Just a few weeks remain in legislative session


Looking out the window in Denver, watching a snowstorm worthy of a freezing, wintery day, I wonder if Easter is really just around the corner or if maybe we’re back to Christmas? It’s especially hard to square this storm with the 75-degree weather we just had yesterday.

Although the weather seems confusing, the calendar is not, and we have just a few weeks left in this legislative session. As the time winds down, the pace at the Capitol becomes a little more frantic as legislators scurry to get their bills passed before the clock strikes midnight on the last day allowed, according to the Colorado constitution. The 120th day this year falls on May 7.

Colorado’s general assembly meets for four months each year to accomplish one primary task, which is to pass the state’s budget. We must balance the state’s books, as no deficit spending is allowed. The recession’s effects still linger in many areas of the state, but the revenues have sufficiently improved that, thankfully, we are no longer raiding places like the severance taxes.

The annual budget bill is still not through the final phases of legislative approval, but is in the joint budget committee’s hands as the committee members reconcile the House and Senate versions of the 2014-2015 budget. The state’s budget year starts on July 1, rather than on a calendar year cycle.

The Senate has yet to receive the two K-12 education bills, one known as the Student Success Act and the annual school finance bill. At the request of some of my constituents, I’ve asked Legislative Council staff who work in the area of education to provide me with future-year projections based on the formulas used in this year’s proposals.

This will be useful information, but only to a point, as it’s important to remember that no legislature can bind a future legislature from changing funding approaches. Still, this information will help evaluate the bill proponents’ promises and intentions and, if any reader would like to receive the additional data, please send me an email or call my Capitol office and we’ll get that to you.

We’re also at the time when partisan politics becomes more obvious as the majority party leaders seek to get campaign gotcha votes on vulnerable legislators. I point to the majority party on this because, by now, the minority party has had those type of bills already killed.

This is not new and both sides of the aisle play this game when they hold the reins of power, but it’s always disturbing to me as we veer off into more strident political rhetoric and drama. We should resist caving into the election cycle and instead remain focused on the priorities of Colorado citizens, but I can be accused of being Pollyanna.

I’d like to thank my legislative aide this year, Ezra Riggs, for the fine service he’s provided to my constituents and me. Ezra has worked for me for three legislative sessions, having started as a college intern and is now a veteran legislative aide. He grew up in the San Luis Valley and knows rural Colorado. His job is part time and doesn’t pay much, but he’s a great help in answering your calls, helping me find my papers and keeping things in order. Thanks, Ezra!