From the Capitol – August 2022

Dan Jablan
CoACEP Lobbyist

Greetings from Denver! Despite the heat, we hope your summer is going swimmingly.

Here, activities are picking up. Post-session PTSD has finally worn off, vacations are mostly finished, and the legislature’s interim committees are meeting to prepare legislation for the 2023 legislative session starting, gulp, next January. And now that Colorado’s primary elections have passed, the endless fundraising and runup to the November general election is in full tilt. Suffice to say there is plenty to keep track of!

Unaffiliated Voters Turn Out for Primary Election

Many of the June 28 primary races were decided by Colorado’s unaffiliated voters, who can choose to vote the Democrat or Republican ballot. Unaffiliated voters this year cast more ballots in Colorado Republican primaries than ever before. Unaffiliated voters comprise 45% of the State’s voters. More than 231,000 unaffiliated voters cast Republican ballots, with just over 161,000 voting on the Democrat side. There were 1,204,528 ballots case in the primaries, about a 32% turnout of active, registered voters.

The net takes on this record-breaking Unaffiliated voter participation was that every far-right Republican lost their primary elections. Someone said the “sanity ticket” prevailed and Republicans will now field competitive candidates in races across the State.

Control of The Colorado State Senate Hinges on Seven Races

Democrats now hold a 20-15 majority in the Colorado State Senate, but with redistricting Republicans believe they have an opportunity to take back control of the chamber after four years lost in the proverbial minority wilderness.

  • Democrats are guaranteed to win 12 seats, with 11 holdovers and one Democratic candidate, Sen. Julie Gonzales of Denver, running unopposed.
  • Republicans are guaranteed to win eight seats, with seven holdovers and one uncontested race in Senate District 1, where Logan County Commissioner Byron Pelton is unopposed.
  • Another five seats up for grabs in November are considered solidly Republican, while three are considered solidly Democratic.

That leaves seven seats that could be pick-up opportunities for the GOP based on competitiveness, registration, and the state and national political winds. The seven toss-up districts are:

  • Senate District 3: This Pueblo seat tilts Republican. Democratic state Sen. Nick Hinrichsen faces Republican Stephen Varela, an Army veteran. Hinrichsen was appointed to the seat earlier this year after Senate President Leroy Garcia resigned to take a Pentagon job.
  • Senate District 11: This reconfigured Colorado Springs district tilts Democratic. GOP state Sen. Dennis Hisey moved into the district after being drawn out of his old seat in the once-a-decade redistricting process. Hisey will face state Rep.Tony Exum who won his tight primary contest.
  • Senate District 15: This district leans Republican. Incumbent Republican State Sen. Rob Woodward of Loveland will face Democrat Janice Marchman, a middle school math teacher from Loveland. Woodward has raised nearly $200,000 and is expected to run a strong campaign.
  • Senate District 27: This Arapahoe County district leans Democratic. State Rep. Tom Sullivan, a labor Democrat and gun-regulation advocate, faces Republican challenger, Tom Kim, a business owner and former bankruptcy attorney.
  • Senate District 20: This Jefferson County district leans Democratic. State Rep. Lisa Cutter, a Democrat, faces Republican Tim Walsh, a West Point graduate, Army veteran and owner of Confluence Builders.
  • Senate District 8: This Democratic-leaning district is based in northwestern Colorado. Democratic state Rep. Dylan Roberts faces former Eagle Town Councilman Matt Solomon, a former paramedic, coroner and Republican who lives in Avon.
  • Senate District 24: This is a Democratic-leaning district in northwest Adams County. Democratic state Rep. Rep. Kyle Mullica, an ER nurse faces Republican Courtney Potter, an Adams 12 Five Star Schools board member.

November General Election Ballot Measures

In Colorado there are two ways to place a question on the election ballot – a citizens’-initiated measure or by referral form the State Legislature.

A Ballot Initiative must have completed a public review process and submitted 124,632 valid signatures by 3:00PM on August 8, 2022.

The General Assembly may refer proposals that are constitutional or statutory measures.

A constitutional measure requires a two-thirds (66.67 percent) “supermajority” vote in each chamber of the legislature. A simple majority vote in each chamber is required for measures changing state statutes. Legislation referring a measure to the ballot does not require the governor’s signature and cannot be vetoed in Colorado.

In Colorado, a total of 189 ballot measures appeared on statewide ballots between 1985 and 2021. Eighty-six ballot measures were approved, and 103 ballot measures were defeated.

On The 2022 Ballot

As of July 25, 2022, seven statewide ballot measures have been certified for the ballot in Colorado for the election on November 8, 2022.

  • An initiative to reduce the state income tax rate from 4.55% to 4.40%, sponsored by Jon Caldara of the Independence Institute and Republican State Senator Jerry Sonnenberg, is on the ballot.
  • The second to qualify, “Access to Natural Medicine,” would decriminalize psychedelic mushrooms statewide.

