Week 12: State Budget Update
What's the hap at the cap? Legislative updates from March 16 - March 30
By Susan Baughman, Policy and Research Intern
March 30, 2017
The House and Senate have been hard at work over the last several weeks. Several bills we have been tracking received a final vote, and the much anticipated state budget was introduced. Disappointingly, three important bills were postponed indefinitely.
After passing in the House, House Bill 1122, “Gender Identification on Birth Certificates,” was heard by the Senate State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee on Monday, March 27th. It failed to pass and was postponed indefinitely, with a 2-3 vote along party lines. This bill, which would have made changing one’s gender identity on a birth certificate a little less burdensome, has now been struck down 3 years in a row. House Bill 1156, “Prohibits Conversion Therapy Mental Health Providers,” and House Bill 1001, “Parental Involvement K-12 Education Act” also saw very disappointing outcomes. House Bill 1156 would have prohibited mental health providers from using the ineffective and dangerous practice of conversion therapy, and just like HB 1122 it was struck down in the Senate State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee, 2-3 along party lines. Similarly, House Bill 1001, a bill that would have supported parents in being more academically involved with their children, failed in the same committee. These were three important bills that unfortunately will not be enacted this year.
As previously mentioned, the state budget was introduced on Monday, March 27th. The state budget, Senate Bill 254 “2017-18 Long Appropriations Bill,” was voted on by the Senate yesterday, March 29th, and was debated long into the night. The budget passed with minor amendments. There is a hearing set for today for its third reading.
As usual the state budget was a highly contentious topic. Colorado legislators proposed a $26.8 billion state spending budget for the 2017-2018 fiscal year, which is a four percent increase from last year. In the proposed budget hospitals will take a major hit, while education and state employee salaries will see a moderate increase. The Joint Budget Committee had a difficult time balancing the budget with the constrictions from the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, also known as TABOR. TABOR limits state spending increases and mandates that any surplus in revenue be returned to taxpayers.
The budget cuts a total of $500 million for hospitals, which has many health care advocates worried. The proposed budget planned on cutting the Healthy Kids Colorado survey, which costs about $745,000. This anonymous survey measures at-risk behaviors of youth and has been done since 1991. Healthy Kids Colorado provides critical information that many organizations rely on. Thankfully, an amendment was successfully added last night by the Democrats, designating funds to continue this important survey.
Education saw a moderate budget increase. The state will spend approximately $185 more per student. However, this falls short of what school districts need. The negative factor - which is the amount the state has underfunded schools - will dramatically increase. The Denver Post reports that the negative factor will be expected to grow from $50 million to $880 million. Although this is disappointing, we are hoping the modest increase in funding per student will improve education for Colorado youth.
The budget, once passed, will take effect July 1st, 2017.
Here are some quick updates on other bills we will continue to track:
- Senate Bill 17-061, “Additional Funding Charter School Operating Costs,” which will require school districts to increase funding for charter schools, passed the third reading in the Senate and will now go to the House. A hearing date has not yet been set.
- House Bill 1127, “Exempt Feminine Hygiene Products From Sales Tax,” has no updates, as no hearing date has yet been set. This bill would make menstrual products less financially burdensome.
- House Bill 1064, “Misuse of Electronic Images by a Juvenile,” the bill that criminalizes all sexting (both consensual and nonconsensual) has no updates and no hearings have been set.
- Representative Lee’s Sexting Bill finally got a bill number and name, House Bill 17-1302, “Juvenile Sexting Crime.” This bill would only criminalize nonconsensual sexting, was introduced in the House on March 28th, and has been assigned to House Judiciary. A hearing has been set for Tuesday, April 11th.
That’s it for this week’s Hap on the Cap! We will be back on April 12th. Remember, if you feel strongly about any of these bills, get on the phone with your representative!
Want to contact your representatives? You can reach them by calling the capitol phone number at (303) 866-2904, or you can find their specific contact information here.