Colorado lawmakers convened Wednesday at the Capitol for the start of the 69th General Assembly, a session in which nearly one in three members is a newcomer to the legislature.
The University of Colorado’s Government Relations team expects to spend much of its time educating the freshman senators and representatives about CU and the issues and challenges surrounding it. As in recent years, the budget remains a significant focus, but other common themes of past sessions – including higher education funding – also are expected to involve the university.
A look at what’s in view at the outset of the 120-day session:
- Democratic control: With November’s election, Democrats maintained their edge in the Senate (20-15 majority) and gained control of the House from Republicans (37-28 majority). Gov. John Hickenlooper, also a Democrat, has stressed that he still wants to see legislation that has support from both parties. Of the 100 lawmakers, 32 are freshmen.
Budget:Hickenlooper has proposed a 5.8 percent increase in funding for state colleges, which would mean an ongoing increase of about $30 million annually, roughly $11 million of which would be allocated to CU. Improved revenue forecasts led the governor to call for the increase, which still must meet with the approval of lawmakers.Efforts to educate Coloradans about the funding challenges facing CU are central to outreach this year. Produced by the CU Advocates program, a new video that debuted this week tells the story of how greatly diminished funding affects the university, which continues to provide high value in college degrees and economic impact.
- Guns on campus: Rep. Claire Levy, D-Boulder, will seek legislation banning firearms from all buildings on public college campuses, according to media reports. The movement follows the Supreme Court’s ruling last year that CU could not prohibit concealed-carry permit holders from having guns on campuses.
- Economic development: Announced Monday as a bipartisan effort to boost Colorado businesses and the economy, House Bill 1001 would call for increased state investment in advanced industries. CU will support the Advanced Industries Accelerator Act, which strives to build on the nearly $2 billion annually that comes to the state’s research institutions and federal labs. Industries identified in the bill, announced by the governor, Speaker-elect Mark Ferrandino, Senate President-elect John Morse and other members of the legislature: aerospace, advanced manufacturing, bioscience, electronics, energy and natural resources, technology and information, and infrastructure engineering. Bill sponsors will be Sen. Rollie Heath, D-Boulder, Rep. Dave Young, D-Greeley, and Rep. Cheri Gerou, R-Evergreen.
- Undocumented student tuition rates: During recent legislative sessions, efforts to establish a new rate of tuition for undocumented students repeatedly failed. The goal was to set rates lower than the out-of-state tuition currently paid by undocumented students, yet higher than resident tuition. Given the Democratic majority, a renewed push to pass such a law is expected.
CU Connections will report on CU-related activity at the Capitol throughout the session.