As we hit the 120th day of the 2022 session, I reflect on our accomplishments. After several nights working past midnight, then coming back to work early the next morning, survival right now feels like a major success.
Some of our proudest bipartisan accomplishments include:
● Passing the School Finance Bill. It is a requirement every year, but this one felt great. It decreased the Budget Stabilization Factor by $182 million, which is now at its lowest amount since it started in 2009. Funding was raised on average $545 per student to a $9,559 per pupil total, and we paid our debt to Special Education. We know we have more to do, but we’re happy to keep this priority.
● Addressing the fentanyl crisis. Democrats and Republicans passed a bill with much tighter restrictions on drug possession. If a person is caught with more than 1 gram, they are now subject to a felony drug charge, but can turn that felony into a misdemeanor if they can prove they did not know any fentanyl existed. We appropriated money for test strips and lifesaving treatments, expanded addiction treatments in jails and added harsher punishment for dealers. The Senate and House agreed in a Conference Committee to pursue this strong, but compassionate language, and avoided unduly burdening the work of prosecutors and law enforcement.
● Supporting our county employees. Senate Bill 22-230, gives more than 36,000 workers the collective-bargaining rights that private-sector and state employees in Colorado already have. Employees now have a seat at the table with commissioners, and need to agree on their contract, giving them opportunities they did not have before. I ran one amendment exempting counties with populations fewer than 5,000 people, and voted to raise that number to 7,500.
● Lowering property taxes. With strong support, Senate Bill 22-238 passed, which will lower Colorado property taxes by $700 million over the next two years, saving the average homeowner $274 per year. The bill was crafted in response to several ballot measures which took much larger chunks out of the tax, but would have repercussions for the educators and local government employees who depend on it. Instead, this bill uses money from the general fund and TABOR surplus to save property owners money. Everyone who anticipated running ballot measures had to sign notarized documents saying they were standing down.
● Paying off a debt. Senate Bill 22-234 uses $600 million in federal pandemic relief funds to repay some of the money borrowed to support the unemployment insurance trust fund during the pandemic. This investment supports workers who lost their jobs through no fault of their own, saves lives and prevents an increase in fees to save businesses money.
This is my last in-session column of the year. I thank our local newspapers for providing the platform to connect with constituents and appreciate the positive feedback I have received. Please keep in touch, as I look forward to our continued conversations and successes.
Barbara McLachlan, D-Durango, is serving her third term representing La Plata, Archuleta, San Juan, Ouray, Hinsdale and Gunnison counties. She has been a journalist and teacher.