Lawmakers spend busy Thursday at Colorado State Capitol as legislative session draws to a close

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Posted at 9:28 PM, May 02, 2019

DENVER -- With just two days left in the legislative session and dozens of bills still up for debate, it was a busy Thursday once again at the Colorado State Capitol.

Bills must pass the second reading by midnight in both the House and Senate or they will be killed. That’s because the second and third reading of a bill cannot happen on the same day. Here’s a look at the status of some of the biggest bills left on the floor.

Import prescription medications from Canada

A bill to study the idea of importing prescription medications from Canada passed out of the legislature Thursday.

Senate Bill 19-005 would act as an import wholesaler to bring some of the most expensive medications down from Canada and distribute them to people on private insurance plans, Medicaid and more.

Before any of that can happen, however, the bill tasks the state’s Department of Health Care Policy and Financing and the Medicaid department to study the idea of importing medications and find a way to safely implement the plan, which would require federal approval before it could move forward.

Read more here.

Marijuana legislation

A bill to allow cannabis companies to deliver marijuana to customers passed the legislature. The bill would allow for a permitting process for both licensed medical and retail marijuana businesses and transporters over the next two years.

Marijuana would be able to be delivered starting in January 2020.

Read more here.

Meanwhile, a bill to allow for social consumption of marijuana in hospitality establishments also passed the House for a final time Thursday.

The bill would allow licensed cannabis hospitality establishments to sell marijuana for on-site consumption.

This bill also would go into effect in January 2020 if signed by the governor. The bill also clears up some of the questions around marijuana tours.

Read the bill here.

Local control of minimum wage

The Senate on Thursday narrowly passed a bill to allow local governments to control their own minimum wage.

The bill gives cities the ability to set, raise and lower their own minimum wage standards instead of requiring them to comply with the standards the state sets. That way, places like Denver, where the cost of living is high, can raise minimum wage while cities in rural areas, where the cost of living is much lower, can stay the same. Right now, minimum wage in Colorado is $11.10 per hour.

The bill needs to pass one more vote in the House before moving on to the Governor’s desk.

Read about Denver’s efforts to raise minimum wage for city employees here.

Youth suicide prevention

A bill to offer more mental health options to teenagers passed the Senate Thursday. It now heads back to the House for a final vote before moving to the Governor’s desk.

House Bill 19-1120 allows for minors over the age of 12 to seek help from mental health professionals with or without parental consent. The therapy would remain confidential unless the minor gives the professional permission to consult their parents or if the professional does not believe the minor can manage themselves or is having suicidal thoughts.

The bill also requires the Department of Education to create a mental health education literacy resource bank that is available to the public for free.

Colorado ranks as the nation’s sixth highest states in terms of suicide rates.

Read more here.

Sexual education for students

A bill to rethink the way sexual education is taught in schools passed another test Thursday and will be up for debate once again on Friday.

The bill prohibits schools from only teaching or endorsing religious ideology or sectarian tenets or doctrines, using shame-based or stigmatizing language or instructional tools, employing gender norms or gender stereotypes, or excluding the relational or sexual experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender individuals. It also includes language on consent, STDs/STIs and healthy relationships.

Several new amendments were added to the bill to teach students about consent and healthy relationships. It now faces a third reading in the Senate Friday and one more House vote before moving to the Governor’s desk.

Read about how the bill got to this point here.

School immunization

The school immunization requirements bill that passed a Colorado Senate committee early Thursday morning after hours of public testimony effectively died Thursday when Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg laid the measure’s second reading over until Friday.

Since the bill was laid over, it will not be able to face a third reading and final Senate vote before the end of the 2019 legislative session Friday.

Read more here.

Voter registration

Colorado lawmakers on Thursday sent a bill that will expand the state’s automatic voter registration system to the governor’s desk with less than 24 hours remaining in the 2019 legislative session.

SB19-235 passed the House in a 40-23 vote Thursday. The bill, which is supported by Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold, passed the Senate last week in a 20-15 vote.

The measure, if signed by Gov. Jared Polis, will expand opportunities for people to automatically register to vote in Colorado but also contain ways for people who don’t wish to automatically be registered to vote to opt out of the process.

Read more here.

Tobacco and Vape Tax

An initiative to increase the tax on a pack of cigarettes from $0.84 to $2.59 and tax vape liquid at 62% failed. The bill was introduced late in the session with just ten days left.

Governor Jared Polis pushed the bill as a way to decrease teen vaping and pay for education programs.

Read more here.

The legislative session wraps up on midnight Friday. While talks of a special session have been brought up at the Capitol, Democrats say it will be up to Governor Polis to decide whether he wants to call back lawmakers to get more done.

Here is a look at some of the biggest bills this session: 2019 Colorado legislative session: What passed, what failed and what's left

As of 7 p.m. Thursday, there were 37 official versions of bills awaiting the governor’s signature.