DENVER (AP) – The end is in sight for the 2015 state Legislature. That means the days are growing longer as lawmakers scramble to finish their work by May 6. Some of the highlights from the coming week:
BUDGET FINALLY SET
Both chambers have finished work on the 2015-16 state spending plan, and a committee appointed to smooth out differences has finished work, too. Expect the budget of roughly $25 billion to land on the governor’s desk this week. But there’s more to watch for, numbers geeks. Lawmakers are moving to the School Finance Act, an annual budget devoted to state’s biggest-ticket spending item: education.
REINING IN BALLOT MEASURES
Lawmakers start work on two measures that could make it harder for citizens to change the state constitution through the ballot. A bill up for its first hearing in the Senate Wednesday would require two consecutive votes, not one, to make a change. And a House bill getting a hearing Monday would require citizen petitions to add fiscal impact estimates when they’re gathering signatures, instead of the current practice of making those estimates before the vote. Lawmakers from both parties say it’s too easy to amend the constitution and that voters aren’t always properly informed before they make a change.
EDUCATION TURMOIL CONTINUES
With less than a month to go, lawmakers seem far from decided on how to reduce student standardized tests. Another batch of proposals go before the House Education Committee Monday, including a proposal to ratchet back required tests and a long-shot proposal to end Colorado’s participation in Common Core academic standards.
PRICEY ROAD PLAN
A Republican senator is expected to propose a sweeping $3.5 billion plan to issue transportation bonds over the next 20 years. The proposal from Sen. Randy Baumgardner will reportedly include plans to upgrade Interstates 25 and 70, along with work on smaller highways and mass transit projects. Voters would have to sign off on the package, which has very little time to make it through the Legislature before lawmakers conclude business for the year.
Last year, court decisions in Oregon and Pennsylvania found that requests from Immigration and Customs Enforcement to local authorities to hold people suspected of being in the country illegally are not commands that local jurisdictions have to abide by. The court decisions said sheriffs could be liable for constitutional violations for holding people past the time when they would otherwise be released on the charges for which they were initially arrested. Several Colorado sheriffs stopped honoring such detainer requests after the court rulings, but a House bill getting its first committee hearing Tuesday seeks to make the policy change official by putting it into law.
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