Straight From the Senate - Dennis Hisey SD2

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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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Re: Straight From the Senate - Dennis Hisey SD2

Post by ParkBull » Mon Feb 24, 2020 7:47 am

February 23, 2020
Prisons Beds on a Deadline

The bill didn’t start out with any real sense of urgency but circumstances beyond the legislature’s control put it on the fast track.

HB20-1019 – Prison Population Reduction and Management started in the House with the stated intent of “…end the practice of using private prisons by 2025”. When you state the conclusion up front it’s pretty hard to keep a straight face calling it a study but that was the bill. A fact that is often forgotten in this discussion is those private prisons exist because the State of Colorado asked for them to be built to ease the overcrowding in our prisons.

Also, in the bill is a provision that gives the Governor the authority to sign off on all contracts and prisoners that would come in from out of state to make use of those empty beds. The Governor’s Office currently does not have the ability to approve or disapprove private legal business whether it is what crops a farmer can grow or what products a store can sell. That’s not a slippery slope I’m willing to start down.

Shortly after the bill was introduced Cheyenne Mountain Relocation Facility (CMRF), a private prison, exercised the option in their contract to give 60-day notice of their closure. This put 600 inmates looking for a new bed in a two-month period. Made all the more urgent because DOC does not have 600 vacant beds. CMRF referenced the Governor’s public statement of wanting to close private prisons for creating a staff shortage due to employees leaving to find more stable employment.

In comes the amendment to 1019 that would allow Centennial South, also known as CSP2 to be utilized. Centennial South is a high security prison in Fremont County bought and paid for by the citizens of Colorado but long empty and just as long controversial.

With that amendment, HB-1019 now carries a very large fiscal note and the legislature is faced with approving the opening of Centennial South or releasing 600 inmates onto the street.

None of the controversial provisions were removed as it worked its way through the House where it passed on a party line vote. A tough vote for Rep. Wilson as there were definite benefits for his district (and mine) in the bill. However, that solidarity gave the Senate Judiciary Committee the ability to pass several amendments where we found members from both parties not happy with various provisions.

Two committees, 20 amendments and one floor vote later we have a bill that utilizes an existing empty facility, gives DOC the bed space to relocate those inmates from CMRF, authorizes an actual study of the system and keeps the Governor out of the affairs of private commerce.

While this comes at a substantial additional cost, we have the collateral benefit of moving the most serious offenders into Centennial South which “softens” the other prisons and should allow more inmates to complete the classes and programs mandated during sentencing so they are able to be paroled at their eligibility date.

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Re: Straight From the Senate - Dennis Hisey SD2

Post by ParkBull » Mon Mar 02, 2020 6:59 am

March 1, 2020
Straight From the Senate

Vaccine Bill - Again

Big bill in the Senate this past week was SB20-163 the Vaccine Bill – the official name “Concerning the Modernization of the School Entry Immunization Process, and In Conjunction Therewith, Making an Appropriation”. Now you know why we just called it the Vaccine Bill.

Only marginally different than last years bill that didn’t make it to the Governor’s desk, the primary issue is the same – who’s responsibility is it to take care of a child’s health, the parent or the government. The proponents feel they covered that issue with the “opt out” clause.

Before we get to the opt out provisions the goal of the bill is to have 95% of the students vaccinated. This number has been determined to give “herd immunity” to the whole student body. 100% is not realistic as there are some people with medical reasons and other students whose parents have objections based on firmly held beliefs and convictions. I can report that in the 17 school districts in Senate District 2 several individual schools currently meet the 95% target and that same report shows many hovering around the 80% rate.

The Public Health Department would like a record of and contact information for all non-vaccinated people in the state should they decide it is necessary to contact them in the case of an outbreak or pandemic. We heard from many people in Colorado that don’t feel the government has the right to demand that information and do not trust the government’s ability to keep their information secure.

The opt out clause has been simplified to either “Medical” or “Non-Medical”, both of which have to be signed off on by a medical doctor. Much concern about why a medical doctor would sign off on a non-medical exemption but that requirement was still in the bill when it left the Senate and headed to the House.

