DENVER - Why is it that we love to procrastinate?
It started with homework or studying for exams. How's that honey-do list looking?
All that might not compare to what happens every May at the State Capitol, where lawmakers act like cramming college kids, voting on major legislation on the final days.
We asked a top Republican and a top Democrat, out of earshot of each other, what the top bills are that remain. Oddly enough, it's one of the things both sides can agree on this time of year.
"The School Finance Act, Senate Bill 296 ... We did pass it on third reading, now it's the House's turn."
--Senate President Kevin Grantham, R-Canon City.
"The School Finance Act ... It basically authorizes the allocation of that money to the 178 school districts, and so for it not to pass is really not an option."
--Assistant Majority Leader Rep. Alec Garnett, D-Denver.
"How do we make sure that we equitably provide funding to all kids regardless of the type of school that they go to? And there have been some disagreements on what that policy should be," said Garnett. "The School Finance Act got caught up in some other differences of policy between the two chambers, and so it was held strategically by one chamber longer normally than it is or should have been."
"All these things take time," said Grantham.
The School Finance Act passed through House committees with some changes that could create problems on the House floor and/or a committee between the House and Senate to iron out differences.
"Senate Bill 267 ... The famous 'Hospital Provider Fee' bill ... It has gone through the sausage grinder for pretty much the last two or three months." -- Grantham.
"Rural Sustainability Act or the hospital provider fee ... The hospital provider fee has been the products of hours and hours of negotiating." -- Garnett.
This bill needs some basic explanation:
The hospital provider fee is one way hospitals are funded in Colorado, in a way that comes with matching federal funds. It also counts toward the state's budget limit, which is restricted each year because of the Taxpayer Bill of Rights. When the state hits the limit, it triggers TABOR refunds to residents. The state doesn't benefit from the fee because it pays back the money back to hospitals what the hospitals paid in. So even when the hospitals get their money back, our budget is treated as though it's still there.
Rural hospitals were supposed to have reduced funding based on the budget that has passed. This bill moves the hospital provider fee to its own piggy bank, allows the state to restore the funding to rural hospitals that was going to get cut, frees up money for CDOT to start using toward its billion dollars in needs and, quietly raises the retail marijuana tax from 10 percent to 15 percent, the maximum allowed under state law.
One bill Grantham mentioned that Garnett did not, was a bill to fund the Colorado Energy Office, which is set to expire on June 30.
By the way, Colorado has an energy office.
"We would hope it would promote all forms of energy without playing favorites, including coal, including gas, including nuclear, including hydro, which it has failed miserably at in years," said Grantham. "This is, I think, going to now be a more broad-based department and office that will look at all things in Colorado that can help Coloradans lower their utility costs."
A bill Garnett mentioned that Grantham did not, was the primary election cleanup bill.
It basically is the administrative component of voters approving Propositions 107 and 108 in November. Those propositions make it so unaffiliated voters can take part in primary elections. Lawmakers are working on administrative issues to make that happen smoothly and without costing millions more than it needs.
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