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2008 Session Roundups: Colorado

This session, the Colorado legislature had three main priorities: health care, education and fixing the transit system.  They succeeded in making substantial progress in education, slight progress in health care, and no progress on transit.

Education: The legislature passed several bills to promote better education for kids in Colorado:

  • SB 218 puts money from the state's growing mineral-lease revenue into a permanent fund for colleges and universities.  
  • HB 1335 invests as much as $1 billion in school construction for poor, rural areas.
  • SB 212 "Colorado Achievement Plan for Kids" updates the state's curriculum standards to better prepare students for college.
  • HB 1388 expands full-day kindergarten for 22,000 children and wiped out the 3,000 child preschool waiting list.

Health Care: While the governor originally aimed for enrolling 17,000 more low-income children in the state's health insurance plan, lawmakers were able to provide health insurance to 50,000 children through SB 160, almost triple the governor's goal.  Lawmakers also passed HB 1389 to penalize insurance companies that reject valid claims and authorized the Insurance Commission to reject unjustified health-care insurance rates hikes.

Transit: Governor Ritter had sought $500 million for infrastructure upkeep of highways and bridges.  Lawmakers introduced a bill, SB 244, to increase vehicle registration and car rental fees in order to raise $300 million annually for the Transportation Infrastructure Preservation Act.  The effort was killed in committee.

Other Key Bills passed:

  • SB 184 offers low-interest loans to homeowners and businesses to install renewable energy devices.
  • HB 1160, a net metering bill, requires power companies to credit customers who produce their own solar and wind power.
  • HB 1161 requires water quality to be returned to pre-mining quality after uranium is extracted.
  • SB 228 allows for more public access and transparency of a mining company's plans.
  • SB 215 maps broadband service areas to increase broadband access to unserved areas of the state.

Missed Opportunities:  Besides the failure of efforts to improve transit infrastructure, the legislature failed to put a measure to repeal the TABOR provisions on the ballot this fall.  Misleadingly called the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, the measure has prevented the legislature from making substantial improvements to health care and education and generally led to a significant decline in the state's public services.

The legislature also dropped efforts to raise the severance taxes on oil and gas drilling, which would have raised $200 to $250 million in revenue for the state.  The money raised would have been enough to double the state's scholarship fund, implement clean water projects, protect wildlife, invest in clean energy development.

The legislature also failed to deliver on voting process reform and instead passed HB 1155, which just re-certified voting machines that the state had recently de-certified.

Finally, on a positive note, of the 10 bills introduced to negatively deal with immigration, all except a minor technical measure, were defeated.