May Newsletter

With the 2017 Legislative Session behind us, I am looking forward to spending time in my district. Over the course of summer and fall, I will be scheduling events throughout House District 61 to meet with constituents and talk about this past session, the interim, and the 2018 Legislative Session, which will convene at the beginning of 2018.

From January 11th to May 10th, my colleagues and I worked very hard to find compromise on some very important issues. Below I have outlined some of the progress that we made this year and commented on some unfinished work that will need to be addressed in the coming session.

Hosting a town hall at the Wisehart Springs Inn in Paonia alongside my colleague Sen. Kerry Donovan

Talking with constituents in Basalt alongside Sen. Kerry            Donovan and Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush

Looking Back: The 2017 Legislative Session

Below are some of the successes we were able to achieve during the 2017 Legislative Session:

Education: 
  • Fully funded the K-12 education formula without having to increase the negative factor, as we had initially anticipated would be necessary 
  • Added an additional $242 in funding per student
  • Added an additional $30 million in funding for our rural school districts
  • Eliminated the cumbersome and un-popular PARCC assessments 
  • Increased funding to provide additional school health professionals 
  • Found compromise over funding for charter schools statewide
Additional Budget Successes: 
This year, we initially anticipated having to make significant cuts to important programs in order to balance the budget, as we are constitutionally required to do. Below are some of the major accomplishments that we were able to achieve in producing a bi-partisan, balanced budget for 2017-2018.
  • The General Assembly was able to come to a compromise that enterprises the complex Hospital Provider Fee, making it exempt from the TABOR revenue cap. The compromise prevented the state from having to cut our hospitals by hundreds of millions of dollars and will free up additional revenue in the coming years. 
  • We did not have to make reductions in the Senior Homestead Property Tax Exemption, a budget balancing measure originally proposed by the Governor’s budgeting office. 
  • Provided additional funding to the Department of Higher Education that will help prevent increased tuition fees for our students attending institutions of higher education in Colorado.

Disappointments: 
While there were many bright spots in the work that we accomplished during this latest session, there were still some important issues left unresolved, which could result in a special session at the request of the Governor.

  • Colorado Energy Office:  In the last days of session, a bill that would have reauthorized many of the core functions of the Colorado Energy Office was unable to pass through the Senate Committee on State, Veterans, & Military Affairs. This means that many of these functions will cease to exist on July 1st. 
  • Transportation Funding: One of the most important bills of the 2017 session was HB17-1242. It would have referred a measure to the voters to increase funding to transportation by almost $3.5 billion. Despite having bi-partisan support in both chambers, the bill was unable to pass through the Senate Finance Committee. 
  • Rural Broadband: Increasing funding for Rural Broadband was a priority going into the session in January. Unfortunately, despite having identified a funding mechanism for such a program, the version of a bill that would have implemented this program was unable to pass the House as amended on the final day, leaving the General Assembly just short of being able to accomplish this goal. 
  • Rural Health Insurance Costs: One of my top priorities for this year was addressing the high cost of health insurance in rural Colorado. Despite having bi-partisan support in both chambers, a package containing various bills designed to address this issue and provide assistance to rural Coloradans was defeated in the Senate

Rep. Hamner’s 2017 Legislation Report:

SB17-123: Seal of Biliteracy for High School Diplomas
Representatives Hamner and Wilson
Senators Priola and Zenzinger   

This bill authorizes a school district, BOCES, or institute charter high school to grant a diploma endorsement in biliteracy to a student who demonstrates proficiency in English and at least one foreign language. The bill establishes the requirements a graduating high school student must meet to obtain the biliteracy endorsement.
Signed into Law
 
HB17-1160: K-3 English Learner Reading Assessment Language
Representatives Hamner and Wilson
Senators Fields and Priola   

This bill authorizes a local education provider to determine the language in which a student who is an English language learner takes reading assessments in kindergarten through third grade, eliminating widespread double testing for English language learners in Colorado.
Sent to the Governor for Signature
 
HB17-1116: Continue Low-income Household Energy Assistance
Representatives Hamner and Exum
Senator Humenik

