Senator Steve Fenberg | Newsletters
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Newsletters

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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15 Feb Update on Senate Business So Far

It’s been a busy few weeks at the Capitol with committee hearings already going late into the evening and all four of my introduced bills moving quickly through the legislative process.

Some Bad News

Just yesterday, the Senate State Affairs Committee, on which I sit, voted on 11 bills, including suicide prevention in schools, establishing an opioid overdose prevention facility, and repealing the permit requirement for gun owners to conceal-carry in public. After the 8-hour long committee, children and our public health were put on the back-burner by a party-line vote, but rolling back gun safety measures was unfortunately fast-tracked through committee.

On the Bright Side…

On the bright side, all of my introduced bills so far have either passed all the way through the Senate or have been given initial approval in committee!

Community Tour
Tonight!
Finkel & Garf Brewing Co.
5455 Spine Rd | Boulder
6pm-7:30pm


Town Hall
with Maj Leader Becker & Rep Hooton

Thurs, Feb 22nd
Twisted Pine Brewing Co.
3201 Walnut St | Boulder
5:30pm-7pm
RSVP here

To keep up-to-date on other bills of importance, such as the bill to ban bump stocks, and more events around Boulder County, sign up for texts from my team. We will keep you in the loop on what’s happening at the Capitol and in the district.

Onward,

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08 Feb My First Bill Passes the Senate!

Residential Energy Storage Passes the Senate!

Today my bill with Sen Kevin Priola passed the Senate chamber with a strong bipartisan vote. The bill declares the right of consumers to install & use residential electric energy storage without unfair burdens. By removing barriers, it enables Coloradans to more easily incorporate energy storage at home, which enhances the reliability and efficiency of the electric grid, saves money, and reduces the need for additional electric generation facilities. The bill now moves to House committee before it heads to the House floor for a full vote.

My Next Two Bills

Ensuring Financial Sustainability of Colorado Parks & Wildlife
Colorado Parks and Wildlife cannot withstand more internal cuts–a long-term solution is needed. By creating a more sustainable financial structure for CPW, SB143 raises revenue to keep pace with inflation. Without modest fee increases, outdoor recreation programs and conservation projects will remain at risk. Go here to learn more about the effort.

Ensuring Ex-Felons’ Right to Vote
Did you know that ex-felons regain the right to vote in Colorado once off paper? Yeah, neither do they. SB150 aims to change that by not only preregistering parolees to vote but also educating persons on parole and probation on their voting rights. It seeks to re-enfranchise an historically marginalized group.

A young Democrat myself, I joined the newly formed Boulder County Young Democrats to celebrate making it a year under the current presidency. To learn more about the group, go here.

In Committee

The start of the session has already brought intense emotions to committee testimony that were received by an unmoved Republican audience. Two bills that would improve road safety were struck down by the Republican majority even after families, motorcyclists and bicyclists, and experts offered distressing testimony, from stories on the loss of loved ones to the unequivocal statistics supporting the bills.

Further, three bills on reigning in the oil & gas industry were heard, and subsequently rejected by the Republicans. From allowing cities and counties to deny fracking (if they see fit) to requiring fossil fuel companies to pay for the damages and clean-up of spills and abandoned wells, the bills received overwhelming testimony support. But, again, it fell upon deaf ears and all three lost on a party-line vote.

I have a ton of events coming up across the district, from South Boulder to Niwot. Feel free to sign up for texts to learn more about them and to get updates on important bills as they move through the legislature.

Onward,

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18 Jan Expanding Opportunity

Expanding Opportunity for Refugees & Immigrants

With the recent disparaging remarks about immigrants coming from President Trump, I wanted to do something to fight back against hate and racism here at home. That’s why I’m especially excited to announce my second bill of 2018: allowing refugees and special visa immigrants in Colorado to pay in-state tuition rates for college.

By allowing in-state tuition instead of expensive out-of-state rates for refugees and Special Immigrant Visa holders, the bill ensures that Colorado is a welcoming and supportive community for those who now call Colorado home. Whether they’re a refugee from a war-torn region or have been given a Special Immigrant Visa after serving as a translator for the U.S. in Iraq and Afghanistan and now fear retribution, they deserve the opportunity to work hard and pursue a degree to further contribute to the Colorado economy.

Unfortunately, Senate Republican leadership already assigned the bill to the State Affairs Committee, where most bills receive a party-line vote. However, I’m not backing down; I plan to ensure this bill serves as a message of not just acceptance, but active support of immigrants and refugees during a time of hostility coming out of Washington D.C. and around the world. 

Today, we state loud and clear: immigrants and refugees have a place in our Colorado story.

Community Tour 2018!

In addition to full town halls, I will be doing a “community tour” by setting up tables at breweries, coffee shops, and local businesses around the district to have one-on-one conversations with constituents.

First stop on the tour is Upslope at Flatiron Park on Tuesday, January 30thCome by for good conversation (and a beer or two!). RSVP here.

To stay up-to-date on this bill and others, sign up for texts from my team. We’ll keep you informed and let you know how you can get involved.

Onward,

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