Counting Down

We are less than a week away from adjournment sine die, the moment when the clock stops for the Colorado General Assembly. Under the state constitution, the 120 conclusion of the legislative session arrives at 12:00 a.m. May 12. No further business may be conducted after that time unless pursuant to a Special Session called by the Governor or the General Assembly itself. In the few remaining days, there are more than 200 bills still under consideration.

During the final days of the session, procedural rules are suspended to allow for expedited action including bills brought up for votes with limited prior notice. The rush is due in part to the GAVEL amendment which requires every bill to have at least one vote. The GAVEL (Give every legislator a vote) amendment to the state constitution was adopted by the voters in 1988 to prevent bills being held and defeated by simply withholding a bill from consideration. A bill which has been heard in a committee or voted on once may still die when the clock runs out. When bills continue to be introduced in the final days of the session and debate runs into the wee hours, that occasionally occurs. There may simply not be enough time to run every bill through the full process before being sent to the Governor (if it is not killed along the procedural route through committees and floor votes).

As the 73rd General Assembly winds down, CMA is still working on bills that could significantly impact its members. At the top of the list is HB 22-1244, a bill to create a new Air Toxics program in the Department of Public Health & Environment. This bill is opposed by every major business group in the state because of its broad scope and implications for even more stringent air permit requirements. It directs CDPHE to monitor ambient air, and for the Air Quality Control Commission to establish health-based standards for priority pollutants, set emission limits more stringent than federal requirements, and incorporate those limits into permits, sometimes without consideration of economic impact. This bill is one of many that is turning CDPHE’s air program into a “superagency” within the state, with the potential to govern almost every economic activity.

“Nothing is certain except death and taxes” and now even taxes are not so certain. The past weeks have seen proposals to delay fees (called taxes by many) on gasoline and a bill to send large checks to individual tax filers. The state revenues have increased to the point where approximately $1.3 billion must be refunded to taxpayers through various mechanisms. In addition, a new proposal would adjust tax assessment rates for real property for 2023-2024. SB 22-238 is designed to compete with a proposed ballot initiative would set a 3% limit on how much property tax values can increase each year for owners of many residential, commercial, and other properties. A cynic would say that these legislative tax reductions are proposed with the November elections in mind, but who’s complaining?

After a slew of all night committee meetings and lengthy floor sessions, the clock cannot strike midnight on May 11 soon enough!