The 2022 legislative session, slated to begin on January 12 and run until early May, may not see the pandemic return to normal, but legislative leaders say they plan to start on time and get to work as soon as possible. are.
Some precautions will be taken from last year and House Speaker Alec Garnett, a Denver Democrat, said leaders will continue to monitor the situation as Omicron surges in the state.
The pandemic will affect not only how the session will run but the type of legislation to be considered, including one-time federal relief dollars as well as spending state money on affordable housing, jobs, education and mental health. Lawmakers are also expected to introduce a bill related to wildfire mitigation after seeing the devastation caused by the recent Marshall fires.
“The state has gone through such rapid changes over the years and I want people in Colorado to know that we hear you and that we are going to do everything we can to help ease some of the concerns. You have it,” said Garnett.
This season is assured to be interesting – especially from previous years, in a number of key ways. Here’s a look at five things Coloradans can expect out of their state capitol in the coming months.
Stimulus and tax revenue leads Colorado budget to increase by 4%
Think back to a year and a half ago: Colorado lawmakers cut billions in state spending in all corners of the budget as they braced for a year-long recession that would cripple existing state programs and services and make the general public. Will wreak havoc in the economy.
Quite the opposite happened. Buoyed by higher-than-expected tax revenue during the pandemic, then boosted by several rounds of federal stimulus, the state’s economy is currently relatively lukewarm. Most of its gains have gone to the wealthy and corporations, but the state budget deals with lower-level totals and is indifferent to how and why it is getting money. And this year in particular, a lot of it is going to happen.
Lawmakers expect to spend about $40 billion in the state budget for the 2022-23 fiscal year, a 4% increase from this fiscal year and a state record. This silliness has infinite potential ramifications, but a pervasive truth is that the legislature will have a lot more money to play with—that is, to introduce new or expanded programs, including those created by upcoming legislation—than usual. more.
“In a typical year,” said Joint Budget Committee member and state Sen. Chris Hansen, a Denver Democrat, “we might have $300 million or $400 million to make discretionary spending decisions. This year we basically have $4 million.” Billion.”
Some of this money will be earmarked for specific purposes; For example, lawmakers plan to spend some $400 million to increase housing affordability. But there will be a lot left to allocate on smaller objects. Look for nearly every lobbying interest in the Capitol to look for a few extra bucks this session, and watch lawmakers have some tough conversations about exactly what and at what level of funding is needed.
Deciding What Should Happen With a Colorado Taxpayer Refund
When Colorado’s economy is doing as well as it is now, the state has to back taxpayers. It’s a function of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, a voter-approved financial tool unique to this state.
The better the economy, the higher the refund. And over the next few years, refunds are projected to reach an all-time high of about $2 billion over the next three years. The money will be largely spread over checks of about $400 for single filers – give or take depending on your income; Those earning more will get bigger cheques.
That’s a ton of money to give back to the government, and Democrats on the Joint Budget Committee announced months ago their intention to rearrange state funding to reduce, if not eliminate, state funds to give back. amount of money required. If they go for it this season, they will face heavy backlash from Republicans and perhaps even some opposition from Polis.
Polis, a Democrat, has few reasons to differ from his party members on this front. For one, he is much more conservative than most of them, and often stands apart on financial matters. Another potential motivator could be the upcoming election.
What the 2022 midterm election means for Democrats and Republicans
Democrats have been raising scores in Colorado politics for more than a decade, with only the occasional setback. Long considered a purple state, this century has tended to be hazy and hazy to the extent that Democrats now control both chambers of the legislature; the offices of the Governor, Attorney General, State Treasurer and Secretary of State; both the state’s US Senate seats and most of its US House seats; and the board governing the state university system.
Party workers are confident, but they are not charging anything to go to the 2022 mid-term elections. Colorado Republicans may well build some ground if the midterm environment is sufficiently unfriendly to Democrats. He has almost no chance of winning back the State House—he has only 24 of 65 seats—but the Senate, now at 20-15, needs only three D-to-R flips to change hands. A severe red wave could also jeopardize the prospects for re-election of officials statewide.
Sen. Paul Lundin, a memorial Republican who is on the Senate Majority Fund—the political arm of the caucus to get a Republican majority in the Senate—said that the independent Legislative Redistribution Commission map made districts more competitive and believed that the new Conservative candidate will be able to help the GOP take more seats.
“I think they’ve built something that will be better than what we get if the process remains as political as it was before – the Democrats drew the map 10 years ago. … It’s going to be a very interesting next 11 months.” It’s been because we run the polls to see how it all plays out, but do I believe Republicans can overturn the Senate? Absolutely,” Lundin said.
Democratic lawmakers admitted privately that they expect to play it a bit safe this season, with fewer big-ticket disputes than in previous years. No wonder, if this happens; All 65 House seats, half the Senate seats and all four state constitutional offices, in addition to several other jobs, are due in November.
How will the debate over the Colorado violent crime rate affect lawmaking?
While criminal justice-related bills will undoubtedly be there in this legislative session, widespread police and court reforms may be far from the discussion this year. Several lobbyists, law enforcement leaders and lawmakers have told The Denver Post that they expect reformers to have a harder time selling polis — not to mention some of their allies — on major changes this year, with violent crime and Republican Democrats are seeking to portray. Softening on crime moving towards elections
House GOP Minority Leader Hugh McCain cited this as one of his top priorities for the 2022 season, saying he wants to make sure police have the proper tools needed for enforcement, including to implement the former mandate. Such as passing a law requiring body cameras, and resources for mental health co-responder programs.
“What we are seeing now is a huge increase in crime, partly because of COVID, partly because of inflation, but also because it doesn’t take long for word to get out that you don’t face much have to do it. accountability for some crimes – some less than others – and so I think it’s going to be important for us to do something about it,” McCain, a Loveland Republican, said.
Democrats also say that addressing “pandemic-driven” crime is a priority for them, though their approach to solving it may look different. Senate President Leroy Garcia, a Pueblo Democrat, is advocating for proposals that would provide grants to local governments for crime prevention programs and community-based solutions to homelessness and substance use disorders, for example.
Despite a year that may not have included many sweeping reforms, Colorado lawmakers are entitled to bring in at least five bills. This rule essentially guarantees some controversial resolutions in every single session. This doesn’t mean that all or even most of it will become law, but it does mean that legislative leaders and the always-handed polis have little control over the exact content of the 2022 debate in the Capitol. .
And even in a year widely expected to be quieter than usual, there are always big-ticket things up for debate.
Colorado, like other states, will look at abortion rights
One of those controversial issues revolves around the national conversation about abortion. Colorado is often praised as a state that does not have gestational restrictions on abortion, but also does not have a law that codifies abortion as a right. Six years before Roe v. Wade, the state became the first to liberalize its abortion laws.
For years, advocates have said that Colorado did not need to change this (aside from laws passed to ease access to reproductive care, including abortion). But with a six-member conservative majority in the US Supreme Court and state laws prohibiting abortions nationwide, Colorado Democratic lawmakers said they don’t want to take a chance.
They plan to introduce a bill that would ensure abortion remains legal in the state, even if Roe v. Wade should be reversed. Although some Republicans are urging a wait-and-see approach based on what the US Supreme Court does, Democrats are leading the way – and they have the upper hand.
The Colorado Legislature regularly sees its share of unsuccessful attempts to ban or prohibit abortion in the state. Advocates expect these types of bills to accelerate this year, even as voters rejected such restrictions at the ballot box.