Straight From the Senate - Dennis Hisey SD2

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ParkBull
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Re: Straight From the Senate - Dennis Hisey SD2

Post by ParkBull » Mon Jan 27, 2020 9:37 am

January 26, 2020
Transportation Funding

It seems that everyone in Colorado agrees we need to do more to improve the condition and capacity of our roads. After that the unity begins to crack as people talk about funding and priorities.
The Republicans in the Senate are calling for the same additional $300 million in General Fund that we saw in last year’s budget. The Governor asked for $55 million in his budget proposal and the Democrats are not talking about a number.
Every year the Joint Budget Committee (JBC) starts with the entire state budget from last year and then decides how much to add to each program – a necessary but complicated and time-consuming process. During the Joint House & Senate Transportation Committee meeting with the JBC on Opening Day I inquired as to why the transportation budget is treated differently since it basically gets zeroed out each year and any money it receives from the General Fund is considered one-time funding.
It’s one of those questions where you know the answer but it needs to be asked anyway. Short answer is transportation has other sources of funding that are supposed to be free of political influence allowing it to not have to compete against education, public safety and the rest of where we spend your $33 billion.
Here in broad strokes is where last year’s transportation budget of $1.99 billion, with a B, came from. General Fund $550.5 million – that includes the $300 million that was added late in the session. Highway Users Tax Fund $602.2 million, Federal Programs $640.7 million, Bridge Enterprise Fund $120.9 million and $75.7 in Other Revenue.
Just to further complicate the issue, when bonds or COPs are issued such as with SB17-267, which is worth $2 billion over four years, the funds to make those payments move from the General Fund to a dedicated fund, that total was $81 million for this budget year.
In the last two decades we have seen General Fund revenue to CDOT move from virtually nothing in 8 of those years to several good years including last year as the high-water mark.
It’s time we put a stake in the ground, picked a number and said this is going to be the base line. When that happens transportation will be like any other program, like any other line item in the budget. This is the base and we look at how much we add when the JBC convenes every November.
While probably still not enough, last year’s number is not politically feasible but I’m willing to listen to suggestion. If we start at the Governor’s $55 million and add for inflation as well as additional revenue in the good economic years such as we are experiencing now, at the end of the next 2 decades we could be talking about real money. Just saying.

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Re: Straight From the Senate - Dennis Hisey SD2

Post by ParkBull » Tue Feb 04, 2020 10:08 am

February 2, 2020
Repeal of the Death Penalty Debate

No doubt you already know the Repeal of the Death Penalty bill passed the Senate and has moved on to the House. While not typically a topic for polite conversation it gets no more comfortable when you spend hours in debate of the subject.

Let me use a fairly broad brush to frame the debate on SB20-100, the Repeal of the Death Penalty. The bill would eliminate the death penalty effective July 1. However, it would not commute the sentences of the three men currently sitting on death row. Colorado has executed only one condemned prisoner in the past 50 years, so those three may effectively be serving life sentences depending on the will of future governors.

Six hours of testimony in the committee hearing where the public has their chance to weigh in was not anywhere near a marathon session but it did elicit more public testimony than all but a handful of the bills we took up last year. The Second Reading of this bill in the Senate ran about five hours with intense, passionate, respectful and emotional testimony and an unusual two more hours of testimony on Third Reading the next day.

In support of the bill, the injustice of the State taking a life and the possibility of something going wrong in the execution itself causing cruel and unusual punishment were cited. Personal moral codes, the possibility of an innocent person being convicted and the much higher cost of a death penalty trial were all given as reasons to support the bill.

On the other side, the very narrow and heinous circumstances in which the death penalty could be sought. Furthermore, only if the District Attorney was in agreement and the jury came back with a unanimous guilty verdict could a verdict of the death penalty be invoked. Benefits to public safety and law enforcement were given, as well as fairness and justice for the victims.

Amendments were offered, debated and largely defeated. People on both sides of the bill cited their Christian faith and quoted portions of the Scripture as to why they would cast their vote for or against the bill.

While the majority of the Democrats voted to repeal the death penalty and the majority of the Republicans voted to keep it, the leader of the charge to defeat the bill was a Democrat. On the other side a couple of Republicans spoke in favor of the bill. So, while there was a partisan divide, the vote did not follow the bright line of party line votes. It takes 18 votes to pass a bill and, in the end, HB20-100 received 19 votes to move on to the House.

Now the process starts over in the House with promises of around the clock debate unless the people are allowed to vote on the matter. The only thing we know for sure right now is we will have an answer by midnight on May 6 when session ends.

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Re: Straight From the Senate - Dennis Hisey SD2

Post by ParkBull » Mon Feb 17, 2020 10:07 am

February 16, 2020
Abuse Of Public Trust By An Educator

They tell you not to “marry a bill” but to “carry a bill”. Makes perfect sense given the number of things that can derail a perfectly good bill. Furthermore, it seems there are always people that are more than happy to point out why it is not a perfectly good bill.

That said I had a perfectly well-intentioned bill killed this past week – no shock since it was assigned to the “kill” committee. In all fairness it was a fairly complicated school transportation bill that really was not ready for prime time. It did however attract the attention of other legislators and educators and we agreed to work on it after session to bring back a more finished product next year. That bill I carried, not married.

However, some bills you are more invested in and it’s hard to not find yourself married. SB20-059 Abuse Of Public Trust By An Educator is one of those for me. A lot of credit for getting this bill out of its first committee with a unanimous vote goes to the willingness of the District Attorney’s Council and the Defense Attorneys Council being willing to work together to craft an elegant solution to a layman’s attempt to meddle in criminal code.

Short version of what the bill would solve – currently an 18-year-old student is legally fair game to be courted by, have intimate contact through social media, date and have sex with their teachers. I believe parents should have the assurance that their student has the same protections in April and May that they enjoyed in August and September when the school year began.

This bill is intended to make educators aware that sexual pursuit and contact between educators and students – even 18-year-old students - is not only frowned on by society but will be illegal when this bill becomes law and such action will carry legal consequences – even if consensual. Albeit the penalties are less severe than the same action with, for example, a 15-year-old.

The goal is not to make criminals out of educators. I have nothing but respect and admiration for educators. By in large these are people that have placed mission over money. They are driven by a desire to make the world a better place one child at a time.

For those few that lose their way or perhaps got into teaching or coaching for the wrong reasons this bill will make them realize the trust placed in them by parents, administrators and school boards is not to be taken lightly and will help prevent such actions, if not by the moral responsibility of accepting that trust, then by the additional weight of legal consequences.

This bill would ensure students can continue to learn and complete their time in school in an environment free from sexual advances from the very people whose care they have been entrusted to. If I’m not married to this bill we’re at least engaged.

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