With the start of the 2020 Colorado legislative session, January 8, just days away, House Democratic leadership gathered with reporters at the Capitol on Friday, January 3, praise some of their accomplishments in 2019 and lay out a road map for what to expect this year.
"We’re excited about the progress we made, and we’re going to keep focusing on the areas that we talked about a lot. We want an economy that works for all, we want to keep investing in Colorado’s future, and we want to protect the Colorado way of life," KC Becker, the Boulder Democrat and House speaker, said in her office at the Capitol.
Since the November 2018 election, Democrats have controlled both the House and the Senate and held the offices of governor and attorney general. During the 2019 legislative session, they were able to pass progressive legislation about education, oil and gas, and health care.
In speaking about what to expect in 2020, Becker was joined by Alec Garnett, the House majority leader from Denver, who expects legislation surrounding things like paid family leave and retirement security.
Becker said she wants to pass legislation that creates an age enforcement mechanism to pair with the federal government's recent move to raise the smoking age to 21. And she wants to create safeguards when it comes to minors attempting to purchase tobacco products online as part of a package of nicotine bills.
"Whether it involves a flavor ban, I don't know yet," said Becker.
Democrat lawmakers have expressed an interest in banning flavored vaping products as a way to address Colorado's high rate of teen vaping. The Trump administration has already announced a plan to ban only flavored vaping pods, but not e-liquids.
A death-penalty repeal bill will also be back at the state legislature, and lawmakers are cautiously optimistic that it could succeed after failing last year.
"I personally would love to see it repealed. I think it’s such a personal decision for so many people, it’s not something folks shift on easily. But I do think that there’s a chance that it could pass, so we’ll see," Becker said.
In 2019, lawmakers referred two initiatives to the statewide ballot. One, which legalized sports betting, passed. The other, which aimed to end the taxpayer-refund mechanism of TABOR and use the money to address things like transportation infrastructure and education, failed. The initiative, known as Proposition CC, lost handily in November 2019, so the expected revenue source never came to fruition.
"We need to acknowledge that new funding is necessary for transportation," Becker said, adding that she believes such a bill addressing this issue would need to be bipartisan.
Neither she nor Garnett expect any TABOR ballot initiatives to come out of the legislature this session.
When it comes to gun legislation, there won't be anything as controversial as the red flag law, which was passed last year and allows law enforcement officers to temporarily take away guns from someone deemed a threat to themselves or others. But Garnett mentioned legislation surrounding both safe storage and lost or stolen guns as viable options this year. He referred to them as "smaller ideas around how we educate and promote responsible gun ownership."
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The two Democrats acknowledged that a bill ending cash bail was on its way and that conversations are currently under way for a potential statewide investigation mechanism for officer-involved shootings (which Representative Leslie Herod spoke about in a recent interview with Westword).
"The speaker and I work really hard on relationships in the House with Republican leadership and Republican members across the aisle," Garnett said, before adding, "The majority may have the votes to get their way, but the minority always gets their say."
And the two also played down perceived conflicts with Governor Jared Polis, who threatened to veto a child-immunization bill that eventually failed and lobbied for the watering down of a bill concerning cooperation between local authorities and federal immigration officials.
"We actually work really well together," said Becker. "Having policy disagreements is not a bad thing."