Colorado Community Media asked the following questions of state Sen. Chris Holbert, R-Parker, ahead of the 2020 legislative session, which began Jan. 8. Holbert, the Senate minority leader, represents Senate District 30, which includes Highlands Ranch, Lone Tree and portions of Parker, among other areas.
What can be learned from the 2019 session?
The Colorado Constitution defines our state legislative process based on the rule of simple majority. When one political party holds a simple majority or more of seats in both the state House and Senate, plus the governor’s office, as Democrats do currently, then they can pass whatever bill(s) they wish. However, the state constitution does not provide the majority party the ability to pass an unlimited number of bills. No matter what, our general session must end at or before midnight of the 120th day and it cannot be extended. Thus, prioritization is important.
What bill or bills are you most looking forward to working on in the 2020 session?
First, continue my efforts to secure at least 300 million general fund tax dollars for roads and bridges. By comparison, the state budget includes approximately 7,000 million ($7 billion) for public K-12 education.
Second, to secure funding to inform parents of middle school students about concurrent enrollment. Parents need to know how their kids could graduate from high school with some or all of a college level associate degree and to have some or all of the cost covered by their school district. For some students, that could cut the cost of a four-year degree in half. Too often, motivated students don’t even hear about concurrent enrollment prior to high school. Parents need to know about this great, existing, opportunity.
In light of Proposition CC’s failure in November, what steps should be taken for transportation and education funding?
It’s important to understand that, here in Colorado, we don’t account for all funding for public education through our state budget. Only the portion of funding for your school district actually receives through the state budget would be reported as state funding. Why? Because, since statehood in 1876, Colorado has been and is a local control state. For example, federal dollars can and do go directly from the federal government to your school district. In that case, those dollars would not be included in the accounting of how the state funds your school district. Your local school board determines teacher salaries in that school district, not the state legislature.
What do you envision as the most daunting challenge this session?
The state budget, aka the “Long Bill” due to its length, is the only bill that the General Assembly is required to pass each year. Our state constitution requires that a budget be adopted and that it be balanced. Our state Legislature is not allowed to allocate or spend more than we have.
Describe a successful 2020 session.
Pass a balanced budget that, once again, increases funding for public K-12 education, provides at least $300 million for roads and bridges, defend the U.S. and state constitutions, and avoid empowering government at the cost of personal freedom and individual liberty.
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