This information is prepared as an informational service only and should not be relied upon as an official record of action taken by the Colorado General Assembly.
SIXTY-SECOND GENERAL ASSEMBLY
STATE OF COLORADO
First Regular Session
Day Thursday, January 14, 1999
Prayer by Pastor Stephen Swanson, St.
Paul's Lutheran Church, Denver.
The Speaker called the House to order at 9:00
The roll was called with the following result:
Absent and excused--Representative McPherson--1.
Absent--Representatives Clarke, Tate--2.
Present after roll call--Representatives Clarke,
The Speaker declared a quorum present.
On motion of Representative Coleman, the reading of the journal of January 13, 1999, was dispensed with and approved as corrected by the Chief Clerk.
The Chief Clerk reports the following bills have been correctly printed: HB99-1175, 1176, 1177, 1178, 1179, 1180, 1181, 1182, 1183, 1184, 1185, 1186, 1187, 1188, 1189, 1190, 1191, 1192, 1193, 1194, 1195, 1196, 1197, 1198, 1199, 1200, 1201, 1202, 1203, 1204, 1205, 1206, 1207, and 1208.
CONSIDERATION OF RESOLUTION
SJR99-008 by Senators
Blickensderfer, Powers, Feeley; also Representatives Dean, George,
Gordon--Concerning employee grades and steps for the first regular
session of the sixty-second general assembly.
(Printed and placed in Member's
On motion of Representative Dean, the resolution
was adopted by viva voce vote.
LAY OVER OF CALENDAR ITEMS
On motion of Representative Anderson, Consideration of General Orders (HB99-1040, 1043, 1017, 1083) was laid over until January 15, retaining place on Calendar.
On motion of Representative Dean, the House adjourned until 9:00 a.m., January 15, 1999.
The Joint Session was called to order by the Speaker
of the House, Russell George.
On motion of Senator Blickensderfer, the morning
roll call of the Senate was made the roll call of the Joint Session.
On motion of Representative Dean, the morning roll
call of the House was made the roll call of the Joint Session.
The Speaker declared a quorum present and as is customary
presented the gavel to the President of the Senate to preside
over the joint session.
President Powers requested the Joint Committee, composed
of Senators Anderson and Dyer and Representatives Sullivant, Morrison,
and Mace to escort the Governor from the Governor's Chambers to
Chief Sergeant-at-Arms Suman announced the arrival
of the Honorable Bill Owens, Governor of the State of Colorado.
The Joint Committee escorted the Governor to the
rostrum where he addressed the Joint Session.
The Joint Committee escorted the Governor from the
On motion of Representative Dean, the Governor's message was ordered printed in the House Journal.
ADDRESS BY THE HONORABLE
Speaker George, President Powers, Lt. Governor Rogers,
Members of the Colorado General Assembly and the Cabinet, fellow
This morning we are gathered to discuss the programs
and policies that I believe will help us to take Colorado into
the next century. We live in a time of great change. I believe
that our goal should be to work to expand opportunity for all
We can do that if we work together to make this last
legislative session of this century be remembered as the trail
blazing session. Let it be remembered that this is the year we
blazed the trail for an ever better Colorado as we move into the
I have sat where you are now sitting, and I know
the importance of good communication between the Executive and
Legislative branches. As Governor, I look forward to working
with each of you, regardless of political party, to do what is
right for the people of our state. While, we may not always agree
on every issue, but we all have the same goal: A better Colorado.
Working together, we can make that happen.
In crafting these policies, I am guided by the core
principles that have made this a great state:
This 62nd General Assembly has the honor of being
the first Legislature of the new century. You will preside as
Colorado crosses the threshold into the year 2000. Our effort
to improve Colorado for all citizens as we enter this new century
should have no limits.
I believe that our duty as elected officials is to
leave a strong and vital Colorado for those who will succeed us.
That means preparing our children and grandchildren for the responsibilities
that await them.
Sadly, today I believe that our public education
system is not fulfilling its responsibility. Too many young Coloradans
are not being equipped with the tools they need to succeed.
This is not because we do not have good people working
in our schools. The teachers who teach our three children -
who attend three different public schools -
are dedicated professionals who love children and love education.
But I am convinced that in too many cases we have
good people working in a faulty system -
one where excellence is not rewarded and failure is all too often
recent test results show us that we have a long way to go:
I know that these statistics concern all of us.
I would like to talk with you for a moment parent
to parent. On school days, Frances and I send each of our three
Monica, Brett and Mark -
off to learn at public schools. Like other parents in Colorado,
Frances and I are counting on our children's
principals and teachers -
while working with us -
to provide our kids with a world-class education.
But too many children in Colorado today are being
We need to do better. We need to give public education
our full support.
Supporting public education means holding our schools
accountable for their individual performance. It means insisting
on high academic standards. It means teaching our children the
basics, and it means freeing parents, principals and teachers
to do their jobs.
And the best way to start is to cut through those
state mandates and red tape which stifle education excellence.
I trust our local communities. We do not need state laws that
tell our schools how to spend practically every minute of every
Therefore, I suggest that we allow any public school
in the state -
or even an entire public school district -
to apply for waivers from burdensome and unnecessary state laws.
Parents and teachers should not have to spend time
to be free of state bureaucracy. The time has come to give meaningful
true local control -
to every public school in Colorado.
Today practically every charter school asks for waivers
from the same16 state laws when it applies for charter status.
