BY FREDA MIKLIN
State Rep. Meg Froelich, whose newly redistricted HD3 includes Cherry Hills Village, Englewood, Sheridan, and part of southeast Denver, is beginning her fifth year in the legislature by taking over as chair of the important, recrafted, Local Government, Transportation and Housing Committee.
In a 90-minute virtual town hall meeting on January 14, Froelich shared that she asked to have housing added to the Local Government and Transportation Committee she was set to chair so that her committee could “see the whole state of housing legislation.” She also noted that this committee’s duties, “will include monitoring money still available from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 and Inflation Reduction Act of 2022.”
Housing programs under the committee’s purview include:
- $40 million for factory-built homes, which Froelich said were high quality and “drive down the cost of construction.”
- $150 million revolving loan program for first-time homebuyers that includes set-asides for rural areas.
- $178 million set aside for housing out of $400 million for local government.
- $220 million to address homelessness.
Also on the topic of housing, Froelich said that the general assembly would be looking at, “How to help renters and first-time homebuyers, including in the area of evictions, which obviously impacts homelessness.” She also expects the topic of rent control to come up this year.
The most controversial issue Froelich expects the legislature, as well as her committee, to be grappling with in 2023 is land use. Traditionally an area of strictly local control, decisions around density and transit-oriented development have combined to create the possibility of a determination that land use is a matter of statewide concern, “because housing and transportation are our biggest greenhouse gas sources,” thus questions of land use have a direct impact on climate change.
Froelich will also serve on the committee for Energy and Environment. She expects to see a significant continuing emphasis on air quality, which is , “our biggest issue in Denver. We are out of compliance with the EPA.” Related to that, she explained, is frustration with Suncor, which, “shut down and seems to be in no hurry to open back up. They are out of compliance with emissions standards. Suncor is important to Denver International Airport and to our western slope because they are our only refinery. They also provide asphalt to CDOT.” Froelich continued, “There will be huge economic ripples when Suncor shuts down for good.” We are concerned about how that will impact their many employees.
On the topic of Gun Violence Prevention, Froelich noted that Governor Polis and the leaders of both the State House and State Senate mentioned it in their opening day remarks. She also pointed to three bills that State Sen. Tom Sullivan is working on and that she will co-sponsor, as a member of the new Gun Violence Prevention Caucus. These bills will:
Allow others, including district attorneys and educators, to request Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPO) when appropriate to do so. She shared that the Club Q shooter in Colorado Springs was a candidate for an ERPO, but his parents were not interested in requesting one and the El Paso County Sheriff has publicly said he would not do so.
Require a three-day waiting period to buy all firearms in Colorado. This is a suicide prevention tool.
Require purchasers of all firearms in Colorado to be at least 21 years of age.
There are three bills being prepared related to Reproductive Rights:
- Regulation of clinics that pretend to offer birth control or abortion care but don’t offer those “reproductive services” except attempting to convince women not to use either one.
- Protecting patients and reproductive health providers against a loss of privacy, loss of their licenses, and other forms of intimidation.
- Addressing affordability and access of reproductive health care, in the context of a state constitutional provision that prevents state funds from being used for abortion.
Froelich shared that in 2021, 2,100 people came to Colorado over the course of a year to access reproductive services, adding that, “In 2022, we have seen 2,100 people come to our state for that reason every two weeks.”
Regarding the cost of energy to consumers, Froelich said, “My own Xcel Energy bill has doubled,” so I know what people are experiencing. She went on, “There is an effort to address this through the Public Utilities Commission (PUC). Xcel says this is happening due to worldwide rates for oil and gas going up. We need a mechanism, perhaps the use of reserves, to address these huge spikes. Xcel is a for-profit company. PUC commissioners are appointed, but not by the legislature. It falls under the Department of Regulatory Affairs. There are some levers but there isn’t a direct governing body of the PUC. It is critical, for climate change goals, to have the PUC and the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission answer to residents.”
Of the 3,500 migrants who have come to Colorado, Froelich reported that approximately 70% have asked to go to other cities where they have resources and family with whom they wish to connect. Many of those have asked to go to Chicago or New York for that reason. She thanked the churches and synagogues that have been helping resettle the 30% of migrants who want to stay in Colorado.
In the realm of politics, Froelich pointed out that the voters’ decision to reduce the state income tax by one-half of one percent in November, “will result in a $450 million loss to our budget that adds to the challenge of funding government.”
She also noted that, after legislative and congressional redistricting, the cities of Cherry Hills Village, Englewood, and Sheridan, are now represented by Froelich in the State House, Jeff Bridges in the State Senate and U.S. Rep. Jason Crow in the Congress.