DENVER — When state lawmakers gavel back in for a new legislative session Wednesday, they’ll have a lot to tackle, from finding long-term solutions to rising property taxes to improving education, reducing healthcare costs and combating climate change. But several lawmakers believe housing will be the biggest issue.
“I hate to repeat myself from last year, but it's housing, housing, housing for me,” said State Senator Sonya Jaquez Lewis, D-Boulder County.
But just how to create more affordable housing has been a challenge. Gov. Jared Polis championed a massive proposal last year that would have, among other things, allowed for denser development in certain communities. The bill ran into a lot of roadblocks and failed to win enough support.
Many local government leaders were concerned about giving the state too much control.
"There was a lot in that bill,” said Jaquez Lewis.
Proponents will try again this year, but they’ve changed their strategy. Instead of a large bill, they plan to break it up into smaller bits.
"I think in this case, maybe taking it piece by piece might be a better approach,” said Jaquez Lewis.
Since the last session, supporters say they have also gotten input from local governments. They're confident they'll get the legislation across the finish line.
"I am optimistic because I believe we're going to start a little sooner in the session,” said Jaquez Lewis.
Of course, lawmakers aren’t the only ones who shape legislation under the gold dome. Lobbyists also play a role.
“What we’re going to be looking at are policies that boost Colorado’s economy and competitiveness,” said Meghan Dollar, senior vice president of governmental affairs and political operations at the Colorado Chamber of Commerce.
The chamber released its legislative priorities for this year. Dollar said the chamber will push lawmakers to do more to ease the regulatory burden on businesses.
“The regulatory climate has become more and more complicated,” said Dollar. “But because there are so many regulations that have been built on each other over the last several years, we’re finding not only are they difficult to comply with, but they change.”
Property taxes are another major issue. A commission created during November’s special session has been searching for long-term solutions to rising property taxes. State Senator Chris Hansen, D-Denver, is the chairman of the commission.
“My hope is by March 15, that we can come forward with a set of consensus recommendations and really have a sustainable long-term plan for Colorado,” Hansen said.
Republicans are in the minority in both legislative chambers but will push for a reduction in the state income tax. They hope to find bipartisan support.
“What I hope is that we'll be able to put aside the partisanship of politics and really put the people first,” said House Assistant Minority Leader Rose Pugliese.
Polis will lay out his goals for the upcoming year in his State of the State address on Thursday at 11 a.m.