Straight From the Senate - Dennis Hisey SD2

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Re: Straight From the Senate - Dennis Hisey SD2

Post by ParkBull » Sun Mar 28, 2021 8:43 pm

March 28, 2021

Straight From The Senate
Jail Population Reduction Bill

A jail (not prison) population reduction bill (SB21-062) made it through committee that will be on the floor soon. District Attorneys weighed in on both sides. No surprise there since we have DAs elected in conservative and liberal judicial districts. Some law enforcement organizations took a neutral position – which generally means they got some concession that made it less bad, others are in a monitor stance, meaning from their perspective the bill is setting on a balance point and any amendment could push the bill one way or the other.

In some respects, the bill tries to codify one of the Governor’s executive orders to reduce jail population. Short explanation, with some exceptions, you won’t be arrested for misdemeanors and low-level felonies. The accused would not post a monetary bond since under this bill a Personal Recognizance bond is the default method of bringing people into court on their hearing date. This bill does deal with one unintended consequence in the executive order regarding missing a hearing. Under this bill if a defendant fails to appear three or more times an arrest warrant will be issued.

I’ve heard from law enforcement and DAs in the senate district that many of these crimes currently do not result in jail time due to the level of the crime and the willingness of the judge to accept a bail bond. However, to mandate this in all circumstances outside of those mentioned exceptions is a step too far. Real life example under the current executive order – a vehicle was stolen; the owner knew who stole the vehicle and helped recover it a few days later. Late that same afternoon the victim and the thief saw each other shopping in the same Walmart. As you might imagine the Sheriff received a call from very upset victim.

I’ll listen to the testimony but at the moment I leaning towards not supporting. Much in the same vein that I have issues with mandatory sentencing I have trouble with mandatory releases for such a broad range of crimes. Law enforcement and Judges are highly trained professionals, let them do their jobs.

I welcome your thoughts and comments on the happenings here at the Capital. Lots of ways to stay in touch; Office phone: 303-866-4877, Mobile phone: 719-351-2121, Email: SenatorHisey@gmail.com, Twitter: @SenDennisHisey, Facebook: Senator Dennis Hisey

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Re: Straight From the Senate - Dennis Hisey SD2

Post by ParkBull » Mon Apr 12, 2021 7:06 am

April 11, 2021
Straight From the Senate

Budget Week or How to Spend $34.1 Billion

Remember that this time last year we were all watching the COVID graph climb higher each day and listening to experts take their best guess as to what the future held. So last year when we went back into session to pass a budget, the prediction was that the 2021/22 budget would be just as dismal as the current year. That would have been an accurate projection if you left out the word “dismal”.

Thanks in part to the federal stimulus packages that paid generous unemployment benefits, it turns out state revenue collections were up significantly this year. The expectation is 2021/22 will continue on that path. While unemployment benefits are ending for many people we expect some return of service level jobs due to the pent-up demand for tourism and eating out as people shake off cabin fever produced by the COVID restrictions.

That leads to the record setting 34.1-million-dollar budget passed by the Senate this past week. The budget now moves to the House for their amendments and then back to the Joint Budget Committee for reconciliation. To clarify, the legislature only has control of a little over a third of that. The balance is on auto pilot, basically pass through dollars from the federal government, various cash funds, and funds that have been appropriated by the voters at the ballot box.

As always lots of amendments were offered, some bipartisan, a few were approved but most were not. I offered several amendments moving money to transportation projects in the district that had been identified by CDOT in their 10-year plan. Senate District 2 is the only district that has I-70, I-25 and Hwy 50 so there were plenty of projects to pick from. Unfortunately, transportation was obviously not a priority for the majority party as my amendments were all voted down on party line votes.

As much as transportation was the big loser schools were a big winner. Not so much the students where we were trying to put additional dollars in summer programs to help compensate for what they missed this past year. Electric charging stations may be popping up throughout the state thanks to a 40-million-dollar line item in the budget. Maybe someday we will be glad we did that but you can buy a lot of asphalt with that money and asphalt will never be cheaper than it is today.

