Colorado Legislature plans to tackle rising costs, crime - Albuquerque Journal

Colorado Legislature plans to tackle rising costs, crime

DENVER — The Colorado Legislature reconvened Wednesday for its 2022 session with both majority Democrats and minority Republicans promising legislation to tackle the state’s increasing unaffordability and rise in crime.

After two sessions defined by the COVID-19 pandemic, this year lawmakers will decide where to allocate nearly $2.6 billion of federal American Rescue Plan Act funds over the 120-day session. Sen. President Leroy Garcia called it “a once in a lifetime gift” to shape Colorado’s future.

House Speaker Alec Garnett challenged colleagues to act quickly to ease the cost of living, create affordable housing, continue programs to rein in health care and prescription drug costs, and make a record investment in K-12 schools. His top priority, he said, is to save residents money.

“The people of Colorado deserve to do more than just get by,” Garnett said.

Democrats plan to invest nearly $500 million in affordable housing and create a revolving fund to finance housing construction, he said. State fees for starting businesses, professional licenses and a host of other items will be reduced, Garnett said.

At a news conference announcing 44 Republican-sponsored bills, Senate Minority leader Chris Holbert accused Democrats of changing their priorities in an election year and “copying” Republican priorities by talking about reducing crime and dealing with the surging cost of living.

Holbert also went after what he said was Democrats’ “reckless” spending at the federal and state level as a way to “toll their way to governmental prosperity.” He blamed rising costs for things like energy on increased regulation and government fees.

“People are increasingly aware that our current circumstances have evolved under one-party control,” Holbert said in his opening speech for the 2022 session.

Both parties plan to introduce legislation aimed at reducing crime. Democrats announced measures that would increase behavioral health resources for those in the justice system suffering mental health issues. They will also look at funding community policing and programs to reduce homelessness, cut repeat offender rates and deal with substance abuse.

“We will not go back to the failed policies of the past that overpopulated our prisons, wasted taxpayer dollars, that have left us with high recidivism and not nearly enough rehabilitation,” Garnett said.

Citing an increase in violent crimes, murder and earning the top spot nationwide for auto theft, Republicans blamed previous police accountability legislation that outlawed chokeholds, set requirements for body cameras and allowed officers to be sued for misconduct.

“This legislature has passed bills that have eviscerated the state of policing in Colorado,” declared Republican Rep. Hugh McKean.

Holbert said Republicans would instead propose additional funds for police officer training such as crisis intervention and recruitment of officers “who come from the very communities that they would be patrolling.”

On the issue of affordability, McKean said state fees for things like business startups, vehicle registrations, and a new gas fee to help fund transportation need to be eliminated, not reduced or postponed, as recently suggested by Gov. Jared Polis.

“So instead of playing tricksy with words, let’s actually make things more affordable here in Colorado,” McKean said. “The current state of our state is not good.”

Republicans also plan to push legislation to elevate the status those who have natural immunity from having had COVID-19 to “equal footing” as people who have been vaccinated against the virus.

Citing last month’s destructive Boulder County wildfire and poor air quality that dogged the Denver metropolitan area last year, Garnett said Democrats will keep working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Republicans announced their own measures, such as Rep. Dan Woog’s plan to “put Colorado at the forefront of renewable energy” with investments in micro-nuclear technology and hydro-electricity capacity.

“We do not reject climate change. We do not reject the idea of transitioning to renewable energy. We do take the position that our goals are perhaps unrealistic,” said Republican Sen. Bob Rankin, adding that the party’s goals are to increase the variety of options outside of wind and solar.

Garnett also said Democrats will work to codify into law the right to an abortion in Colorado in reaction to the possibility that the U.S. Supreme Court could roll back abortion rights, and possibly overturn its landmark Roe V. Wade decision, in a ruling expected later this year.

___

Nieberg is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.


Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email yourstory@abqjournal.com

Nativo Sponsored Content

taboola desktop

MORE ARTICLES LIKE THIS

1
25-year-old Colorado skier found dead near Lost Trail resort
Around the Region
A 25-year-old Colorado skier who went ... A 25-year-old Colorado skier who went missing Thursday from the Lost Trail Ski Area on the Montana-Idaho border has been found dead. The man's ...
2
Phoenix police: Teen worker shot through drive-thru window
Around the Region
A 16-year-old working a fast-food restaurant's ... A 16-year-old working a fast-food restaurant's drive-thru window was shot and seriously wounded by a customer following an argument about an order, Phoenix police ...
3
Arizona judge upholds Ducey's cut of extra jobless benefits
Around the Region
An Arizona judge has upheld Republican ... An Arizona judge has upheld Republican Gov. Doug Ducey's decision last year to cut $300 in supplemental monthly unemployment benefits provided by the federal ...
4
Arizona Treasurer Yee drops out of GOP race for ...
Around the Region
State Treasurer Kimberly Yee announced Saturday ... State Treasurer Kimberly Yee announced Saturday she is dropping out of Arizona's crowded race for the Republican nomination for governor and will instead run ...
5
Pandemic stress drives some Colorado teachers from classroom
Around the Region
Diane Santorico was a year shy ... Diane Santorico was a year shy of completing her third decade as a teacher when the profession that once gave her so much joy ...
6
Navajo Nation: All government workers must have booster shot
Around the Region
Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez has ... Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez has signed an executive order requiring all government workers on the tribe's vast reservation to have a booster shot. ...
7
Ducey quietly taps $95M in virus cash to boost ...
Around the Region
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey quietly tapped ... Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey quietly tapped $95 million in federal coronavirus relief money in November to boost pay for state troopers, prison guards and ...
8
Tucson man gets 10-year prison term for girlfriend's murder
Around the Region
A Tucson man has been sentenced ... A Tucson man has been sentenced to a decade in prison for the fatal shooting of his girlfriend in 2020. Pima County prosecutors said ...
9
2 dead in murder-suicide at Arizona assisted living facility
Around the Region
Two residents at an assisted living ... Two residents at an assisted living facility in Sun City are dead after an apparent murder-suicide Sunday, authorities said. Maricopa County Sheriff's officials said ...