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What’s ahead for the Colorado Legislature in 2017?

MSU Denver is a resource to state policy makers but also an interested participant.

By Christine Staberg, Founding Partner, The Capstone Group LLC

January 26, 2017

On Jan. 11, the Colorado’s General Assembly convened for the annual 120-day state legislative session. Of the 100 legislators (65 representatives and 35 senators), 33 members are freshman. Colorado’s legislature remains politically divided, with Democrats controlling the House of Representatives and Republicans controlling the Senate. Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) has two years remaining in his final term in office.

Opening day speeches highlighted the key issues of the session, with transportation infrastructure at the top of the list. Negotiations on funding of this issue continue, and it appears likely that the Legislature will dedicate at least a small amount from the state’s general fund and refer a question to the ballot for voter approval to increase taxes to help fund roads and bridges. The state’s gas tax, business personal property taxes or both may also be adjusted as part of the ultimate agreement.

Each session, we expect to see the introduction of 600 to 700 proposed policy changes as “bills,” plus many more changes proposed through changes to the state’s budget. The Joint Budget Committee (JBC) began daily hearings in November to review the governor’s proposed budget for each state agency.

Gov. Hickenlooper’s proposed budget includes a $20 million increase in funding for higher education, which includes an increase in need-based financial aid. As proposed, MSU Denver is expected to receive only a $211,000 increase in funding from the year prior. Mandatory cost increases expected at all institutions, including salary increases and health benefit costs, are expected to surpass funds available from the state. The JBC will vote on a final funding proposal in February, and it will be debated by the full Legislature in March before returning to the governor for signature.

In addition to the vital question of funding, the Legislature will take up many policy questions as well. Policy bills go through committees of reference (including Education, Health and Human Services, etc.) in the House and Senate, and are debated by the full legislative body. MSU Denver weighs in on issues of interest as a representative of students, faculty and as an employer. Legislative proposals in the coming year will include debate about issues as diverse as credit for military education and training, plans to address teacher shortages, guidelines for concurrent enrollment, support for social workers in the corrections and child welfare sectors, instate tuition status for Olympic athletes, free speech on college campuses, and cyber security and data.

MSU Denver is a resource to state policy makers, and works to provide access to experts in the field and educational materials to inform the debate.

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