Colorado Democratic House and Senate leadership lay out special session priorities

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DENVER — A special legislative session may bring some economic relief to the pockets of Coloradans thanks to stronger than anticipated sales revenue. But lawmakers say it will be just a stop-gap measure until Congress passes a second stimulus bill.

Colorado Democratic House and Senate leadership held a virtual press conference Sunday to discuss their priorities and COVID-19 safety protocols for the upcoming special session.

On Nov. 17, Gov. Jared Polis called for a special legislative session to address relief measures for those impacted by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The special session will begin Monday at 10 a.m.

House Speaker KC Becker, Senate President Leroy Garcia, House Speaker-designate Alec Garnett, and Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg discussed Sunday eight bills they hope they can pass to address relief for small businesses, housing and rental assistance, support for child care providers, and expanded broadband access for students.

Five of the bills will start in the Senate and three will begin in the House. Funding for these relief bills will be coming from higher than projected sales tax revenue, but Becker said the allocated funds are not enough to replace what the federal government could do. However, Congressional inaction has forced the state to do what they can with what little funds they have, Becker said.

“There is a whole lot more need I think out there than even these bills address. We’re doing what we can with the revenue that we do have. We’re hoping that Congress acts,” Becker said.

The eight bills that will be up for consideration during the special session include the following:

Starting in the Senate

– Small business relief ($57 million allocated). Grants and fee waivers for small businesses.
– Housing and rental assistance ($50 million allocated).
– Broadband access for education ($20 million allocated).
– Utilities assistance ($5 million allocated).
– Public health assistance ($100 million allocated). Some of the funding may be reimbursed by FEMA later.

Starting in the House

– Sales tax relief bill. Allow businesses to hold onto sales tax collected from November through February.
– Child care support ($45 million allocated). Grants could support 2,600 current facilities.
– Food pantry assistance ($3 million allocated)

Democrats said they will take several measures to protect lawmakers, staff and the public from potential exposure to the virus. Those measures include plexiglass, mask wearing, limiting committee sizes and encouraging written and virtual testimony.