-Jep Seman
March 30, 2021

NWRA State Update: Highlights from Colorado’s Legislative Session

NWRA Colorado chapter lobbyist Jep Seman with Colorado Advocates, Inc. provides highlights from the state’s fifth full week of the legislative session.

  • In the wake of the Monday grocery store massacre in Boulder, Democrats and legislative leadership are renewing their intentions to pass additional gun control legislation. The two bills that were in play prior to Monday—required reporting of lost/stolen weapons and a safe storage/trigger lock requirement—were both on a path to pass regardless. However, we now anticipate a series of new bills perhaps including a state ban on sales of assault weapons, a mandatory waiting period for gun purchases and a lifting of the state preemption on local government ordinances on gun sales. Despite the sadness and senselessness of this week, none of these ideas are uncontroversial or easy to pass.
  • Simultaneously, certain legislators are also beginning to discuss additional law enforcement reform measures to follow on last year’s historic reforms. Among the ideas being considered are banning no knock warrants, demilitarization of police equipment and vehicles, allowing public access to police scanner traffic and restrictions on the use of ketamine during arrests. None of these ideas will be met with the level of bipartisan support that last year’s bills enjoyed.
  • In addition to its normal legislative agenda items, the legislature is now embarking on a list of major controversial bills, including implementing a statewide public health option, substantial new fees to generate funding for transportation improvement and law enforcement reforms (see above). These items will consume a lot of legislator time and bandwidth in coming weeks and are certain to lead to strong opposition both inside and outside the Capitol.
  • The Joint Budget Committee continued its work this week to finalize the 2021-22 state budget. It is expected to complete its work today, which includes “sprinkles” where the committee goes back through the many spending lines to see where additional money can be “sprinkled” to make programs whole. This year, the “long” bill (budget) is scheduled to be introduced in the Senate on April 8. It will be deliberated there for one week and then shift to the House. Completion in both chambers is expected on or around April 30.
  • With regard to the legislative schedule, nothing is certain. However, we are hearing leadership hopes to recess at some point and preserve 10 days for any veto session or other reason they may want to reconvene later in the year. This would seem to suggest a recess sometime on or around Memorial Day.
  • COVID case rates are down slightly statewide, hospital admissions are up slightly and the infectious positivity rate is dropping. Vaccinations are more widespread, with nearly 25 percent of the state population having received a first dose and more than 15 percent fully vaccinated. Meanwhile, public health restriction levels have been reduced in counties across the state, which allows more bar and restaurant hours, indoor seating and a last call of 2:00 a.m. Most counties are now operating at level green and blue, the lowest level of the restriction dial. Only one county, Pitkin, is at level orange, and a smattering of counties are operating at level yellow in the middle of the dial, including Denver, Adams, Boulder, Weld, Larimer, Douglas, El Paso, Grand, Eagle, Summit and Routt. In short, the COVID situation continues to improve, and rumors abound that the governor will lift the mask mandate in coming weeks. Details are available here.