Police Reform, Coronavirus Relief And More Bills The Colorado Legislature Wants To Pass This Week

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
Hundreds gather at the state Capitol to protest the death of George Floyd on Thursday, May 28, 2020.

Colorado lawmakers hope to finish their annual legislative session by the end of this week, nearly three weeks after returning to the state capitol. It will mark the end of one of the most unusual sessions in recent memory.

They took a historic two-month pause due to coronavirus. Since then, the legislature has operated under extraordinary circumstances, with new social distancing restrictions in place, temperature screenings, and many members wearing face masks.

The schedule has also been disrupted by ongoing protests around the Capitol. Democratic leaders suspended two planned workdays at the height of the demonstrations.

But before they can leave, lawmakers still have a number of significant bills to get through. Here are the highlights.

Police Reform

Senate Bill 217, introduced just last week, is making its way through the Senate and expected to have support from members of both parties. It still needs to clear the Senate and House. Among other things it bans police use of chokeholds, limits the allowed use of deadly force, and requires law enforcement to intervene if a colleague is inappropriately using excessive force.

State Budget

“The 20-21 Long Bill” is the official, and very literal, title for the state budget. Lawmakers are constitutionally required to pass a balanced budget during the annual legislative session, ahead of the state’s new fiscal year, which begins on July 1. The budget cleared the House on a party-line vote and passed the Senate with bipartisan support. It still needs to go through a conference committee to iron out differences between the versions each chamber passed. It includes more than $3 billion in cuts to state programs as a result of the economic shutdown over the coronavirus pandemic.

COVID-19-Related Bills

Democratic lawmakers have unveiled more than a dozen different bills in a package they’ve dubbed “Coronavirus Relief Legislation.” It includes a measure to provide paid sick leave for employees, whistleblower protections for employees who speak up about the lack of COVID-19 workplace safety measures, additional funding for the Department of Human Services Domestic Violence Program, expanded access to unemployment insurance, and tougher enforcement of price gouging.

Repealing The Gallagher Amendment

SCR20-001 would send a constitutional amendment to the ballot that would ask voters to repeal the Gallagher Amendment. The amendment limits residential property to no more than 45 percent of the total property tax base statewide, with the rest covered by commercial and industrial properties. It will need a two-thirds vote in each chamber to pass and go to the November ballot.

Vaccine Bill

Senate Bill 163 cleared the Senate in late February before the legislature adjourned, and is now making its way through the House. It aims to increase Colorado’s childhood vaccination rate and has brought large numbers of opponents to testify against it. The measure still allows parents to opt a child out of vaccines for non-medical reasons, and has strong backing from many parents and the medical establishment.