Colorado Capitol Report

Legislature Sends Omnibus “Rural Sustainability” Bill to Governor

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Legislature Sends Omnibus “Rural Sustainability” Bill to Governor

On the final day of the session, at 11:16 a.m. today, the House gave final, Third Reading approval to the omnibus SB-267, the complex and controversial “rural sustainability” bill, which sends it to Governor John Hickenlooper for his signature.

The linchpin of the bipartisan SB-267, which passed the House on a vote of 49-to-16 and split the minority House Caucus just as it did the Senate GOP Caucus, is the conversion of the hospital provider fee into a state enterprise.

Joining the 37 majority House Democrats were 12 minority Republicans:

  1. Jon Becker (Fort Morgan)
  2. Phil Covarrubias (Brighton)
  3. Lois Landgraf (Fountain)
  4. Polly Lawrence (Roxborough Park)
  5. Kimmi Lewis (Kim)
  6. Larry Liston (Colorado Springs)
  7. Clarice Navarro (Pueblo)
  8. Bob Rankin (Carbondale)
  9. Dan Thurlow (Grand Junction)
  10. Yeulin Willett (Grand Junction)
  11. Jim Wilson (Salida)
  12. Marc Catlin (Montrose)

Without a doubt, SB-267 is the most important bill for the business community to be passed by the legislature this session.

CACI supported SB-267 because CACI last year endorsed HB-1420, which would have converted the hospital provider fee to a state enterprise.  HB-1420 died at the end of the 2016 session in the Senate Finance Committee.

Another major reason for CACI’s support of the bill is that it will provide almost $2 billion for transportation.  Granted, the outstanding list of transportation projects, according to the Colorado Department of Transportation, is $9 billion.  But, with the demise of the bipartisan transportation funding bill, HB-1242, SB-267 became the only vehicle by which a significant amount of money would go to transportation.

The issue of transportation funding, however, may not be over for this year because it’s very possible that Colorado voters could face ballot initiatives on this issue in November.

The fast history of the HB-267 in the House over three days

After the Senate gave its final OK to the bill Monday, House Speaker Crisanta Duran (D-Denver) immediately assigned the bill to the House Finance Committee, which approved SB-267 at about 2:30 p.m. Monday on a vote of 11-to-2.  The Committee’s four minority Republicans who voted along with the majority Democrats to advance the bill were:

  • Marc Catlin (Montrose)
  • Phil Covarrubias (Brighton)
  • Polly Lawrence (Roxborough Park)
  • Dan Thurlow (Grand Junction)

The House Appropriations Committee at about 5:20 p.m. approved SB-267 on a 9-to-4 vote, which sent the bill the House Floor for Second Reading.  Representative Jon Becker (R-Fort Morgan, who was the House prime co-sponsor of the bill, was the only Republican on the Committee to join its majority Democrats to pass the bill.  The vote sent the bill to the House Floor for Second Reading.

Speaker Duran gaveled the House into session at 12:05 a.m. yesterday morning.  After rejecting eight amendments to SB-267 from Republicans, the House then passed the bill on Second Reading with a voice vote before 2 a.m.

Consequently, the House had to wait until this morning to approve SB-267 on final, Third reading.  A chamber cannot pass a bill on both Second and Third Reading on the same day.

The complexity of SB-267

House Third Reading debate this morning highlighted the political compromise–often painful for many rural Republican legislators–required to pass SB-267, perhaps the most complex bill that the legislature has considered in recent years other than the annual budget known as the Long Bill and the annual K-12 school finance bill.

SB-267 covers a wide range of policies, revenue and spending:

  • Protects hospitals from funding cuts totaling 528 million,
  • Creates a “state enterprise” for the hospital provider fee,
  • Increases spending on State capital maintenance,
  • Generates $2 billion by mortgaging state buildings,
  • Provides $1.8 billion for transportation infrastructure,
  • Reins in Medicaid spending by increasing some co-pays,
  • Provides businesses with business personal property tax relief,
  • Increases funding for rural K-12 education and the State Education Fund,
  • Increases recreational marijuana taxes,
  • Strongly encourages–but cannot mandate–state agencies in future years to cut spending by 2 percent, and
  • Lowers the Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights (TABOR) revenue cap by $200 million.

For more information on SB-267, contact Loren Furman, CACI Senior Vice President, State and Federal Relations, at 303.866.9642.

For news media coverage of SB-267, read:

On session’s last day, Colorado legislature passes major spending overhaul to boost rural areas,” by Brian Eason and John Frank, The Denver Post, May 10th.

House Committee Approves “Rural Sustainability” Bill, which Senate Endorsed on Bipartisan Vote,” CACI Colorado Capitol Report, May 8th.