Another big winner was the reserve account, we’ve never had so much money in reserves. Some of that money could and should have been spent on roads and bridges but since that wasn’t the priority this year, I’m glad it is in reserves. At least we’ll have another shot at spending it on what Coloradans have said is important to them and not on legislative pet projects.

I welcome your thoughts and comments on the happenings here at the Capital. Lots of ways to stay in touch; Office phone: 303-866-4877, Mobile phone: 719-351-2121, Email: SenatorHisey@gmail.com, Twitter: @SenDennisHisey, Facebook: Senator Dennis Hisey

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Re: Straight From the Senate - Dennis Hisey SD2

Post by ParkBull » Mon Apr 19, 2021 7:30 am

April 18, 2021
Straight From the Senate

Updates At The Halfway Mark

Good news, SB-182, the bill that would not allow law enforcement on school grounds except for the most serious crimes died in committee. The sponsors realized there was more wrong with this bill than they could fix with a few amendments so the bill has been “postponed indefinitely”. We could still see a modified version yet this session as one of the bills they push through in the final days of the session but I suspect that will wait until next year.

Had an interesting bill that I supported this past week and found myself in pretty lonely territory on the Republican side of the aisle. HB21-1048 will require that retail establishments in Colorado are to accept United States currency for purchases. The genesis of the bill is to ensure people that do not have access to credit or debit cards should be able to use U.S. bills and coins to purchase goods.

Someone without a banking relationship may have made that choice based on lack of trust or the value they put on their privacy. Some people just prefer using cash but often it is people on the lower income scale with perhaps irregular work that find themselves without plastic cards.

The Republicans made the case that store owners should have the right to accept or not accept any form of payment they wish, after all the customer always has the option to shop elsewhere. True statement but in both very rural settings and lower income portions of cities those getting to those other options can be very inconvenient.

However, neither of those arguments swayed me, the only thing that decided my vote is what is printed on every greenback regardless of the denomination. “THIS NOTE IS LEGAL TENDER FOR ALL DEBTS, PUBLIC AND PRIVATE”. That harks back to the sovereignty of the United States and the decision on our national currency was made long before my time and well above my pay grade.

Numerically we hit the 60 day mark last week and the constitution requires no more than a 120 days in a session. This year being unique as was last year with what we refer to as COVID breaks it has not been 120 consecutive days. The current expectation is we recess around the end of May. That would give us 10 to 14 days to come back and make spending decisions when we know how and when the $4 billion that is expected in Federal Stimulus dollars will arrive. The procedure to call us back to complete a regular session is much simpler than calling us all back for a special session and can be handled independent of the Governor’s Office.

I welcome your thoughts and comments on the happenings here at the Capital. Lots of ways to stay in touch; Office phone: 303-866-4877, Mobile phone: 719-351-2121, Email: SenatorHisey@gmail.com, Twitter: @SenDennisHisey, Facebook: Senator Dennis Hisey

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Re: Straight From the Senate - Dennis Hisey SD2

Post by ParkBull » Sun Apr 25, 2021 9:21 pm

April 25, 2021

Mental Health Bills

You may have seen or heard the Governor signed two mental health bills this past week. Mental health bills are nothing new, we’ve seen them every year in my tenure in the Senate. Given the of the breadth of the problem there will be even more this year.

There are no shortages of examples of mental health issues. Earlier this session I was in a meeting when one of the legislators received a text that a seventh grader in one of his rural schools had committed suicide. We have the shooter at the Boulder King Soopers, a prime example of a young man in his 20s that had severe mental issues. We have business owners and workers who lost their means of making a living due to the pandemic. They find themselves losing everything and unable to care for their families. Those issues bring tremendous stress and prey on the mental health of everyone involved.

“To the bill”, as we say on the Senate floor. If you are a limited government person, creating a new state agency to deal with mental health may make you cringe. However, I heard in a subcommittee hearing on youth mental health that there are 114 mental health programs buried in state agencies. That means there are 113 wrong doors that could be opened when someone is looking for help.

