Every session of the Colorado Legislature has its winners and losers, but sorting them out is an “eye of the beholder thing” to borrow a phrase from Grand Junction’s GOP Sen. Ray Scott.
For example, House Bill 1242 would have given Coloradans a chance to vote on a state sales-tax increase dedicated to improving transportation infrastructure, but it died in a Senate committee. Anti-tax groups in the state cheered it as a win, while we felt it made losers of anyone who thinks good roads are an important investment in the state’s economic future.
That bill’s demise, however, paved the way for the session’s biggest accomplishment — Senate Bill 267, which turned the state’s hospital provider fee into a standalone government enterprise, freeing up money for other programs and averting a crisis over funding for rural hospitals. Among other things, this “kitchen sink” spending measure provides $2 billion in bonds to pay for road projects. It also directs money to rural schools.
It was part of a bipartisan compromise. This session, more than recent ones, saw Republicans and Democrats trying to meet each other halfway — often on issue important to rural Colorado.
“I’ve been a pretty outspoken critic of the hospital provider fee,” Rep. Yeulin Willett, R-Grand Junction, was quoted as saying in a Denver Post story. “We tried to get it done through budget cuts, folks. But we couldn’t get it done. So at some point you’ve got to take the good with the bad. You’ve got to be a statesman. You’ve got to do what’s right for rural Colorado.”
We tip our caps to Republican Senate President Kevin Grantham and Democratic House Speaker Crisanta Duran for leading by example on engaging across the aisle. They set a tone for pushing past partisanship to achieve some good compromises.
Among the bills we consider “wins:”
■ Senate Bill 40 passed on the final day of the 2017 session. It modernizes the state’s open records law by requiring taxpayer-funded agencies to release documents in a digital format if they exist that way. It’s the first major update to the open records law in decades.
■ Senate Bill 305, which guides the secretary of state on how to write the rules for the state’s open primary system approved under Proposition 108, passed. Provisions we opposed — forcing unaffiliated voters to declare a party preference that could be disclosed as public information — were stripped out of the bill.
An effort we’re glad didn’t get off the ground:
■ Colorado Republicans attempted to repeal the Connect for Health Colorado insurance marketplace. Opposition forced them to postpone the bill until finally killing it at the end of the session.
A bill we were sorry to see die:
■ Sen. Ray Scott’s bill to keep the Colorado Energy Office operating after July 1. The bill’s failure will eliminate the office’s $3 million budget. House Democrats balked at provisions that would have allowed utilities to drill their own gas wells — a move that might have proven beneficial to ratepayers.
We were also disappointed in the cutback of film incentives from $3 million to $750,000 per year — a shortsighted decisions that will have an outsized negative impact on rural Colorado.