Capitol Hill: Update on General Assembly

Colorado’s 71st General Assembly session is in full swing. The operations began Jan. 11 and have shown to be productive and complex.

Legislators have their work cut out for them, as concerns about term limits and raising revenue loom over the 2017 session. The restraining eight-year limit on state senators and representatives presents the immediate consequence of inexperienced members. With the more seasoned members of the House and Senate being forced out just short of a decade, the problem of reduced expertise has most recently arisen as a detriment to legislative decisions.

The Colorado State Seal

A subsidiary result of this restriction is a frequent turnover of those in top legislative positions. The positions of speaker of the Colorado House and president of the Colorado Senate now turn over every two years or so, meaning that new leaders are coming into their positions with minimal experience. The battle of term limits has left the legislature with the need to act fast and efficiently.

This year’s assembly is scrounging for results, attacking issues that directly affect the citizens of Colorado. One issue pertained to the freedom to exercise one’s religion. This bill proposed that no state action might burden a person’s exercise of religion and provided a defense to a person whose exercise of religion was burdened by state action. Simply put, the bill would have allowed businesses to deny services to someone on the basis of religion. For example, the bill would have enabled a minister to decline the service of marrying a same-sex couple. The LGBTQ community cheered the defeat of this bill in late January, but religious leaders felt perplexed about the decision.

On the brighter side, this year’s session has produced a bill that extends income tax credit for child care expenses for three more years. If passed, this bill would allow low-income parents within
the community to continue to be guaranteed tax assistance.

The House also passed HB17-1206, or the Eligibility Colorado Road & Community Safety Act, on April 3. Currently, a person who is not lawfully present in the United States may obtain a driver’s license or identification card if certain requirements are met. One of the requirements is that the person present a taxpayer identification card. According to the assembly’s website, the bill would allow a Social Security number to meet the standards of the required documents to receive a driver’s license and would make it easier for undocumented immigrants to obtain a license.

With the bill on its way to the Senate, undocumented immigrants in Colorado have something to be very hopeful for.

At the midway point of the 2017 session, both questionable and hope-inspiring moves are being made. With just over a month left until adjournment — due to positive and negative developments regarding the proposed bills — the productivity of the session is topically debatable. Adjournment is scheduled for May 10, 2017.

Author: Jamel Jones

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