Senator Steve Fenberg | Newsletters
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Newsletters

08 May What we just accomlished

 

Today was the final day of the 2019 legislative session. We set out with an ambitious agenda, and I’m incredibly proud of all that we’ve accomplished for Coloradans over the past 120 days. It’s impossible to adequately summarize the session’s accomplishments in a single email, but here are a few of the greatest hits. We passed over 400 bills this year and I’m proud to say that 95% of them had bi-partisan support.

  • We enacted a reinsurance bill which will assist health insurers in paying high-cost insurance claims. By reducing system-wide costs and paying for a portion of high-cost claims, we can reduce premiums for all Coloradans.
  • We’ve increased transparency regarding medical billing to protect consumers from things like surprise bills from out of network providers.
  • We increased access to programs and services for those in need of treatment for opioid and substance use disorders.
  • We expanded dental services to pregnant women covered under the children’s basic health plan.
  • We’ve authorized the state to investigate a public health care option for all Coloradans.
  • We’ve authorized a pilot program for cooperative medical insurance programs in rural areas.
  • We created the Office of Saving People Money on Healthcare.
  • We’ve authorized the state to import prescription drugs from Canada, which will increase cost savings for Colorado consumers.

It’s not goodbye, it’s see you later

We’re all pretty exhausted from session. I’m looking forward to taking a break for a few days, but stay tuned for updates on an end of session town hall with Speaker Becker and Representative Hooten. And as always, feel free to reach out with any questions you may have or issues that are important to you. I’ll be working all summer to identify and develop priorities for next session and would love to hear from you.

Onward,
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01 May The final week of session

 

The final week of the legislative session is upon us, but there are still a ton of big bills we need to get across the finish line. Here’s a quick preview of a few priorities that are left in the Senate as we race to the finish on Friday at midnight.

Climate Action Plan
HB1261, the Colorado Climate Action Plan, will come up for a vote in the Senate this week. It creates a path for massive carbon reductions economy-wide and is a huge step for Colorado in combating the climate crisis.
Comprehensive Sex Education
We believe every student in Colorado deserves access to accurate information regarding their health and wellbeing — including complete information about consent, birth control and pregnancy, abstinence, and how students can protect themselves from STDs. Read the bill HERE.
Health Care Affordability
We’re debating two bills to lower the cost of health care. HB19-1174 seeks to protect consumers by increasing transparency regarding medical billing, specifically surprise bills from out of network providers. HB19-1168 would allow the state to assist health insurers in paying high-cost insurance claims. By reducing system-wide costs and paying for a portion of high-cost claims, we can reduce premiums for all Coloradans.
College Savings for Kids
My bill to automatically open a college savings account for every child born or adopted in Colorado has one final vote! Our goal is to help alleviate the financial burden of higher education by helping families save for education from day one.
Protecting Mobile Home Owners
Through HB1309, we’re working to address the abuses mobile home owners experience. This bill establishes a way to enforce the Mobile Home Park Safety Act and increases protections for property owners.

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Youth Suicide Prevention
Colorado has one of the highest youth suicide rates in the country and this must change. In an effort to reduce barriers to help, my bill, HB1120, lowers the age that children can access therapy provided by mental health professionals without parental consent and expands mental health education.

Time to finish strong

We’ve accomplished a ton so far this session–from sweeping oil and gas reforms, to campaign finance, to providing full day kindergarten for every family in the state. There’s a lot to be proud of so far, but there’s always still more work to do. Let’s make sure we end on Friday without leaving anything on the field.

If you’re interested, you can livestream the floor proceedings online and follow along.

Go to the Legislature Website »

Onward,
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01 May Putting a price on carbon

 

Putting a Price on Carbon

The Public Utilities Commission isn’t something many of us pay close attention to. And I get it; the regulation of public utilities isn’t most people’s idea of a good time. But some of the changes we’re making this year are really crucial in our efforts to address climate change. My bill, SB236, reforms the Public Utilities Commission in the following ways:
  • Establishes a “cost of carbon” to better evaluate the real cost of where we get our current and future energy to power our state
  • Requires utilities to build out the electricity system to allow for and better take advantage of distributed renewable energy such as solar and storage


Last week, the Senate passed a $30.5 billion state budget package, which includes $300 million new money for transportation. That’s $300 million for things like mass transit projects, maintenance, and reducing traffic congestion across the state.


