Posted tagged ‘Colorado State House’

Thank you, Colorado Legislators, for passing SB 33 and helping more students attend college

March 9, 2013

On Friday, the House of Representatives approved Senate Bill 33, the legislation that will make it possible for an undocumented student to attend college in Colorado at the in-state tuition rate. The House was the last stop for the bill before it lands on Governor Hickenlooper’s desk for his signature.

All the Democrats in the both the Senate and the House voted for the bill, along with six Republicans. We ask CEA members to thank all the legislators who voted for the bill, with special appreciation to these Republicans: Sens. Larry Crowder (Alamosa), Owen Hill (Colorado Springs), and Greg Brophy (Wray); Reps. Cheri Gerou (Evergreen), Kevin Priola (Henderson), and Clarice Navarro-Ratzlaff (Pueblo). You can find all legislators’ email addresses and web sites in the General Assembly’s Legislative Directory.

Watch for news about Governor Hickenlooper’s plans for signing SB 33.

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More PERA bills on Thursday: HB 1142 and 1150

February 29, 2012

 On Thursday, March 1, the House Finance Committee will hear two of the three remaining PERA bills which CEA opposes, as does the statewide Colorado Coalition for Retirement Security (CCRS).

The Finance Committee will hear HB 1142 that will expand the use of the state’s Defined Contribution Plan and HB 1150 that will change Highest Average Salary calculations from three to seven years. The committee will take testimony on both bills.

CEA opposes both bills as they run counter to the compromise reached under Senate Bill 2010-001. SB 1, adopted by the Legislature two years ago, addressed the long-term sustainability of the PERA by changing the benefit and contribution structure so that the pension’s liabilities will be funded in a reasonable 30-year time period, as recommended by the Governmental Accounting Standards Board.

We thought that HB 1179 would also be on the committee’s schedule for tomorrow, but it was pulled from the calendar. The bill proposes major changes in the composition of the PERA Board of Trustees. It is possible that this bill’s sponsors are drafting amendments for the bill.

College students could get credit for what they learned in jobs, the military, and their communities

January 24, 2012

Tomorrow the House Education Committee will hear HB 1072. The bill is called Higher Education Prior Learning Assessments.

Proposed by the Legislature’s Educational Success Task Force, the bill’s sponsors are Rep. Tom Massey (R-Poncha Springs) and Sen. Keith King (R-Colorado Springs). HB 1072 requires Colorado’s Higher Education Commission (CCHE) to develop criteria for awarding credit to a college student who has “prior learning” through work experience, military service, community involvement, or independent study — prior learning acquired after high school as an adult. If the Legislature approves the bill, CCHE would do the prep work so the program could go into effect for the 2013-14 academic  year.

The bill is premised on the idea that adult learners, mobile learners, and nontraditional students are likely to come to college with learning acquired outside of traditional classrooms. They have acquired their learning from noncredit programs, corporate training, time spent in the military, volunteering, community workshops, and many other kinds of activities.

Often these students  come to college and are required to pay tuition for courses in things they already know — and they consider it a waste of their time and their money.

HB 1072 calls for Prior Learning Assessments to be used to measure what a college student has learned outside of college by evaluating whether that learning is college level and how many college credits it is worth.

The bill will start tomorrow in the House Education Committee. If the House Ed Committee passes the bill, it goes to the House Appropriations Committee and then to the full House for a vote before it goes over to the Senate for consideration.

Crazy idea? Practical idea? What do you think?

House reduces the K-12 cut by $22.5M

April 21, 2011

Today the House of Representatives approved amendments to the school finance bill, SB 230, that shave a little more off the $250 million cut to K-12 students and schools: a $22.5 million shave that will reduce the cut and go to districts as part of the School Finance Act. This action makes the overall K-12 cut $227.5 million.

There’s more. If there’s a positive June 2011 revenue forecast, meaning more tax revenue coming into the State General Fund as a result of an improving economy, the Legislature will put aside up to $67.5M more to prevent a mid-year K-12 rescission next year. This money is not going to school districts right now.

CEA President Beverly Ingle was pleased with House’s decisions today, but agreed with Rep. Cherylin Peniston (D-Westminster) who cautioned, “Let us be clear, colleagues, that this is not a victory. We are not putting more money into public education with this bill. We are simply cutting less.”

Ingle said, “While we are extremely grateful for the outstanding efforts of the Democratic caucus in the House to further reduce the cut, we still need to pursue every angle to reverse the horrible trend of slashing funding from our schools. Any cuts to K-12 public education run against the needs to restore the state’s economy and advance the future of public school students.”

Ingle praised Rep. Tom Massey (R-Poncha Springs) for taking the lead among House Republicans and stepping forward to show that “the education of Colorado’s school children is worthy of full bipartisan support.” She thanked Rep. Sal Pace (D-Pueblo), House Majority Leader, and Senate President Brandon Shaffer (D-Longmont) for their leadership in making every effort to improve the budget for schools.

(Note re Wednesday’s post on HB 1248, PERA Board Composition: The bill was put off for another week.)