One amendment that was added in the Senate was a Home School Exemption. No waiver, no registration with the state, no mandatory interactive video, no giving up your personal information. However, if a home school student participates in any public-school activity such as a half a day a week at school for physics and music or an after-school sport the local superintendent will make the call concerning to participate.

A few random facts – if you are 60 or older you probably had 6 or fewer vaccinations, the current list of recommended vaccines stands at 69 with one more to be added soon. Religious exemptions have been eliminated in several other states. In New York and California all non-medical exemptions were eliminated within five years of the elimination of religious exemptions.

Love it or hate it, with the specter of the Coronavirus looming out there, this bill, with possibly a few more amendments in the House, is destined to land on the Governor’s desk this year.

State Senator Dennis Hisey District 2

SenatorHisey@gmail.com

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Re: Straight From the Senate - Dennis Hisey SD2

Post by ParkBull » Mon Mar 09, 2020 10:17 am

March 8, 2020
One of Many Climate Change Bills

Quite a few bills making their way through the Transportation and Energy Committee now regarding climate change, energy conservation, global warming and green energy.

Bear in mind HB20-1155 is completely optional on the part of the consumer. The builder bears the burden of offering energy options, and possible future energy use options, for condos and single-family homes.

It used to be, when you were having a new builder designed home built your options for upgrades ran to carpets and cabinets and you could have ceiling fans installed, prewired or neither. Then came the bill that requires the builder to offer one of the following: A solar panel system, or prewire and pre-plumb the home for solar, or build a chase or conduit for future installation of solar.

The new bill requires all of the above plus offering an electric vehicle charging system or upgrades in wiring to accommodate future installation of a charging system, or a 220 volt (to use the common term) plug in a place accessible to a car. It also requires the builder to offer electric heat as an option.

Good to be forward looking and I think everyone that wants an electric vehicle should have one as well as the ability to charge it at home. As demand grows a home with a charging station or one prewired for a charging station will likely command a premium price. But isn’t that what free enterprise and the free market is all about? Bringing goods and services to the marketplace that people want and can afford.

Just requiring every builder in the state - rural, urban, mountains and plains - to add these design elements to the homes they offer will drive up the costs. If you have natural gas as well as more robust electrical lines running in front of every home there would be additional costs for the developer to recover from each home regardless of which heat source supplies which home.

Maybe not every home needs to feature every possible upgrade, perhaps some communities would cater to all electric homes, others to a more traditional approach. Perhaps your large brand name builders will shrug and add it to the long list of requirements added by the various layers of government. The real concern is for the smaller home builder, or any builder attempting to build homes for the first-time buyer or service workers. These are homes that have to be less costly and more affordable based on income levels and limited down payments of people just entering the housing market. This leaves less room for upgrades and government regulations.

If we want working Coloradoans to be able to realize the American dream of home ownership, we need to do everything we can to minimize government intrusion and not put layer after layer of unnecessary regulations on every home built in Colorado.

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Re: Straight From the Senate - Dennis Hisey SD2

Post by ParkBull » Mon Mar 16, 2020 7:28 am

March 15, 2020
Straight From the Senate

Historic Break In The Legislative Session.

Given the current Coronavirus pandemic and Governor Polis’ State of Epidemic Disaster Emergency the legislature deemed it prudent to adjourn for two weeks, returning on March 30, 2020 to limit the spread of COVID19.

Believing we are the first Colorado legislature to do so, here is the thought process. 100 legislators, all with one aide, half that many volunteer interns, 35 or so partisan staff, probably 100 more nonpartisan staff, 15 sergeants enforcing the rules plus a 100 or so lobbyists and you can see we’ve almost doubled the Governor’s recommendation of avoiding meetings of 250 or more people. When you add the public that attend daily to testify the number can easily grow to a thousand or more.

As with many first time actions the process is/was a little bumpy.

