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10 things to watch in the 2018 Colorado legislature

January 9, 2018 Updated: January 10, 2018 at 6:48 am
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Me Too hashtag from cube letters, anti sexual harassment social media campaign (jaouad.Km istockphoto)

Ten issues to watch in the 2018 Colorado General Assembly, which convenes Wednesday, in Denver.

Cloud of harassment

Four legislators, two Republicans and two Democrats, stand accused of sexual harassment, while others have leveled accusations or taken sides. If lawmaking is about relationships, then both could be strained in the early going.

Colorado Budget

A surplus for roads?

A December revenue forecast suggested the legislature might have unforeseen hundreds of million of dollars to spent next year. If Republicans can steer that money into transportation, it could detour a much-discussed November vote on a new statewide tax for transportation.

Energy Drilling-Federal Lands

Dodgeball with drilling

With energy development likely to play a role in the governor's race, expect Republicans and Democrats to try to score points on local drilling rules with partisan, ill-fated bills aimed at toughening or defending existing regulations.


Curb the crazy

No one knows where the electorate will be on President Trump or the GOP tax cuts and the economy next November. Neither side can wander too far from the middle without risking alienating local voters from local candidates with doomed "message" bills on divisive issues. Only one seat secures the GOP majority in the Senate.

At the Women in Rep, Beth Martinez Humenik at a government healthcare summit in Washington, D.C., in 2015. (Photo via Facebook) 

Defend Sen. Beth Martinez Humenik

Speaking of that majority, protecting it is job No. 1 for Senate Republicans this year. Humenik sits in a swing seat in Thornton, and she will be facing a well-known, well-financed Democrat in Rep. Faith Winter. On the other hand, Democrats hold an open Senate seat in Lakewood that could be a toss-up. Democratic Rep. Brittany Pettersen hopes to keep the seat in her party's hands, but she faces Republican Tony Sanchez, who has an early lead in the money race.

Rep. Leslie Herod and Chris Hansen, both Democrats from Denver, took to Facebook Live Monday to tell supporters they’re working on the net neutrality issue at the state level. (Screen capture via Facebook) 

Non-neutral on net neutrality

Democrats across the country pounced on the FCC's elimination of net neutrality. Democrats in Washington and Colorado are expected to try to enforce state consumer protections, in spite of the Trump administration effort to deregulate providers. Those providers could charge websites more for higher speeds, a cost likely passed on to customers. Democratic Reps. Leslie Herod and Chris Hansen, both of Denver, pledge to run a net neutrality bill to protect Coloradans that could remind voters that it's Republicans who are messing with their internet.

A new way of budgeting

House Republicans think the budget should be written more by committees of reference involving all the legislature, not just six members on the Joint Budget Committee. Can they win over enough Democrats to rewrite the rules? House Minority Leader Patrick Neville of Castle Rock and Assistant Minority Leader Cole Wist of Centennial believe there's enough momentum and bipartisanship to do just that in 2018.

Registered nurse Leslie Bergan suits up Friday, Jan. 10, 2014, before treating a young patient in the pediatric intensive care unit of Children's Hospital Colorado at Memorial Hospital Central. University of Colorado Health and Children's Hospital Colorado announced Friday plans to expand both the pediatric and adult services which would include a new free-standing children's hospital next to Memorial Hospital North. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

Son of 267

The failed special session in October left the job of fixing a glitch in the landmark 2017 legislation to this year's General Assembly. Republican Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg of Sterling and Rep. Jon Becker of Fort Morgan were co-sponsors on the bill designed to save rural hospitals but accidentally stripped a handful of special districts of marijuana sales tax revenues. Both lawmakers have said they will have no hand in a fix this session. Then who will, how soon and does a delayed fix look like something other than a tiff with the Democratic governor?

Supreme Court Wedding Cake

Cake dictates fate

On Dec. 5, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments on the Masterpiece Cakeshop appeal of a Colorado Civil Rights Commission decision. Jack Phillips, the owner of the Lakewood bakery who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple, claimed it violated his religious beliefs. The couple sued and the commission sided with them, eventually pushing the legal fight to the nation's highest court. If the high court, with a 5-4 conservative majority, rules in Phillips' favor, that would be a strike against the commission as it faces reauthorization this session. The Senate Republican majority wants changes.

Colorado Legislature Final Day

ACA/CHIP woes come home

The legislative Joint Budget Committee has signed off on a request from the governor to continue funding for Colorado's Child Health Plan Plus, which pays for health care for low-income children and pregnant women. But that money runs out on Feb. 28. Congress is expected to take up an extension of the federal program after the holiday recess, but until there's a fix, Colorado lawmakers could be faced with trying to find ways to keep the program afloat.

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