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Sunsets on 2018 Legislative session

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The 2018 session of the Colorado General Assembly ended last week. It was a contentious session that was distracted by sexual harassment allegations, but that ultimately made progress on the highest priority issues.

Overall report

For the fourth year in a row, the fact that the House of Representatives was controlled by Democrats while the Senate was controlled by Republicans created an environment where each side pushed philosophical agendas. A major theme was each party pursuing agendas that were popular with the more extreme members of their constituencies, but that had no chance of ultimate success in the other chamber.

Larger than expected state revenue estimates gave the legislature the opportunity to address three high priority issues. The increased moneys were a result of an improving economy and an increase in state tax revenues because federal tax reform reduced state exemptions that are tied to federal law. Because the state tax rate did not change, an unintended consequence of federal tax reform is higher state tax revenues. The higher funds were directed largely to transportation funding, K-12 education and attacking the unfunded liability of PERA, the state’s public pension program.

Sexual harassment complaints against four lawmakers played a prominent role throughout the session. The House expelled Democratic Representative Steve Lebsock by an overwhelming bipartisan vote. Lebsock had been accused of several harassment violations.

In defending himself, he attacked the motives of his accusers. While there was consternation among many House members about the extraordinary step of expulsion (the last time it happened was in 1915), Lebsock’s fate was sealed by the way his colleagues reacted to how he responded to the complaints. While complaints were filed against three Republican Senators, those against Senator Randy Baumgardner gathered the most attention.

After Lebsock’s expulsion, Senate Democrats began daily demands for a vote to expel Baumgardner. Those demands were rejected by Senate leadership for most of the session. A vote near the end of the session was unsuccessful when only one Republican supported the effort. Additional information that became available after the expulsion vote resulted in Baumgardner being stripped of his committed assignments.

As usual, final decisions on the hardest issues didn’t happen until the very end of the session. A successful agreement to make more funds available for transportation was passed on the second to last day.

There still may be a ballot initiative to make more funds available. While the legislature did find more money for education, expect to vote on a proposal for additional funding in November. Efforts to make structural changes to PERA were approved with less than an hour remaining in the session with a compromise that shared the pain of making the fund solvent on all parties.

CPA disappointments 

There were a couple of disappointments for the Colorado Press Association during the 2018 session.

SB 156, which would allow counties to post financial information on their websites instead of publishing them in newspapers passed the legislature and is awaiting action by the Governor. The bill was amended to delay its effectiveness until 2022 as an attempt to compromise, but CPA continued to oppose the bill and has requested that Governor Hickenlooper veto the bill.

At the request of County Coroners and over the objection of media organizations, the legislature passed SB 223, which reduces access to audopsy reports of juveniles.

HB 1404, a bill that would have mad internal investigation files of peace officers for in-uniform or on-duty conduct that involves a member of the public subject to an open records request, also failed.

Final report

The following bills that are of interest to members of the Colorado Press Association were introduced in 2018. These bills are of specific interest to newspapers and do not include issues of general business interest.

Bills CPA Supported

HB 1061. Van Winkle. Concerning No Encryption of Radio Communications. The bill, in most instances, prohibits government agencies from encrypting radio communications and requires disclosure of information if encryption occurs. CPA Position: Support. STATUS: Postponed indefinitely by House State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee.

HB 1152. Lawrence/Cooke. Concerning Certain Judicial Records Subject to Colorado Open Records Act. The bill makes administrative and budget records of the Judicial Department subject to the Open Records Act. The bill was amended to limit it to sexual harassment investigations. CPA Position: Support. STATUS: Passed General Assembly, awaiting action by Governor.

HB 1404. Coleman & Williams/Marble & Lundberg. Concerning Access to Records of Peace Officers Internal Investigations. The bill makes internal investigation files of peace officers for in-uniform or on-duty conduct that involves a member of the public subject to an open records request. CPA Position: Support. STATUS: Passed House, postponed indefinitely by Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee.

Bills CPA Opposed

SB 156. Cooke/Kennedy. Concerning Publication of County Financial Information. The bill allows certain information that is currently noticed by public notice advertising to be posted instead on county websites. CPA Position: Oppose. STATUS: Passed General Assembly, awaiting action by Governor.

SB 223. Gardner/Gray & Carver. Concerning Autopsy Reports Death of a Minor. The bill makes autopsy reports of deaths of minors not subject to open records laws. CPA Position: Oppose. STATUS: Passed General Assembly, awaiting action by Governor.