Current law provides that the department of human services low-income energy assistance fund, the energy outreach Colorado low-income energy assistance fund, and the Colorado energy office low-income energy assistance fund receive conditional funding from the severance tax operational fund through the state fiscal year commencing July 1, 2018. The bill removes the automatic repeal, which means that these funds will be eligible for this conditional funding indefinitely.
Sent to the Governor for Signature
 
HB17-1128: Salary Adjustment for Lake County Officials
Representative Hamner
Senator Donovan  

his bill, requested by Lake County addresses a technical correction in the salary categorization of locally elected officials in Lake County and will save taxpayer dollars.
Signed into Law
 
HB17-1235: Financial Relief Defray Individual Health Plan Cost
Representatives Hamner and Mitsch Bush
Senators Crowder and Coram

Creates a financial relief program to provide financial assistance to individuals who spend more than fifteen percent on health insurance premiums for individual health insurance purchased through the Colorado health benefit exchange.
Lost in the Senate State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee
 
HB17-1237: State Employee Group Benefit Plans for Local Government
Representative Hamner
Senators Coram and Crowder

Allows for local governments to provide health benefits to their employees through the group benefit plans offered to state employees. These benefits were established by the State Employees Group Benefits Act and is overseen by the state personnel director.
Lost in the Senate State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee
 
HB17-1258: Renaming Delta-Montrose Technical College
Representatives Hamner and Willet
Senators Donovan and Coram

This bill changed the name of Delta-Montrose Technical College to Technical College of the Rockies. The change better reflects the school’s broad service area and commitment to providing educational opportunities throughout the Western Slope region beyond Delta and Montrose.
Signed into Law
 
HB17-1287: Achieving a Vision for the Future of Education in Colorado
Representatives Hamner and Rankin
Senators Kerr and Priola

This bill creates a legislative steering committee tasked with leading the effort to establish a vision for the future of education in Colorado and developing a strategic plan to achieve that vision. This committee will work with an executive advisory board and a statewide advisory board consisting of stakeholders like teachers and parents to achieve this vision. 
Lost in the Senate State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee
 
SB17-254: The “Long Bill”
Representative Hamner
Senator Lambert

The “Long Bill” becomes the coming year’s annual budget. This year, despite significant obstacles, we were able to produce a bipartisan budget that avoided many of the deep cuts that we originally anticipated when the Governor presented his budget request in November. The Long Bill increases per pupil funding, keeps the negative factor flat, avoids cutting the Senior Property Tax Exemption, and modestly increased pay for our hard working state employees for the first time in two years.
Signed into Law 
 
SB17-126: Domestic Violence Review Board
Reps. Hamner and Willet
Senators Guzman and Gardner

This bill would create the Colorado Domestic Violence Fatality Review Board. Which would be tasked with examining data collected by review teams during the preceding year, identifying measures to help prevent domestic violence fatalities and near-death incidents, establishing uniform methods for collecting, analyzing, and storing data relating to domestic violence fatalities and near-death incidents, and making annual reports and policy recommendations concerning domestic violence to the General Assembly.
Sent to the Governor for Signature
 
SJM17-001: Memorialize Congress to Fund Wildfire Response
Representatives Hamner and Thurlow
Senators Merrifield and Jones

This joint memorial calls on Congress to fund catastrophic wildfire response costs outside of federal forest management agencies’ normal budgets in order to ensure that we fund wildfire mitigation and prevention adequately in Colorado.
Passed both the House and Senate
 
SJR17-022: Colorado Mountain College
Representatives Hamner and Rankin
Senator Donovan 

Recognizing Colorado Mountain College’s 50 years of service and education to the state of Colorado and recognizing the notable achievements and contributions of the College and its graduates.
Passed both the House and Senate

Upcoming Events

Meet and Greet with State and Local Elected Officials

Please join us at Double Shot Cyclery on June 11th in Gunnison for a meet and greet with some of your state and local elected officials. The event will be from 2:00pm to 3:00pm and is open to the public. Please contact our office at 970-315-2610 if you have any questions. 

Who:
State Representatives Millie Hamner and Barbara McLachlan
County Commissioners Jonathan Houck and John Messner

Where:
Double Shot Cyclery 
222 N Main St, Gunnison, CO 81230

When:
Sunday, June 11th from 2:00pm to 3:00pm 

For additional information about this event, contact us at phil.robinson.house@gmail.com or 970-315-2610

I hope you have a wonderful month!