Deadline looms for Colorado lawmakers to finish work

Housing, transit, and property taxes are among the top priorities as lawmakers work to meet Wednesday's deadline to adjourn.
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Posted at 5:39 PM, May 07, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-08 08:37:17-04

DENVER — As this year’s legislative session winds down, Colorado state lawmakers are rushing to beat the clock.

“It's always hectic the last couple of days,” said State Rep. Stephanie Vigil, D-Colorado Springs.

On Tuesday, the House of Representatives gave final approval to a bill aimed at increasing ridership on public transit. Senate Bill 24-032 — "Methods to Increase the Use of Transit" — would extend the Ozone Season Free Transit Grant Program, which provides free transit services during ozone season. It would also create a grant program to help young people ride fare-free year-round and extend a tax credit for the use of alternative transportation.

Deadline looms for Colorado lawmakers to finish work before end of 2024 legislative session

Vigil is one of the prime sponsors of the legislation.

“I'm just a big fan of transportation choice,” Vigil said. “Everybody needs to get around. Not everybody can, will or wants to have a car and drive a car.”

The bill will also create a committee to study the creation of a statewide transit pass.

Increasing ridership is also one of the goals of House Bill 24-1313, a major land-use bill. Titled "Housing in Transit-Oriented Communities," the bill requires certain local governments along the Front Range to develop goals to build more affordable housing near transit.

“Coloradans are begging for more housing, and there is no better place to build housing and increase density than near transit,” said State Sen. Faith Winter, D-Westminster, one of the bill’s Senate sponsors. “This bill is important in multiple ways: It will increase housing options, reduce costs, and help our state reach its climate goals, all while protecting vulnerable communities from displacement. I am proud to champion this legislation, and I look forward to the benefits it will bring to our state.”

Colorado lawmakers consider bill aimed at increasing housing near transit

The bill provides communities with financial incentives to help them meet those goals.

“This bill will help along transit corridors in our state — replicate what the Asians and Europeans have been doing for a century,” said State Sen. Kevin Priola, D-Henderson. “People will benefit with affordable housing, cleaner air, and less dependence on automobiles.”

The bill originally included a provision to allow the state to withhold transportation funding from communities that didn’t meet their goals, but it was taken out after widespread criticism from local governments.

The bill also underwent several other changes over the last few days.

Despite that, some lawmakers remain opposed to the legislation.

“There's very little in here about affordable housing,” said State Sen. Joann Ginal, D-Fort Collins. “1313 is really a developer's dream. It was written by, of and for developers, not Colorado residents."

After passing in the House in mid-April, the bill won final passage in the Senate on Tuesday and is on its way to the governor.

Lawmakers advanced House Bill 24-1152 that would require certain communities to allow homeowners to build accessory dwelling units, called ADUs.

“Everyone deserves a safe and comfortable place to live, but too many families are struggling to afford the cost of housing in our state,” said State Sen. Tony Exum, D-Colorado Springs. “By giving folks the flexibility to build ADUs on their property, as well as providing grant funding to help cover construction costs, we can bring down housing prices and keep more Coloradans in the communities they call home.”

Guns were also a big topic this year.

A bill that would have banned "assault" weapons — certain high-powered semi-automatic weapons — was tabled.

House Bill 24-1292, titled "Prohibit Certain Weapons Used in Mass Shootings," was sponsored in the Senate by State Sen. Julie Gonzales, D-Denver. She said there wasn’t enough time to give it the consideration it deserved.

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Colorado’s 'assault' weapons ban to be killed in committee Tuesday, sponsor says

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“After thoughtful conversations with my Senate colleagues, I decided that more conversations need to take place outside of the pressure cooker of the Capitol during the last weeks of the legislative session,” Gonzales said. “In that spirit, I look forward to renewing and continuing those discussions over the interim. It is clear that survivors of devastating gun violence, responsible gun owners, and local and national policy advocates remain committed to doing the work necessary to save lives — and an assault weapons ban will do just that."

Gun rights groups celebrated the bill being shelved.

“This was a huge victory for Rocky Mountain Gun Owners and honestly, not just for Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, but for gun owners across the state of Colorado,” said Ian Escalante, the director of operations with Rocky Mountain Gun Owners. “This bill was even more extreme than the assault weapons ban from last year.”

Escalante said the bill would have banned 95% of firearms in common use right now.

The proposed ban made it further than previous efforts, passing the House of Representatives.

Watch the House begin debating the bill in mid-April in the video below.

Colorado House begins debate on 'assault weapons' ban bil

Lawmakers are still considering several other pieces of gun legislation, including a measure requiring gun dealers to obtain a permit and a bill that would ask voters to approve a tax on gun and ammunition sales.

Lawmakers also advanced a last-minute bipartisan proposal to reduce property taxes in the years ahead.

The deal was announced by Gov. Jared Polis in a press conference Monday morning.

“This is huge. We're talking about a huge property tax cut for property owners without crippling our state budget,” said State Sen. Barbara Kirkmeyer, R-Brighton. "I think we have a very solid property tax relief bill."

Colorado lawmakers to consider major property tax plan as session nears end

Lawmakers have until the end of Wednesday to finish their work.

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