Gov. Hickenlooper signs PERA bill, vetoes pot-product 'tasting rooms'
Caption +

Governor John Hickenlooper signed Senate Bill 200 into law Monday, which appropriates $225 million toward the Colorado Public Employees Retirement Association (PERA) pension plan for 585,000 state workers and teachers, a fund that now is $32 billion short. (Photo via Gov. John Hickenlooper/Twitter)

Show MoreShow Less

Gov. John Hickenlooper signed a controversial pension bill into law Monday but nixed a bill to create "tasting rooms" in recreational marijuana stores.

Senate Bill 200 appropriates $225 million toward the Colorado Public Employees Retirement Association (PERA) pension plan for 585,000 state workers and teachers, a fund that now is $32 billion short.

The new law also reduces annual cost-of-living adjustments, increases the age at which employees hired after Jan. 1 can retire, and requires current employees to contribute 2 percent more of their pay.

The Colorado Education Association teachers union and many Democrats in the Legislature opposed the bill, but it got enough votes to reach the governor's desk.

Hickenlooper vetoed House Bill 1258, which would have allowed cannabis-product tasting rooms in recreational marijuana shops.

The governor wrote that Amendment 64, which legalized recreational pot sales, is clear: "marijuana consumption may not be conducted 'openly' or 'publicly' on 'in a manner that endangers others.' We find that HB 18-1258 directly conflicts with this constitutional requirement."

The industry blasted him for the veto.

It "ensures continued gray market activity when it comes to public consumption, an odd choice for an administration that has focused heavily on marijuana gray market enforcement," said Peter Marcus, spokesman for Terrapin Care Station and a former Colorado Politics reporter.

It also ensures people will continue to smoke cannabis in "unregulated indoor clubs, also a strange choice for a governor who has been adamant that public consumption should not include smoking. Hickenlooper's veto also sets the state back in regulating and curbing drugged driving," Marcus said.

He signed another marijuana bill, House Bill 1286, allowing children with medical marijuana licenses to receive their medication from school personnel. He said he signed it with misgivings, as recreational pot should not get into children's hands.

But Hickenlooper said he found its reasoning compelling, especially after hearing from young Quintin Lovato, who has battled epilepsy and Tourette's syndrome. He said he appreciated the bill's added safety features to ensure that non-smokable medical marijuana is kept out of the hands of other students.

Another bill, authorizing prescription cannabidiol (CBD) oil to be sold in pharmacies once approved by the Food and Drug Administration, won his approval too.

The FDA is expected to later this month approve the medication, Epidiolex, for children with rare seizure disorders.

Guidelines for grocery and convenience stores selling full-strength beer effective Jan. 1 were signed into law also.

That law allows people aged 18 to 21 to sell beer in the stores or deliver them with groceries in a company vehicle.

Hickenlooper issued his fifth veto of the year, on a measure that would have prohibited sex offender management board members from accepting state contracts that deal with sex offenders.

"We all support proper handling of conflicts," he wrote. "We veto this bill today, however, because it is redundant and overbroad."

Several of those board members have multi-million dollar contracts with the board for programs serving sex offenders, said Senate President Pro tem Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, the bill's Senate sponsor.

Missy Gursky, who has served on the board since 2006, is clinical director of Redirecting Sexual Aggression Inc., which employs treatment providers approved by the board and is a contractor to the Corrections, Human Services and the Judicial departments.

The company of Jeff Jenks, a board member since 2008, has received $987,000 in contracts to administer polygraphs to the Corrections and Judicial departments' probation program.

"It's concerning that the governor is willing to protect known conflicts of interest when board members are entering into contracts for millions of dollars with the board they serve on," Sonnenberg told Colorado Politics.

Chief legislative reporter

Load comments