Bills for Which CPA RequestedAmendments

SB 149. Gardner/Gray & Herod. Concerning Denver Health and Hospital Authority Records. The bill makes certain records of the Denver Health and Hospital Authority that are currently subject to disclosure exempt from disclosure. CPA Position: Seek amendment to ensure salaries remain public. STATUS: Amended as requested by CPA and signed into law by Governor.

SB 188. Sonnenberg/Arndt & J. Becker. Concerning Agricultural Commodities. The bill makes a variety of changes to laws concerning agricultural commodities, including eliminating the requirement that notice of marketing orders be made via legal notice advertising. CPA Position: Seek amendment to restore notice requirement. STATUS: Signed into law by Governor.

Bills CPA Monitored

SB 1. Baumgardner & Cooke/Buck & Carver. Concerning Transportation Bonds. The bill refers to voters a proposal to issues bonds to pay for transporation improvements. Notice of the election would have to be made through legal notice advertising. CPA Position: Monitor. STATUS: Passed General Assembly, awaiting action by Governor.

SB 4. Kerr. Concerning Full Day Kindergarden. The bill refers the question of additional funding to provide full day kindergarden to voters. It contains legal notice advertising of the election. CPA Position: Monitor. STATUS: Postponed indefinitely by Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee.

SB 14. Cooke & Fields/Michaelson Jenet. Concerning Disclosure of Inmates Located out of the State. The bill requires the Department of Corrections to notify prosecutors and victims when an inmate is relocated out of the state. CPA Position: Monitor. STATUS: Signed into law by Governor.

SB 25. Priola/Coleman. Concerning Urban Drainage District Elections. The bill updates the standards for urban drainage districts to conduct elections. It maintains the requirement to notify the public via legal notice advertising of the election but reduces the number of notifiations from three to one. CPA Position: Monitor. STATUS: Signed into law by Governor.

SB 59. Fields/Pabon. Concerning Public Safety Information Sharing System. The bill authorizes governments to established shared systems containing public safety information. Information is subject to disclosure under provisions of current law. CPA Position: Monitor. STATUS: Passed Senate, postponed indefinitely by House Judiciary Committee.

SB 72. Moreno. Concerning Sealing Certain Criminal Records. The bill allows criminal convictions for menacing and third-degree assault that do not include domestic violence to be sealed ten years after sentences are complete. The bill incorporates the notification, hearing and other provisions in place for other sealing requests. CPA Position: Monitor. STATUS: Postponed indefinitely by Senate Judiciary Committee.

SB 75. Merrifield/Arndt. Concerning Limits on Campaign Contributions for School Board Elections. The bill establishes campaign contribution limits and associated disclosure of contributions for school board elections. CPA Position. Monitor. STATUS: Postponed indefinitely by Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee.

SB 123. Sonnenberg/Liston. Concerning Asbestos Trust Claim Transparency. The bill requires that information plaintiffs have concerning asbestos trust claims be made available. CPA Position. Monitor. STATUS: Passed Senate, postponed indefinitely by House Judiciary Committee.

SB 142. Kefalas & Crowder/Herod & Melton. Concerning a Pilot Project to Facilitate Sustainable Communities. The bill allows the establishment of a pilot project for affordable housing in sustainable communities. It requires an election, which must be noticed by legal advertising. CPA Position. Monitor. STATUS: Postponed indefinitely by Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee.

SB 155. Aguilar/Pettersen. Concerning Community Hospital Community Benefit Reporting. The bill requires hospitals that are exempt from state and local taxes to report on the tax benefits they receive and the benefits they provide to their communities. CPA Position. Monitor. STATUS: Postponed indefinitely by Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee.

SB 171. Holbert & Williams/Pabon & Sias. Concerning Marketplace Contractors. The bill makes clarifications to when someone is an independent contractor. CPA Position: Monitor. STATUS: Passed Senate, House Judiciary Committee. Laid over beyond final day of legislative session – deemed lost.

SB 221. Coram/Catlin. Concerning Election of County Commissioners by District. The bill allows, by a vote of the people, counties with fewer than 70,000 to elect County Commissioners by district instead of at-large. The election would have to be advertised by legal notice. CPA Position: Monitor. STATUS: Passed Senate, postponed indefinitely by House State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee.

