Now that the legislative dust has mostly settled, what were the big issues and intrigue among the elected officials under the dome this session? We put these questions to those in the know.
Ireland Stapleton held its annual Legislative Wrap Up event on May 19, 2022, hosting panelists from both sides of the isle and the Governor’s office, to discuss what happened this year at the Colorado Legislature, finding ways to distribute the large amount of pandemic relief money that had to be allocated this year, and their surprises and anticipations for next year. Tom Downey, a government relations and regulatory affairs attorney at Ireland Stapleton, moderated the panel that included Tim Griesmer, Chief of Staff of the Senate Republicans, Allie Kimmel, Deputy Legislative Director for Governor Jared Polis, and Kelly Watkins, Chief of Staff of the Colorado House Democrats.
For the first time since 2020, the Colorado Legislature was able to hold an almost normal session with legislators back in-person. However, some pandemic-related procedures and logistics endured. The best pandemic-related procedure that all panelists hoped will remain? Remote participation of the public. This allows the public to participate and provide their comments and perspective even if they cannot be at the Capitol, or if a session or hearing goes late into the night. This has allowed greater participation by the public throughout the state.
The panelists were not anticipating any surprises during the Governor’s veto period. Though they acknowledged an increased number of ideas this year from legislators, resulting in many bills proposed to spend the surplus in funds. Ultimately, much of the surplus was spent on behavioral health, housing, and stimulating the economy. General expenditures were up by 12% this past year, with several grants and one-time investments funded and with some set aside to be spent over the next few years in hopes that liabilities will not be created over the years for ongoing commitments. There is concern about whether this short-term funding will improve any of the issues identified.
In a time when we seem to be more divided than united, the panelists spoke to how the parties ultimately arrived on the same ground and worked together, especially on important issues such as education, public safety, and economic relief and recovery. Issues that had less focus this year compared to the previous years? Transportation, gun control, and public healthcare.
As this session has wrapped up, we begin to look toward the next session. There are concerns about a potential recession, and if it occurs, how it will affect our economy and the money that has been allocated or spent this year. Further, the next election will result with big changes occurring in the Colorado Legislature. The House will have a complete leadership turnover, while there is anticipation that the Senate will have a significant turnover in its membership. Additionally, unlike this year, there will not be as much money to spend next year. These factors will affect how the Senate and the House works next year, the dynamic between the two parties, and how the Legislators will navigate issues and bills.
Potential issues to come up next year? Perhaps a resurgence of the porch pirate bill. Or, maybe we’ll see regulations around KRATOM, an herbal extract with hallucinogenic properties. What probably will not come back up, at least anytime soon? Where Colorado stands on daylight savings time.
One of the most important take-aways is that, despite the ever-increasing national partisan vitriol and even the control in our legislature, Colorado’s senior staff steering our legislation still treat each other with respect and cooperation in an effort to get things done. We are lucky to have them.
What is written here is for general information only and should not be taken as legal advice. If legal advice is needed, please consult an attorney.