Gov. John Hickenlooper called Colorado’s 2018 legislative session the most successful one he’s seen even though he wanted more money spent on transportation and lost the battle for a bill about mental health and guns.
Here’s the governor’s take on what passed, what failed and what’s next:
PERA (Public Employees Retirement Association)
The state’s pension system has been the elephant in the room since the start of the 2018 session.
Republicans and Democrats both agreed that PERA was underfunded and on the fiscal brink, but they couldn’t agree – until late Wednesday night – on how to fix it.
The deal raises the retirement age for new hires, increases the contributions of current employees and lowers the cost of living adjustments for retirees.
“When you step back and look at who made more who made less I think they work out pretty evenly…,” Hickenlooper said. “We don’t want an obligation as large as PERA to have even a hint of vulnerability.”
Lawmakers in both chambers went back and forth before hammering out a deal to spend $645 million in over the next two years, and to ask voters if they’d support spending another $2.3 billion in bonds.
Hickenlooper praised lawmakers for passing what they did, but he said it falls short of the $9 billion Colorado’s Department of Transportation says it needs to keep up with the state’s growth.
“Do I think we should have done that and not done PERA, which is really where that money went. I mean that money went to PERA and to school teachers to be bluntly honest about it,” Hickenlooper said. “I think if you take the money that is going in the next two years and you allocate that over lifetimes of a bond it is a significant investment. It’s just that needs are so large.”
Speaking of those bonds, voters won’t decide whether they want to go down that road until November 2019. It also contingent on whether voters approve or reject two other transportation ballot initiatives.
The Denver Metro Chamber is proposing an initiative that would raise the state sales tax to pay for transportation projects.
Hickenlooper said he won’t commit to supporting that idea until he sees the final language, but it’s likely he’ll be on board.
“RED FLAG” GUN BILL
Law enforcement officials, Democrats and two House Republicans got behind a bill that would have let family members and police ask judges around the state to remove guns and ammunition from people in the middle of mental health crises.
The “red flag” bill passed the House, but it died in a Senate committee when all the Republicans voted against it.
Republican lawmakers at the Capitol argued the bill threatened to encroach on the Second Amendment rights of gun owners.
Reporters asked Hickenlooper whether he’d consider a special session or an executive order. He said both are unlikely.
SEALING CHILD AUTOPSIES
A bill that would exempt the autopsies of children from records requested was passed by lawmakers this session, but Hickenlooper hasn’t signed it yet.
News outlets (including 9NEWS) and open records advocates are asking the governor to veto it.
County coroners pushed for the bill on the grounds that allowing the public access to these reports violates the privacy of grieving families.
Opponents of the bill argued that judges can already seal autopsies.
9NEWS and The Denver Post used the autopsies of minors to highlight serious problems with Colorado’s child protective system in 2012.
The governor said he’s going to take some time to review the bill before deciding whether to sign it.
Hickenlooper’s also going to take some time to review a bill regulating beer sales that passed late Wednesday night.
“I haven’t seen the bill yet,” Hickenlooper said.
A law passed in 2016 would let grocery and convenience stores sell full-strength beer starting in January 2019.
This new bill prohibits new stores from selling beer within 500 feet of current liquor stores, bans third-parties from delivering beer to people’s houses and lowers the age for people to sell alcohol to 18.