Roberts: What we got done at the Capitol
Last week, the Colorado legislature concluded our 2020 legislative session — a session that will likely go down in history as one of the most unique, trying, and historic terms in our state’s history. I am so glad to be back home in House District 26 and have returned both proud of the work we were able to get done but also humbled by the challenges that remain for Colorado.
Normally, we are in session from the beginning of January to the beginning of May — our constitutionally-mandated 120-day session. However, COVID-19 forced the legislature to temporarily adjourn on March 14 and we returned to the Capitol in Denver on May 26 for a three-week “mini session” which we adjourned on June 15 for a total of 85 days of legislative work for 2020. Here is a brief recap:
When we began in January, it was impossible to foresee the unique and challenging months that were ahead. Just as the first case of COVID-19 in Colorado was identified here in our mountain communities, I was introducing my bill with Sen. Donovan to create a Colorado Health Care Option to finally bring choice and lower health insurance prices to our counties. Coronavirus then tragically spread though Eagle County and Colorado, caused extreme financial hardship for individuals, businesses, strained our economy, and decimated our state budget.
So, when we returned to the Capitol last month, we were faced with a completely different legislative reality than what we had left in March. While some of our big ideas like the Colorado Option had to be put on hold due to that reality, I am proud to have been a part of a legislature that came together to respond to the needs our state faces.
First, we were able to pass a package of bills that respond directly to the impacts of COVID-19 in Colorado: bills aimed at boosting small businesses, protecting vulnerable workers, expanding unemployment resources, preventing outrageous price gouging on essential goods, housing assistance for renters, and much more.
Support Local Journalism
Several of the bills channel federal CARES Act funding directly to vulnerable Coloradans and small businesses. Below is a full list of all bills we passed that will help Coloradans continue to work through the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, and prepare our communities for future crises as well.
One of my final bills of the session was an idea that both Eagle County Treasurer Teak Simonton and Routt County Treasurer Lane Iacovetto approached me with during the first week of the shutdowns. I worked with them and my colleagues on both sides of the aisle and wrote HB1421 which will allow counties to reduce or waive interest penalties on property tax payments in 2020 so we can help individuals and businesses hit hard by the loss of revenue. After passing the legislature unanimously, that bill was signed into law last week.
Another bill idea I brought from home back to the Capitol was giving restaurants the ability to continue selling to-go and delivery alcoholic beverages with their food. This extra revenue has been a life-saver for so many local restaurants and the bipartisan bill I was able to get passed extends this crucial tool until July 2021.
The killing of George Floyd and the subsequent protests demanding justice and equality occurred during the first week we were back in Denver. Over the next two weeks, we introduced and worked with all sides to craft a historic police accountability bill that passed both chambers with large bipartisan votes and was signed in law last week making Colorado the first state in the nation to respond. I was proud to co-sponsor this bill and give huge thanks to the community members for your advocacy and to law enforcement leaders across Eagle and Routt Counties who helped me work with the bill sponsors to amend the bill so that it works for our local law enforcement while still getting all Coloradans the reforms they demand and need. While this bill moved quickly, the reforms within it are topics and conversations that have been happening for years and I am glad our state acted in a collaborative, bipartisan, and swift way to put them into law.
Finally, while it was not easy, we were able to pass a balanced budget for the upcoming fiscal year even when we faced a $3.3. billion deficit when we started caused by the COVID-19 downturn. While nobody is happy with the cuts we had to make — especially to education — we believe that we have made decisions that will help us recover more quickly than expected. Further, I supported efforts that will create more funding for education and ask voters on their ballots this November for more through a new tax on tobacco products and through a repeal of the Gallagher Amendment.