May 11, 2023

Colorado General Assembly Session – End of Session Report

Over the last several months, the Downtown Denver Partnership has been working closely with Capstone Group to monitor and weigh in on bills that align with our policy priorities and address issues that impact downtown Denver. The 2023 State Legislative Session adjourned sine die at 10:01PM on Monday, May 8. Here is an overview of the major bills we engaged on.

Housing affordability was a top priority of the Governor’s Office this session. There were more than a dozen bills related to renters’ rights, land use, and affordable housing introduced during the 120-day session. The Partnership was actively engaged in several of the bills.

SB23-213: Land Use

Sweeping land use reform is where the Governor put his political weight this year. SB23-213: Land Use, was introduced on March 22nd and contained over 100 pages of reforms to Colorado’s existing land use laws. The Governor’s Office reached out to engage DDP in March which resulted in two separate meetings with the Governor’s team and his staff about the proposal. After much discussion and another presentation to the management group, DDP decided to actively monitor the bill but not take a formal position on the bill.

As introduced, SB23-213 made land use an issue of both statewide and local concern, allowed upzoning in every community, removed parking and occupancy restrictions associated with building, authorized ADUs, focused on building around transit-oriented areas, prioritized middle housing, and required state, local and regional housing assessments. Through the legislative process, the bill underwent significant changes and at one point removed all upzoning and focused more on the housing study component. However, in the House Local Government and Housing Committee, several controversial provisions of the legislation were added back in. Due to disagreements between the Senate and House on just how comprehensive the legislation should be, the bill died on the calendar on the last day of session. This issue has not seen the last light of day as it is anticipated that land use reform will continue to be a top priority of the Governor for the remainder of his term.

SB23-303 Reduce Property Taxes and Voter-approved Revenue Change and SB23-304 Property Tax Valuation

In the last week of session, Governor Polis and Democratic leaders, announced the introduction of two measures to thwart the impending impacts of rising property taxes on homeowners who’d just received increased assessment valuations anywhere from 30-60% higher than the past cycle. SB23-303 Reduce Property Taxes and Voter-approved Revenue Change refers a ballot measure to voters at the November 2023 election and changes the treatment of property tax backfill payments to consolidated city and county governments. Provisions in the bill include reducing the residential assessment rate to 6.7%, increasing the residential deduction to $50,000, extends the reduction in the non-residential rates to 27.85%, and allow portability of the homestead exemption. The companion bill, SB23-304 Property Tax Valuation, makes changes to the valuation of property by county assessors. SB23-304 was bipartisan and not controversial, clearing the process in the final days of the legislative session. Despite House Republicans walking out and refusing to vote on SB23-303 however, the measure passed the House and Senate on the last day of session. The provisions within SB23-303 will be on the ballot as Proposition HH this upcoming November.

HB23-1190: Affordable Housing First Right of First Refusal

One of the most concerning bills this session was HB23-1190: Affordable Housing First Right of First Refusal. The legislation created the right of first refusal, with certain exemptions, for local governments to purchase multi-unit residential properties for long-term affordable housing. While the bill was being considered by the Senate Local Government and Housing Committee, Kate Barton and Amy Hansen provided testimony in opposition of the bill. We met with members of the Denver legislative delegation to express concerns and partnered with other stakeholders such as the Colorado Association of Realtors, homebuilders, and the Associated Builders and Contractors to work on comprehensive amendments. As a result of our work, the following changes were made in committee and on the Senate Floor:

  • Repeals the law after 5 years.
  • Shortens the timeline to 7 days for local government to preserve the right of first refusal, 30 days to make an offer, and 60 days if feasible to close but no longer than 90 days.
  • The provisions of the bill won’t apply to properties newer than 30 years old.
  • Only applies to urban properties with 15 or more units and rural properties with 5 or less units.
  • Requires a local government to compensate a property owner for any economic loss caused by the local government materially breaching or defaulting on the agreement.

Concerns still remain with the final version of the bill, specifically the ability of a local government to circumvent the timelines if there is a reasonable delay not within the control of the local government in obtaining financing, required inspection or survey of the qualifying property. As a result, we are requesting a veto from the Governor. The Chamber also has this bill on their veto list and we are coordinating our efforts.

HB23-1115: Repeal Prohibition of Local Residential Rent Control

On the renter’s rights side of the equation, HB23-1115: Repeal Prohibition of Local Residential Rent Control was killed in the Senate after passing the House.

HB23-1294: Pollution Protection Measures

As introduced, HB23-1294: Pollution Protection Measures contained many concerning provisions aimed at decreasing pollution in Colorado. The bill was heavily amended in the House including eliminating a requirement triggering new permits for any modifications of facilities that increase emissions and relooking at ETRP. As part of the changes in the House, the Committee on Ozone Air Quality was created, consisting of 12 legislators, which meets during the 2023 legislative interim. The bill underwent additional amendments on the Senate Floor that include removing the bill drafting authority from the interim committee and removing the private right of action under COGCC. Amendments also put guardrails in the complaint process for both the AQCC and COGCC by establishing a threshold for the Departments to not accept certain evidence.

HB23-1153: Pathways to Behavioral Healthcare

Our top priority bill for the 2023 legislative session, HB23-1153: Pathways to Behavioral Healthcare passed the House and Senate with near unanimous support. The bill was a result of looking what other states, such as California and New York, are doing to get individuals with severe mental illness off the streets and into accountable treatment. HB23-1153 requires the state to conduct a feasibility study to explore what it would take for the Colorado to develop a comprehensive framework to get people with mental health and substance use disorders the help and support they truly need. DDP provided testimony in support of the bill and directly met with legislators to ensure its passage.

HB23-1202: Overdose Prevention Center Authorization

Lastly, HB23-1202: Overdose Prevention Center Authorization which would have allowed local governments to authorize overdose prevention sites, also known as safe injection sites, the operate within their jurisdiction. The bill passed the House but was ultimately postponed indefinitely in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee without enough votes to pass. DDP did not ultimately take a position on the proposal but actively monitored the bill through the process.

Click here to access the Downtown Denver Partnership bill tracking report for the 2023 legislative session.