The legislature passed my bill to help establish the Office of Saving People Money on Healthcare. The Lt. Governor, a cancer survivor and policymaker with extensive experience in healthcare policy, will lead the office. Her job will literally be to examine how to save you money on healthcare.

 

Restoring Voting Rights for Felons

I’m incredibly proud that my bill, HB1266, to restore voting rights for parolees and those who are done being incarcerated for a felony passed out of committee. This bill will be on the Senate floor this week and is an important step towards making our democratic process more inclusive and fair.

Believe it or not, there are only 10 days left in session this year, but we still have a lot of work to do. Stay tuned for updates on the progress we make in the final days.

Onward,

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12 Apr Ending a Legacy of Shame

 

“Both hate and empathy are taught. You decide what side you want to be on.” -Lindsay

Friends,
I have sponsored legislation to ban gay conversion therapy for minors every year that I’ve been at the Capitol. And until now, we’d seen it killed by Republicans every year.But if there is one thing our LGBTQ friends understand, it’s how to persevere. Every year, hundreds of Coloradans have come to the Capitol to share their stories. Many of them are painful depictions of traumatic and emotionally damaging experiences.

“Conversion therapy left me with a legacy of unnecessary shame, lost years, wasted money, and deep pain.” -Francis

This is the year we will finally put an end to the use of this despicable practice on minors.

Conversion therapy is not backed by science and it has caused harm to far too many kids in our state. There is nothing to be “fixed” in LGBTQ youth. They should not feel ashamed of who they are. Colorado is a colorful state, and all are welcome here.

“As a survivor, I’m asking you to change the message that the state of Colorado is sending to our LGBTQ youth, their families, and the licensed professionals who serve them. By supporting this legislation, you will protect thousands of youth from very real harm and send a powerful message that they are beautiful just the way they are.”- Sam

I’m incredibly proud that my bill to ban gay conversion therapy officially passed out of the legislature last week with bi-partisan support, and the bill is now headed to Governor Polis’s desk. Something tells me he’ll sign it into law.
As always, please feel free to reach out with any comments, questions or ideas you may have. You can always call me at 303-866-4872 or email at steve@stevefenberg.org.

Onward,

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20 Mar Colorado Kids Are #BornPerfect

 

Friends,

A lot is happening at the Capitol every day, and I want to take a few minutes to share some of the highlights of the past few weeks.

The Senate passed the most sweeping oil and gas regulations our state has seen in over 60 years! My bill, SB181, puts the health and safety of Coloradans first and clarifies that the role of the COGCC is to regulate, not foster, the industry. It empowers local governments to take control over what is happening in their backyards and equips them with the tools they need to stand up for their community’s best interests. The bill is now being heard in the House, so please contact your Representative to voice your support!

The Employee Information Student Loan Repayment Programs bill was signed into law last Friday. I introduced the bill with Senator Tammy Story as part of my effort to address the large amount of student loan debt in Colorado. The bill will increase the access that state employees have to information about federal loan repayment and loan forgiveness programs.
The Digital Token Act, a bill that clarifies regulations surrounding cryptocurrency and blockchain technologies, has been signed into law. I’m excited about this step towards promoting innovation and growth within the cryptocurrency and blockchain community in Colorado.

On Monday, my bill to Prohibit Conversion Therapy for a Minor passed out of committee in the Senate for the first time in Colorado history. Being gay is not an illness and it does not need to be fixed. Colorado kids are #bornperfect. I’m proud to sponsor this legislation for the third time, and am confident this will be the year we finally stop licensed counselors in Colorado from using such harmful tactics on our kids.

Other Notable Bills That Are Rollin’ Right Along

Regulate Student Education Loan Servicers (SB19-002)– Passed out of the Senate Appropriations committee, and heads to the Senate floor later this week.

