DENVER (CBS4)– A legislative session that included marathon debates, lawsuits and even an almost all-nighter is over. The 2019 legislative session ended at midnight on Friday.
Democratic House Majority Leader Alec Garnett described the 2019 session as a “whirlwind.” It ushered in big changes for Coloradans especially on health care. The first bill introduced gave the state more access to hospital pricing.
“In every other marketplace consumers are empowered with cost transparency. And so when it comes to hospital transparency, we made that a key priority and it moved early and it was monumental,” Garnett said. “If that was the only thing we did, I’d still say it was a success but we did more.”
A lot more. Lawmakers passed bills to create a state run health insurance option and Canadian drug import program. They capped insulin prices and approved suicide prevention efforts.
“We have done more this session on mental health to try to close the gap that has been created in the state of Colorado on mental health than we have ever seen before,” said Garnett.
The session also saw a lot of significant affordable housing bills and climate change bills.
While there were fewer bills overall, there were more contentious bills – from a repeal of the death penalty (Democrats killed that) to the red flag gun bill and local control of oil and gas.
“It’s still going to be disastrous for the industry and Colorado,” House Minority Leader Patrick Neville said of the oil and gas measure.
While Republicans couldn’t stop bills, they filibustered to run out the clock on controversial bills. An immunization bill and nicotine tax bill failed in the final hours. Republicans also managed to scale back several bills. A bill to require paid family leave for every Colorado employee became a study.
“The concern is what does that study say at the end and what happens next year.”
Neville called the session “crushing.” Garnett called it “successful.”
“We can say we kept our promises to the voters of Colorado. We ran on these issues, we said we were going to fix these issues, and that’s what we did this session,” said Garnett.
Among the last minute legislation to pass were bills designed to reduce youth suicide, define how sex education is taught in schools, allow sports betting in Colorado, reduce many drug felonies to misdemeanors and allow local governments to determine minimum wages.
Gov. Jared Polis said one of his favorite bills was the lemonade stand bill, which makes it easier for kids to start their own business.