Colorado Capitol Report

What We’re Watching: SB 205, the Universal Scholarship Program

What We’re Watching: SB 205, the Universal Scholarship Program

This week, the Colorado General Assembly is focused on debating and passing the state’s $38.5 billion 2023-24 budget bill, but with a little over a month left in the legislative session, major legislation is still in the works behind the scenes. On Monday of next week, the Senate Committee of Education will hear Senate Bill 205, a key component to bolstering our state’s workforce pipeline.

SB 205, sponsored by Sen. Jeff Bridges, Sen. Paul Lundeen, Rep. Matthew Martinez, and Rep. Don Wilson, was announced earlier this month as part of a series of workforce initiatives from the governor’s office and legislative leadership. It’s a $25 million bipartisan proposal to fund scholarships to eligible students for postsecondary education and workforce training opportunities. This includes apprenticeships, certificates, on-the-job training, and two- and four-year degrees.

The scholarship will support students’ pathway to a strong career by:

  • Reducing financial barriers to a wide selection of postsecondary opportunities.
  • Connecting graduating seniors to college and career-planning support.
  • Elevating pathways to Colorado’s most in-demand careers, both statewide and by region.

The program has the capacity to serve 15,000 graduating high school students in the Class of 2024, more than 25% of all high school graduates statewide. Each scholarship award will be up to $1,500, which can be used for tuition, fees and books.

Bolstering the state’s workforce is a key priority of the Colorado Chamber’s 2023 legislative agenda, and scholarships are an important tool to reduce the financial burden on students for in-demand career paths. The Colorado Chamber’s Government Affairs Council took a position of “support” last week and the Chamber’s Meghan Dollar will be testifying in favor of the proposal at its hearing on Monday.

The Chamber also recently testified in favor of HB 1246, another component to the state’s workforce development package. Read more about the package on the Chamber’s news site, The Sum & Substance, here.

Colorado Chamber Government Affairs Councils Meets and Takes Positions

On Tuesday, March 28, the Chamber Government Affairs Council met and discussed several bills. The Council heard from Rebecca Kisner, Chief of Staff for the House Majority and Nicholas Sands, Chief of Staff for the House Minority. Both gave an overview of caucus priorities as they affect the business community. Chamber staff thanked both speakers for their willingness to continue working with the business community on important legislation.

Following the presentation, the Council took up five bills for positions. Those are listed below. Additionally, there was wide ranging discussion on legislation related to housing and proposed mandates on businesses in the areas of employment, energy, and healthcare.

The Chamber Government Affairs Council took positions on:

  • SB23-110 – Metro District Transparency [Support]
  • HB23-1255 – Prohibiting Local Governments from Enacting Laws the Prohibit Growth [Support]
  • SB23-255 – Work Depredation Compensation Fund [Support]
  • SB23-256  -Management of Gray Wolves Reintroduction [Support]
  • SB23-201 – Mineral Resources Property Owners’ Rights [Oppose]

Lower Energy Costs Act Passes through U.S. House

The U.S. House of Representatives today passed H.R. 1, the Lower Energy Costs Act, after the Colorado Chamber joined with 80+ organizations nationwide urging Congress’ support. The proposal would makes significant strides to increase the production and export of American energy and reduce the regulatory burdens that make it harder to build major infrastructure through comprehensive permitting reform.

“America’s success and leadership depend on a strong, competitive manufacturing industry, which employs 13 million people and adds more than $2.8 trillion to the U.S. economy,” the letter says. “Some of the biggest obstacles preventing manufacturers—and therefore the entire American economy— from reaching our full potential are the permitting delays, red tape and complicated bureaucracy that have plagued us for decades. Today, though, as we work to modernize our infrastructure and shore up our supply chains, the need for reform is more urgent than ever.”

The Colorado Chamber is the state affiliate for the National Association of Manufacturers and is proud to represent the Colorado’s manufacturing interests. Other state chambers and manufacturing industry organizations around the nation also joined onto the letter.

The Act passed through the House on a 225-204 vote, with four Democrats (from Texas, Washington and Maine) joining with Republicans to support the bill. Democrats also supported several Republican amendments to the proposal in the House chamber’s deliberation this week, including amendments regarding natural gas appliances, oil and gas development, and other federal regulatory issues. HR 1 will now head to the U.S. Senate for consideration.

To read the letter in full, please click here.