Special Session Bill Clears 2nd Legislative Hurdle

(Oct. 2) – The House gave preliminary approval this afternoon to the bill that prompted Gov. John Hickenlooper to call a special session of the state legislature.

HB17B-1001 corrects what all parties agree was a drafting error in SB17-267, a bipartisan bill passed during the 2017 regular session that protected against more than half a billion dollars in cuts to hospitals across the state. Among its many provisions was a change to the collection of revenues on retail marijuana. The drafting mistake unintentionally prevented some special districts – the Regional Transportation District and the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District in the Denver metro area, as well as rural transportation districts across the state, a housing district in Summit County and a hospital district in Montezuma County, down by the Four Corners – from collecting revenues on retail marijuana sales.

David Genova, the general manager and CEO of RTD, testified during a House Finance Committee hearing this morning that RTD’s revenue loss of $500,000 a month, if sustained, will force service cuts affecting 4,500 to 5,000 RTD riders per day, and might trigger a fare increase in 2019.

Majority Leader KC Becker, the sponsor of SB267 as well as the fix that was voted on today, urged the committee to “undo something that was completely inadvertently done” and to avert cuts in services “that impact people throughout the state.”

She cited a 2009 Colorado Supreme Court ruling to debunk assertions that HB17B-1001 represented a change in “tax policy” that would force a vote of the people.

“We made a mistake, but we are not instating a new tax,” she told the committee. “A policy is something that the legislature intends to do. This was certainly not that.”

“I’m glad to see this bill moving forward,” said Speaker Crisanta Duran, who earlier today gaveled the House into its first special session since 2012. In opening remarks she asked legislators “to remember the retiree who relies on the local bus to get to the doctor, or the schoolkids whose class trip to the museum may have to be cancelled,” and to “put aside political games and do the right thing for the people who elected us.”

The Finance Committee’s vote on HB17B-1001 was 8-4, with one Republican joining the committee’s seven Democrats in support of the bill. All of the no voters – Republican Reps. Susan Beckman of Littleton, Phil Covarrubias of Brighton, Polly Lawrence of Roxborough Park and Kevin Van Winkle of Highlands Ranch – represent constituents who are served by agencies or institutions that are taking a revenue hit because of the error written into SB17-267.

“It’s hard to imagine that these Republican legislators would thumb their noses at their constituents just to score a political point, but that’s what they’ve done,” Majority Leader Becker said. “It’s politics at its worst, and I certainly hope we see less of these shenanigans as this bill makes its way through the legislative process.”

After a recorded vote on Tuesday, the bill will go to the Senate.

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