Medical Marijuana Condition Autism (HB19-1028)Passed Senate Second Reading

Youth Mental Health Education and Suicide Prevention (HB19-1120)Referred to House Appropriations committee

As always, please feel free to reach out with any comments, questions or ideas you may have. You can always call me at 303-866-4872 or email at steve@stevefenberg.org.

Onward,

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20 Mar Sweeping Oil & Gas Reforms Introduced

 

Friends,

 

Today I introduced a bill that will finally bring change to the way the oil and gas industry operates in Colorado. For too long, the legislature has stood in the way of common sense reforms that would keep communities safe and protect the Colorado we love. It’s been over 60 years since meaningful changes have been made to our oil and gas laws, and our communities have been forced to bear the steep consequences.

 

We’ve spent hundreds of hours meeting with experts, studying what other states do, visiting impacted communities, and dissecting policy proposals to create the smartest approach possible.

 

Here’s a rundown of our top priorities:

 

1. Put health and safety first: Clarify the mission of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) is to regulate oil & gas activities, NOT to foster the development of oil & gas.

 

2. Empower local communities: Give local governments the power to regulate oil and gas operations, and clarify local governments can go beyond state regulations.

 

3. Protect the environment from oil and gas drilling: Strengthen protections for wildlife, direct air quality experts to adopt common sense rules to reduce harmful emissions including methane, and fix and prevent abandoned orphan wells.

 

4. Protect property owners form forced pooling: Increase the threshold required to “force pool” mineral interest owners. Current law requires permission from just one mineral right owner. We’re changing that to at least a majority of mineral rights owners.

 

For the policy wonks out there, you can read the full bill HERE.

Introducing this bill is only the beginning. The oil and gas industry is prepared to spend millions of dollars to kill this bill. But I’m committed to getting it across the finish line, and I need your help. The bill will be heard in committee Tuesday, March 5th at 1:30pm. Please come show your support!

Onward,

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14 Feb Confronting a Crisis

The Looming Student Debt Crisis

I started this session with several goals: reforming oil & gas regulations, expanding renewables, and addressing the student debt crisis, to name a few. Today, I’m pleased to announce that we’ve taken some big steps forward in mitigating the level of student debt that is burdening Coloradans.

Today, 730,000 Coloradans owe an average of $36,000 in student loan debt. Student debt is a pressing issue facing Coloradans both young and old (more than 50,000 Coloradans over the age of 60 owe student loan debt).

Far too often, these borrowers are trying to navigate repayment in a sea of unscrupulous companies. Unlike mortgages, credit cards, and business loans, student loan servicers are not regulated in the state of Colorado. Left unchecked, these companies turn to predatory behavior designed to maximize profits.

To begin to address this crisis, I introduced the following two bills with my colleagues in the Senate:

1. The Regulate Student Loan Servicers Act

The Regulate Student Loan Servicers Act (SB19-002) requires student loan companies to be licensed in Colorado and follow a set of basic consumer protection standards. The bill also creates an ombudsman to investigate complaints and predatory behavior, and to serve as a resource and advocate for borrowers.

2. The Employee Information Student Loan Programs Act

The Employee Information Student Loan Programs Act (SB19-057), which recently passed the Senate 25-10, will mandate that thousands of state, local, and school district employees will regularly receive information to help them enroll and participate in student loan forgiveness programs. This will ensure that more people enroll in programs that will reduce their loan payments and even forgive large portions of their debt if they work in the public sector or for a nonprofit organization.
I know that more needs to be done to address the rising costs of higher education. But these are two, common-sense solutions that target the mounting student debt too many Coloradans face.

Stay tuned for an update on my other big goals for this legislative session…

Onward,

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14 Feb Advancing the Innovation Economy

Advancing the Innovation Economy

Yesterday, the Senate unanimously passed my first bill, the Digital Token Act, which will modernize how Colorado regulates blockchain technologies.

I’ve had the honor of serving on the Colorado Council for the Advancement of Blockchain Technology for the past several months and this is the first piece of legislation to come out of that work. If the bill passes the House, Colorado will become the national leader in how states handle this new technology, making Colorado one of the friendliest places for these new entrepreneurs and businesses.