First - Article 5 Section 7 of the Colorado Constitution says “The general assembly shall meet…no later than the second Wednesday of January each year… Regular sessions of the general assembly shall not exceed one hundred and 20 calendar days”. Which means weekends and holidays all count toward the 120 days.

Second – Joint rule 44g in the Legislative rule book that governs our daily operations has a provision for the legislature adjourning and the days not being counted as legislative days only if the Governor has declared a state of disaster due to a public health emergency. Once the disaster is over the days begin to count consecutively again.

To be clear, the constitution does not use the word “consecutive”. In the bluebook analysis of the 1988 amendment shortening the length of the session from 140 to 120 days was this statement “The proposal will guarantee adjournment of the legislature at a date certain…” implying consecutive calendar days. In the 1982 constitutional amendment that gave us the 140 days there was statistical information regarding the length of the sessions, based on consecutive days. Both of which could have bearing on a court case, just as our rule 44g could.

What court case? If we were to assume we can add the 14 days we are out in March to our current May 6 sine die date and pass legislation during that period – a lot of legislation as the last two weeks is the busiest – and someone or some industry does not like that legislation I suggest we are ripe for a lawsuit seeking to overturn that legislation.

So, what’s a legislature to do? We ask the courts for an interrogatory proceeding to settle the question. Which is much more complicated than just sending a memo to the chief judge. In a very short time briefs have to be finalized, possible oral arguments have to be prepared by teams of attorneys for both sides of the debate.

My thanks to Senator Bob Gardner SD12, our only serving attorney in the minority and to the Office of Legislative Legal Services for their responses to his astute and inquiring mind. There are some things you don’t want to take you by surprise.

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Re: Straight From the Senate - Dennis Hisey SD2

Post by ParkBull » Mon Mar 23, 2020 7:39 am

March 22, 2020

Falling Revenue Forecast, the Rest of This Year and Next

The real news is COVID-19, you are all more current on rising numbers, social separation, self-quarantine, shelter in place and business closures than could be covered in this space, especially considering it will be dated information by the time you read it.

So, onto what will be the major and most pressing topic at the legislature when we reconvene – when ever that might be, the BUDGET. Which is the one and only thing we are required to accomplish during the legislative session – no matter how long or short.

Somewhat lost amongst the everchanging news of the coronavirus was the March budget forecast. The news of a falling forecast was no surprise, we just did not have a dollar figure to hang our hat on. Short version is $396 million less this fiscal year, which ends June 30 and $750 million less for the next fiscal year.

While that sounds dire - and actually is - don’t forget those numbers are off of earlier projections not the previous years revenue. When comparing to actual revenue the forecast for fiscal year 2020/2021 is increased revenue of .2% or about $27.3 million. Not enough to cover the “mandatory growth from inflation and caseload” and does not take into account the additional $95 million needed for K-12 to maintain the budget stabilization factor at its current level. For context the budget grew by 7% last year – and except for a small increase in reserves - was spent.

Way too much of it spent on programs that require annual appropriations – meaning they are expected to be funded every year as opposed to one-time funding like the $300 million from of the General Fund that went to roads last year.

Going forward, once we are back in session you can bet many of the bills with fiscal notes that have been moving through committees will see their forward movement come to an abrupt halt. Basically, any bill with a fiscal note of more than about $1.98 will likely be killed long before it reaches the Governor’s desk.

Staying with the budget but on a slightly different note, one of my bills this session transfers hazmat permitting from the PUC to CDOT. Several good reasons for it and CDOT is prepared to handle it within their existing budget. What I discovered was how difficult it is to ensure that since the function was leaving PUC that the PUC budget would be reduced by an appropriate amount. The legislature doesn’t authorize employee positions, only funds, so reducing the employee count directly was not an option and we only budget for the next fiscal year so reducing funding beyond that doesn’t work either. We think we got it worked out making this one of the few bills that we will see under the Golden Dome that actually returns money to the general fund. Not a lot, but more than $1.98.
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 04, 2020 7:55 am

May 3, 2020

Working Toward That Elusive Balanced Budget

The Legislative and Governor’s budget gurus, we do have separate budget staff – it’s that whole check and balance thing - have been crunching numbers for weeks. Actually, months but the closer we get to the May 12 budget forecast the closer we are to knowing our target number. The Joint Budget Committee is meeting now and will be presenting their work when we return on the 18th. Then the fireworks begin with the other 91 legislators weighing in.

