Rep. Kraft-Tharp and Gov. Polis at the Colorado Secure Savings Plan Board signing.

Gov. Jared Polis signed a raft of bills yesterday, aimed at increasing lobbyist transparency, expanding mental health care, boosting access to workplace retirement plans and improving the rights of renters.

HB19-1170 would improve renters’ rights if their home becomes uninhabitable or otherwise unfit for human habitation. Under this bill, tenants can notify the landlords of uninhabitable conditions through written (including electronic) notice and the landlord will then have 24-72 hours to begin to address the complaint. If the issue persists, the tenant has a right to withhold an estimate cost of the repairs from their rent payment and the right to break a lease.

“I believe that having a safe and affordable place to live is a cornerstone to self-sufficiency,” said Rep. Dominique Jackson, D-Aurora, during the House floor debate. “This is real life. When Coloradans are paying market rents, they deserve to live in a safe and habitable place. This is a very fair, and very necessary bill.”

HB19-1118 allows sufficient time for tenants to remedy a lease violation before getting evicted. Tenants will now receive 10 days (up from three days) to pay their rent or address a minor lease issue before an eviction is filed against them.

HB19-1085, sponsored by Rep. Tony Exum, D-Colorado Springs, provides property tax, rental, fuel and heat assistance to seniors over the age of 65, those with disabilities and surviving spouses over the age of 58. This bill expands these benefits and eligibility for the PTC rebate program.

“This program helps keep some of Colorado’s seniors, disabled and most vulnerable families and individuals warm and secure in their own homes,” Exum said in a news release issued by House Democrats. “I am proud to see this program come to fruition so we can help keep people safe and potentially save a life when temperatures plummet.”

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The bill passed the House last session but was blocked in the previously Republican-controlled Senate.

Workplace retirement plans

SB19-173 — the Colorado Secure Savings Plan Board — allows the state to study options to increase the ability of Colorado workers to save more for their retirement. According to a news release issued by House Democrats, almost half of private-sector workers do not have access to a workplace retirement plan.

“Our country is in a retirement crisis. We need a plan to ensure workers can save and retire with dignity and security,” said Rep. Tracy Kraft-Tharp, D-Arvada, who co-sponsored the bill with Rep. Chris Hansen, D-Denver. “This new law will ensure the state studies four models including a no-action plan to see what is the best way to help Coloradans who don’t have access to a workplace retirement savings plan save a little at a time throughout their life for a secure retirement.”

SB19-173 creates a board of trustees that would study various options for a public-private partnership that would offer a low-fee plan, similar to Individual Retirement Accounts, to employees without access to workplace plans. 

Lobbyist transparency

HB19-1248 will increase reporting requirements for lobbyists.

“Recent reports show that special interests spent over $30 million to lobby the state legislature. That’s an exorbitant amount of money. The danger of this is that it gives lobbyist access and influence that the general public doesn’t have,” said Rep. Lisa Cutter, D-Evergreen, who sponsored the bill with Rep. Mike Weissman, D-Aurora. “If money equals speech, then the public deserves to know where that money is coming from.”

HB19-1248 requires more frequent reporting of relevant information by professional lobbyists, clarifies that lobbyists that are also attorneys are not privy to attorney-client confidentiality, and it clarifies that a professional lobbyist must disclose who their ultimate client is (that is, disclose the name of the client who employs or retains the professional services of the lobbyist).

Mental health access

SB19-222 and SB19-223 aim to address Colorado’s mental health crisis.

SB19-222, a bipartisan bill sponsored by Rep. Daneya Esgar, D-Pueblo, expands community based services, providing a safety net of comprehensive mental health care that could cover the entire state.

“SB 222 is about implementing a vision for a system that can serve everyone, so Colorado’s jails don’t have to,” Esgar said in a release issued by House Democrats. “When people with serious behavioral health disorders cannot access the treatment they need, other parts of our system are negatively impacted as we’ve directly seen in Pueblo. These new laws are about helping the people in our communities who are the hardest to serve.”

Esgar’s bill requires access to civil beds at the Colorado Mental Health Institutes at Fort Logan and Pueblo. It also requires a robust collaboration with all local enforcement jurisdictions and counties in the service area.

SB19-223, sponsored by Weissman, improves the process and provision of services for individuals who have been ordered for competency evaluation and restoration in the criminal justice system.