HB 1001. Winter & Gray/ Donovan. Concerning Creation of Family Medical Leave and Insurance Program. The bill establishes a state program for employees to have family medical leave. Indivisual patient records are not subject to disclosure. CPA Position: Monitor. STATUS: Passed House, postponed indefinitely by Senate State, Veteran and Military Affairs Committee.

HB 1009. Roberts/Donovan. Concerning Transparency in Diabetes Prescription Drug Pricing. The bill requires disclosure of costs to provide diabetes medicine. CPA Position: Monitor. STATUS: Passed House, postponed indefinitely by Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee.

HB 1017. Michaelson Jenet/Gardner & Fenberg. Concerning Psychology Interstate Compact. The bill makes changes to allow Colorado to enter into an interstate compact for regulation of psychologists. It contains provisions related to access to records similar to existing regulation of psychologists. CPA Position: Monitor. STATUS: Signed into law by Governor.

HB 1046. Esgar/Moreno. Concerning New Birth Certificates for Gender Identification. The bill allows for a new birth certificate to be issued for a person who identified with a different gender from what was on the birth certificate when the person was born. It makes the original certificate confidential. CPA Position: Monitor. STATUS: Passed House, postponed indefinitely by Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee.

HB 1054. Rosenthal/Court. Concerning a Tax on Plastic Bags. The bill refers to voters a tax on plastic bags used in retail businesses. The election must be noticed by legal notice advertising. CPA Position: Monitor. STATUS: Postponed indefinitely by House Local Government Committee.

HB 1076. Salazar/Moreno & Coram. Concerning Revocation of POST Certification of a Peace Officer Who Made an Untruthful Statement. The bill requires the POST Board to revoke the certification of a peace officer who made an untruthful statement. CPA Position: Monitor. STATUS: Passed House, postponed indefinitely by Senate Appropriations Committee.

HB 1078. Landgraf & Exum/Gardner. Concerning Court Programs for Veterans. The bill concerns changes to court programs for veterans. It was amended in the House Judiciary Committee to add a provision that if a veteran applies to have a record of conviction sealed that a judge will consider if the veteran has successfully completed a veteran’s treatment program. CPA Position: Monitor. STATUS: Signed into law by Governor.

HB 1119. Leonard/Neville. Concerning Rural Highway Funding. The bill requires an election to issue transportation bonds to expedite highway funding in rural areas. Notice of the election would be required. CPA Position: Monitor. STATUS: Postponed indefinitely by House Transportation and Energy Committee.

HB 1128. Wist & Bridges/Lambert & Court. Concerning Data Privacy. The bill makes a variety of updates concerning when data privacy has been breached. One element is to notify the public through notice to the media. CPA Position: Monitor. STATUS: Passed General Assembly, awaiting action by Governor.

HB 1177. Michaelson Jenet/Fenberg & Coram. Concerning Youth Suicide. The bill contains several provisions to address problems of youth suicide. One aspect is establishment of a public awareness campaign that utilizes newspapers. CPA Position: Monitor. STATUS: Passed House, postponed indefinitely by Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee.

HB 1180. Melton/Smallwood. Concerning Access to Dismissed Mental Health Complaint. The bill allows a respondent against whom a complaint has been dismissed to see the details of the complaint. CPA Position: Monitor. STATUS: Passed House, postponed indefinitely by Senate Health and Human Services Committee.

HB 1194. Lewis/Sonnenberg & Marble. Concerning Transparency of Conservation Easements. The bill concerns information about conservation easements including a public hearing, which must be noticed by legal notice advertising, on prospective easements. CPA Position: Monitor. STATUS: Postponed indefinitely by House Health, Insurance and Environment Committee.

HB 1198. Saine & Kraft-Tharp/Donovan & Smallwood. Concerning Best Practices for Boards and Commissions. The bill establishes best practices for boards and commissions in state government. It includes provisions about knowledge of and compliance with open meeting and records laws. CPA Position: Monitor. STATUS: Signed into law by Governor.

HB 1201. Thurlow/Coram. Concerning Voter Approval of Severance Tax Revenue Change. The bill refers to voters the question about whether additional revenues should be allowed for severance tax. The election requires public notice via legal notice. CPA Position: Monitor. STATUS: Postpond indefinitely by House Finance Committee.

HB 1207. Kennedy & Rankin/Moreno & Smallwood. Concerning Hospital Financial Transparency. The bill requires the department of health care policy and financing, in consultation with the Colorado healthcare affordability and sustainability enterprise board, to develop and prepare an annual report detailing uncompensated hospital costs and the different categories of expenditures made by general hospitals in the state. CPA Position: Monitor. STATUS: Passed House, postponed indefinitely by Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee.