It will take few years to get something with that many tentacles corralled and functioning but the goal is “no wrong door” when it comes to mental health. The last thing someone in crisis needs to hear is “sorry we don’t deal with that here, call someone else”. I overcame my aversion to another state agency and supported this bill. If we can actually bring all of those programs under one umbrella, not only will we be providing support for people in crisis but we should be able to do it much more efficiently and effectively than having 114 programs operating in their own silo with their own phone number and staff.

The other bill is aimed at suicides and delivering meaningful help to families and individuals before another attempt is made. Often loved ones have no idea of where to turn when someone in the family has attempted suicide. This bill will serve as a guide to those resources.

Kudos to the many, many people who worked behind the scenes and sat on numerous committees and task force meetings to distill thousands of hours of work to get these two bills ready to be introduced and passed. These bills are not silver bullets that will solve every mental health issue but we expect them to bring meaningful resources to the people that need them.
I welcome your thoughts and comments on the happenings here at the Capital. Lots of ways to stay in touch; Office phone: 303-866-4877, Mobile phone: 719-351-2121, Email

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Re: Straight From the Senate - Dennis Hisey SD2

Post by ParkBull » Mon May 03, 2021 7:39 am

May 2, 2021

Straight From the Senate
Budget Reconciliation & New Bills

The Budget came back from conference committee this past week and as always many of the amendments placed on the budget during hearings in the Senate and House had been stripped out. None of mine because all of my amendments added money to fix roads and those didn’t even make it to the conference committee. But what did come out that I particularly cared about was the money to fund body cameras for state patrol.

You may recall a bill that passed late last year requiring body cameras for law enforcement officers at all levels – but it excluded State Patrol because the state “couldn’t afford it”. I pointed out the hypocrisy of that position to no avail. This session a bill passed that required body cameras for State Patrol, but no appropriation was included in the bill. A budget amendment to partially fund the body cameras was passed but then only a token was left after conference committee.

This was very much a political decision to defund law enforcement. The funding of the State Patrol is the responsibility of the General Assembly, we required them to use body cameras, as we should have last year when we required it of all other law enforcement. But then we refused to cover any more than a token of what is estimated to be up to a $10 million mandate. All of this at a time when the state has record reserves. That was the tipping point for me, I voted no on the conference committee report and changed my earlier position of support to oppose on the final 21/22 budget.

Interesting article by Marianne Goodland in the May 2 Gazette titled “Quadratic voting, or how General Assembly Dems decide what to fund”. Interesting voting method being used by the Democrats to determine budget priorities. However, the salient point is only the Democrats are allowed to vote. The majority party is not interested the input of the minority party which in the most recent election, using the Senate race as the data point, represents over two and half million Coloradans.

New bills beginning their journey though the system as we approach the final third of the session include the long-promised transportation bill with its increased fees on gas and diesel. A new gun bill that would reverse the current law of preemption that says gun control is of statewide interest. Also, a strike below (completely new language under the old title and bill number) for Public Option or State-Run Health Insurance. Those all promise to have lots of testimony in committee and debate on the floor.

One thing about it, it won’t be boring as the pace picks up and we see more of these last-minute bills that have been talked about behind closed doors come to light.

I welcome your thoughts and comments on the happenings here at the Capital. Lots of ways to stay in touch; Office phone: 303-866-4877, Mobile phone: 719-351-2121, Email: SenatorHisey@gmail.com, Twitter: @SenDennisHisey, Facebook: Senator Dennis Hisey

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Re: Straight From the Senate - Dennis Hisey SD2

Post by ParkBull » Mon May 10, 2021 8:18 am

May 9, 2021

Drug Affordability Review Board

The Senate had a long debate last Thursday and Friday on SB-175, the Prescription Drug Affordability Review Board bill. No doubt the sponsors hearts are in the right place, but…

In a nutshell the bill creates a board of appointed officials with no accountability to the citizens to review prescription drug prices and cap those prices that they believe are too high. This board’s decision carries the weight of law, each violation results in a $1000.00 fine.

