Senator Pat Steadman

70th General Assembly of Colorado

Elected, Soon to Convene




The elections are over.  It's getting dark entirely too early in the evening.  And I'm back to work with budget briefings and hearings filling my days.  My colleagues in the Senate Democratic Caucus unanimously reelected me to serve once again on the Joint Budget Committee.





Midterm elections are rarely pretty.  They sometimes usher in change more effectively than a presidential election.  They often catch us off guard.


With the 2014 election behind us it is safe to say that it wasn't my favorite election cycle.  Colorado lost an outstanding statesman serving us in the United States Senate when Congressman Cory Gardner bested Mark Udall.  Closer to home, my party lost majority control of the State Senate as we picked up two seats lost in recall elections last year but lost two incumbents and an open seat in Adams County.  Our one-seat advantage was easily flipped to a one-seat disadvantage. 


Leaders have been selected for the 70th General Assembly, which convenes in January.  Senator Bill Cadman (R-Colorado Springs) will become the new President of the Senate, while current President Sen. Morgan Carroll (D-Aurora) will acquire the title of Senate Minority Leader.  In the other chamber, Rep. Dickey Lee Hullinghorst (D-Boulder) will become the first Democratic woman in Colorado history to serve as Speaker of the House of Representatives.  The only other woman to have held that title was Rep. Lola Spradley, a Republican from Beulah.  Rep. Brian DelGrosso (R-Loveland) will continue in his role as House Minority Leader. 





On Monday, November 3, Gov. Hickenlooper's Office of State Planning & Budgeting quietly delivered a stack of three-ring binders to the offices of the Joint Budget Committee, beginning the public phase of the annual budget process.  The Governor's budget request is the starting point for the legislature's deliberations but is not binding on our actions.  Several bright points in the budget request leap off the pages of press releases and fact sheets: 


Public school funding is slated for a bump, with increases for enrollment growth and inflation plus an additional one-time allocation of $200 million.  Average per pupil funding would increase statewide to just under $7,500.


Higher education is about to embark on a new funding allocation model thanks to legislation passed in 2014.  The JBC is required to implement the new model in the upcoming budget, prompting the governor to request an increase of $60 million over last year's historic increase, plus an additional $15 million to smooth out any rough edges in the new model.  Tuition increases remain capped at no more than 6% next fall, and a scholarship program created last year is seeking $30 million to help more students afford college.


Children with autism wait list elimination.  $10.6 million is requested to provide services to children with autism up to age 8.  The current program ends at age 5 and has strict limits on available services. 


Child welfare caseworker staffing increases.  $8.2 million in total funds, of which $6.6 million is from the general fund, would be distributed to counties to hire more caseworkers and reduce the ratio of open cases in our child welfare system. 


Family planning services for uninsured women.  Five years ago an anonymous donor gave a $25 million grant to the state to fund long-acting but reversible contraception for women who lack coverage for these services, generally the "working poor" who do not qualify for Medicaid but aren't able to afford health insurance.  Decreases in the observed rates of teen pregnancy, out-of-wedlock births and abortions have resulted.  With the grant running out, the governor has asked for $5 million in general fund to continue the program. 


TABOR refunds and SB 09-228 transfers.  Over $167 million must be budgeted for refunds of "excess revenues" collected this year, while just shy of $103 million will be required to be transferred to the Capital Construction Fund and Highway Users Tax Fund. 


Infrastructure investments continue to the tune of $281 million.  A number of capital construction projects are being completed in phases across the state, including the second year of investment in a new computer system for the Division of Motor Vehicles. 





On Wednesday, November 12 the JBC convened for the first time since the general election and our first order of business was electing a chair.  I made the motion to elect Sen. Kent Lambert (R-Colorado Springs) as the new JBC Chair.  Sen. Lambert is the most-senior member of the committee, initially appointed while serving in the House and continuing after his election to the Senate in 2010.  Together we form the backbone of the committee, as the four other members are essentially all brand new.  Rep. Bob Rankin (R-Carbondale) was appointed to the committee last May at the end of the 2014 legislative session.  Sen. Kevin Grantham (R-Canon City) began his service on the JBC on November 12, and Reps. Millie Hamner (D-Dillon) and Dave Young (D-Greeley) start today!


A split legislature yields a split JBC.  Our committee is evenly divided between three Democrats and three Republicans.  And in case you're wondering, motions fail on a tie vote.  That means collaboration and compromise are essential.  Fortunately we spend a lot of time together and learn to work through our differences.  With a constitutional mandate to produce a balanced budget each year, we can't stay stuck on a 3-to-3 tie forever, and we won't.


