BBMK is pleased to bring you this update about the 2020-21 Colorado General Assembly leadership elections and provide some insight into the implications of this week’s electoral decisions.
Colorado’s four legislative caucuses met today to elect their leadership for the next two years. Leadership matters a great deal in the Colorado legislature. The Speaker/President and the Majority Leaders have the power to set committee sizes, assign bills to committees and determine the order of business on the floor and make committee assignments for their caucus. Minority Leaders make committee assignments for their caucus. The Joint Budget Committee (JBC) spends months in hearings with Departments leading up the creation of the State Budget each year. The JBC members have enormous power when it comes to the state budget.
- The House Democrats will be led by Alec Garnett (D-Denver) as Speaker of the House. Rep. Garnett served as the House Majority Leader for the past two years. Rep. Esgar was elected as the House Majority Leader and will no longer serve on the JBC. Rep. Gonzales- Gutierrez will serve as Assistant Majority Leader. Others elected to leadership include Co-Caucus Chairs Reps. Froelich and Cutter and Majority Whips Reps. Duran and Mullica. One of the two likely House Democratic members to serve on the Joint Budget Committee is current JBC member Rep. McCluskie. The appointment of the JBC members is made by the Speaker and was not announced at the meeting today.
- The Senate Democrats re-elected Sen. Leroy Garcia (D-Pueblo) to serve as President for the next term. Senator Stephen Fenberg (D-Boulder) will continue as Senate Majority Leader. Senator Kerry Donovan (D-Chaffee, Delta, Eagle, Gunnison, Hinsdale, Lake, Pitkin) will serve as President Pro Tem. Senator Rhonda Fields (D-Arapahoe) will serve as the Assistant Majority Leader and Senator Julie Gonzales (D-Denver) will be caucus chair. Senate Majority Whip will be Jeff Bridges (D-Arapahoe). Both Sens. Moreno (D-Adams County) and Hansen (D-Denver) will serve on the Joint Budget Committee.
- The Senate Republican leadership remains the same with Sen. Chris Holbert (R-Douglas) as Senate Minority Leader, John Cooke (R-Weld) as Assistant Minority Leader and Senator Rankin will represent the Senate Republicans on the Joint Budget Committee.
- The House Republican caucus election will take place on Monday.
State Budget. In the face of a continued economic downturn, the JBC will continue to manage the state budget shortfalls. The state is still expected to have a $1.6 billion shortfall even with the stronger than expected September revenue forecast. As the JBC begins deliberations, they will look to minimize the impact to existing programs as well as opportunities for economic stimulus.
Affordable Housing. Affordable housing will continue to be a top priority for many legislators next session. We anticipate the reintroduction of HB 1351 which clarifies the authority of local governments to regulate development to promote affordable housing along with landlord/tenant bills which did not move forward due to COVID. Many localities are facing a shortage of affordable housing and will likely weigh in on the distribution of additional funds and removal of potential barriers to additional inventory.
Health Care. The issue of “transparency, affordability and equity” in health care across all sectors will continue to be key issues for both majority caucuses. The Governor’s budget also includes funding for a public option proposal and a prescription drug affordability board.
Transportation. The Polis administration has signaled that transportation funding will be a priority this session. Any potential legislation will be bi-partisan and include possible increases in fees (gas, AV’s, EV’s, etc.) to fund transportation infrastructure. Both Transportation Committee Chairs will look to ensure any infrastructure funding bill will include multi-modal/transit funding (up to 30%), front range rail, and highway expansion. Environmental concerns will also be a part of the legislative package.
Business Climate. There will be the introduction of several bills that will have an impact on business. We anticipate legislation will again be introduced to eliminate certain tax exemptions for businesses that were not approved in HB 1420 during the 2020 session. Additionally, legislation will be re-introduced related to data privacy and right to repair.
Education. Governor Polis, through his annual budget submission, requested the drastic cuts to K-12 and higher education in the 2020-21 fiscal year be restored. Further conversations will be had around fully funding both K-12 and higher education, including discussions about the best way to achieve this goal.