Colorado lawmakers wrapped up the 2021 legislative session after passing dozens of final bills.
The session ended a few days earlier than the constitutionally mandated date of June 12. However, many legislators were eager to leave to get to their fields so they can plant crops or get back to work.
The end date is later than most years after the COVID-19 pandemic delayed the start of the legislative session.
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35% COVID-19 RECOVERY
17% GUN REFORM
In the wake of the Boulder King Soopers shooting, Colorado Democrats brought forth a series of gun reform measures, and now three of them are close to becoming law.
The first bill is a local control bill. The bill's sponsor said by acting on a policy-by-policy basis, lawmakers can create safer communities across the state. But he said his bill acknowledges that different communities have different wants and needs when it comes to firearms.
The local control was something that Boulder City Councilmember Aaron Brockett called for in the days after the Boulder shooting if there was not a national or state-level ban on assault weapons.
Another bill would create the Office of Gun Violence Prevention. The bill's sponsors say the office would compile data on firearms use, gun violence and more, and perform education outreach on the state’s current laws, including its extreme risk protection order law.
The third bill would implement a five-year ban on purchasing firearms for people convicted of certain violent misdemeanors, the sponsors said, expand background checks to cover misdemeanor convictions, and close the so-called “Charleston loophole” by which some people are still able to obtain firearms before their background check is complete or if it comes outside of the three-day window.
Those crimes include child abuse, hate crimes, animal cruelty, sexual assault, and third-degree assault, lawmakers said.
Some of the most bipartisan legislation had to do with allocations of state and federal stimulus money to help with the economic recovery.
Some of the federal stimulus money was put aside for future spending so that the legislature can see how things shape up over the next several months and determine which areas need additional help.
There was also a bill to help provide relief for small businesses with their tax liability losses in years past, as well as a bill to allow small governments to perform county road maintenance without locates.
Colorado lawmakers have passed a bill that offers the biggest boost to transportation funding the state has seen in decades.
Senate Bill 260 is projected to bring in an estimated $5.4 billion in funding over the next decade. Roughly $3.8 billion would come from raising fees on gasoline, delivery, electric vehicle registrations, ride-share services, and more. The other $1.5 billion would come from the state’s general fund.
The first round of funding the Colorado Department of Transportation will see will come from the state stimulus funding. Some of it has already started to be used for a grant program to help cities revitalize their main streets and make them more pedestrian-friendly. Another short-term goal with the funding is to continue CDOT’s work on rural roads.
In the longer term, the Johnson/Eisenhower Memorial tunnels, I-260, and Floyd Hill are all in need of major upgrades. On the tunnels alone, CDOT engineers have identified $150 million worth of major repairs that will need to happen in phases.
With more funding headed toward K-12 education following the passage of a bill to raise local school district taxes, Colorado lawmakers are proposing major changes to how the state spends its education dollars.
On a 60-5 vote, the House passed the 2021 School Finance Act which makes changes to the school finance formula to direct additional resources to schools that serve higher populations of at-risk students and English language learners. It also restores reductions to K-12 funding that the legislature made last year in the wake of dire budget forecasts that predicted significant revenue declines due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Compared to actual funding levels in the current school year, the bill increases total program funding by $750.8 million. With the permanent changes to the school finance formula, total program funding will increase by another $623.8 million in the 2022-23 school year.
Another bill advancing through the state legislature is also focused on improving the school finance formula. House Bill 1325 would expand the definition of children living in poverty and qualifying for additional funding and, for the first time, give districts more money for every English language learner enrolled in their schools.