BY FREDA MIKLIN
In a two-part report to constituents, Arapahoe County state House District Three Rep. Meg Froelich, who is the Democratic majority caucus co-chair, said that this year’s general assembly “championed policies that will not only support people in the aftermath of the pandemic but pave a hopeful path forward by creating a more equitable, sustainable, and prosperous Colorado for all,” adding that “91 percent of our passed legislation received bipartisan support.”
Froelich said that state leaders got public input on “how to allocate nearly $4 billion…from the American Rescue Plan (ARP).” Some of that money was used to “make housing more affordable, provide emergency behavioral health services and help workers complete degree or skills-training programs. Nearly $1.8 billion of it was set aside for future transformational investments…that will be crafted through bipartisan interim processes.”
A significant legislative effort, SB21-260 “Sustainability of the Transportation System” was passed and signed by Governor Polis on June 17. It creates “new sources of dedicated funding and new state enterprises to preserve, improve, and expand existing transportation infrastructure, develop the modernized infrastructure needed to support the widespread adoption of electric motor vehicles, and mitigate environmental and health impacts of transportation system use,” as well as “expanding authority for regional transportation improvements,” according to Froelich’s report.
To address Colorado’s recent history of shootings, Froelich told constituents that the general assembly passed a “record-setting six gun violence prevention bills.” A new division within the state’s health department will focus on gun violence and prevention, loopholes in background checks will be closed, and local governments, including higher education institutions, will be free to enact measures that are stricter than state laws pertaining to firearms. Other laws were passed that strengthened rules around storage and reporting of stolen firearms. The final piece of gun-related legislation requires people who are subject to a restraining order due to domestic abuse to disclose any firearms in their possession.
Froelich also told constituents that three new laws were passed to provide loans and grants to small businesses and the value of property exempt from the business personal property tax was raised from $7,900 to $50,000.
In the area of K-12 education, Froelich shared that total funding statewide is up by $751 million this fiscal year, which translates to an increase of $868 or 10.7 percent per pupil. Higher education cuts were restored, resulting in the current budget for higher education being $494 million higher than the previous one.
Six bills were passed by the legislature to increase the availability of mental and behavioral health services to the many Coloradans who can benefit from that help.
Froelich also reported that seven bills were passed to “protect our clean air and water, and address climate change,” including three specifically focused on wildfire risk mitigation in our state. She also focused on HB21-1286, which “will reduce the carbon footprint of new construction through energy performance standards.”