HB 1248, changing PERA Board, up today at 1:30

April 20, 2011

House Bill 1248 will be heard by the House State Affairs Committee today. The bill, which CEA opposes, modifies the composition of the PERA Board to add six governor appointees who are not PERA members or retirees.

Under the bill, there would be two State Division members, three from the School Division, one each from Local Government and Judicial, and one retiree. The bill also requires that one elected member from the State and School divisions be at least 15 years from retirement eligibility when he or she begins serving a first time.

We oppose the bill, as we opposed a similar measure earlier in the session. This particular bill made it nearly through the House before its sponsor, Rep. Jim Kerr, managed to get it referred to State Affairs. The Colorado Coalition for Retirement Security and the PERA Board also oppose HB 1248.

David Webber at Labor Capitol blog supports our position that there should not be more political appointees on the PERA Board of Trustees, and the majority of board members should be beneficiaries. Webber says it’s analogous to why “managers with an equity stake in a corporation tend to perform better than managers with no stake. As Warren Buffet would put it, they’ve got skin in the game.” An interesting read.

HB 1248 is one the two remaining PERA bills. SB 76 is back to its original form – which we oppose, but which no longer affects School Division employees as in its amended version.

K-12 education budget cut smaller today by $80 million

April 6, 2011

Legislative leaders reached a back-room compromise yesterday on the state budget. The deal means that the cut to K-12 education will be reduced to $250M from the original proposal by Gov. John Hickenlooper that it be $332M for 2011-12.

K-12 would be cut by an average of 4.6 percent, on top of the $260M cut that students took this year. Education News Colorado said, “Education leaders were relieved…not wildly enthusiastic about the final deal.” You can say that again.

The online newsletter quoted CEA President Beverly Ingle, who offered moderate credit to legislators, “We appreciate the continued efforts of state leadership to meet the needs of our children in the face of shrinking revenues.”

We had been waiting for the state budget bill, as it was to have been introduced March 28. Dubbed SB 209, the bill starts in the Senate and is accompanied by SB 230, the annual school finance bill where the $250M cut will show up.

Negotiations over the budget took a long time, in part because of a House Republican proposal to amend SB 76 to let school boards and local governments shift their employee PERA contributions over to employees. (SB 76 will be heard in the House State Affairs Committee tomorrow.)

CEA members will continue to work to reduce the K-12 cut. While we realize that legislators have the responsibility to balance the budget around a huge deficit, we want to lower the cuts to our students. Last year’s cuts combined with this year’s will harm every student in every school. CDE’s most recent calculations will tell you just how much.

Ohio lawmakers follow Wisconsin lead; we’re working to defeat SB 76

April 1, 2011

The Ohio Legislature passed a bill this week that is tougher than the Wisconsin anti-collective bargaining legislation. Both chambers of the Ohio Legislature approved the bill and sent it to Gov. John Kasich.

The main difference between the Ohio and Wisconsin legislation is that the Ohio bill extends its restrictions to police officers and firefighters. It also affects teachers and state employees, allowing them to negotiate wages, but not health care, sick leave, or pension benefits. It replaces annual salary increases with merit “raises” or performance pay. It bans public employee strikes.

Like Wisconsin Gov. Walker, Gov. Kasich said he had to have the anti-union legislation in order to balance his budget. As we said weeks ago about Gov. Walker’s bill, “That just isn’t so.” These governors and others, though some have big budget problems, are scapegoating collective bargaining and fooling the voters into thinking the union issue is about money. Ohio State Rep. Robert Hagan (Youngstown) said, “Don’t lie to us, and don’t be hypocritical. Don’t dance around it as if it’s finances because you know what it is. It’s to bust the unions.” Read more at the Ohio Education Association.

In Colorado, while we are not fighting Wisconsin-Ohio style anti-union attacks, we do have to fight Senate Bill 76. We expect this bad pension bill to be heard next Thursday, April 7. Our lobbyists and the Colorado Coalition for Retirement Security want CEA members’ help in defeating the bill.

Senate Bill 11-076, in its original form, continued a law from last year that allows the State of Colorado, as an employer, to shift 2.5 percent of its PERA Employer contribution onto State Employees, making them pay more into PERA. SB 76 continues this shift under the guise of balancing the state budget. We opposed the original bill.

Rep. Brian DelGrosso (R-Loveland) amended the bill to gives school districts the ability to do the same thing: shift 2.5% of the Employer Contribution to employees, making them pay larger employee contributions to PERA. The amendment applies to Local Government employers too and we oppose the amended bill.

We expect the House to make the bill even more onerous – to allow school district and other employers to shift 4% of employer contributions to employees.

If you are an educator, you should take the time to email your State Representative and ask that lawmaker to vote NO on SB 76.

SB 76 will dramatically impact PERA’s long term solvency and undermine last year’s efforts through SB 10-001 to stabilize PERA funding. It shifts the burden of PERA solvency onto active employees and retirees by shifting the contributions from employer to employee. It circumvents K-12 employees by giving school boards the sole decision to make the shift, barring employees from having a voice through collective bargaining or any other means at the district level.

No on SB 76.