Colorado School Counselor Association

Promoting Excellence in Professional School Counseling

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Legislative Update

CSCA advocates with the Colorado State Legislature on behalf of school counselors for key issues of concern.
 

9 April 2020 Update
Legislative Schedule
The General Assembly continues to try to determine how to conduct their business during the COVID-19 pandemic. Today, the Joint Executive Committee of the Legislative Council met to discuss the 2020 legislative schedule.  It was determined that the Joint Budget Committee will begin meeting the week of May 11th to hear the new forecast, presented by the Legislative Council and the Office of State Planning and Budgeting. The new forecast will include the most accurate information to balance the budget.  Following the revenue forecast and JBC’s figure setting, the legislature will meet on May 18th or May 19th with the priorities of passing the School Finance Act, the Long Bill, and the Legislative Appropriation bill.  The committee indicated that the goal is to get the Governor a budget by May 30th or sooner.  It was noted that flexibility will be needed as the state continues to grapple with COVID 19.  At this point, the committee has not decided what to do with additional legislative days that are not used in May. 
 
Remote Meetings
The Joint Executive Committee of the Legislative Council also discussed remote meetings.  Members of the committee heard from the Director of Legislative Council about planning and conversations that have taken place to prepare for remote meetings if needed.  Members of the committee expressed concern about the difficulty of remote meetings for committees of reference and 2nd and 3rd readings. 
 
Suspension of Interim Committees
The Joint Executive Committee of the Legislative Council also discussed the suspension of interim committees as a cost savings measure and to focus efforts on the post COVID 19 impact.  The committee agreed to draft a bill that will suspend legislative interim committees for 2020, except for the Legislative Emergency Preparedness, Response, and Recovery Committee. 
 
Governor Polis Executive Order
On Monday Governor Polis signed an Executive Order amending and extending D 2020 017 to extend the state-wide stay at home order until April 26, 2020. In addition, the Governor extended Executive Orders on the temporary suspension of elective and non-essential surgeries and procedures, the closure of ski areas, the suspension of in-person requirements for notarizations, and the issuance of marriage licenses when county clerk and recorder offices are closed, as well as the suspension of other regulatory requirements, including clarifications to alcohol delivery and takeout, requirements related to taxicab carriers, in-person processes for background checks, and driver’s license and identification card renewal, due to the presence of COVID-19. 
 
State Budget
With the COVID-19 pandemic, the primary sources for state funding will be dramatically reduced—income taxes, property taxes and sales taxes. This will create a revenue shortfall for the General Assembly, forcing them to make deep cuts in the FY 20-21 budget. The projected cuts are approximately $2B cut in the state’s $32B budget and potentially another $1B in September or December.
 
Currently, the Joint Budget Committee is examining larger line items in every department and no program is off the table at this point. The Budget Stabilization Factor was created after a legal ruling stated that the base per pupil amount per student was required to be increased, not the overall per student amount after it was multiplied by the factors within the school finance act. This factor is how school funding was cut and the amount memorialized. Best case scenario, we are anticipating that school funding may remain flat, which means there would be no inflationary or enrollment increase.  There is a strong likelihood of mid-year cuts to school districts in January also. School districts will not receive their state funding amounts for budgeting purposes until the end of May at the earliest.
 
Fiscal Stimulus Funds
The most recent federal CARES Act that was recently passed included emergency funding for K-12 and higher education. Colorado’s portion of the money for Education includes approximately:
  • $132M for K-12: this is based on Title I-A population counts in school districts and has been expanded to allow for technology given the current online environment. This funding will be provided to local education agencies via grants.
  • $231M for Higher Ed: this is based on Perkins enrollment and Title IV and each state is required to submit a plan on what the impacts of COVID-19 have been for institutions and how the funding will support students. The money will come from the US Department of Ed to the institutions and state.
  • $45M for an Emergency Relief Fund provided to each Governor based on a state’s national school age population (5-24) and Title I population. This funding is to be issued in grants based on criteria established by the Governor.
The Joint Budget Committee Staff is looking at all of the stimulus bills to determine if any of the funding can be used to minimize pending state budget cuts in FY 20-21. There are other pots of money for state/local governments, health care and other areas to potentially use.
 
Congress is currently working on a fourth and maybe even a fifth stimulus bill that could provide relief before CO adopts its budget.


30 March 2020 Update
General Assembly Activity
The General Assembly continues to try to determine how to conduct their business during the COVID-19 pandemic.  The legislature was originally slated to reconvene today when things were less certain regarding how widespread the virus would be. Legislators are deemed ‘essential personnel’ and have access to the state capitol building on an ‘as needed basis’. Given the updated health, the legislature decided it should not be conducting a large gathering at this time. Over the weekend the legislature worked with legal counsel to drafted a bipartisan letter that would have been signed my a majority of legislators allowing for the extension of the recess for another two weeks until April 13th.  There was some concern that this method of extending the recess could have been challenged in court on constitutional grounds. There was also political disagreement with some members feeling the need to be physically present just like frontline workers are required to be at this time. There is a rule on the books that says if either chamber of the legislature doesn’t have a quorum to do business, the body can adjourn for up to three days. This was a more acceptable option to many concerned legislators.
 
This morning at 10:00 a.m. both the State House and Senate briefly met, with neither chamber reaching a quorum. In attendance were two Democrats in each chamber and 8-10 Republicans in each chamber. Since a quorum wasn't reached the House will stand in recess for another three days until Thursday, April 2, 2020.  In the meantime, we are anticipating the State Supreme Court’s ruling providing guidance on whether or not the 2020 Legislative session will be allowed to continue after May 6th. The Supreme Court issued new case announcements at 10:00 a.m. this morning, however no new opinions were announced. We will continue to monitor the Supreme Court’s activity. 
 
Budget Activity
The Joint Budget Committee has suspended its activities until at least April 7 at this point. Staff is evaluating the impacts of the three federal stimulus bills that have been adopted and what impact those additional funds may have on the state budget. Currently, the state is accessing $4M in non-emergency reserves and $5M from the disaster emergency fund. There is an additional $100m in the state emergency reserve that can be accessed for limited programs.  With the extension of income tax payment deadlines from April 15 to July 15 on the federal and state level, this will have an impact to the state’s revenues.  There are current conversations happening to suspend property tax payments also.
 
Colorado Department of Education’s Instructional Guidance
According to the CDE, school districts in Colorado will not have to meet minimum days or hours of instruction this school year. That means school districts won’t have to make up for lost time with additional days of school this summer. CDE’s guidance can be found here. Earlier this month, CDE waived state testing requirements and said it would temporarily stop tracking low-performing districts that might otherwise face state intervention.
 
Special Legislative Sessions
In addition to the annual 120-day regular legislative session, the Colorado General Assembly may conduct legislative business in special legislative sessions. It is possible that a special session could be called. Attached is a memo that explains the rules regarding a special session.


Should you have any legislative questions, please contact Karen Smith @karen.smith@coloradoschoolcounselor.org or 303-921-5349.


 
Archive
To learn all that has happened with school-related legislation in the first half of 2019, click here to read the 2019 Legislative Digest

Look below for a summary of all school counselor-related legislation or click here to access the 2019 Legislative Bill Report