Under the Dome, Week 21
 
This week the General Assembly reconvened to complete the 2020 legislative session.  The legislature worked Tuesday through Thursday, but after protests turned into riots near the state capitol late Thursday night, leadership decided to cancel work on Friday and Saturday.   Protests have erupted in major cities across the United States in response to the death of George Floyd, a black man who died while pinned to the ground by a police officer in Minneapolis earlier this week.  Protests in Minneapolis turned violent with looting and property damage over multiple days.  During the Denver protests, several gunshots were fired, vehicles around the capitol were damaged and the building was graffitied.  The legislature had planned to take up the budget in the House of Representatives, but now the House will need to take up the budget next week. 
 
More than 110 bills died in committee or on the floor this week as bills were postponed indefinitely or postponed until a date after the end of session.  Shifting priorities has put many bills on the chopping block, but also given rise to new proposals to address effects of the coronavirus pandemic.   SB20-205 Sick Leave for Employees is one of the new priority bills for the Democrats.  Two members of leadership are sponsoring the bill, Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg and House Speaker KC Becker.  Rep. Caraveo and Sen. Bridges are also sponsors. The bill would require that all employers in Colorado provide one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked for each employee.  The bill also sets eligible uses for sick leave and additional requirements for employers to provide paid leave during a public health emergency, such as the coronavirus pandemic.  In a public health emergency, employers would have to provide 80 hours of paid sick leave for full time employees working 40 hours a week or more. The bill is assigned to the Senate State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee and is expected to have a hearing next week.   
 
There are a number of additional bills that are being discussed behind the scenes and expected to drop next week: 
 

  • Price Gouging—A bill to prohibit price gouging following a disaster declaration.
  • Debt Collection—A bill to suspend debt collection for 180 days and increase the wage threshold for an individual to be garnished.
  • Workers Compensation—A bill to create a presumption that essential workers who contract COVID-19 are presumed to have contracted the disease due to employment for the purposes of workers compensation.
  • Whistle Blower Protection—A bill to prohibit employers from discriminating against an employee or independent contractor who raises a public health concern at a workplace.  
  • Repeal the Gallagher Amendment—A Resolution to repeal the Gallagher Amendment, which requires the General Assembly to set the residential assessment rate to maintain a ratio between assessed residential and commercial property.  The Amendment has reduced property tax revenue for special districts, schools, fire districts, etc. It would require a 2/3 majority support from legislators in order to be placed on the November ballot for a public vote.
  • Department of Public Health and Environment Permits—A bill to create a new permit program for state waters not otherwise covered by a new federal rule. 
  • Health Insurance Affordability Enterprise Fund – A proposal to extend the state’s reinsurance program and assess a fee on health insurers to help cover the expense.
  • Mortgage/Rent relief—The bill would create new procedures to aid tenants and homeowners who are unable to make rent and mortgage payments.
 
COVID-19 Update
 
  • 25,121 cases
  • 4,254 hospitalized
  • 60 counties
  • 166,596 people tested
  • 1,421 deaths
 
While COVID-19 case numbers and deaths continue to increase in the state, the total figures above don’t tell the entire story of where the state is now in the pandemic.  This week, Colorado hospitals admitted the fewest number of COVID-19 patients since early April.  On Monday, Governor Polis extended the Safer at Home public health order for another week.   He is expected to issue an extension or amendment to the Safer at Home order before June 1 when it is set to expire.  The Executive Order from Monday, 079, loosened travel restrictions for recreation and allowed restaurants to open at limited capacity, and summer camps were allowed to operate this season.
 
Today Governor Polis extended a series of executive orders that continue previous executive actions:
 
  • 088—Extends previous executive orders 012 and 031 and 051 to limit evictions, foreclosures, and public utility disconnections for 15 days.
  • 086—Extends a previous executive order to provide additional funds for nursing homes.
  • 084—Extends previous orders to suspend regulatory statutes related to restaurants ability to sell alcohol for take out, around medical marijuana cards, and vehicle weight provisions
  • 085—Extends a previous executive order to provide flexibility for unaffiliated candidates to collect signatures to get on the ballot.
  • 087—Extends previous executive orders to allow for remote notarizations. 
  • 083—Extends a previous executive order to provide flexibility for the issuance of marriage licenses
  • 082—Extends a previous executive order that suspends statutes to allow for more telehealth services
 
Governor Polis’s Executive Order 064 that allowed for petitioners to gather signatures remotely through email or mail was challenged in court.  A court opinion issued this week sided with Governor Polis to uphold the Executive Order 064.  This will make it much easier for the campaigns seeking to place an initiative on the 2020 ballot to gain enough signatures to do so.  The deadline to submit signatures is August 3, 2020.