That's a Wrap! 2017 Legislative Session

Posted on May 18, 2017

Colorado State Capitol

After four long months, it’s over—the 2017 Colorado legislative session officially came to an end on Wednesday, May 11.

Nearly 700 bills were introduced into the Colorado House and Senate this year, with only a small percentage making it all the way to Governor Hickenlooper’s desk. Colorado Common Cause staff play a significant role in advancing and defeating legislation related to election law, voting rights, open records, and campaign finance.

Below are some of the priority bills we worked on in 2017:

Voting & Elections

SB17-071: Concerning Reductions in Early Voting Period Requirements for VSPCs used in General Elections
Position: Oppose
Status: Died on Calendar
Sponsor: Sen. Tate
Summary: SB 71 would have made major cuts to the number of voting locations required during the early vote period. If passed, the bill would have eliminated nearly 30% of the number of hours when voters can access services in the state’s largest counties.

SB17-099: National Popular Vote Agreement
Position: Support 
Status: Postponed Indefinitely
Sponsors: Sen. Kerr / Rep. Rosenthal 
Summary: SB 99 would have added Colorado to the National Popular Vote Compact. Once enacted, this compact will ensure that voters in all states have equal influence in the election by awarding electoral votes to the presidential candidate who wins the national popular vote.

SB17-305: Concerning Modifications to Select Statutory Provisions Affecting Primary Elections 
Position: Support
Status: Sent to Governor
Sponsors: Sen. Fenberg & Sen. Lundberg / Rep. Neville & Rep. Foote  
Summary: Colorado voters approved Propositions 107 and 108 last November, establishing a presidential primary and allowing unaffiliated voters to participate in all Colorado primary elections. SB 305 clarifies how primary elections will be run, and includes a requirement for county clerks to send separate ballots for each major political party to all unaffiliated voters.

SB17-037: Measure Voter Service & Polling Center Wait Times 
Position: Support
Status:  Postponed Indefinitely
Sponsors: Sen. Fenberg  
Summary: SB 37 would have required county clerks in counties with 25,000 or more active electors to measure and report the time it takes to vote at each Voter Service & Polling Center in a general election. In addition, the bill would have authorized the Secretary of State to promulgate rules for uniform data-gathering and reporting.

HB17-1281: Concerning the Optional Use of Alternative Voting Methods by Local Governments in Nonpartisan Elections 
Position: Support
Status: Postponed Indefinitely
Sponsors: Rep. Singer / Sen. Kefalas  
Summary: HB 1281 would have allowed cities, towns, counties, school districts, and special districts to conduct nonpartisan elections using the approval voting model. This method allows a voter to cast a vote for as many of the candidates for each office as the voter chooses, as opposed to just one.

HB17-1014: Election Offenses Committed by a Voter
Position: Oppose
Status: Signed into law
Sponsors: Rep. Williams & Rep. Rosenthal /  Sen. Donovan & Sen. Hill 
Summary: HB 1014 decriminalizes the "ballot selfie" and allows voters to show how they marked their ballot via photograph. We opposed this legislation because allowing voters to share images of their voted ballot facilitates vote buying and coercion.

SB17-079: Concerning the General Assembly's Intent to Limit Amendments to Initiated Statutory Laws 
Position: Support
Status: Postponed Indefinitely
Sponsor:  Sen. Court  
Summary: SB 79 would protect citizen-initiated statutes by prohibiting the legislature from changing a law that was initiated and approved at an election, unless the change was approved by a vote of two-thirds of all members of each chamber. While a statute would not be binding, we support the protection of citizen-initiated statutes.

SB17-152: Concerning the Implementation of Voter-Approved Changes to the Colorado Constitution that Make it More Difficult to Amend the State Constitution 
Position: Support 
Status: Signed into law
Sponsor: Sen. Court & Rep. Kennedy 
Summary: We opposed the passage of Amendment 71, which makes it more onerous for Coloradans to adopt constitutional amendments.  This bill made technical amendments to reflect the changes approved by the voters with the passage of Amendment 71.

Fighting Money in Politics

HB17-1259: Concerning a Requirement that an Independent Expenditure Committee Created by a Candidate is Subject to Constitutional Requirements Governing Limits on Contributions to such Candidate 
Position: Support
Status: Postponed Indefinitely
Sponsors: Rep. Weissman / Sen. Fenberg 
Summary: HB 1259 would have prevented candidates from ignoring Colorado’s strong laws limiting campaign contributions. After Citizens United, Colorado created “independent expenditure committees” that can raise unlimited amounts of money, but cannot legally coordinate with candidates. This bill would have made clear that candidates cannot establish, maintain, or finance an independent expenditure committee in their own race. 

