Senate President Stephen Fenberg bangs gavel during the last day of the 2022 session

Senate President Stephen Fenberg bangs the gavel during the last day of the legislative session Wednesday at the Capitol in Denver.

Colorado's legislators wrapped up their work for the year just before midnight on Wednesday after tackling some of the most monumental measures in years.

Here are some of the major bills that were passed:

• Fentanyl. The most significant bill of the 2022 session wound up being about public safety, a priority for both parties, but the issue that dominated the session wasn't on the radar of lawmakers when they gaveled in on Jan. 12.

The February deaths of five Commerce City residents, who  did not know they were taking fentanyl, pushed lawmakers to spend three months coming up with a solution to the spiraling crisis.

House Bill 1326 followed a week of back-and-forth between the House and Senate . A conference committee came up with a solution with five hours to go in the session, and the bill passed with less than two hours before lawmakers are constitutionally required to end their work for the year.  

• Abortion. When Polis signed legislation affirming the right to an abortion in Colorado in April, supporters described it as a bulwark against a potential U.S. Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. That possibility inched closer to reality a month later, when a draft of justices' majority opinion striking down both Roe and the high court's ruling in Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1992 was leaked.

Known as the Reproductive Health Equity Act, HB 1279 establishes a fundamental right to continue a pregnancy and give birth, or to have an abortion. The bill also says fertilized eggs, embryos and fetuses do not have independent rights under the law, and it prohibits state and local public entities from denying or restricting an individual's right to use or refuse contraception, or to either continue a pregnancy or have an abortion.

• Record spending. Legislators passed and the governor signed a $36.4 billion spending plan — the biggest in Colorado's history — that funds state priorities in the upcoming fiscal year. The budget allocates roughly $2.5 billion more than current spending levels.

The budget includes major increases in several areas, notably health care and public safety.

"We are bringing real relief to Coloradans with this bipartisan balanced budget, and ensuring we have a cleaner, healthier and safer Colorado for years to come,” Gov. Jared Polis said in April.  

• Collective bargaining. The fight to extend the right to collective bargain to the state's 38,000 county workers came down to the wire, but lawmakers ultimately approved that measure after making several concessions to counties and to Republicans, who opposed the measure and dragged out the session in its final days to force the bill's Democratic sponsors to the negotiating table.

SB 230 makes it optional for county commissioners to agree to collective bargaining contracts with their employees.

The bill was among the last to win approval in the House, with last-minute amendments part of a larger deal crafted to resolve an impasse between Republicans and Democrats. 

• Wildfires. The nature of the Marshall fire, which tore through a suburban neighborhood in the dead of winter, horridly illustrated Colorado’s new reality: a state that could face its worst wildfire season in history.

Legislators passed several bills that offer an array of strategies and funding to help firefighters and strengthen communities.

HB 1132 requires all controlled burns on private property to be reported to local fire departments. SB 7 implements an enhanced wildfire awareness month outreach campaign over the next two years. HB 1011 allocates nearly $27 million to match money that local governments designate for forest management or wildfire mitigation efforts, and HB 1012 spends over $7 million on forest health and restoration.

Earlier this session, the legislature also passed HB 1007, which creates a grant program funding wildfire mitigation outreach; HB 1111, which increases insurance coverage of wildfire losses and SB 2, which spends $5 million on volunteer firefighting resources.

• Fiscal relief. Polis and his allies in the Legislature pursued several strategies to offer help to Coloradans who face spiking inflation and soaring energy prices, and on the last day of session, lawmakers approved a proposal that sends $400 or more in Taxpayer's Bill of Rights refund checks to residents. 

House members amended SB 22-233 to allow the state to refund up to 85% of the TABOR surplus, which could make the money higher if revenue forecasts hew to Democrats' expectations. However, if state revenues fall short of expectations, the refund checks would be lowered to avoid overpayment.

Killed bills

Not every proposal made it across the finish line this session. Here are some of them:

• Flavored tobacco ban. HB 1064, one of the most high-profile bills of the session, sought to curb youth tobacco and nicotine use by prohibiting the sale of flavored products, such as vapes, e-cigarettes, menthol cigarettes and chewing tobacco beginning in 2024. Lawmakers earlier amended the bill to exempt hookah products, premium cigars and pipe tobacco.

But it met an unceremonious end when the Senate Appropriations Committee voted, 5-2, to shut the bill down.

The vote came after Gov. Jared Polis said he opposed the bill, spurring concerns of a veto. Though Polis said the issue is better left to local governments, the ban would have slashed funding for his new universal preschool program funded by state tobacco and nicotine taxes.

• Phoning while driving. SBl 175 died despite winning bipartisan votes at nearly every stage of the legislative process. Under current law, adult drivers are allowed to use cellphones for calls but they cannot text or browse the internet. The bill would have prohibited all hand-held cellphone use. Drivers under 18 are already prohibited from all cellphone use, including hands-free.

• Recycling. Another bill that went down to the wire was HB 1355, a controversial attempt to boost the state's abysmal recycling rate. The measure would have set up multiple nonprofits with authority to levy "dues" primarily to retailers and beverage companies, but it exempted out a long list of materials and companies that use them that critics said made the bill unfair to those who are left.

• Worker transportation. As drafted, HB 1138 would have required businesses with more than 100 employees to provide alternative transportation options for employees, offer cash allowance instead of parking spaces, and also transportation fringe benefits. The bill would have also created an income tax credit to incentivize businesses of all sizes to provide alternative transportation options.

• Metro district reform. Senate lawmakers late in the session opted to indefinitely postpone HB 1363, a measure that at first prevented, then allowed, then again prevented metro district developers from owning their own public financing.

The bill began by attempting fix a number of perceived issues with metro district operations but scaled back to only the provision dealing with developer-purchased bonds. It left the House with a last-minute amendment added on the floor that allowed the practice, but failed to remove the provisions that prevented it. In the Senate committee, bill sponsors managed a vote to strip the House floor change before moving to a final vote to end its progress.

• Jury-selection bias. An attempt to combat implicit racial bias in jury selection failed to advance.

The measure from Sens. Pete Lee, D-Colorado Springs, and Julie Gonzales, D-Denver, would have altered the protocol for allowing attorneys to excuse, or strike, potential jurors in a criminal trial. Most controversially, SB 128 listed several reasons associated with race — but that are not explicitly racial — that would be presumably invalid justifications for striking a juror.

In the face of opposition from all 22 of the state's district attorneys, Lee and Gonzales opted against moving forward with their proposal, asking instead that the Colorado Supreme Court exercise its rulemaking power .

• Marijuana and employment. HB 1152, as originally written, would have allowed people to use marijuana outside of work and allowed card-carrying medical marijuana individuals to use the drug during work without negative professional consequences.

But lawmakers in the Colorado House Business Affairs and Labor Committee unanimously opted to completely rewrite the bill, replacing it with a proposed task force , before ultimately voting to kill it.

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