What is blockchain exactly? This little video breaks down some of the basics, but long story short is that it’s a decentralized “ledger” that securely tracks and accounts information. The most commonly known use is bitcoin, a type of cryptocurrency, but the potential applications are endless–from securing our election system to deploying renewable energy.

 

Check out my guest editorial in this past Sunday’s Daily Camera where I lay out what I see as priorities for the 2019 legislative session.

We’ve held a few town halls already, one at Rayback Collective with 400 (!) people and the other on a Saturday morning at Frasier Meadows retirement home. I know that everyone prefers to engage in the process in different ways, so I’ll be hosting a variety of types of town hall formats. Here are a few I’ve got coming up in case you want to put them on your calendar:

  • Community Meetup | Feb 7th @ 6pm
  • Town Hall w/ Speaker Becker & Rep Hooton | Feb 21st @ 6pm
  • Community Meetup | March 6th @ 6pm

Locations are TBD and all of the details will be on my website.

Tackling Student Debt

This Wednesday, I have a bill up in committee with my colleague Senator Tammy Story. Senate Bill 57is part of my effort to address the crippling amount of student loan debt in Colorado. The bill will increase access that employees have to information about federal loan repayment and loan forgiveness programs.
Serene Singh, the first woman from CU Boulder to receive a Rhodes Scholarship, came to the Senate last Friday to receive a tribute congratulating her on her accomplishment. We wish Serene the best of luck at Oxford in the fall! Something tells us that we’ll all be hearing about Serene in the future.
The legislative session has only just begun and we have a lot of work ahead of us. Please do not hesitate to reach out about a bill you care about or an issue that is important to you.

Onward,

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10 Jan Opening Day 2019

Today was Opening Day of the 2019 Legislative Session, and I have to say it was pretty inspiring to see my new colleagues sworn into office. Democrats officially took control of the State Senate, and we’re ready for business. As the new Senate Majority Leader, I’ll be working with all of my colleagues to execute our priorities and ensure all voices and perspectives are included in the conversation. I’ve heard from many of you about what you would like to see the legislature focus on, and I want to share with you an overview of some of our overarching goals.

As you know, majorities matter. And with the newly seated 19-member Democratic majority, I look forward to fighting every day for a more fair, just, and progressive Colorado over the next 120 days. Although it would be impossible to sum up our agenda in just one email, below are a few overarching priorities we’ll have this year.

Protect the CO We Know and Love

Senate Democrats will be introducing several bills aimed at protecting the heath and safety of Coloradans and our communities. This means raising the state standards for oil & gas regulation, but also allowing more local control over where, how, and when fossil fuel extraction takes place. Additionally, we’ll be introducing legislation to increase renewable energy, advance cleaner transportation, and significantly reduce carbon emissions.

Build Economic Fairness for Families

We will be introducing bills to help families with the increasing cost of living in Colorado. This means policy priorities such as creating opportunities for paid family leave, increasing attainable housing options, and bringing down the high cost of health care and prescription drugs.

Invest in Colorado’s Future
For far too long, our state has underinvested in its future. We’ll be looking at providing universal early child education, increasing funding for k-12, and addressing the crippling cost of higher education and student debt. We’ll also be focused on creating a more modern and effective 21st century transportation systems across the state.
Today marks only the beginning of a long list of issues we’ll be tackling for Colorado this year. Whether it’s preventing gun violence, increasing resources for the opioid epidemic, establishing a more accessible election system, or creating a more fair criminal justice system, we’re going to need your help to make lasting change.

As always, please feel free to reach out with any comments, questions or ideas you may have. You can always call me at 303-866-4872 or email at steve@stevefenberg.org.

Onward,

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09 May That’s a Wrap of the 2018 Legislative Session!

Tonight, the gavel fell on the final day of the 71st General Assembly of the Colorado Legislature. Although the dust is still settling, I thought I would send a quick overview of what I see as the major accomplishments and disappointments of the year. There’s a whole lot more to say than what can fit in an email, but feel free to reach out if you’d like to chat about other issues.

