For the untold thousands of readers out there who are tired of hearing about Super Tuesday primary delegate totals and would like an update on bill totals at the Capitol, here it is.
New bills were introduced during last week to bring the grand total to 537 bills. The “subject to change” total is 345 House bills and 192 Senate bills.
To date, over 94 bills have been postponed indefinitely (a politically correct term for killed). FYI: We have only recently passed the halfway point for the session.
I have coined a new phrase for those bills that just appear out of nowhere – I call them stealth bills. You know there are other bills out there – you can sense them.
However, until they choose to reveal themselves, very few know they exist.
One of those stealth bills showing up last week was HB 20 – 1343 (Egg-laying Hen Confinement Standards). The bill requires egg sellers to earn annual certification of their fowl (foul?) environments.
Who would ever have thought that a chicken bill was flying around out there? Go figure.
Another stealth bill still moving under the radar is the proposal to move the state’s school districts to a uniform mill levy. This concept has actually been floating around the Capitol for 4 years and the proponents are rumored to be preparing to pull off the wraps.
So, what does this bill have to do with school districts in HD 60? I am glad you asked…
Going back in history, Colorado schools actually had a uniform mill levy of 40 (no, I did not stutter) mills built into the School Finance Act of 1988. Along came TABOR (Taxpayers Bill of Rights) in 1992, placing a revenue cap on growth and inflation.
As a result, school mill levies spiraled downward from the uniform 40 mills during 1992-2007 as property values increased.
In 2007, the Colorado Legislature passed a bill which froze the mill levies. From a uniform mill levy of 40 mills, we now have mill levies in our 178 school districts ranging from a low of 1.68 mills in Primero to a ceiling of 27 mills in 39 districts (including Cañon City).
Under the uniform mill levy proposal, districts would be allowed to vote as to whether or not to raise their mill levies incrementally (1 mill/year).
The tax rate would continue to increase until the district reached the 27 mill ceiling or they fully funded their schools locally – whichever occurred first.
If a district chose not to increase their mill levy, the proposal would cut state support to the district up to 17%. The proponents call the 17% maximum cut a safety net.
I call it a threat.
The conundrum facing school districts and communities is every district is affected differently.
On the one hand, taxpayers in districts already paying the 27 mills have been subsidizing other districts for many years.
On the other hand, districts with lower tax rates have enjoyed lower taxes. If there was ever a Gordian knot – here it is!
For example, in HD 60, Cañon City is already at 27 mills, it would not be affected at all. Florence (right next door) would have to increase nearly 12 mills. Cotopaxi would only have to increase 5 mills while Salida would have to increase just over 12 mills.
My other school districts would face mill increases ranging from a low of 4 mills (Westcliffe) to a high of 14.8 mills (Park County).
When you combine the increases on homeowners, the multiplied rate for business owners and the onerous burden on fixed income seniors, it is not a pretty picture. Stay tuned.
Another stealth bill landed this week as well. Colorado’s public option insurance bill (HB 20-1349) is now in the mix. The bill would mandate existing insurers issue the policy while the government would regulate the prices and require hospitals to accept the coverage.
What could possibly go wrong with that plan for our rural hospitals?
If you hear any strange sounds this week, it may just be another stealth bill coming in for a landing.
We will attempt to keep you alerted! On a lighter note, Chaffee County High School students took advantage of a Capitol visit last week. You are welcome as well. Feel free to call my office in the Capitol at 303-866-2747 or send me an e-mail: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org