Senator Steve Fenberg | Newsletters
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Newsletters

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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26 Apr A Colorado Solution to Gerrymandering

A Colorado Solution to Gerrymandering
A New Model for Redistricting

After months of negotiations, I have introduced a compromise on how to overhaul our redistricting process to end gerrymandering. Senate President Grantham and I joined forces to put forth a new model that has the potential to be replicated all over the country, putting an end to gerrymandering as we know it.

This is a big deal and I am proud to be part of this historic effort. If approved by 2/3rds of both the House and Senate, it will be placed on the November ballot for voters to approve.

Updating Marijuana & Hemp Laws
Helping Autism Patients
This bill adds autism to the list of medical conditions that can use medical marijuana for treatment. Many families are faced with tough choices when it comes to dangerous pharmaceuticals and/or caring for kids who are prone to self-harm. This bill simply adds medical marijuana to the list of available options for these families.
Advancing Hemp
This bill asks voters in November to approve taking the definition of hemp out of the constitution and instead placing it in state statute. This will allow our hemp industry to align with federal regulations, which ensures our industry remains a competitive leader compared to other states.
Legislative Wrap-up
with Maj Leader Becker & Rep Hooton

Thursday, May 10th
4:00-6:00pm
Chamber of Commerce
2440 Pearl St, Boulder
With bills still being introduced, we have plenty of work ahead of us and business to handle over the next two weeks. 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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13 Apr Working on Election Integrity & Security

Integrity & Security in our Elections
Updating Election Laws

My bipartisan bill modernizes the state’s election code by updating language for clarification and consistency. While less exciting than some of my other bills, it’s necessary for a clear understanding of our election rules and to ensure everyone is playing by the same rules.

Election Security
Last week I introduced a budget amendment that would have added $500K to investigating and litigating election security violations and campaign finance compliance. As you may have read about in the news, the Colorado Senate Republicans commissioned Cambridge Analytica to eke out their 1-seat majority. Although the amendment died on a party-line vote, today I’ve submitted a formal request to establish an interim committee to study our state’s vulnerability to election security, hacking, and foreign interference in our democratic process.
Holding Oil & Gas Accountable
Next week, HB1157, which I serve as the senate sponsor for, will be heard in senate Natural Resources & Energy Committee. The bill seeks to hold oil & gas companies accountable, and make our communities safer, by requiring increased reporting of spills, leaks, health & safety violations, etc.
TOWN HALL
with Maj Leader Becker &
Rep Hooton

Sunday, April 22nd
10am-12pm
Municipal Building of Boulder
1777 Broadway St, Boulder, 80302
RSVP here!
The next, and last, few weeks of session will prove to be long days with a lot of bills to consider. Again, do not hesitate to reach out. You can always call me at 720-866-4872 or email at steve@stevefenberg.org (or, to make it easier on you, text my team by signing up here).

Onward,

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06 Apr The Colorado State Senate Tackles the Budget

In-state Tuition for Refugees

I’m excited to announce the final passage of SB87! Now refugees, including Special Immigrant Visa holders such as Maytham Alshadood, can access in-state tuition rates upon arrival in Colorado. The accessibility of higher education plays a major role in how well refugees can establish themselves, and the high cost of out-of-state tuition holds them back. With more affordable tuition, they can now become more self-sufficient and contribute to the economy more quickly. Check out this video to see what the bill means to refugees & how it positively impacts Colorado.

Watch this video on the importance of SB87 and how it will impact the lives of refugees who settle in Colorado.
Town Hall with Maj Leader Becker & Rep Hooton
Sunday, April 22nd
10am-12pm
City of Boulder Municipal Building
1777 Broadway St, Boulder, CO 80302
RSVP here!
State Budget Debate

With almost 12 hours of discussion, the senate considered over 80 amendments to the state budget and passed 23 of them. Here are some highlights:

  • Fully funding the Colorado Civil Rights Division
  • Investing $3 million into wildfire preparedness
  • Committing $3 million from marijuana tax revenue into medical marijuana research grants to study potential benefits for Parkinson’s, autism, cancer, etc.
  • Increased funding for higher education, which will reduce tuition increases on students
  • Setting aside $495 million for transportation and infrastructure spending
  • Paying down the “negative factor” to pay back some of the money we owe k-12 public education
  • Ensuring healthcare coverage & child care services for our most vulnerable
  • Setting aside more than $200 million to pay towards the employer’s increased share of our state’s pension system, PERA
  • Investing $2 million towards mental health training for police officers
  • Adding $5 million for affordable housing grants

I didn’t like everything that made it into the budget and some of my amendments didn’t pass, such as creating a fund to investigate attacks on our election integrity, but overall, I was a proud yes vote on this year’s state budget.