My Top Legislative Victories

Below are some of the bills I sponsored that were signed into law by the Governor. I’m happy to report that all of my Senate bills passed this year.Several of the House bills I was the prime sponsor for, however, did not pass. For a full list of the legislation I sponsored this session, go here.
Redistricting Reform
My bills SCR04 & SCR05 passed unanimously in both the Senate and House. These will be referred measures on the 2018 ballot for voters to weigh in on. If passed, I believe this will be a new model to effectively prevent gerrymandering and ensuring communities have fair districts.
Voter Rights
There will now be a streamlined way for ex-felons to register to vote and participate in our Elections. This bill not only preregisters parolees to vote as they leave prison, but also requires the department of Parole and Probation to educate ex-felons on the voting process.
Refugees in CO

I introduced and passed a bill to allow refugees and Special Immigrant Visa holders to pay in-state tuition rates for Colorado universities. In a time of vitriol coming from Washington DC, I’m proud to say that Colorado is now a more welcoming place for folks to build their American dream.

Battery Storage

After a 2-year battle, Colorado became the first state to declare it a right for consumers to install and use batteries on their property without the threat of undue burdens by utilities. This is a huge step forward for distributed energy and towards creating a more renewable and efficient electricity grid.

Parks & Wildlife
The Future Generations Act creates a more sustainable financial structure for Colorado Parks & Wildlife to ensure that we can continue to preserve and protect our land while keeping it accessible to recreational activity.

 

 

Marijuana & Hemp
I teamed up with Rep. Hooton to pass a bill that adds autism spectrum disorders to the list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana use. Additionally, I prime sponsored a measure that, if passed by voters, will advance and modernize the hemp industry by removing unnecessary barriers.

The Biggest Achievements of the Session

Education Support

Although there’s still a long ways to go, this legislative season resulted in increasing the per pupil spending for education and we “paid down” the money we owe to public education from years of underfunding. We also increased funding for higher education this year and staved off aggressive tuition increases. Perhaps most importantly, we stood strong against the Republican bill that would have (literally) jailed teachers who go on strike.

Transportation Funding

After years of neglect and a growing population, the legislature finally came to a bipartisan solution for funding transportation. In its final form, SB1 invests $495 million into transportation this year and even more in future years. In last minute negotiations, Democrats successfully increase the portion of the funding that will go into multi-modal transportation as opposed to just building more highway lanes. Could the total package have been better? Of course, but this is a good start.

The Biggest Failures of the Session

Election Security

After my budget amendment to put money toward investigating and litigating election security and campaign finance violations failed, I proposed an interim committee to look into how the state can better handle election vulnerabilities, like hacking and foreign interference. Unfortunately, while all Democrats voted for it, the Republicans shot it down. In light of recent revelations that Cambridge Analytica — which is under fire for using data stolen from 136,000 Coloradans — was heavily involved in the 2014 midterm elections in Colorado, it’s disheartening (but not surprising) that Colorado Republicans blocked this vital work.

Oil & Gas Development

Only a year since the Firestone explosion that killed two people, the Republicans continue to fight against meaningful legislation to add protections for health and safety. Increased reporting for oil & gas incidents, such as spills and fires? Killed by the Republicans. Increasing the distance between schools and drill rigs? Killed. Giving municipalities and counties local control to decide where they want drilling in their communities? Killed. Instead the Republicans introduced bills to roll back the current energy standard and to increase the cost of forced pooling for residents.

PERA Reform

One last thing: at the 11th hour (literally) the legislature passed SB200, which makes significant changes to our state’s public employee pension system, PERA. The pension system was facing serious longterm financial instability and these reforms will put the system on a more sustainable path. However, I voted no on SB200 because I felt the deal ended up putting too much on the backs of teachers and local school districts. I’ll be honest, this was a tough vote for me, but in the end, it passed with all Senate Republicans (and some  Democrats) voting in support.

I’m more motivated than ever to fight to regain a Democratic majority in the Colorado Senate. I’ll be in touch in the coming weeks about what you can do to help. I’m looking forward to a progressive majority in 2019!

Onward,

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