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May 08, 2024 10:46 PM UTC

PNC Presents: Winners and Losers of the 2024 Colorado legislative session

  • 3 Comments
  • by: ProgressNow Colorado
From landmark new renter protections signed into law to the passage of important pieces of Gov. Jared Polis’ agenda for affordable housing, reproductive rights, marriage equality, and gun safety, the 2024 session of the Colorado General Assembly was a major success for stakeholders who persisted and kept organizing despite past legislative setbacks. While we celebrate the breakthrough progress made on a range of important issues, these hard-fought wins are a reminder for those of us who didn’t get everything we wanted this year that it often takes years of effort and education to get big things done. The good fight is never in vain, and thank you for patiently working all session to make Colorado the best it can be.

 

THE WINNERS

Affordable Housing

After negotiations guided by Gov. Jared Polis throughout the session, major affordable housing reforms broke through the logjam and will soon make a big difference for Colorado homebuyers. Legislation to encourage transit-oriented development and the construction of accessory dwelling units, as well as doing away with minimum parking requirements and unrelated occupancy limits, are game-changers in the long struggle to make Colorado a place everyone can afford to call home.


Renters

One of the biggest wins this year in the Colorado legislature was the passage of the state’s new “For Cause” eviction law, which protects tenants from being evicted without reasonable cause as long as they are following the rules and pay their rent on time. Landlords can still decline to renew leases if the property is being sold or relatives are moving in. Giving tenants a measure of certainty in Colorado’s overheated housing market is a huge win for renters who have already endured large price increases.


Gig Workers

Another big win for persistent organizers on behalf of Colorado’s rideshare and delivery drivers, two bills requiring greater pricing transparency for both gig workers and their customers passed the legislature after similar legislation failed last year. Hard-working delivery and rideshare drivers and their customers deserve to know how much they’re going to make or spend, and how big a cut the app providers take. The legislation also cleans up the often-arbitrary disciplinary process for rideshare drivers they say is often arbitrary and abusive.


Marriage Equality

Even though Coloradans support marriage equality in overwhelming numbers today, back in 2006 a constitutional amendment banning marriage equality narrowly passed and became law. Ignored since the historical Obergefell Supreme Court decision, this discriminatory language is still in our state’s constitution and could be a problem if the Supreme Court were to overturn Obergefell. Lawmakers have referred a ballot measure to voters this November to eliminate this lurking threat to rights most Coloradans thought were settled law.


Trains

As part of a major air quality compromise agreement brokered by Gov. Jared Polis, environmental advocates, and the oil and gas industry, new fees on oil and gas production will be directed toward the realization of Colorado’s long-sought Front Range rail system and the completion of the Denver metro area commuter rail network. New train technologies like the hydrogen-powered commuter train being tested in Pueblo could help realize the vision of clean, green rail transportation from Fort Collins to Pueblo and beyond.


Public Education

For the first time in many years, Colorado managed to fund our public education system closer to the way voters mandated over two decades ago with the passage of Amendment 23. The temporary elimination of the so-called “Budget Stabilization” or “BS” factor which had shortchanged public schools against the clear desire of Colorado voters is a landmark accomplishment, but lawmakers and voters must be on guard against irresponsible property tax ballot measures that could undo the progress lawmakers achieved this year.


Gun Safety

This year, Colorado’s progressive majority continued to make Colorado a national model for common sense gun safety legislation. One of the most important is a bill giving the Colorado Bureau of Investigations the power to investigate violations of the gun laws already on Colorado’s books. New training requirements for concealed-carry permits will make the public safer. Another bill requires handgun owners to secure weapons stored in their vehicles from theft.


The “House Crazies”

After former House Minority Leader Mike Lynch’s downfall in a DUI/coverup scandal, Lynch’s replacement Rep. Rose Pugliese made it clear that she would not make any attempt to restrain the more extreme members of her 19-seat superminority caucus. As a result, a faction of far-right lawmakers led by Reps. Brandi Bradley, Ryan Armagost, Scott Bottoms, and Ken DeGraaf, repeatedly derailed debate with vitriolic attacks against fellow lawmakers, activists, and even ordinary witnesses who testified on legislation. With no oversight on their own side of the aisle, Democratic leadership was forced to repeatedly intervene to keep the process on track.


The Art of the Deal

Patient negotiation by Gov. Jared Polis and Democratic leadership led to breakthrough deals on a number of potential major flashpoint issues. The air quality compromise agreement allowed all sides to claim progress while defusing what could have been a costly battle over far more damaging ballot measures from the fossil fuel industry. A similar bipartisan agreement on property taxes in the final days of the session provides relief and predictability for property owners. And Gov. Polis’ refusal to give up on affordable housing legislation delivered major victories on one of the state’s most vexing economic issues.


THE LOSERS

Anti-abortion Extremists

The U.S. Supreme Court’s devastating decision to overturn Roe v. Wade has resulted in the loss of reproductive freedom for millions of Americans, and also made Colorado a haven for abortion care for patients fleeing new abortion bans in their own states. In Colorado, voters have repeatedly upheld abortion rights in statewide elections while punishing far-right politicians who attacked abortion rights. The small but noise anti-abortion minority in Colorado held a “March for Life” at the Capitol this year, but inside the building the right’s annual attempts to criminalize abortion were defeated. This November, Colorado voters will overwhelmingly vote to enshrine abortion rights in Colorado’s constitution once and for all.