From this year’s budget it looks like we need to cut $800,000 or so, and this fiscal year is over June30th. That’s more than $100,000 a week. Prospects are not looking too rosy for the 2020-2021 budget either with around three billion dollars less than we were working with when we adjourned in March. To get a little deeper into the weeds – that money has to come from the General Fund which is about a third of the total state budget.

All that to say someone’s favorite program is going to be cut, in fact lots of “someones” and lots of programs. The tally based on my emails is 100% in support for saving the Senior Homestead Exemption Act. I’m on board with protecting that funding, now to convince a enough other legislators.

Other options to save money could be in the Department of Human Services. The savings may not be huge as most of that is federal dollars with a state match. So, if we find a one million dollar savings in a program that requires a 20% match the state saved $200,000. Real money no doubt but each of those dollars has a name attached to it. Which explains the email asking me to not place a cap on the number of special need seniors the program funds.

Furloughs have been talked about. Furloughing a Corrections Officer for a few days and then paying overtime to cover those shifts doesn’t make sense. Side note – DOC paid $22,000 more for hamburger last month than it did the same month last year. Move those furloughs to the Department of Transportation and that may save a few dollars but not as much as you might think. The bulk of CDOT’s funding comes from other dedicated sources, not the general fund.

Legislators are not looking for sympathy, remember we all worked pretty hard to get this job. But I am pointing out that when we finally pass a balanced budget, and we will, that we will see many “most important” programs on the chopping block, maybe for a trim, maybe for elimination.

This is the opportunity for all legislators to be asking the question “What are the state’s mandated responsibilities and how do we fulfill them more efficiently?”.

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 11, 2020 8:24 am

May 10, 2020

New Start Date & Cash Funds

Looks like leadership has decided May 18th isn’t really the best day for the legislature to come back into session. We are now targeting May 26th. Haven’t heard their reasoning and probably won’t but it’s nothing personal. A freshman friend of mine in the majority party tells me he doesn’t know any more about it than I do.

The Joint Budget Committee is hard at work, and while everything is preliminary at this point, they have identified $222 million in user paid cash funds that they plan to sweep.

Sweep is the polite term we use for taking money intended for one purpose and using it for something different. It’s really not a problem if it’s general fund money, it’s just like when you postpone a furniture purchase because you have an unexpected auto repair. However, user paid cash funds are a different animal.

There are dozens of user paid cash funds, it may be something like the fee Realtors pay for state licensing. Most of these funds require a minimum reserve balance which tends to grow during strong economic times. Another example is the Veterans Assistance Grant Program which is funded by gifts, grants and donations and looks like it will be chipping in a cool one million dollars.

The money never gets repaid and beyond the dishonesty of the whole concept the user finds themselves paying higher rates to rebuild the reserves. That was the case in 2003 when the general assembly swept the unemployment fund. We had a few employees at that time and we ended up paying higher fees to build the reserves back up even though we had never had a claim.

Another fee that is being swept is the Waste Tire Fund, makes me regret supporting the bill last year as I made the case that this would help to eliminate illegal tire dumps scattered throughout our rural counties.

Following the 2003 sweep the Realtors sued and the courts ruled in favor of the legislature. So, it is legal but that doesn’t make it right. Some of these sweeps will take a bill to allow the transfer to happen but I predict virtually all will pass – even with a “No” vote from me.

In another hit on employers as they are trying to recover from the business lost during the shutdown is the increase in unemployment insurance caused by using reserves to pay contract or gig workers. I’m not saying it wasn’t the compassionate thing or even the right thing to allow them to collect unemployment even though they had not been paying into the fund. But whatever that cost turns out to be it should have been funded by a source other than on the backs of businesses.

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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