DENVER -- Colorado lawmakers spent the last couple of weeks getting through more than 200 bills that were still left up for debate. By Tuesday, it seemed likely their work was coming to a close after a tumultuous year since the novel coronavirus arrived to our state in March of last year.
Here are some of the biggest bills introduced over the past year that didn't make the cut or were simply dead on arrival at the Senate floor.
1. SB21-200: Reduce Greenhouse Gases Increase Environmental Justice
SB21-200, the so-called Colorado greenhouse gas bill, which was sponsored by Sen. Faith Winter, Sen. Dominick Moreno, and Sen. Dominique Jackson – all Democrats – was pretty much dead upon arrival after Gov. Polis threatened to veto the bill, arguing its passing would give too much control to an unelected Air Quality Control Commission.
As we reported on Monday, Senate Bill 200 was supposed to add more enforceability measures onto high-emitting sectors across the state, charging a fee on those emissions and create an ombudsman position to focus on communities that are disproportionately impacted by climate change.
Denver7’s Meghan Lopez reported Democrats ended up compromising with the governor’s office, and portions of SB 200 will be rolled into HB21-1266, the Environmental Justice Disproportionate Impacted Community bill, which addresses the effects of environmental injustice on disproportionately impacted communities.
The amended House bill will add emissions measurement requirements to five sectors: Electric, transportation, built environment, industry and oil and gas sectors. Three of those five (electric, industry and oil and gas) will also face enforcement requirements.
Environmental groups were not happy with the outcome as reports indicate Colorado could miss its emissions reductions goals of reducing greenhouse emissions by 90% by the year 2050, but business groups have previously said the bill goes too far and unfairly targets some sectors and not others.
2. SB21-273: Pre-trial Reform
Colorado SB 273, the so-called jail population reform bill, would have created the Community Response to Low-level Offenses working group in the department of public safety to come up with policies and legislative initiatives to minimize interactions between the police and the public for low-level offenses and calls of service, such as traffic offenses, petty offenses, drug misdemeanors among others.
There were some exceptions to the bill, including offenses which included “an element of illegal possession or use of a firearm,” unlawful sex behavior, violation of a temporary extreme risk protection order, threats to a school, motor vehicle theft, among others.
It also prohibited judges from issuing a monetary bond for those offenses, as well as non-violent Class 4, 5 and 6 felonies, and allowed a defendant to fail to appear two times before being issues a cash bond.
Lastly, it authorized sheriffs to actively manage their jail populations to keep jail bed counts as low as possible while maintaining the community safe.
Those in favor of the bill hoped it would be one more step toward improving what they argue is a broken criminal justice system, while those against argued the bill would have created a scenario where dangerous people would be free to roam the streets. The bill was postponed indefinitely by a 7-4 vote.
3. SB21-176: Protecting Opportunities and Workers’ Rights Act
A bill that would have expanded the definition of workplace harassment, added protections for workers facing discrimination, extended the timeline for when claims against employers could be filed, among other provisions, died in committee Monday night.
Colorado’s workplace harassment bill, SB 176, would have not only gotten rid of the state’s “severe or pervasive” standard to prove workplace harassment, it also would have allowed for claims to be filed directly in civil court – something business groups and Republicans were concerned about, as they worried it would lead to potential lawsuits against businesses, according to The Denver Post.
The bill was brought forth by Sen. Faith Winter, who in 2017 went public with allegations against former Democratic State Representative Steve Lesbock, claiming Lesbock made inappropriate comments toward her at the 2016 party celebrating the end of that year’s legislative session, and that he’d tried to get her to leave with him.
The Post reported Monday some disability groups were concerned about how the bill could affect the people they represent, and lawmakers who are attorneys on the committee worried about the bill’s scope. The bill failed on a vote of 9-2.
4. SB21-033: Conservation Easement Working Group Proposals
Colorado’s conservation easement fix bill, Senate Bill 33, would have created a new state income tax credit for certain taxpayers who were denied state income tax credits for conservation easements donated between 2000 and 2013 if the IRS allowed a federal income tax deduction for the same donation
The Colorado Sun reports the bill would have helped landowners who donated development rights on their properties by setting aside $149 million from the state treasury to pay for the conservation easement tax credits rejected by the Department of Revenue nearly a decade ago.
The bill was voted down 7-4.