My First Bill Signed: HB-1203

Governor John Hickenlooper signed my first bill into law this week. HB11-1203 requires the private custodians of criminal records – agencies that sell the information on your background check whenever you apply for a job or to rent an apartment – to seal their copies of a person’s record when a judge orders the court’s record sealed. Most criminal records are permanent, but sometimes a judge will agree to seal a criminal record when a former offender displays good behavior for many years after a youthful or minor crime, or when a defendant is found innocent.

Those who benefit from the new law will have an easier time getting a job or renting a home. In today’s economy, that can make a big difference in giving people a chance to work. HB11-1203 passed unanimously in the House and Senate, and was signed by Governor Hickenlooper on Tuesday.

Some of my other bills this year are making progress, too. Restorative Justice, HB11-1032, passed the House Judiciary Committee in February and is scheduled to be heared by the House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday, April 6. The Uniform Military and Overseas Voting Act, HB11-1219, passed the House of Representatives this Wednesday!

Should Grocery And Convenience Chains Sell Full-Strength Beer and Liquor?

One of the bills getting a lot of attention this year is HB11-1284. The bill would allow grocery and convenience chains, which are currently limited to selling beer with 3.2 percent alcohol, to sell full-strength beer and similar beverages.

To most people, this is the kind of issue that makes you shrug and say “sounds fair enough.” Maybe you consider it convenient to get groceries and beer in one stop. But policy is rarely so simple.

Liquor stores in Colorado are family-run businesses with modest profits, and many say that losing even just a portion of their beer sales could put them out of business. Most of the grocery stores in Colorado are large companies headquartered out of state. Colorado also has one of the most creative and successful microbrewery industries in the country. Microbrewers say it’s because of Colorado’s current law favoring small liquor stores, which are more approachable than grocery chains for new companies looking to sell a new product.

While I support a free market and competition, alcohol is a restricted product. I’m always an advocate of small and local businesses, and want to help Coloradans become entrepreneurs. The issue differs from traditional party lines with Republicans and Democrats on both sides. What do you think? I’m currently researching the impact a change might have on small businesses, but I want to hear from you as well. Please use the poll below to share your view, or call my office and tell me what you think. 

Balancing Colorado’s Budget

Balancing the Colorado budget is a difficult task. What we prioritize is a statement about our values. During the past three years we have made some deep cuts in nearly every area of the budget, and still we are forced with painful cuts because the state has lost so much revenue.

I’d like to ask constituents what they want to protect and what they want to cut. In that spirit, please visit backseatbudgeter.com. It is an invaluable tool that puts you in the driver’s seat for making cuts or raising taxes to balance the state budget. It also shows you how arduous it is to balance the budget with all of the conflicting provisions in our state constitution. A similar tool, Tax Tracks, tells you exactly where your tax money is going. I’d love to hear any thoughts you’ve come up with after using either of these tools.

Not only is balancing the budget this year a tough challenge, but it is only the first part of the work that needs to be done. A recent study by the University of Denver concluded that even a strong recovery and consistent job growth over the next decade will not produce enough income and sales tax revenue to pay for Medicaid and public schools. According to the study, problems with Colorado’s revenue structure combine with retiring baby-boomers and increasing health care costs, and mean that Colorado’s obligations will out-pace its revenues perpetually.

The bottom line: sooner or later we’re going to have to put politics aside, and decide what kind of state we want for our children and grandchildren.