Despite adjourning quietly late on Friday afternoon on May 3, the 2019 legislative session will likely be remembered for a number of bitter legislative battles and a bold agenda from the new leadership at the State Capitol. Tensions rose quickly once the session started, and there were numerous legislative hearings that stretched late into the night throughout the 120-day session. Even though fewer bills were introduced compared to last session, politics contributed to a backlog of bills in the final weeks which threatened to derail a number of important issues.
A lower bill count shouldn’t discount the importance of the 2019 legislative session, as it was one of the most consequential in recent memory. Lawmakers introduced nearly 600 bills that sought to address myriad issues such as local control of oil and gas operations, rising health care costs, climate change, free full-day kindergarten, and TABOR.
As previously reported, the PERA Board of Trustees did not identify any legislative agenda items for consideration this year. There were two bills that directly impacted PERA.
HB 19-1217, concerning the elimination of the 2 percent increase in the member contribution rate to the public employees’ retirement association for members in the Local Government Division, was introduced in early March and sent to the Governor in late April for signature. According to the bill’s sponsors, HB 19-1217 fulfills an agreement that was struck on SB 18-200 last year by eliminating a 2 percent increase in the member contribution rate for PERA members who work for employers in the Local Government Division. As passed, SB 18-200 included a 2 percent increase in the member contribution rate for PERA members in all divisions. Speaker of the House K.C. Becker, along with Senators Court and Tate, were sponsors of both bills. The PERA Board held the position included in their original recommendation to the General Assembly presented in late 2017 that included increases in employee contributions across all divisions.
HB 19-1270, sponsored by Representatives Sirota and Hansen, sought to require the Board to take certain actions in connection with climate-related financial risks to the various trust funds managed by PERA. It was postponed indefinitely in its first committee hearing. The bill would have required the PERA Board to retain a third-party organization to conduct a study that would include a comprehensive analysis of climate-related financial risk to PERA’s portfolio, a summary of climate-related financial risk engagement activities that have been undertaken, and a description of additional actions that should be taken based on the study’s recommendations. The PERA Board directed staff to continue to work with the bill sponsors and members of the General Assembly to provide further education on PERA’s investment process related to risk.
Labor and Employment Legislation
Some of the more contentious issues of the session dealt with several labor and employment bills that were introduced in previous sessions but failed to garner enough support to pass. Legislation prohibiting employers from asking about an applicant’s criminal history on an initial application (HB 19-1025), allowing local governments to raise the minimum wage beyond the State’s (HB 19-1210), studying the creation and implementation of a state-run paid family leave program (SB 19-188), and changes to ensure equal pay for equal work (SB 19-085), have all been sent to the Governor for signature. As previously reported in PERA on the Issues, SB 19-173 has also been sent to the Governor. This piece of legislation requires the State Treasurer to oversee an analysis of four options to fix Colorado’s retirement crisis and to come back to the Legislature in February 2020 with a recommended plan for implementation.
The Second Regular Session of the 72nd General Assembly is scheduled to convene on January 8, 2020. Stay tuned to PERA on the Issues for updates throughout the interim.