Despite the best of intentions this bill has the potential to make critical drugs completely unavailable to the Coloradans at any price. There is much more to the retail price of drugs than the cost of the ingredients and the bowl to mix them. Drug companies hire some of the best and brightest to do research and development, spending 10s of millions of dollars to bring a promising drug to the market. It takes years of testing and reviewing real world trials to obtain Federal Drug Administration approval. A portion of all of those up-front costs has to be included in every dose sold. (If you are thinking of the speed that the COVID vaccines reached the market just know COVID was deemed enough of a threat that it was fast tracked or given a short cut.)

Bottom line, if a pharmaceutical company cannot make a profit, they won’t be in business to bring forward the next innovation or cure the next disease or continue research on the hundreds of diseases that have defied a cure for generations. And don’t think that just because Colorado, with its 1.67% of the national market, engages in price fixing that pharma will immediately fall into line encouraging the other 98. 33% of the market to do the same thing.

There is one notable exception to the price ceiling on drugs and that would be the Department of Corrections. Thanks to a lawsuit and a judicial decision if a drug is available, regardless of the cost, to treat inmates the Dept. of Corrections must (and should) make that treatment available to the inmate.

Affordability is in the title so who saves money? It won’t be anyone with insurance that relies on a copay. If you have a set copay for generic drugs, a larger copay for brand name and a deductible that must be satisfied for other medical care you’re in that group. Your insurance company may see a saving and perhaps pass some of that on to you. If your policy is one of the rare coinsurance policies, this would be one where you pay a percentage of every service and not a set copay, you might actually see a decrease in your health care costs, assuming the drug is available in Colorado.

I welcome your thoughts and comments on the happenings here at the Capital. Lots of ways to stay in touch; Office phone: 303-866-4877, Mobile phone: 719-351-2121, Email: SenatorHisey@gmail.com, Twitter: @SenDennisHisey, Facebook: Senator Dennis Hisey

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Re: Straight From the Senate - Dennis Hisey SD2

Post by ParkBull » Mon May 17, 2021 7:18 am

May 16, 2021

Transportation or Fee Bill – Your Choice

SB21-260, the much-hyped Transportation bill, finally saw the light of day. I’ve maintained all along this was a fee bill and not a transportation bill and apparently the Senate President agreed since he assigned it to the Finance Committee and not the Transportation Committee. I’m on both so it didn’t much matter to me.

Let’s start by giving the sponsors credit for being willing to tackle the very real problem with our roads, bridges and now tunnels are specifically referenced making them eligible for money from the separate bridge fund.

Four new enterprises were created with this bill, that was necessary to keep the “fees” below the $100,000 annual limit contained in Prop. 117 that was passed by the voters last November. Looks like a pretty obvious end run around the wishes of the voters but like I reported earlier this year, smart minds were working on keeping this from going to ballot box. It appears the smallest of those funds is actually the one that funds roads.

The bill includes tough new land use considerations, environmental regulations and studies combined with $740 million for electric vehicle infrastructure – translated, charging stations. This along with several other provisions gave this bill the additional title of “Global Climate Justice Bill”. The additional regulations will add significant time and expense to every road expansion and bridge project.

To the fee portion; over the next 4 years gasoline and diesel will see a new “fee” of 8 cents added to each gallon. Commercial delivery companies like FedEx, Amazon, Uber and grocery delivery will have a 22 cent per mile charge added to each trip. There’s much more in the 197 page bill but you get the picture.

So, what should we have done? Right now we could have used about $1 billion, with a “B”, of the almost $4 billion in federal stimulus headed our way. This would have made a significant difference in the condition of our roads. Looking for ongoing funding we learn from the past.

Several years back there was statute that required a fixed percentage of the general fund budget go to roads and bridges every year. Then the recession of 2008/2009 hit. Sure enough, another law was passed that said you didn’t have to fund transportation at a fixed level. So, for more than a decade transportation has been getting crumbs from the general fund with the exception of 2019 when it received $300 million. We have got to get back to putting that kind of money into roads and bridges every single year and make sure it goes to roads, bridges – and tunnels. Transportation has included transit for years but it also now includes bike paths, charging stations and many nice to haves while our roads continue to deteriorate. We have to fund roads first, not last.
I welcome your thoughts and comments on the happenings here at the Capital. Lots of ways to stay in touch; Office phone: 303-866-4877, Mobile phone: 719-351-2121, Email: SenatorHisey@gmail.com, Twitter: @SenDennisHisey, Facebook: Senator Dennis Hisey

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Re: Straight From the Senate - Dennis Hisey SD2

Post by ParkBull » Mon May 24, 2021 5:25 pm

May 23, 2021

Crunch Time

Heard the House worked Saturday and Sunday last weekend, phrase it that way because the Senate adjourned at a somewhat normal time on Friday after debating several bills and sending 18 off to the Governor’s desk. There were even some I supported. Have to believe the House working through the weekend is an indication of some long days in the Senate this next week as their bills hit our calendar Monday and Tuesday.

This late in the session – possibly two weeks left – many bills have or are only a short step or two away from having worked their way through both chambers. However, this past week still saw a few new bills being introduced along with many that have not yet made it to the second chamber. Some of our bigger bills like Public Health and Mandating Environmental Change have yet to be heard in the second chamber. Those along with a couple of gun bills are the type that can and likely will take hours.

Shifting to energy and specifically electricity, we are in the midst of an energy evolution and I want to make that happen with us and not to us. After voting “no” in committee on a bill allowing an increase in the size of residential solar installations I changed to a support position after several amendments were added on the floor. It’s complicated, but it’s easy to make the case that utility customers that do not have solar panels are subsidizing those that do because the utility is still required to provide all of the infrastructure needed to service those homes with electricity when the sun goes down. However, the cost of generation, transmission, maintenance, billing, etc. is all the same only without the predictable revenue from the sale of electricity.

In the end there were several reasons to support the bill. Consumer control over their energy consumption should always be supported. Electricity generated close to the consumer will require fewer transmission lines which is beneficial on many fronts. If you own more than one home on the grid and one property is more suitable for solar panels than the other you can size the system to take care of both homes – but you do have to pay the utility a fee to move that electricity. This was one of the added amendments.

An ever-present question of mine both in committee and on the floor for the sponsors of the many energy bills this session has been who is looking out for the consumer. Legislators that are known for wanting to provide more and more government services to their less affluent constituents have been more than willing to force higher energy costs on them through increased regulation. I will continue to ask “What is this going to cost the customer?”.

I welcome your thoughts and comments on the happenings here at the Capital. Lots of ways to stay in touch; Office phone: 303-866-4877, Mobile phone: 719-351-2121, Email: SenatorHisey@gmail.com, Twitter: @SenDennisHisey, Facebook: Senator Dennis Hisey

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Re: Straight From the Senate - Dennis Hisey SD2

Post by ParkBull » Mon Jun 07, 2021 7:23 am

June 6, 2021

Tax Relief or Sleight Of Hand

SB21-293 CONCERNING PROPERTY TAXATION and another 100 words or so make up the title to a recently introduced bill that would temporarily lower the mill levy and create more classifications of real property (real estate, homes, businesses, agriculture et cetera).

If passed and signed into law it would be a two-year reduction lowering the mill levy on everything except Lodging and Commercial. It also has a deferral mechanism where if home values rise above 4% per year the excess increase could be deferred and secured with a lien placed on the house not to exceed $10,000. That would give some relief to homeowners when the housing market is super-heated like we’ve seen the past few years.

Sounds great, looks like taxpayers would be keeping 159 million dollars more the next two years. However, as Paul Harvey would say “Now the rest of the story”.

We have been told that we may hit the TABOR cap this next year, the following year for sure, so it’s likely we would be in a refund position so the 159 million may not have been money we could spend anyway but that really is just a side note. It appears that what prompted this late bill was Initiative 127, a bill title that could save taxpayers 1.03 billion dollars (with a “B”) every single year. Granted, the title board has just approved Initiative 127 so there is still the matter of collecting 125,000 signatures and obtaining voter approval but there does seem to be some muscle behind 127.

With Initiative 127 all mill levies would be reduced and the citizens of Colorado would keep over 1 billion dollars that first year and each year thereafter.

So, what does it look like if the legislature passes 293 and the citizens approve 127? With seven property classifications as opposed to the current three and ironing out the other differences the one billion dollars a year that 127 would save taxpayers becomes something just over 100 million dollars each of the two-years of 293 ensuring that the state collects that 900 million each of those two years. And then it remains to be seen if the legislature decides to extend 293 when it expires at the end of the 2024-25 budget year.

Bottom line, if both SB-293 and Initiative 127 become law the taxpayers will pay 900 million dollars more in taxes each of the next two years. So when someone asks me why I voted against a temporary tax cut (SB-293) I’ll have to explain that it just looked like an end run around the voice of the people before they could vote on 127 and should 127 fail we can always take another run at 293 next year.

I welcome your thoughts and comments on the happenings here at the Capital. Lots of ways to stay in touch; Office phone: 303-866-4877, Mobile phone: 719-351-2121, Email: SenatorHisey@gmail.com, Twitter: @SenDennisHisey, Facebook: Senator Dennis Hisey

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Re: Straight From the Senate - Dennis Hisey SD2

Post by ParkBull » Mon Jun 14, 2021 7:42 am

June 13, 2021

Session Wrap Up

It was an honor representing Senate Dist. 2 at the capitol again this past session. Many bills were passed unanimously, many more in a true bipartisan manner, and unfortunately too many chiefly with one party support. Here’s a quick look back at some of the stand out issues.

Money - we’ve never had so much of it. The fiscal year 21-22 budget tops out at 34.1 billion dollars. That doesn’t include the billions of federal stimulus money. Stimulus spending might feel a little better if it wasn’t borrowed from future generations.

Of the 34.1 billion about 14 billion sits in the general fund which the legislature controls, that’s a sizable amount but we seem to have a little trouble prioritizing. I’ll repeat my now familiar refrain that roads and bridges didn’t receive anywhere near enough funding.

Speaking of transportation, SB-260 raising 5.3 billion dollars in fees was passed. You may recall this bill places fees on just about any activity that involves tires and a steering wheel - some of it actually will go to roads and bridges. As was the case with this bill, pushing the implementation date out on bills that will hit your pocket book became a popular amendment as the reality of next year’s election hit home.

Criminal justice reform bills abounded, most passed and a couple were actually killed. I truly believe we need criminal justice reform but it has to be done correctly. While I supported a few of these bills most seemed to forget that for every criminal there are victims and criminals’ rights should not trump victims’ rights.

Environmental justice was a popular theme this session, to the point that bills were beginning to look redundant. Some were short, a couple of pages, some more than 100 pages but all seemed to have two main components. One stated, one not. The stated component is minority groups are disproportionately impacted by environmental contamination. The unstated component is everyone in the state will pay more for utilities.

To the stated component. It’s a fact, the areas surrounding industrial sites that have air, water or soil contamination have a high minority population. For the purposes of these bills it didn’t matter why they may live there and we agree that all people deserve to have a comparably healthy environment regardless of where they live. An unfortunate part of the most comprehensive of these bills is eligible minorities are listed, if your ethnicity is not on the list this bill does nothing to help your situation. It perplexes me as to why an amendment extending that protection to everyone was rejected by the sponsors.

To the unstated component. Each of these bills is adding a regulatory cost that every Colorado consumer will pay for their energy. If there is a cost to the state we see a fiscal note, if the cost is to the citizens there is no corresponding fiscal note.

It was good to be part of the process. Once again some of the biggest wins were making bad bills better and some of the most important votes were “no” votes.

I welcome your thoughts and comments on the happenings here at the Capital. Lots of ways to stay in touch; Office phone: 303-866-4877, Mobile phone: 719-351-2121, Email: SenatorHisey@gmail.com, Twitter: @SenDennisHisey, Facebook: Senator Dennis Hisey

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