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Legislative Year: 2019 Change

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Colorado's 2019 session wrapped up on Monday, June 3, when the Governor signed his final bills.  It looks like 455 bills passed and were signed, 5 were vetoed, and 138 failed one way or the other. 

Legislators took hundreds of votes.  You can see 1st committee, appropriations, and third reading votes on all bills HERE.

The legislative agenda followed the Democratic majority's will.  Its effects include new standards for oil and gas drilling along with more local control, support for climate change initiatives, more help for working women with equal wage laws, mild improvement in education finance, more money for higher ed at long last, and possible initiatives for transportation.

The next session will have to follow up on FAMLI leave and review results of many health care reports and changes to determine whether costs can be managed and lowered.  One bill will collect data on climate change, so those results may lead to more climate projects.

Democrats have at least one, probably three more years of unfettered legislative control. They've been able to move on many progressive fronts, but at some point will have to address more robustly concerns from such Republican strongholds as rural Colorado.  There, education funding and support for agriculture will be important.  

State Democrats are uniquely positioned today, as opposed to 2010 when Republicans were dominant during the Great Recession.  With the 2020 census and likely control of the legislature in 2021 and 2022, Democrats will be in a strong position into the next decade to run their agenda.  Republicans will have to navigate this new political environment, and work to attract the hundreds of thousands of new unaffiliated voters to turn around their circumstances.  That's the picture right now.  PEN

The 2019 General Assembly has introduced 244 bills as of January 27. Ninety-five are bipartisan, 84 have Democratic sponsors and 65 have all GOP sponsors.

So far, the subjects with the most legislation are education and school finance at 38 bills, health and insurance at 27 bills, public health at 20 bills, crime and enforcement at 17 bills, and natural resources at 10 bills.

The House has 16 bills assigned to State, Veterans, and Military Affairs, aka the kill committee. Twelve of those bills have GOP-only sponsors. Two of three bills sponsored by minority House leader Patrick Neville, one to take down the income tax rate from 4.63% to 4.25% and the other to allow concealed carry of guns on school grounds lost in the House SVMA.

The Senate State, Veterans, and Military Affairs, aka the kill committee, has 19 bills. Eleven have GOP-only sponsors. So, for example, Automatic Law Waivers for School Districts, with GOP sponsor Sen. Owen Hill, with an education and school finance subject, was already killed in SVMA.

Five House bills are postponed indefinitely, all with GOP sponsors. Five Senate bills are killed, all with GOP sponsors.  PEN

The 2018 general election is 15 months away, but more than 100 people already have filed candidacy papers for the House or Senate.

And some of those candidates already are raising big money. As of the most recent filing deadline on July 17, more than $558,000 had been raised by 78 registered House candidates and more than $363,000 by 26 Senate hopefuls. Twenty House candidates have five-digit war chests.

Those totals are likely low. Depending on when they filed their affidavits, some candidates didn’t have to report financial information in July. The next reporting deadline is in mid-October.

A lot of that money is being raised in some developing primary races, particularly among Democrats.

There are 10 intra-party contests shaping up in the House, eight of them on the Democratic side. There are four potential primaries in Senate districts, all involving Democrats.

The hot Democratic House contests are in Denver, in the 4th District being vacated by Rep. Dan Pabon and in the 5th District of Speaker Crisanta Duran, who’s also term limited. Four candidates are seeking Pabon’s seat, including lawyer Amy Beatie, social worker and activist Serena Gonzales-Gutierres, community organizer Michael Kiley and a William Britt.

Contenders in the 5th District are corporate executive Meghan Nutting, businessman Alex Valdez and political organizer Nicky Yollick.

Beatie is the top fundraiser among all House candidates, reporting contributions of $43,644 so far.

Democratic primaries also are shaping up in the 18th, 24th, 26th, 28th, 34th and 50th districts.

Five Democrats are vying in Senate District 32, which stretches across south Denver. Current Sen. Irene Aguilar is term limited.

The candidates are entrepreneur Zach Neumann, activist Robert Rodriguez, lawyer Alan Kennedy-Shaffer and two other political activists, Peter Smith and Lance Wright.

Neumann has reported raised $55,230.  

Expect a lot more candidates to file affidavits in the coming months – there typically are about 250 legislative candidates in any given statewide election. And also expect a lot of individuals to drop by the wayside, particularly when party selection processes start next spring.

But here’s a look at the situation of as Aug. 9:


  • All 65 House seats are up
  • So far at least one candidate has registered in 43 districts
  • There are 78 candidates who’ve filed with the secretary of state, including two unaffiliated, two Libertarians and one from the new Unity Party
  • Thirty-seven incumbents have filed their paperwork; 13 others haven’t done so yet. The other 15 representatives are either term-limited and/or running for other offices.


  • Because senators serve four-year terms, there are only 17 races in 2018.
  • Some 26 people have filed Senate candidacies
  • At least one candidate has filed in 15 districts
  • Four incumbents who are eligible to run haven’t yet filed

Learn about all current House candidates in this spreadsheet. You can sort columns by clicking the small triangles at the top of each column. Learn more about a candidate by clicking his or her name.

Announced House Candidates 2018

Here’s the spreadsheet listing current Senate candidates.

Announced Senate Candidates 2018

But wait, there’s more

We’ve also built a spreadsheet of current candidates for statewide office. It works like the House and Senate databases.

