Colorado’s 2023 Legislative Session Wrap-up
As Colorado’s legislative session comes to a close, the Common Cause team has been hard at work to defend and strengthen democracy in our state. Here’s an overview of what we were able to accomplish with your support:
Legislative session wrap-up:
- We fought for democracy, access and equity in our election system, scoring major wins for Colorado’s gold star election system, and striking down politically motivated attacks on our elections.
- We supported bills that bring greater ethical standards, transparency and accountability to all levels of government. We are holding power accountable from statewide offices to municipalities and school districts, because government should answer to the people.
- For the first time ever, campaign finance limits will extend to Colorado’s municipal elections. Our elections should be decided by the will of the people, not wealthy donors and special interests, and that includes local office.
- We secured a major victory for broadband for all. Many low-income Coloradans and rural Coloradans are unresourced when it comes to broadband access, and we know that internet access is a critical access point to civic life and economic opportunity in the 21st century.
- Colorado stopped yet another attempt to call for an Article V Constitutional Convention, in response to a growing movement of proponents. Colorado Common Cause will continue to fight any attempt to put our foundational civil rights on the line.
Voting & Elections
We fought for democracy, access and equity in our election system this session, scoring major wins for Colorado’s gold star election system and striking down politically motivated attacks on our elections.
- Testified on & advocated for SB 276, Senate President Fenberg’s major election bill.
- Voters can now use a digital form of any of the required IDs.
- The right to bring cell phones into voting booths is now explicitly protected.
- Expanded VSPCs on more college campuses
- Fun fact: All three of these policy wins were included in the election cleanup bill thanks to the advocacy our new Executive Director, Aly Belknap. Aly led statewide programming that assisted voters on-the-ground at campus Voter Service Centers across our state, and turned the first-hand experiences of voters in our state into actionable policies to improve access and protect the rights of voters.
- Colorado is now the first state in the nation to expand Automatic Voter Registration to tribal nations. The Southern Ute tribal nation & the Ute tribal nations will now work directly with the CO Secretary of State’s office to provide lists of eligible voters living on designated tribal lands for automatic voter registration
Why it Matters:
We are continuing to strengthen Colorado’s gold star election system by addressing underlying barriers to voting and voting rights issues, and we are pushing our state to the next level by continually innovating our systems. Colorado is setting forth a model for the rest of the nation for engaging Native communities in our democracy in partnership with tribal nations.
- Testified against HB 1149, HB 1055 & HB 1170
- HB 1149 would have lowered the number of Voter Service Centers in rural communities. We know that access to in person voting is critical for all voters, and rural voters should not have to overcome long drives to vote in person.
- HB 1055 would have prohibited the use reliable and safe voting technology, based on politically motivated conspiracy theories. Colorado elections remain free and fair – and we will always work to keep them that way, starting with the facts.
- HB 1170 would have created significant obstacles to voting in person via an eligibility test for every voter using untested blockchain technology, and it would have required all those voting their mail ballot to take additional actions to verify their eligibility before their vote is counted. Colorado’s election system is built to ensure only eligible ballots are counted, and voters should never be subject to burdensome eligibility tests to exercise their right to vote.
Ethics and Accountability
We supported bills that bring greater ethical standards, transparency and accountability to all levels of government. We are holding power accountable from statewide offices to municipalities and school districts, because government should answer to the people.
- Former Common Cause staffer, now State Representative Jennifer Parenti, sponsored HB 23-1065, which proposed to expand the reach of the Independent Ethics Commission (created in Article 29 of the Constitution) to hear complaints and deal with ethics issues concerning local government officials and employees. While this bill didn’t pass this time, we look forward to the work ahead on creating greater ethical standards and accountability at all levels of government.
Why it Matters: We expect all public officials to abide by high ethical standards when conducting the people’s business. The Independent Ethics Commission is how we hold power accountable in Colorado, and that should extend to local officials.
- We supported SB 23-286, which amends the Colorado Open Records Act to make final reports of government-authorized investigations into alleged sexual harassment subject to CORA request. This bill also allows for digital delivery of records, ensures data is accessible and user-friendly, and allows payment of CORA fees by credit cards.
Why it Matters: We hold power accountable by demanding transparency, and Coloradans shouldn’t face unnecessary barriers to accessing open records.
- We supported SB 053, which prohibits the state, counties, municipalities and school districts from using non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) as a condition of employment.
Why it Matters: This law is one more crucial step toward making government transparent and accountable to the public.
- HB 1259 attempted to change the Colorado Open Meetings Law in a way that would have gutted the ability of citizens to successfully raise complaints when the public is not given proper notice for local public meetings. Thanks to advocacy from the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition, of which Colorado Common Cause is a member, this provision of the bill was successfully removed.
Why it Matters: Citizen oversight is the only enforcement mechanism that holds local governments, school districts, and the like to stay accountable and transparent to the public. Coloradans should retain the power to act when local government is not open and transparent.
Money & Influence
- For the first time ever, campaign contribution limits will apply to municipal elections. Thanks to Representative Parenti’s HB 1245, starting in 2024, individual candidate contributions will be capped at $400, and small donor committee contributions will be capped at $4000. This bill also creates more frequent campaign contribution reporting, and reports must be made publicly available.
Why it Matters: Elections should be decided by the will of the people, not wealthy donors and special interests. Voters deserve to know how candidates are funding their campaigns before their ballots are in their hand.
Media and Democracy
- We supported SB 183, marking a major victory for improved broadband access in Colorado. Local governments can now provide broadband internet service without the need for a costly voting process, something that monopoly service providers had fought for and won back in 2005.
Why it Matters: Right now, there is significant broadband funding available from the federal government, and Colorado communities need that funding to be allocated swiftly and equitably based on where the need is, not based on special interests. Many low-income Coloradans and rural Coloradans are unresourced when it comes to broadband access, and we know that internet access is a critical access point to civic life and economic opportunity in the 21st century.
Constitution, Courts, and Other Democracy Issues
- We opposed yet another unsuccessful attempt to call an Article V Convention of the States for proposing amendments to the United States Constitution. SJM 23-004 was postponed indefinitely in Senate State Affairs, despite tons of testimony from vocal advocates.
Why it Matters: An Article V Constitutional Convention puts our civil rights in jeopardy of permanent changes at the hands of the most powerful special interests. We cannot allow our free speech, freedom to protest and voting rights to be put on the line.