health insurance plan that private health insurance carriers must offer, sets targets for premium rate reductions under the plan and creates a process by which providers may be required to accept rates established by state regulators.
- SB21-175 Prescription Drug Affordability Board creates a new Board to study high-cost prescription drugs by treatment and by volume. The Board has the ability to set upper payment limits on the drugs if they are deemed unaffordable.
Overall State Revenue
State revenue came in well above the economic forecast and federal legislation brought in $3.8 billion in relief funds to the state government. This session, the legislature was able to restore the budget cuts made in 2020, provide additional funding to core areas of the budget, prepay future state obligations, and increase the end of year reserves to a historic level.