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CLS Announcments, Newsletter and Bill Updates

SESSION HIGHLIGHTS, JAN 25-29, 2016

Bill Cutting Grants from Limited Gaming Fund Dies
A bill that would redistribute moneys collected through the limited gaming fund was heard this week by the House State Veterans and Military Affairs Committee. The bill, HB16-1074, sponsored by Rep. Tim Dore (R-Elizabeth), raised concern from the state’s advanced industry cluster.  

Initially, HB16-1074, reduced all of the transfers of limited gaming revenue to cash funds from the advanced industries (advanced manufacturing, aerospace, bioscience, electronics, energy and natural resources, cleantech, infrastructure engineering technology and information) by 10%, totaling over $3 million.

After hearing from the advanced industry stakeholders, Rep. Dore asked the committee for an amendment to the bill. But even after the bill was amended to take the spillover from the limited gaming fund after the transfers for the advanced industry grants are made, rather than give the whole lot a 10% cut, the committee still rejected the bill on a vote of 6-3.

Joint Committees Hear New Options to Fund Transportation
Thursday, January 28, the Joint Budget Committee (JBC) met with the House and Senate Transportation Committees. Legislators were presented with a memo describing options for making capital transfers to assist with transportation funding.  Conversations surrounded the conundrum the state is in with respect to meeting a variety of constitutional requirements like balancing a budget and making the SB09-228 mandated transfers to construction which are triggered by revenue forecasts and the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR).

The major problem is that the transfers are based on state forecasts done by not year-end close out figures. This year the forecasts by the State Office of Planning and Budgeting (OSPB) and the Legislative Legal Services have varied enough that there may be a full transfer of $200 million or nothing at all.

As such, the JBC is looking for certainty and is considering drafting a bill that would eliminate the triggers and make instead a five year commitment of $100 million of general fund transfer to the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT). Their position is that such a bill would give the JBC, CDOT and the greater transportation community concrete information for planning purposes rather than the "feast or famine" transfers that the current statute affords.

Members of the Transportation Committees had questions about how this type of allocation would fit in with funding other priorities like K-12 education. The JBC responded that there would have to be a trade off with other departments, but that certainty would be better for everyone.

At the end of the hearing, it was not clear whether the JBC will actually introduce such a bill, but it does add to the conversation. Proposals are already on the table for bonding, fee and tax increases, and options for creating cap room.

Senate Committee Gives Unanimous Nod to SCFD Renewal Proposal  

The Senate Finance Committee gave unanimous and bipartisan approval to the proposal to renew the Denver metro area’s successful Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (SCFD) on Tuesday of this week. The proposal, SB16-016, will now move to the Senate Appropriations Committee.

With more than a majority of state lawmakers in both chambers already signed on as co-sponsors, support for the proposal is strong. The legislative effort is another necessary step toward placing the issue of renewing the SCFD, a critical funding source for arts, cultural and scientific organizations across the seven-county metro area, for an additional 12 years on the November 2016 ballot.

The bill’s prime sponsors include Senate President Bill Cadman (R-Colorado Springs) and Sen. Pat Steadman (D-Denver) as well as House Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst (D-Boulder) and Rep. Polly Lawrence (R-Littleton).

“Voters are really pleased with this district and they have voted time and time again to keep it,” said Sen. Steadman when presenting the bill in front of the Senate Finance Committee. “Voters deserve the opportunity to vote on the continuation of the district with this new structure. It’s really a marvel for arts, science and culture in the Denver metro area.”

The proposal asks state lawmakers to consider some of the most sweeping changes ever proposed to the nearly 30-year-old district. These changes include substantial shifts in the way district revenues are distributed which will result in increased capital to medium and small arts, culture and science organizations funded by the district. The tax itself will not increase under the proposal.

“This is one of the few regional taxes that really provides a statewide benefit,” said Sen. Cadman. “This is seven counties in the Denver metro area willing to tax themselves to benefit the entire state. It is virtually impossible to quantify all the benefits we all derive from this.”

For the investment of one penny on every $10 spent in the district, the diverse array of cultural organizations contribute more than $1.8 billion to the regional economy and employ more than 10,000 people. Citizen support for the more than 275 arts and cultural organizations that receive district funds has resulted in world-class facilities and programs and unprecedented access.  More than 14 million people – 4 million of them kids – attend SCFD funded programs each year – many for free or reduced rates.

Denver Metro area voters created the SCFD in 1988 and approved a 1¢ on $10 sales and use tax to provide for the enlightenment, entertainment, and education of the public. Scientific and cultural facilities accomplish this through the production, presentation, exhibition, advancement or preservation of art, music, theater, dance, zoology, botany, natural history or cultural history.

The SCFD was renewed by regional voters in 1994 and 2004. In 2016, voters will again have the opportunity to approve this initiative, which supports 275 arts, science and cultural organizations so they can provide and expand access and programs for the public. Counties that make up the SCFD are Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Broomfield, Denver, Douglas (except for Castle Rock and Larkspur) and Jefferson.

Questions Over Necessity Hold Financial Literacy Bill  
The Senate Education Committee heard testimony on Thursday in favor of a bill that would augment Colorado’s academic standards tied to personal finance, but the committee held off on casting a vote after several members raised concerns over its necessity.

SB16-045, which is sponsored by Sen. Nancy Todd (D-Aurora) seeks to add information on student loan debt and retirement planning to the state’s academic standards for public schools. The measure would also add materials on student loans and retirement to an informational resource bank curated by the state Board of Education.

The bill, co-sponsored by Rep. Brittney Petterson (D-Lakewood), compliments a bill by former Rep. Rosemary Marshall (D-Denver) which passed in 2008 in part due to the support of the Colorado Bankers Association. That bill outlined a floor for financial literacy guidelines for the state’s public school curriculum. Yet, the 2008 statute does not require that schools provide classes devoted exclusively to financial literacy. Instead, the measure is more mandates that schools must at least incorporate information on concepts such as interest rates, budgeting and credit into pre-existing classes such as math or family and consumer science.

A trio of committee members voiced opposition to the bill, arguing that making tweaks to the state’s academic standards is the responsibility of the Colorado State Board of Education, not the Legislature.

“It seems you’re doing exactly the right thing in a way that I’m not sure that I can support because it dictates to the state Board of Education, not the local school boards, what will be taught,” Sen. Chris Holbert (R-Parker) told Sen. Todd at the committee meeting. “I’m reluctant to pass a law that says that.”

Hoping for clarification from the State Board, Sen. Owen Hill (R-Colorado Springs), the Senate Education Committee Chairman, laid the bill over until a future unspecified date. 

Zoey DeWolf