I may be a bit biased, but I think the most interesting challenges facing the new legislature all center around fiscal policy.  The JBC is where the action will be.  A recovering economy has the state bumping up against - and exceeding - its TABOR limits for the first time in many years.  Potential refund liability has implications for statutory commitments to fund infrastructure development, particularly roads and bridges (SB 09-228, mentioned above).  Tax expenditures are being proposed as one way around the situation.  Lots of intricate, moving parts and no shortage of special interests -- what the JBC does best!


Here's my latest blog post to my website about the new JBC.


Click Here for the JBC meeting schedule.  And remember that you can listen in to streaming audio from any of our public meetings.  You'll find instructions for doing that at the top of the JBC homepage.





In no particular order, and attempting to avoid duplication of issues identified above, here's a quick list of topics likely to fuel the hottest debates at the Capitol:

  • School Finance
  • Standardized Testing in Public Schools
  • Construction Defects Litigation
  • Recommendations from the Fracking Commission
  • Continued Implementation of Health Care Reform
  • TABOR Refunds
  • Colorado's Water Plan
  • Felony Offense for Repeat DUI
  • Marijuana Edibles
  • Death with Dignity
  • Reopening the Debate on Gun Safety Laws

And the not-so-hot list: Some people tried to make new voter registration laws and mail ballot elections into controversial topics heading into November 2014, but will the fervor last now that we've seen the results?  Same for abortion restrictions - anyone in the mood for an "obnoxious, single-issue" focus?  Will the new Senate Republican majority govern by looking back at 2013 or will they drive in the center lane and keep their view toward the future?  Hot controversies versus smart politics, and so many options in between!





Have you got a great idea for positive social change?  When someone says "There oughtta be a law..." do you know just how to finish their sentence?  If so, this is your moment.


The 70th General Assembly was just elected and the new and returning members are busily preparing their plans for the upcoming legislative session.  If you have an idea for a law you'd like to propose, now is the time.  Please contact me to let me know if there is something I can do on your behalf or if there is a problem that needs fixing.  I may take up the cause, or I may know of another legislator that is working on the issue.  Regardless of whether you have the perfect policy solution or you merely want to call attention to a problem, we represent you and we're here to help.



Wednesday, December 3, 2014, 11:00 am to 1:00 pm
Sand Creek Massacre 150th Anniversary Ceremony
West Steps, State Capitol, 200 E. Colfax Ave., Denver, Colorado 

Speakers will commemorate the tragedy; attending dignitaries will include descendants of survivors. Colorado history will be observed.


Thursday, December 4, 2014
Denver Young Democrats Holiday Reception
Governor's Mansion, 400 E. 8th Ave (at Logan St.), Denver, Colorado
You don't have to be a young Dem to join the Young Dems, but you will need a ticket to attend this event.  Nothing will put you in the holiday spirit faster than a evening at the Governor's mansion.  Plan to attend!
Tuesday, December 16, 2014, 6:00 pm
Democratic Party of Denver Annual Holiday Potluck
Skylark Lounge, 140 S. Broadway, Denver, Colorado

Bring a dish, join the fun!  The Denver Dems take over the Skylark and a good time will be had by all.  All your favorite elected officials, plenty to eat and a cash bar - what more could you want? 


Wednesday, January 7, 2014, 10:00 am
70th General Assembly Convenes in 1st Regular Session
State Capitol, 200 E. Colfax Ave., Denver, Colorado
Opening day ceremonies offer pomp and circumstance.  Newly elected members take the oath of office then listen to speeches from legislative leaders.  Will split control of the legislature add to the drama?  Or will themes of bipartisan collaboration sound a saccharine distraction?   


Thursday, January 8, 2014, 11:00 am
Governor Hickenlooper's State of the State Speech
House Chamber, State Capitol, 200 E. Colfax Ave., Denver, Colorado 
An annual tradition.  Gov. Hickenlooper will address a joint session of the legislature to offer his thoughts on the state of our state and outline his agenda for a legislative session still in its infancy.  Arrive early to get a good seat in the gallery!



Thanks for reading this update, and please don't hesitate to drop me a line with any questions or concerns you may have. You can use the links below to follow me on Twitter or like my page on Facebook. Let's stay in touch!
Pat Steadman  

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