Child Sex Abuse Victims

What if we told you that every Republican in the Colorado Senate voted against a bill seeking justice for child sex abuse and the institutions who protected abusers like the Catholic Church? Even though Democrats control both chambers of the Colorado legislature, Republicans were able to stop the Child Sexual Abuse Accountability Amendment because it required a supermajority. When it comes to justice and accountability for child sex abuse, for Colorado Republicans, money was the only thing they could hear talking.


Rep. Gabe Evans

Freshman Rep. Gabe Evans is very ambitious in trying to leapfrog to Congress with so little experience, but Evans’ brief service in the Colorado House has not been good for Evans’ long-term political aspirations. Evans took a lead role in the quixotic attempt by MAGA Republicans to impeach Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold this year, putting himself on the side of Donald Trump and election deniers. In floor debates on legislation overwhelmingly supported by Colorado voters like common-sense gun safety, Evans’ constant desire for attention put him on the record on the wrong side of issues he’ll soon have to explain to voters in his congressional campaign. Rep. Evans’ relentless attacks on immigrants along with his colleagues won’t go over well in Colorado’s most Latino congressional district.


Rep. Mike Lynch

Now ex-House Minority Leader Mike Lynch began 2024 riding high as a congressional candidate and leader of the Colorado House Republican superminority. But the disclosure of a DUI arrest and Lynch’s hamfisted attempts to cover it up resulted in Lynch’s ouster from Republican leadership in the early weeks of the legislative session. Even though Lynch’s political career has been wrecked by the scandal, Lynch remains a candidate in the June 25th primary for retiring Rep. Ken Buck’s seat. He is not expected to win.


House Minority Leader Rose Pugliese

Inheriting the mess left behind by Mike Lynch’s fall from grace, new House Minority Leader Rose Pugliese threw up her hands and announced that she would not even attempt to control the more embarrassing members of the GOP superminority, even leading the caucus in half-baked protests seeking the “right” to inflammatory and denigrating language in floor debates. The caucus leader’s job is to ensure the caucus puts their best foot forward, but instead the worst of the caucus was given free rein under Pugliese to define the dysfunctional Republican brand for voters this November.


Comity

“Comity” is defined as “polite or friendly behavior that shows respect, especially in public life.” Up until just a few years ago, lawmakers on both sides set aside their differences to laugh at themselves and one another in performances called “Hummers.” Unfortunately, for extreme partisan bitterness and division of the Trump era has made “Hummers” and even basic responsibilities like working across the aisle to pass legislation extremely difficult. With an overwhelming majority and Gov. Polis’ negotiating skills, historic progress was made this year, but the partisan and personal tensions between lawmakers remain.


Decency

The personal vitriol between certain lawmakers this year boiled over into public attacks that further eroded any sense of bipartisan cooperation in this year’s session despite significant achievements. Rep. Brandi Bradley’s bizarre personal grudges against a growing number of Democratic lawmakers throughout the session raised questions about her fitness to serve. Shameful and deliberate attacks on LGBTQ+ colleagues and witnesses by Reps. Scott Bottoms and Ken DeGraaf discouraged civic participation. And the refusal of Republican Minority Leader Rose Pugliese to impose any sort of discipline on her members normalized their disgraceful behavior.


Gun-toting Lawmakers

For many years, certain lawmakers have taken advantage of a loophole in security at the Colorado State Capitol that allows legislators to bypass Colorado State Patrol security and carry firearms with them inside the building. Even Coloradans with a concealed-carry permit are required to disarm before passing through the Capitol’s metal detectors. After multiple incidents where lawmakers left loaded weapons in hearing rooms, bathrooms and even dropping one in a hall on the way to a hearing, a bill was finally passed this year to make lawmakers play by the same rules as everyone else.


Predatory Towing Companies

Predatory towing rackets, often working with unscrupulous property owners, have plagued parking lots across the state for years. Under a new bill passed by the Colorado legislature this year, so-called “pre-approved” tows would be banned and property owners must give permission for each tow. This would put an end to the practice of tow trucks “patrolling” and enforcing parking restrictions at will. Wrongfully-towed vehicles would also need to be returned to the owner at no charge.


Shady Funeral Homes

Shocking revelations of appalling conditions and fraud at a Colorado funeral home led to new attention to this largely-unregulated industry in Colorado. Officials will now have more enforcement power over funeral homes and require more inspections. Another bill will require funeral directors to be licensed with minimum qualifications. These reforms of an industry we’ll all deal with in some form someday provide peace of mind for Colorado families after a disturbing well-publicized scandal.


Comments

3 thoughts on “PNC Presents: Winners and Losers of the 2024 Colorado legislative session

  1. I agree with much of this, but I disagree that certainty about property taxes is to be deplored. The economy of the state, let alone the affordability of housing, depends on that to a significant degree. A tight annual cap on property tax revenue increases will keep both stable.

    1. The list has as a winner " A similar bipartisan agreement on property taxes in the final days of the session provides relief and predictability for property owners. "

      I don't see anything in the loser column mentioning property taxes. Only mention of "property" in the loser's column was "Predatory towing rackets, often working with unscrupulous property owners, have plagued parking lots across the state for years."

      I don't know anyone in favor of "uncertainty" in taxes. 

       

      1. The PNC article does caution about a need to be aware of “irresponsible property tax ballot measures.” But they don’t define those.

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