The Colorado General Assembly referred three constitutional amendments to the ballot:

  • An amendment to provide for designating judges to the newly created 23rd judicial district;
  • An amendment that would extend an existing homestead tax exemption for qualifying seniors and disabled veterans to the surviving spouses of military personnel and certain veterans;
  • An amendment that would allow the legislature to set the length of time an organization must have existed before obtaining a charitable gaming license and allow the managers and operators of charitable gaming activities to be paid.

The legislature also referred two measures changing state statute to the ballot:

  • A measure to tighten income tax deduction caps to create and fund the Healthy School Meals for All Program to reimburse participating schools for free meals and provides local food purchasing grants and school food-related funding and
  • A measure to require fiscal impact statements for citizen initiatives that affect income taxes to include a table showing the changes in average income taxes for different income brackets.

Initiatives Cleared for Signature Gathering

12 proposed ballot questions cleared the Title Board/Supreme Court process and are now cleared to gather signatures:

  • #54 – Changes to Initiative Process Measure Changes requirements and deadlines for qualifying an initiative for the ballot
  • #56 – Abortion Ban Initiative: Bans abortion in Colorado except when necessary to save the life of the mother, to remove/relocate an ectopic pregnancy, or to remove a fetus that is no longer alive
  • #61 – Possession and Use of Entheogenic Plants and Fungi Initiative: Decriminalizes the personal use of certain entheogenic plants and fungi
  • #63 – Additional State Education Funding Initiative – Directs the state legislature to allocate one-third of one percent of all revenue received from individual, corporation, estate, and trust federal taxable income to the state education fund
  • #80 – Campaign Expenditure Limits Initiative: Limits committee expenditures to 150% of contributions received by an individual with a voter registration number who is eligible to vote for the candidate or issue the committee supports or opposes • #82 – Medicaid Dental Procedures Minimum Reimbursement Initiative: Establishes a minimum reimbursement fee for covered Medicaid dental procedures
  • #93 – Require Investor-Owned Utilities to Pay Percentage of Rates Initiative: Requires investor-owned utilities to pay 5% of all future gas and electric service rates from their profits
  • #96 – Retail Liquor Store Licenses Initiative: Incrementally increases the number of retail liquor store licenses in which an individual may own or hold a share
  • #108 – Dedicate Revenues to Fund Housing Projects Initiative: Dedicates a portion of revenues from existing income tax revenues and allocates funds to housing projects
  • #121 – Grocery and Convenience Store Wine Sales and Tastings Initiative: Creates a new fermented malt beverage and wine retailer license to allow grocery stores, convenience stores, and other businesses that are licensed to sell beer to also sell wine and conduct wine tastings
  • #122 – Alcohol Delivery Service Initiative: Allows retail establishments licensed to sell alcohol for off-site consumption to offer a delivery service or provide for a third-party alcohol delivery service
  • #135 – Public Hearing and Minimum Distance Requirements for New or Expanded Alcohol Retail Establishments Initiative: Requires public hearings and mandate minimum distance requirements from school and churches for new or expanded alcohol retail establishments

Legislative Interim Committees

A number of committees meet during the interim months – May through December. These committees include the ongoing statutory year-round committees as well as the one-time interim committees created by the legislature to study issues and recommend legislation of timely and important issues. All committees are joint committees consisting of House and Senate members and both Republicans and Democrats.

  • Transportation Legislation Review Committee
  • Legislative Oversight Committee Concerning Tax Policy & Task Force
  • Water Resources and Agriculture Review Committee
  • Wildfire Matters Review Committee
  • Sales and Use Tax Simplification Task Force
  • Colorado Jail Standards Commission
  • Pension Review Subcommittee
  • Colorado Youth Advisory Council Committee
  • Early Childhood and School Readiness Legislative Commission
  • Statewide Health Care Review Committee
  • Legislative Interim Committee on Judicial Discipline
  • Task Force for the Consideration of Facial Recognition Services
  • Legislative Interim Committee on School Finance
  • Legislative Oversight Committee Concerning Colorado Jail Standards

Other year-round committees may also meet during the interim period, including:

  • Capital Development Committee
  • Joint Technology Committee
  • Legislative Audit Committee
  • Legislative Council
  • Joint Budget Committee

Elections have consequences. To that end, CO ACEP has a Small Donor Committee (a form of a political action committee) so that we can support candidates that share our mission of promoting the interests and values of emergency physicians and their patients. In Colorado, Small Donor Committees (SDC’s) are unique in that they may not accept contributions of more than $50 per person per calendar year. By limiting the amount that can be contributed to the SDC, the SDC can make larger expenditures to candidates. Please consider making a small contribution ($50 or less) to the ACEP, Colorado Chapter SDC. Your money stays local and helps your Colorado emergency medicine advocacy organization support legislators friendly to emergency medicine and its goals. Make your contributions here.