Nov 16, 2023 - Politics

What Democrats want to do next legislative session

Illustration of a megaphone made out of the dome of the Colorado State Capitol.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Even with attention focused on Friday's special session, the contours of the 2024 state legislative term are emerging in the background.

Driving the news: Top lawmakers voted Wednesday to introduce 54 bills drafted by committees ahead of the January session, including new vehicle fees to build bike lanes, age restrictions for where children can ride in cars, higher taxes on some vacation rentals and a $700 tax break for retired state workers.

Why it matters: The legislation offers a preview of the battle lines for the upcoming 120-day term and demonstrates that the Democratic majority plans to move aggressively on big-dollar priorities and hot-button issues despite early Republican opposition.

Yes, but: The largest obstacle Democrats will face next year is a shortage of cash after plush budgets with federal dollars.

  • Earlier this month, Gov. Jared Polis issued what he considered a lean spending plan that gave lawmakers just $15 million for their priorities out of $16 billion in discretionary spending.

The intrigue: Democratic legislative leaders don't appear concerned about courting controversy with their initial legislation, particularly with a bill to require short-term rental properties that are not primary residences to pay lodging taxes like hotels, rather than residential rates.

  • State Rep. Judy Amabile (D-Boulder) supported advancing the measure but agreed that opponents have valid concerns.
  • "Every community stands to have different unintended consequences because for every community the role of short-term rentals is different," she said.

Of note: Democrats backed off a plan to allow illegal drug use with supervision at sanctioned locations after the governor threatened a veto.

  • A measure to enlarge the earned-income tax credit for lower-income residents also failed to get support because it would lower state revenues by $90 million a year.
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