Onward,

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27 Mar Making History: Clean Energy & PERA Reform

Making History
With Governor Hickenlooper’s signature, SB9 is officially on the books. As the first state to declare the right of homeowners to store energy in batteries, Colorado is one step closer to a cleaner, more dynamic energy grid and greater energy autonomy for consumers. Now with an easier path to energy storage adoption, increased demand will spark the state’s solar industry growth and continue Colorado’s leadership in clean energy.
Last week the 8th graders of Nederland Middle-High School joined me at the Capitol. I enjoyed answering their questions on everything from how the legislature works to what I am doing to combat gun violence.
Senate Considers PERA Reform
This week the Senate discussed PERA’s financial sustainability, with SB200. The Senate Democrats introduced a number of amendments that were unfortunately lost to the Republican majority. These amendments would have created a more balanced plan with continued shared responsibility rather than fixing the problem on the backs of PERA recipients. My position on the PERA bill is that it should contain only measures that are absolutely necessaryto ensure the financial success of the plan. Unfortunately, Senate Republicans are using this moment instead to push an agenda that would harm the long-term viability of our state pension system. For this reason, I voted no on SB200, but hope that the House will be able to make positive changes to the bill.
Thanks again for your continued involvement through emails and calls. If you want more information on bills and upcoming events, sign up for texts from my team. Let’s keep working together to make this session a success.

Onward,

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15 Mar Improving Mental Health Resources for Coloradans

Expanding Mental Health Resources
As the senate sponsor for the following bills, I’m excited to join the efforts to help prevent youth suicides and to increase mental health resources for Coloradans, especially those in rural areas.
Psychology Pact

HB1017 adds Colorado to the list of states in which psychologists can practice tele-health and temporary in-person, face-to-face practice of psychology across state boundaries. The purpose of this is to increase access to mental health services, especially in rural areas, and to ensure psychologists and their clients are able to maintain continuity of care despite being temporarily or permanently outside the state boundaries. It will be heard in Senate Finance Committee today.

Youth Suicide Prevention

Similar to a bill I ran in the senate last year, HB1177 lowers the age of consent for talk therapy to 12. In addition, it establishes training on suicide prevention for those who frequently interact with young people, such as camp counselors, and directs the Department of Health to start a suicide prevention awareness campaign, especially emphasizing the available hotline. It is currently making its way through the House and I hope to get it through the Senate this year.

Responses to Gun Violence

Coming up this Monday in my committee, two gun bills will be heard. SB51, introduced by Sen Merrifield (D-Manitou Springs), responds to the mass shooting in Vegas by banning the sale and use of bump stocks in Colorado. On the other end of the spectrum, Sen Hill’s (R-Colorado Springs) SB52, repeals the state’s existing ammunition magazine limits. Democrats initially put this law on the books in 2013 after the Aurora theater shooting as a way to reduce the deadly impact that assault weapons have in our society. With high-profile mass shootings seemingly becoming a constant in our country, the rollback of current legislation that protects public safety is not the right move. I will be a YES vote on SB51 and a NO vote on SB52.

I’m hosting a stop on my Community Tour (a more casual and “drop-in” version of my town halls) tonight at Asher Brewing Co. from 5:30 to 7pm. Stop by for a bit to chat or get answers to questions you might have about issues moving through the legislature right now. If you can’t make it, you can always send me an email or call my office. And be sure to sign up for texts and my team will reach out to you about important bills and upcoming events.

Onward,

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05 Mar Residential Energy Storage Bill Goes to the Governor!

Residential Energy Storage Bill Goes to the Governor!

After a two-year battle to ensure energy consumers can install and use energy storage on their property without undue burdens, my bill now heads to the Governor’s desk! By being the first state to declare energy storage as a right, Colorado now makes sure consumers can adopt home batteries without the threat of discriminatory fees or unfair regulations and restrictions. Here’s to expanding clean energy options!

HB1233 Expanding Consumer Protections

With the chance of further consumer privacy breaches, such as Equifax’s last year, we’re taking a stand in Colorado to protect those at risk, specifically minors. I’m the senate sponsor of the bill to allow parents to request the freezing of a minor’s consumer report by a consumer report agency at no cost. The bill will be heard today in Senate Judiciary Committee.

HB1127 Holding Landlords Accountable

I’m the senate sponsor for the bill to add transparency and accountability to the rental housing application process. The bill would require that rental application fees reflect the actualcost of any incurred expenses for things like background checks. Too many renters are having to pay exorbitant application fees, only to get denied over and over again. The bill passed the House and will soon be assigned to a senate committee.

Again, reach out with any input on bills or about issues important to you either by email or over the phone at 303-866-4872. To stay in the loop on my upcoming community events and bills of importance, sign up for texts from my team.

Onward,

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