HB 1232. Young/Kerr & Coram. Concerning School Finance. The bill establishes a new school finance formula, including new resources from an increased state sales tax rate that must be approved by a vote of the people in an election that requires legal notice advertsing. CPA Position: Monitor. STATUS: Postponed indefinitely by House Education Committee.

HB 1243. Fotte & Wist/Coram & Fields. Concerning Civil Rape Shield Law. The bill

creates a provision, similar to existing criminal law, that a rape victims’ sexual conduct is irrelevant and not admissible but may be overturned after an in-camera review. Information remains confidential unless the court rules the evidence is admissible. CPA Position: Monitor. STATUS: Signed into law by Governor.

HB 1254. Van Winkle/Smallwood. Concerning the Foreclosure Process. The bill makes several changes to foreclosure process including who determines which legal publication notices appear and changes if initiated by public agency. CPA Position: Monitor. STATUS: Signed into law by Governor.

HB 1260. Ginal & Jackson/Moreno. Concerning Prescription Drug Price Transparency. The bill requires health insurance companies to provide information about prescription drugs that are covered under their plans and the costs of such drugs to the Insurance Commissioner to post such information on the Division of Insurance’s website. CPA Position. Monitor. STATUS: Passed House, postponed indefinitely by Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee.

HB 1262. Jackson and Roberts/Kagan. Concerning Arbitration Transparency. The bill requires arbitration services providers that administer consumer or employment arbitrations to collect, publish, and make available specified information on those arbitrations administered in the previous five years. CPA Position: Monitor. STATUS: Passed House, postponed indefinitely by Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee.

HB 1264. Jackson & Carver/Cooke & Fields. Concerning Revenge Pornography. The bill makes changes to the revenge pornography law, including eliminating the exemption for things that are newsworthy. CPA Position: Monitor. STATUS: Signed into law by Governor.

HB 1269. Lundeen & Pettersen/Hill and Fields. Concerning Notification of Parents of Charges Against School Employees. The bill requires schools to notify parents when teachers and other school employees are charged with crimes. CPA Position: Monitor. STATUS: Passed General Assembly, awaiting action by Governor.

HB 1281. Esgar/Garica. Concerning Consumer Protection at PUC. The bill makes a variety of changes to the operations of the Public Utilities Commission, including requiring the director to keep written and audio records of proceedings and making them available to the public online. CPA Position: Monitor. STATUS: Passed House, postponed indefinitely by Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee.

HB 1284. Buckner & Wilson/Martinez Humenik & Kefalas. Concerning Cost of Prescription Drugs. The bill makes information about the cost of prescription drugs provided in insurance plans available to the public. CPA Position: Monitor. STATUS: Signed into law by Governor.

HB 1290. Roberts & Lawrence/Sonnenberg. Concerning Conservation Easement Certification. The bill makes several changes to the conservation easement program including authorizing sharing of conservation easement information with a third-party vendor to develop a registry of conservation easements in the state for which conservation easement holders have received tax credits that would be available to the public. CPA Position: Monitor. STATUS: Passed House, postponed indefinitely by Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee.

HB 1314. Ginal & Lawrence/Cooke. Concerning Drone Interference with Public Safety Operations. The bill creates a misdemeanor for people who operate drones in interference with public safety operations in violation of requests of public safety personnel. CPA Position: Monitor. STATUS: Passed General Assembly, awaiting action by Governor.

HB 1318. Hooton & Hansen/Kerr. Concerning Presidential Candidates Tax Returns. The bill requires presidential candidates to provide their tax returns to the Secretary of State as a condition of appearing on the Colorado ballot. The Secretary of State must post the returns on its website. CPA Position: Monitor. STATUS: Passed House, postponed indefinitely by Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee.

HB 1341. Danielson & Covarrubias/Fenberg & Corum. Concerning an Apprenticeship Resource Directory. The bill requires the Department of Labor and Employment to create the Colorado state apprenticeship resource directory and to promote the availability of the directory. CPA Position: Monitor. STATUS: Passed House, postponed indefinitely by Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee.

HB 1403. Weissman/Fenberg. Concerning Stand by Your Ad Act. The bill adds social media political advertisements to disclosure requirements. CPA Position: Monitor. STATUS: Passed House, postponed indefinitely by Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee.