Straight From the Senate - Dennis Hisey SD2

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Re: Straight From the Senate - Dennis Hisey SD2

Post by ParkBull » Mon May 18, 2020 6:57 am

May 17, 2020 Business
The Key To The Budget

It’s official we’re looking to cut 3.3 million dollars out of the budget. Pretty safe to say the pain will be spread throughout the budget. The Joint Budget Committee (JBC) is still at work taking a second and third look at every department and every program.

The JBC has a couple of lists going, first one is a definitely cut list and that is about $1.7 billion, roughly half of what we need. Second list is smaller but is filled with things that would get a “second look” if they didn’t come up with the right amount by the time they finished this pass through the budget.

No one’s said it out loud but I have to wonder if that “second look” list is setting there hoping the federal government will come through with another round of stimulus funding, this one aimed at bailing out the states. I have some reservations about that.

To start with the states are required to balance their budgets with real money, they can’t print money or increase their dept by billions or trillions of dollars. A budget that uses schemes putting future generations on the hook to pay current bills is not balanced.

Furthermore, it is not the Federal Governments job to bail out the states. The states are sovereign, they retain all powers except those specifically delegated to the Federal Government. Colorado’s budget authority has never been delegated to the federal government. However, one thing will be true if a bailout comes, “the borrower will the servant of the lender be”. If we want to be under the control of Washington D.C. all we have to do is become dependent on their handouts.

There will be many budget related debates but what I really hope for is some good open discussion about how to get businesses open and not just “essential businesses”. It’s main street America and the people that work in those businesses that are taking it on the chin right now.

Expect to hear a lot of rural legislators make the point one size does not fit all. There is more to this state than the metro area. Denver needs do what Denver needs to do but rural and even some not so rural areas need to be able to do what they need to do.

The best way to get a handle on that budget problem is to get commerce flowing again. COVID 19 is with us, it will be with us for some time, we can’t hunker down and wish it away. We need to chart a course within this current reality that protects our basic freedoms and rights. That is the debate we need to be having.

I welcome your thoughts and comments on the happenings at the Capital or back in the district. 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 25, 2020 6:56 am

May 23, 2020
Back In Session, Finally

I have high hopes for Part II of the Second Regular Session of the Seventy-second General Assembly. Word on the street is we’re going to wrap everything up in three weeks as opposed to the 58 days we have remaining of our 120 day constitutional limit. No reason why we shouldn’t be able to take care of what is important to the people of Colorado in three weeks.

What we won’t be debating - any bill that that carries a fiscal note – those will be killed in their next committee hearing or so the story goes. Will be curious to see how big of a priority a few bills like SB 163, the mandatory vaccination bill is to the majority party and see if they find the money to keep it alive.

So, here’s what should be on the calendar – noncontroversial bills that have made it through one chamber and are awaiting approval in the other chamber, sunset bills that authorize the rules under which agencies and government entities operate (like my Seed Potato bill last year) and any bill that saves the state money.

The big obvious bill of course is the budget, otherwise known as the long bill. But that’s a process that will require many separate bills to make the one big budget bill work. Some are good and necessary and some not so much.

That work is expected to take a week in the House and then a week in the Senate. We’ll take another full week because we strip all the House amendments off and add our own. It’s the way the process works, you can count on it every year just like spring follows winter. Then it goes back to the Joint Budget Committee which acts as the conference committee, which is why they are sometimes referred to as the “all powerful budget committee”.

Still a part of the budget, we need to see some bills getting the parts of Colorado open for business that can safely open for business. The way that stands right now that would be most of the state but especially rural Colorado.

Expect to see bills limiting liability for businesses in regards to COVID outbreaks - as long as the business is observing safety protocols. Might see some bills making permanent the loosening of regulations during the emergency declaration, those could apply to telemedicine, restaurant service, notary signatures or any number of subjects. I say that’s still part of the budget because the only way we’re going to fix the state’s budget woes is to get the Colorado economic machine running on all cylinders again and that means open businesses and employed people.

I welcome your thoughts and comments on the happenings at the Capital or back in the district. 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 01, 2020 7:43 am

May 31, 2020
Was A Strange Week At The Capital

Session got off to a good start after the Memorial Day weekend. The Senate spent Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday in committees or in session on the floor basically clearing the calendar to pave the way for all things budget and some prioritized bills. We killed by one means or another the majority of the bills that had been sitting there waiting for the General Assembly to reconvene. Lost some good ones but killed a bunch of bad ones. Would suspect every legislator feels the same, there could be some disagreement on which were good and which were bad.

Early Thursday evening the protests began and turned violent fairly quickly with gunshots at the capital and before the evening was out the glass in over a dozen windows and doors had been smashed and graffiti had defaced granite columns. A state patrol car and Senate President Leroy Garcia’s truck had their windows smashed and tires slashed. Pictures are available at https://coleg.box.com/s/po1mx6hgwb3mn9s ... b8rui9nwhf

A little after midnight we received a text informing us that due to the violence and more protests scheduled over the next several days that Friday and Saturday sessions and committee work had been canceled. Makes sense to me, it’s a lot easier for the state patrol to protect an empty large granite building than a large granite building with a 100 legislators and assorted staff inside.

Friday night did bring more vandalism, this time it appears to have been with a proliferation of graffiti on any flat surface, sidewalks, the base of monuments, light standards and even a corner of the capital building became the canvases of the spray paint crowd. Don’t know that those pictures are available on line. I have to show identification to purchase spray paint, beginning to wonder why.

It was back to work Monday morning, I suspect the 3 week time line we had at the beginning of last week may have to flex as the House is still working on the budget and likely won’t send it to the Senate until midweek at the earliest. With some diligence the Senate might could get it wrapped up by Saturday night but no promises, there’s still some serious budget discussions that need to be had in both the House and Senate, would hope we don’t rush it for expediency’s sake.

One thing we did pass on Wednesday was the ability of members to participate remotely if they didn’t feel safe at the Capital. Of course that discussion was all about the coronavirus, amazing how quickly things can change.

I welcome your thoughts and comments on the happenings at the Capital or back in the district. 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 08, 2020 8:07 am

June 7, 2020
Progress and Surprises

Budget approved by both chambers! It took a Saturday session but the budget is on its way back to the Joint Budget Committee to iron out the differences between the House and Senate versions. Hearings don’t take as long when there’s no money to argue over for pet projects. We did see several amendments trying to preserve various pots of money including the Senior and Disabled Veterans Homestead Act but amendments introduced by the minority party didn’t fare well, including that one.

One surprise this past week has been the number and scope of bills allowed to be introduced. The rule was any bill not related to the budget had to be “Fast, Free and Friendly”. Turns out there are some exceptions.

The mandatory vaccination bill, left from the pre-COVID portion of this session, was heard in committee Sunday afternoon following a protest on the steps of the Capital attended by several hundred people. That bill is not fast, free and especially not friendly – meaning non-controversial.

My bill SB20-220 to Freeze the Non-Metro Legislators Per-Diem was given late bill status. The law setting the per-diem for us rural legislators as a percentage of the federal rate was set to go up a few percent and that just didn’t seem right given we had held expenses as flat as possible everywhere else. Expect it to pass easily as Metro legislators vote to support a budget cut that doesn’t affect them.

Couple of bills limiting the liability of businesses and health providers should a customer or employee come down with the coronavirus were not allowed to go forward. However, one that is moving ahead presumes that if you are working from home and contract the coronavirus it is the employer’s fault - regardless of where you might have been exposed.

The big surprise bill is SB20-217 Enhance Law Enforcement Integrity. This arose from the tragic, needless and senseless death of George Floyd while being restrained by law enforcement. That never should have happened and I would hope and pray that we can put an end to that type of behavior now and forever. This bill has a wonderful title and make no mistake there are several points in this bill worth supporting.

However, at this time it is a prime example of 15 pages of rushed, poorly thought out legislation with multiple expensive unworkable provisions and unanticipated consequences. The sponsors of the bill admit it needs work but until Saturday afternoon they had been unable or unwilling to set aside the time needed to work with both parties on how it can be made palatable. I look forward to seeing what amendments will be brought forward – and passed - to make this something that truly deals with the problem, helps heal the community and can be an example for other states.

I welcome your thoughts and comments on the happenings at the Capital or back in the district. 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 22, 2020 8:09 am

June 21, 2020
Now It Is Up To The Voter

With the session over the decision-making shifts to the voters who will decide at the ballot box. The legislature referred three measures to ballot, two constitutional changes and one tax increase. None of which does the legislature have the authority to implement on its own.

Charitable Bingo and Raffles Amendment is the working title to an amendment that allows charitable organizations to obtain a charitable gaming license after three years as opposed to the current five-year rule and to hire a manager so long as they are paid no more than minimum wage. Yes, bingo is regulated in the Colorado Constitution.

Repeal Property Tax Assessment Rates Amendment, while the word Gallagher is not in the working title or the full ballot title you will hear this referred to as “Repeal of the Gallagher Amendment”.

The Gallagher amendment, passed in 1982, requires non-residential property, which includes not just business property but vacant and agriculture land, to pay 55% of total property taxes collected. This would repeal that provision and a companion bill passed by the legislature would freeze the property tax at its current rate. This rate could only be raised by a vote of the people, courtesy of the Tax Payer’s Bill of Rights.

Explaining the impacts is fairly complicated but in broad strokes the 1982 amendment had a cumulative negative impact on the funding for rural taxing districts with little commercial property. Fire districts, school districts, water districts, ambulance districts and even counties fall into that category. On the other hand, urban districts typically with more commercial property feel little impact and may even see increased revenue. As home values rise, homeowners can expect to see marginal increases in their annual tax bill. Pay attention to this one, government services including schools come with a cost and this is your chance to have a say in how those costs are paid.

Colorado Tobacco and E-Cigarette Tax Increase for Health and Education Program Measures, this working title is pretty self-explanatory. As a tax increase, the actual title on the ballot reflects the wording required in the Tax Payer’s Bill of Rights. This statute (not an amendment since it is not in the constitution) would add nicotine vaping products to the tobacco tax and increase the tax on tobacco products, raising an estimated 294 million dollars annually. Funding would be dedicated to health and education programs.

Rural schools would receive 90 million dollars over the first three years, the general education fund would receive much of the balance in the early years as an offset to the current COVID related revenue decline, a portion would go to funding voluntary pre-school programs as well as maintaining the funding for programs that currently receive money from tobacco taxes.

With parades and other events canceled we may not see each other this summer, but as always, I welcome your thoughts and comments on the happenings at the Capital or back in the district. 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 Jan 25, 2021 7:41 am

January 24, 2021
Department Hearings and Vaccine

Even with the legislators back in their districts we’re managing to get some items checked off the legislative agenda. Every session each department is required to report to the relevant committee on its activities during the past year. Accomplishments take center stage, changes in priorities or new direction and innovation are reported. Bumps in the road or missed goals are reported as well. While almost all of these departments fall under the governor’s authority these hearings give a department the chance to share their annual review and add a degree of accountability to the people that set their budgets so they’re willing to spend a little quality time with us.

Last week the House and Senate Energy Committee members met as the Joint Energy Committee. We spent a morning on a video conference call hearing from the Public Utilities Commission and the Energy Office. We also heard from the Office of the State Auditor on audits they performed that would be relevant to the Energy Committee. No decisions are made in these hearings and while the public is welcome, they do not testify.

Common theme of the briefings was the COVID shutdown affected business’s that both departments deal with leaving the department short on several projections and goals. Consensus was things will get back on track this next year. For the sake of the businesses their employees and the economy I hope they’re right.

COVID vaccine eligibility now includes seniors 70 and older, may go to 65 sometime soon. I’d like to see eligibility for educators, regardless of age, added to help school districts fully staff classrooms and get our students back in class.

Hearing from many seniors that are still unable to find the vaccine with some driving an hour or more when they do find vaccine available – and they’ll do it again in 3 weeks to get the second shot. The state is projecting it will be the end of February before 70% of Colorado’s seniors have been vaccinated. Availability is my goal. For a variety of reasons not everyone in any eligible group will choose the vaccine and that is certainly their choice to make.

It makes sense that there was more vaccine available the first few weeks of the rollout as the manufactures had been stockpiling inventory in anticipation of federal approval. Now we’re dependent on what can be manufactured and shipped each day. All I ask is that Colorado receive its fair share and that is then distributed equitably. Rural or urban red or blue every county’s citizens need to have equal access to the vaccine based on the number of eligible recipients. My requests for an explanation from the CDPHE as to why some counties seem to be short changed in their vaccine supply have not been answered but we’ll keep trying.

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 Feb 22, 2021 8:07 am

Straight From the Senate
February 21, 2021

Back At The Capital – Finally

The Legislature is back in session after a month break, made possible by legislative rules pertaining to a “declared health emergency” and a judge’s ruling. Given the good news of the downward trend statewide of COVID deaths, hospitalizations and new cases I expect to work straight through to the end of the session. Now the question is will we go until June 12th which takes us to the 120-day limit or can we meet the goal of Sine Die by Memorial Day?

Legislators hit the ground running with 200 plus bills introduced that first four days allowing the committees to get to work immediately. Remember, we typically see 500 to 700 bills every year.

Several bills look familiar as they were tabled after the COVID break last year including one of mine. I brought back the “Teachers should teach students not date them” bill that makes sexual contact between a teacher and 18-year-old students illegal. The bill does treat that action differently than sexual contact between a teacher and say a 15-year-old but still parents should have the expectation that their student doesn’t suddenly become “fair game” when they have their 18th birthday during their senior year of high school.

Another bill I am sponsoring that is back for the same reason is figuring out a way for foster children to learn to drive, liability has been the sticking point and this bill gets to the heart of that matter.

Proper drivers’ education would remove one of the social barriers foster kids face when talking to their friends and classmates as teenage conversations begin to revolve around learning to drive. Perhaps more important given that more than 23,000 kids age out of foster care every year on their 18th birthday and 20% of them become instantly homeless, it is important that we equip them with the ability to at least be able to get to and from a job. After all, they don’t have mom and dad’s basement to come back to when they hit a bump in the road and no drivers license is a pretty big bump.

There is an electricity provider study bill out there that really had my attention. I was looking to cosponsor it in hopes it would lead to competition that would bring rates down. This is a really complicated issue and the better I understood the bill the more it became apparent that while giving lip service to lower rates and being a feasibility study, it was really focused on implementation. It is critical we know all the impacts to customers including cost, reliability and dependability before we jump in lest we saddle ourselves with higher rates for business and low-income consumers like they did in California – the only other state with regulated utilities comparable to Colorado that has implemented a similar program.

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 Mar 01, 2021 7:19 am

Straight From the Senate

Feb 28, 2021

Picking Up Steam

This doesn’t feel like the second week of the session, or even the third if you count those 3 days in January. More bills have been introduced in a shorter time than would happen in a typical year. Committees are hearing those bills and some have already passed third reading and are headed to the House. That doesn’t mean more bills will be introduced, we will probably be on par with the last two sessions that were a little lower than average. However, five to six hundred bills as opposed to six to seven hundred still leaves plenty of room for mischief.

Supplemental spending was on the calendar this past week. Eight months into the fiscal year the money picture has become fairly clear and any additional monies can’t be spent without legislative approval. A few of the supplementals stood out.

Wildfire preparedness and suppression accounted for three of the bills, I was happy to cosponsor all three. Two of the bills dealt with aerial assets, a plane we already own and two helicopters, one purchased and one leased. The other was nine million dollars to serve as local match for federal funds. This will be available as match money to counties, cities and special districts for suppression and mitigation.

Schools were the big winners in the supplemental process this year. The state funds public schools on a per student formula to help balance opportunities for students regardless of the wealth of the district. This year 30,000 fewer students attend public schools. There was discussion about where those kids might be, online, private schools, home schooled, not attending or even if previous years numbers were accurate. Bottom line, no school will receive less than 98% of the previous years budget. No one was proposing slashing school funding in this particularly tough year but it did spark debate about the inequities of the current school formulas and calls for reform that would include a more accurate counting method and money following the student. Money above the normal student count formula will reduce the amount owed on the roughly one billion Budget Stabilization Factor shortfall.

A hearty no vote from me was the supplemental taking money from the marijuana cash fund that voters expected to go to schools and create a program to support minority entrepreneurs in setting up marijuana shops. We heard about how the industry is dominated by young white males and how the sponsors want that to change. Also in the bill is an interesting attempt to make it possible for people with marijuana convictions in the family to be eligible for the funds. There is language that would allow me as a nonminority to qualify if say a sister or brother, both of which live 1300 miles away, had a marijuana conviction.

More bills up quicker, some to support, some to try and kill.

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 Mar 08, 2021 7:16 am

March 7, 2021

Stimulus Funds Headed Our Way

Looks like Congress will be sending another round of federal stimulus funds to our personal checking accounts and truckloads of cash will be delivered to every state.

However, before we talk about spending billions that have not arrived let’s look at the hundreds of millions that are in our coffers. This is money that came from people that work, shop, visit or own property in Colorado.

Total collections for the 2020-21 fiscal year are about $700 million over projections. Some of that was spent during supplementals a couple of weeks ago. You read about that right here. However, we still have the bulk of that money available. The discussion of “restoring” those funds that were swept and budgets that were cut last year seems to be off the table.

I don’t care for the word restore because I’ve been down this path before and if you require departments to justify why they need more money you have a real opportunity to streamline and make government more efficient. As for the “swept funds”, the ones paid by consumers like the waste tire fee you pay when you buy new tires, those need to be replaced as an honesty issue so we can look our constituents in the eye and say the money went to where you were told it would go.

Whether those proposals get serious consideration or just protest statements from a few of us there will still be significant money left to divvy up. Given that Colorado’s economy fell from 8th best in the nation to 47th the past 12 months, jobs that allow families to get their personal finances back in order has to be a high priority.

Students are another top line priority, sounds like most schools will be back in session later this month and at this moment over 75% of the educators have had at least their first COVID shot. The real challenge will be finding the right assessment tools to determine where students are not at grade level and come up with a plan for each student so they are ready for the next grade in the fall. All options have to be available, summer school, tutoring, whatever the students need would be a good investment.

And of course, highways and transportation have to be a significant part of any available stimulus funding. That puts people to work immediately in good paying jobs and deal with roads that when compared to surrounding states are quite frankly embarrassing.

Guess we’ll have to get back to the $5 plus billion that looks to headed our way from the feds. Some of that is earmarked and will be a direct pass through but still looks to be $4 billion or so that the Governor and the Legislature will wrangle over to see who gets to allocate what share.

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 Mar 22, 2021 11:31 am

March 21, 2021

Straight From the Senate
Illegals and Foreign Money

Many thanks to everyone that attended the BBQ in Calhan where we fed over 300 and raised a few thousand dollars for the homeless. Hope you were able to make it to one of the dozens of other free BBQs throughout the state. Lots of good discussions and much of it centered around some of the outlandish bills being put forward by urban legislators regulating farming and ranching in Colorado.

This week we are hearing SB21-077 which eliminates the requirement that a person be a legal resident to receive or renew their professional license or certificate. This applies to teachers, doctors, attorneys and a host of other professions that require some degree of licensure or certification attesting to the competency of that person to perform those duties.

I’ll agree that being in the United States illegally is not a reflection on a person’s qualifications to competently practice their profession but illegal status should mean something. Driving without a license or operating a semitruck without the proper endorsements means something and has consequences. Game Wardens are empowered to ask and you are required to show your hunting license and a game tag specific to the season and type of animal you are hunting. But now agencies and the department of regulatory agencies would not be allowed to ask if an applicant is in the U.S. legally.

Another interesting thing about the bill is people that have shown no interest in state’s rights have suddenly become 10th Amendment supporters. The bill affirmatively states that the bill is a state law within the meaning of the federal law that gives states authority to provide for eligibility for state and local public benefits to persons who are unlawfully residing in the United States.

Also, under discussion this week is yet another bill regarding campaign finance. This one I believe will have broad support for the concept of keeping foreign money out of campaigns. Even if those funds have been funneled through a legitimate channel such as non-profits. The bill gets a little clunky and burdensome in the implementation so I am hoping for an amendment or two that may streamline the process. With donations limited to $400 for state legislative races its not like we’re going catch foreign nationals trying to buy votes with $10,000 contributions.

With more bills being heard in committee each day we are spending more time on the floor debating bills and leadership has noted that we should be expecting longer days in the weeks ahead. Sounds good to me, we’re up there, we might as well be putting in some additional hours and perhaps get this session wrapped up early.

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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