A bill to create the Department of Early Childhood, a proposal arising from last year's Proposition EE, won a preliminary vote from the Senate on Friday.
House Bill 1304 faced only minor opposition in the Senate, with a unanimous vote from Senate Education and only two "no" votes in Senate Appropriations. There was no debate on the bill in the Senate Friday.
The House vote on HB 1304, a 44-20 decision on May 24, included four "yes" votes from Republicans Colin Larson of Littleton, Mary Bradfield of Colorado Springs, Janice Rich of Grand Junction and Minority Leader Hugh McKean of Loveland. Rep. Shane Sandridge of Colorado Springs, who is listed as a sponsor of the bill, voted "no."
Under HB 1304, a working group will come up with a transition plan for the new department, and a recommendation for a statewide, universal preschool program, one of the major selling points for the 2020 ballot measure. The department is to be in place by July 1, 2022. The governor will appoint its executive director, to be confirmed by the state Senate.
According to House Speaker Alec Garnett of Denver, the department will expand access to high-quality, affordable early childhood education and unify the fragmented administration of early childhood services; second, initiate a community-informed process to help create a plan for multiple programs, and third, implement the voluntary universal preschool that aligns with what the voters approved last November.
Proposition EE added first-time taxes on vaping products and increased the taxes on other forms of nicotine. It is expected to generate up to $175.6 million in cigarette, tobacco and nicotine tax revenue in the 2021-22 fiscal year; and up to $275.9 million beginning in 2027-28 when the new tax rates are fully phased in.
Proposition EE funds a long list of programs, including at least 10 hours per week of preschool for every child in their final year before kindergarten.
A portion of Prop EE money will also go to rural schools, affordable housing, K-12 education, eviction legal assistance and healthcare, including for tobacco prevention education.
HB 1304 is named for longtime early childhood education advocate Anna Jo Haynes.