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SESSION HIGHLIGHTS, MAY 2-6, 2016

Affordable Housing Package Passes House

Three bills designed to increase access to affordable housing and embolden home ownership passed the House with bipartisan support Friday morning after late introduction on Wednesday of this week. Addressing affordable housing was an early priority for leadership in both caucuses due to the ongoing housing crisis in Colorado— for the construction industry, investors, aspiring homeowners, and for renters.

The first bill, HB16-1465, sponsored by Majority Leader Crisanta Duran (D-Denver) and Rep. Jon Becker (R-Fort Morgan) extends Colorado’s successful Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program until 2019. What started as a housing policy under the Reagan Administration, has grown into a successful and complementary policy in many states that allocates these type of housing tax credits to help developers leverage federal tax credits and other private investments. The bill guarantees that the units remain reasonably priced for at least 15 years. It passed with bipartisan support 46-18.

The second bill, HB16-1466, sponsored by Reps. Max Tyler (D-Lakewood) and KC Becker (D-Boulder) passed 37-27. The bill transfers $40 million from the unclaimed property trust fund to fund rental assistance, what supporters say is an important aspect to maintaining affordable housing and home ownership support.

The third affordable housing bill passed this morning was sponsored by Majority Leader Duran and Rep. Joe Salazar (D-Thornton). HB16-1467 allows Coloradans to designate a new or existing account as a tax-free first time homebuyer’s savings account. The bill passed 50-14.

The three bills move to the Senate where they are expected to be heard on Monday.

State Retirement Plan Bill Dies in Committee

A bill that would have created the “Colorado Secure Savings Program” was killed by the Democrat-controlled House Finance Committee at the request of the bill’s Democrat sponsors, Reps. Brittany Pettersen (Lakewood) and Janet Buckner (Aurora).

The bill, HB16-1403, required private employers to automatically enroll employees in the plan and funds are contributed through a payroll deduction from employee wages, if they do not offer a retirement plan on their own. Among other short falls in the plan, the funds would not have been secured or portable, nor was the plan compliant with the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). Furthermore, a portion of the funds would pay for administration and travel costs for a board to oversee the program, with no oversight or transparency.

The Colorado Bankers Association led the charge in defeating the bill with a coalition of business groups including the Colorado Competitive Council (C3), South Metro Denver Chamber of Commerce (SMDC), and the Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry (CACI).

The bill died with unanimous opposition.

Lawmakers Kill ‘Ban the Box’ Bill

Employers in Colorado will continue to be able to ask about the criminal history of job seekers on application forms after a Senate committee killed the “ban-the-box” bill this week, deeming it government overreach.

HB16-1388, sponsored by Rep. Beth McCann (D-Denver), candidate for Denver District Attorney, would have banned companies from asking job applicants to check a box on forms if they have a criminal background, though it would not have stopped employers from asking applicants about felonious histories in face-to-face interviews.

The bill had survived a prickly path through the House, where proponents implied the motives of detractors were racist and opponents said the bill was being run to benefit trial lawyers rather than to help ex-convicts.  

With nearly party-line approval leaving the House, however, it landed in the Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee, which has become a boneyard this session for anti-business bills that have made it through the Democratic-majority House.

Zoey DeWolf