Senator Steve Fenberg | That’s a Wrap of the 2018 Legislative Session!
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That’s a Wrap of the 2018 Legislative Session!

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,