Announced Candidates for Statewide Offices

-- Todd Engdahl


Colorado legislators this session are close to overspending the Marijuana Tax Cash Fund, the state account that holds the revenues from the various taxes on cannabis products.

State fiscal analysts estimate that fund will have a net $117.7 million available for spending in the 2017-18 budget year. But marijuana appropriations proposed in the main state budget plus spending proposed in other bills that haven’t yet passed totals $8.6 million more than will be available.

It ultimately will be up to the Joint Budget Committee and the two appropriations committees to exercise some discipline and prevent the marijuana cash fund from being drained. Some bills are going to die.

Debating the annual state budget is a frustrating exercise from the replica watches 94 lawmakers who aren’t members of the Joint Budget Committee. That’s because the budget panel is required to submit a budget package that balances the general fund, the main state account that’s filled primarily by income and sales taxes.

If a lawmaker wants to direct more general fund to a particular program, he or she has to persuade colleagues to trim general fund money from another agency.

So the annual budget gets changed very little as it moves through the House and Senate, usually ending up in much the same form that the JBC proposed in the first place.

The marijuana account is classified as a “cash fund,” meaning it isn’t subject to the same balancing requirements as general fund money. (There are scores of other cash funds scattered across state balance sheets, most of which have specific revenue sources and are supposed to have earmarked uses.)

Frustrated by their inability to tap the general fund for favorite projects, lawmakers often try to raid cash funds. That what’s happened with the marijuana fund this year, in a big way.

A law passed after recreational marijuana was legalized limits tax revenue spending to programs “such as drug use prevention and treatment, protecting the state's youth, and ensuring the public peace, health, and safety.” (That last item means marijuana regulation and law enforcement.)

Lawmakers have used that broad definition to fund a lot of programs, including the Department of Revenue, school health services, drug education, marijuana research and mental health and substance abuse programs of all kinds.

As the 2017-18 budget bill emerged from the JBC, it already contained $79 million in proposed spending from the marijuana fund, much of that continuation and expansion funding for programs that previously had tapped the fund. (Some $61 million is being spent from the fund in the current 2016-17 budget.)

This year’s budget measure, SB17-254, gained another $32 million in marijuana-supported funding as it moved through the Senate and House. Those add-ons included $16.3 million for homeless housing and $8 million in spending on mental health programs.

A separate measure, House Bill 17-1221, would grab another $6 million for grants to local police departments to help them enforce marijuana laws. (That bill has passed both chambers but hasn’t yet been sent to the governor.)

The spending proposed in the budget bill combined with the enforcement measure would leave only $793,462 in the marijuana fund.

But wait – there’s more.

A handful of other bills propose an additional $9.4 million in spending from the marijuana fund, creating the $8.6 million potential hole.

A sidelight to the marijuana spending spree is the fact that one marijuana tax rate is supposed to drop next year. Among several marijuana taxes is what’s called the special sales tax, and it is scheduled to drop from 10 percent to 8 percent on July 1.

The budget committee has drafted a bill that would keep the tax at 10 percent, but that hasn’t been introduced yet.

The marijuana fund problem is just one small element in a big budget stalemate created by lawmaker disagreements over the Hospital Provider Fee, use of mineral tax revenues and school funding.

The House has delayed action on two related budget bills, the provider fee bill is still sitting in a Senate committee and the annual school finance bill, necessary to set district-by-district allocations for 2017-18, hasn’t even been introduced.

Both houses have passed the main budget bill, although it hasn’t yet been sent back to the JBC for resolution of differences between the two chambers.


-- Todd Engdahl

New Colorado lawmakers don’t have much time to prepare for the 2019 General Assembly.  Thirty-two newly elected officials will take new office:  22 in the House and 13 in the Senate.  Five new Senate members move from the House.

About 33 percent of the Democrat-controlled House will be new members and 37 percent of the Democrat-controlled Senate will be new to the Senate, though not new to a General Assembly.  Five new Senators move over from the House.

New House Republicans Mark Paisley from Roxborough Park and Rod Pelton from Cheyenne Wells spent the least on their races at $9381* for Paisley and $19,422* for Pelton. 

House Democrats Kerry Tipper* from Lakewood and Bri Buentello* from Pueblo spent the most on their races at $180,021 for Tipper and $152,740 for Buentello.

Of 65 House races, 62 lawmakers had the most donor money.  Of the three races in which the winner had less money than the opponent, two winners, in Districts 39 and and 58, were incumbents.  The third seat was an open district with a 29+ registration to Republicans.

House District 47 in Pueblo and east was within one point and cost the Democrat winner $152,000 and the Republican opponent $18,000. 

The state Senate races, the contested chamber, were orders of magnitude more expensive than House races.  The most expensive race was SD-16, Tammy Story v. incumbent Tim Neville.  Story won $300,000 more than Neville. 

Three Democrats came in 2nd, 3rd, and 4th for fundraising, from $434,000 at the top to $315,345 at the low.  All three were incumbent state representatives.  Rep. Faith Winter in SD 24 won over Republican Senator Beth Martinez-Humenik, and Reps. Jessie Danielson and Brittany Pettersen defeated their opponents for open seats.

Newly elected individual Democratic winners ginned up over $2.1 million for their races, by far the most in Colorado history.  Democrats in these races typically had a 3:1 dollar advantage over Republicans who relied more on PACs to market their campaigns.

Lists of all 2019 lawmakers will be available in the next couple of weeks when Colorado Capitol Watch sets up for the 2019 General Assembly. 

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