Lawmakers in the Colorado General Assembly last week took a huge step toward turning the $800 million package of stimulus proposals into law, advancing more than a dozen measures through various stages of the legislative process.
The funding for the so-called Colorado Recovery Plan comes from higher-than-expected income tax revenues, disclosed in a December revenue forecast but which are one-time-only funds. The overall package is expected to feature a total of 40 pieces of legislation.
Of those, 36 have already been introduced and three – measures giving a $30 million boost to the Department of Transportation’s Revitalizing Main Streets program, $20 million for state parks projects and an additional $10 million for the Advanced Industries Accelerator Grant Program – have been signed into law by Gov. Jared Polis.
That leaves 33 measures working their way through the General Assembly, nearly half of which advanced last week, including three from the Colorado Springs delegation.
The first, from Democratic Rep. Tony Exum, would give a $6 million boost to the employment programs run through the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program administered at the county level.
House Bill 21-1270, which Exum is sponsoring alongside Thornton Democratic Rep. Yadira Caraveo, put $3 million into the Colorado Employment First Program. That in turn would draw down a matching total from the federal government for counties and third-party organizations to provide employment support, job retention services and work-based learning opportunities.
Exum touted the importance of local control over the program while testifying on the bill in front of the House Public and Behavioral Health and Human Services Committee last month, a measure he said ensures “the people of the area are getting the most relevant help that they need."
“What job training looks like in Denver may look different from what job training looks like in rural Colorado and the Employment First program takes that into consideration,” he said.
The proposal ultimately won the support of three of the panel’s Republicans, including fellow Colorado Springs delegation member Rep. Mary Bradfield, as the committee advanced it on a 10-2 vote.
Exum’s bill on Tuesday cleared the House Appropriations Committee and initial consideration on the House floor before winning final passage out of the chamber on Wednesday with modest of bipartisan support.
The bill is now in the Senate, where it has been assigned to the Health and Human Services Committee
Bradfield also saw a stimulus measure that she is sponsoring along with Rep. Kerry Tipper, D-Lakewood, clear the House chamber.
House Bill 21-1234 aims to provide just under $5 million in grants to local education providers for high-impact tutoring to address learning loss brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I think we would all agree that the prolonged absence from in-person learning has had a catastrophic impact on student achievement,” Bradfield, a retired teacher, told the House Education Committee.
According to Bradfield, high-impact tutoring is among the best methods of addressing that learning loss. But she added it can carry a hefty price tag: between $3,500 and $4,300 per student in one district she looked at.
“Some districts might shy away from it despite the positive impacts on student achievement,” Bradfield said. “Our bill wants to make sure that districts who want to implement high-impact tutoring will have the assistance to do so.”
The proposal from Bradfield and Tipper won unanimous backing from the education panel before clearing the House with broad bipartisan backing on Wednesday. It is now assigned to the Senate Education Committee.
A stimulus bill Sen. Dennis Hisey also advanced through the legislative process.
Senate Bill 21-231, which the Fountain Republican is sponsoring along with Conifer Democratic Sen. Tammy Story, cleared the Senate on Monday on a unanimous vote. The bill aims to provide $3 million for a program providing grants to help low-income households bring down their energy costs and insulate their houses.
The bill is now in the House, where it has been assigned to the Energy and Environment Committee.