Opinion: How the 2020 session wrapped up | SteamboatToday.com

Opinion: How the 2020 session wrapped up

Dylan Roberts
For Steamboat Pilot & Today
Dylan Roberts is the state representative for Colorado House District 26.
Courtesy photo

Last week, the Colorado legislature concluded the 2020 legislative session —a session that will likely go down as one of the most unique, trying and historic terms in our state’s history. I am so glad to be back home and have returned both proud of the work we were able to get done but also humbled by the challenges that remain for Colorado.

Normally, we are in session from January to early May for our constitutionally mandated 120-day session. However, COVID-19 forced the legislature to temporarily adjourn on March 14, and we returned to the Capitol on May 26 for a three-week mini-session, which we adjourned on June 15 for a total of 85 days of legislative work. Here is a brief recap:

When we began in January, it was impossible to foresee the unique and challenging months that were ahead. Just as the first case of COVID-19 in Colorado was identified, I was introducing my bill with Sen. Donovan to create a Colorado Health Care Option to finally bring choice and lower health insurance prices to our counties. Coronavirus then tragically spread though Colorado, caused extreme financial hardship for individuals and businesses, strained our economy and decimated our state budget.

So, when we returned to the Capitol, we were faced with a completely different legislative reality than what we had left in March. While some of our big ideas like the Colorado Option had to be put on hold due to that reality, I am proud to have been a part of a legislature that came together to respond to the needs our state faces.

First, we were able to pass a package of bills that respond directly to the impacts of COVID-19 in Colorado — bills aimed at boosting small businesses, protecting vulnerable workers, expanding unemployment resources, preventing outrageous price gouging on essential goods, housing assistance for renters and much more. Several of the bills channel federal CARES Act funding directly to vulnerable Coloradans and small businesses.

Personally, I introduced bills that got all the way to the governor’s desk that will help small businesses open their doors in rural Colorado, open up more child care spots, protect our precious water during dry years and several other important pieces of legislation that will benefit Eagle and Routt counties.

I also passed two bills specifically targeted to help with economic recovery that originated from ideas right here in House District 26. One of my bills was an idea that both Eagle County Treasurer Teak Simonton and Routt County Treasurer Lane Iacovetto approached me with during the first week of the shutdowns. I worked with them and my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to write HB1421 that will allow counties to reduce or waive interest penalties on property tax payments in 2020, so we can help individuals and businesses hit hard by the loss of revenue. After passing the legislature unanimously, that bill was signed into law last week.

The next idea was giving restaurants the ability to continue selling to-go and delivery alcoholic beverages with their food. This extra revenue has been a life-saver for so many local restaurants, and the bipartisan bill I was able to get passed extends this crucial tool until July 2021.

The killing of George Floyd and the subsequent protests demanding justice and equality occurred during the first week we were back in Denver. Over the next two weeks, we introduced and worked with all sides to craft an historic police accountability bill that passed both chambers with large bipartisan votes and was signed in law last week, making Colorado the first state in the nation to respond.

I was proud to co-sponsor this bill and give huge thanks to the community members for your advocacy and to law enforcement leaders across Eagle and Routt counties who helped me work with the bill sponsors to amend the bill, so that it works for our local law enforcement while still getting all Coloradans the reforms they demand and need. While this bill moved quickly, the reforms within it are topics that have been discussed for years, and I am glad our state acted in a collaborative, bipartisan and swift way to put them into law.

Finally, while it was not easy, we were able to pass a balanced budget for the upcoming fiscal year even when we faced a $3.3 billion deficit caused by the COVID-19 downturn. While nobody is happy with the cuts we had to make — especially to education — we balanced the budget in a way that will help us recover more quickly than expected. Further, I supported efforts that will create more funding for education and ask voters later this year for more through a new tax on nicotine products and through a repeal of the Gallagher Amendment.

Thank you, once again, for the privilege of serving our communities at the Capitol. Even in these trying times, it is an honor. Please contact me anytime on my cell at 970-846-3054 or by email at dylan.roberts.house@state.co.us.

Rep. Dylan Roberts represents Colorado House District 26, encompassing Eagle and Routt counties.

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