HB17-1260: Concerning the Establishment of Contribution Limits under Fair Campaign Practices Act for County Offices
Position: Oppose
Status: Postponed Indefinitely
Sponsors: Rep. Kennedy / Sen. Fenberg  
Summary: HB 1260 would have established contribution limits for county offices. We opposed this legislation because the contribution limits were more than six times higher than the contribution limits set by the voters with Amendment 27 in 2002.

HB17-1261: Concerning Disclaimer Requirements Applicable to Large Electioneering Communications
Position: Support
Status: Postponed Indefinitely
Sponsors: Rep. Bridges & Rep. Becker /  Sen. Zenzinger  
Summary: HB 1261 would have required electioneering communications to include a “paid for by” disclaimer on their elections materials. This bill would have given voters more information about the ads and mail pieces they receive trying to influence their vote

HB17-1262: Concerning the Expanded Disclosure of Electioneering Communications to include the Period between the Primary Election and the General Election 
Position: Support
Status: Postponed Indefinitely
Sponsors: Rep. Bridges & Rep. Becker / Sen. Zenzinger 
Summary: HB 1262 would have required all funds spent on electioneering communications (the ads that refer to candidates running for office but do not explicitly say ‘vote for’ or ‘vote against’) during the 10-week “gap” period between the primary election and two months before the general election. A study by Colorado Ethics Watch shows that almost $2 million in campaign spending was not reported during this “gap” period in the 2016 election. 

Media & Democracy

SB17-042: Concerning the Repeal of Certain Restrictions on the Ability of a Local Government to Provide Communications Services 
Position: Support
Status: Postponed Indefinitely
Sponsors: Sen. Guzman & Sen. Donovan  
Summary: SB 42 would have repealed the restrictions currently in place on local government who wish to provide municipal broadband service. These restrictions were put into place in previous years after heavy lobbying by the telecommunications industry.  

Ensuring Transparency & Access to Open Records

SB17-040: Public Access to Government Files
Position: Support 
Status: Sent to Governor
Sponsors: Sen. Kefalas / Rep. Pabon  
Summary: SB 40 expands the public’s access to government records in a digital format. This bill is a first step toward modernizing Colorado’s open records laws by giving requesters access to records in a useable format.

HB17-1328: Requiring Candidates to Disclose Income Tax Returns
Position: Support 
Status: Postponed Indefinitely
Sponsors: Rep. Hooten & Rep. Hansen /  Sen. Kerr & Sen. Jones  
Summary: HB 1328 would have required candidates running for president and vice president to file copies of tax returns from the last five years with the secretary of state in order to be on the ballot in Colorado. The returns would then be published online for public inspection.

HB17-1177: Concerning the Use of Alternative Methods of Resolving Disputes that Arise Under CORA 
Position: Support
Status: Signed into law
Sponsors: Rep. Wist & Rep. Garnett / Sen. Cooke  
Summary: When public records requests are denied, a requester’s only option is to go to court. HB 1177 requires that records custodians and requesters talk and try to resolve the issue before pursuing litigation.   

Other Democracy Reforms

SCR17-001: Reduce Age Qualification for General Assembly
Position: Support
Status: Referred to 2018 ballot
Sponsors: Sen. Merrifield & Sen. Marble / Rep. Van Winkle & Rep. Melton 
Summary: SCR 1 refers a constitutional amendment to the voters in November 2018 to lower the age requirement to serve in the Colorado General Assembly from 25 to 21. The vast majority of states allow 21-year-olds to serve in either the state house or senate, while several states allow 18-year-olds to serve.

HJR17-1034: Resolution to Call a Constitutional Convention
Position: Oppose
Status: Postponed Indefinitely
Sponsors: Rep. Saine & Rep. Singer / Sen. Lundberg 
Summary: HJR 1034 would make an application to Congress, under Article V of the US Constitution, to call a convention to set congressional term limits. Common Cause opposes Article V constitutional conventions, as there are no protections to limit the convention’s scope, guard against special interest influence, or protect fundamental civil rights and liberties. 

HJR17-1032: Concerning the Protection of Online Privacy for Colorado Citizens
Position: Support
Status: Sent to Governor
Sponsors:  Rep. Bridges & Rep. Wist / Sen. Cooke & Sen. Fenberg 
Summary: HJR 1032 is a resolution encouraging internet service providers (ISPs) to offer privacy policies and opt-out pages—written in clear and plain language—to allow consumers to protect their privacy online. It also encourages ISPs to follow the FCC’s privacy regulations that were recently overturned.

Office: Colorado Common Cause

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Caroline Fry Advocacy & Media Manager, Colorado Common Cause Ph: (303) 292-2163

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