These laws are almost always waived, but only after these independent
public schools jump through all sorts of hoops and other hurdles.
Representative Nancy Spence's
efforts to free public schools from these bureaucratic laws is
a worthy goal and one which I would hope you would carefully consider.
I commend the General Assembly's
efforts in recent years to strengthen Colorado's
charter schools. This year, we should build upon that solid
foundation. This means funding charter schools the same as we
fund other public schools. Students in charter schools should
not be short changed. Thus, I look forward to working with Rep.
Doug Dean on his proposal that provides more equitable funding
independent public schools.
Of course, all too often outstanding teachers and
principals are stifled not just by state bureaucracy, but by their
own school district bureaucracy. We have many trail-blazing schools
around the state where parents, teachers and principals are working
together to focus on the basics and achieve results. Often this
means that they are sticking to fundamentals and ignoring the
latest educational fad handed down from on high.
I believe we should allow these trail blazing schools
to be exempt from district rules that would harm their performance.
As I said earlier, nothing is more local than parents, teachers
and principals at an individual school. We must give them the
ability to control the education of their children. Thus I support
Senator Norma Anderson's
effort to give parents, teachers, and principals the freedom to
better manage the curriculum being taught to their children.
I believe we should trust Coloradans at the local level and give them the opportunity to make decisions regarding the education of their children. But with this freedom must come accountability - accountability to parents, to taxpayers, to employers, to the whole community.
Today, let me share with you an important goal I
will be working on in the coming months.
To truly hold schools accountable, we must first
and foremost know how they are measuring up and we must disclose
those results to the public. Therefore, I believe that every
public school in the state needs to be graded on a "school
These school report cards should be comprehensive.
They should measure schools on a variety of factors, including:
These school report cards would be designed so that
parents can easily compare how their school measures up with schools
around the state. We would invite Colorado's
parochial and private schools to voluntarily join in this effort.
The school report cards should be posted on the Internet and
We should not turn away from any child in Colorado
who is trapped in a failing school. Before the bureaucracy, before
the teacher, before local control comes the child. Education
must first, last and always be about children. If we are serious
about holding our schools accountable, then we must have the political
courage to work together to fix the problems which keep our children
from reaching their full potential.
Of course, little of this will matter if we cannot
even get our children to school, which brings me to my next topic,
The growth Colorado has experienced this decade has
brought us new jobs and a strong economy. Continued and increased
investment in transportation is necessary if we are to meet the
demands of a 21st century state. We will only be successful if
goods, services and people can move freely and easily in and across
Colorado has more than 85,000 miles of road and 8,300
bridges. Vehicle miles traveled last year in Colorado totaled
more than 36 billion -
22 billion of which were on state roads. Nearly three-fourths
of our Interstate Highway System in Colorado was built before
and since then our population has increased by more than one million
Building and maintaining a transportation system
for the 21st century is an enormous task. It will require us
to work together to devise realistic solutions to our transportation
Today, I would like to focus on four specific transportation
First, there are 28 strategic transportation projects around the state that are critical to improving our transportation system. These key projects, known within the Capitol as the 7th Pot, outline the statewide capacity improvement projects which Colorado needs in the future:
When originally selected as priority needs, these
28 projects were expected to take 48 years to complete. But thanks
to the hard work of the General Assembly in recent years in devoting
more money to transportation, the Transportation Department now
estimates that it will take about 25 years to complete these strategic
But I believe there is a better way.
By pursuing financing known as Grant Anticipation
Revenue Vehicles -
or GARVEEs for short -
the private sector will provide us up front money equal to the
bulk of our federal highway dollars. Then, each year as our federal
highway dollars come in, we repay the private sector.
Let me briefly tell you why I think this financing
I believe that GARVEEs represent a fiscally conservative
funding mechanism to help solve Colorado's
I am pleased to announce today that Speaker George
and Senate President Powers will sponsor legislation that authorizes
GARVEEs. By using federal dollars to finance GARVEEs, we will
not put at risk Colorado taxpayers. This financing will provide
an important tool allowing Colorado to more quickly benefit from
the gas tax dollars our citizens have already sent to Washington.
My second critical transportation priority is expanding
passenger airline and air shuttle service. In particular, we
need to ensure that the Western Slope and rural parts of Colorado
are adequately serviced by air connections. While Denver enjoys
unprecedented connections to the rest of the world, much of the
rest of Colorado is more isolated than ever. I look forward to
working closely with legislators such as Matt Smith, Gayle Berry,
and Ron Teck to assure timely and reliable air service to every
corner of Colorado.
My third transportation priority is to harness the
power of advanced information technology in Colorado's
highway system. Across the West, from San Diego to Puget Sound,
cities and states are investing in new technologies both to bring
more effective traffic management as well as to reduce air pollution.
Therefore, I will create by Executive Order a Smart
Transportation Taskforce to explore the wide range of transportation
technology options for Colorado. This Task Force will examine
the potential of computer networks to help drivers make decisions
based on up-to-the-minute information about road conditions, traffic
patterns and alternative routes.
The Smart Transportation Taskforce will build on
the work already being done at CDOT by partnering with Colorado's
universities, technology companies and the federal government.
Its charge will be simple: to scout out smart technologies for
our 21st century transportation system.
My final transportation priority involves the backbone
of Colorado: Interstate 25. In Douglas County at I-25 and Lincoln
Boulevard more than 60,000 trips occur each day -
20,000 more trips than that interchange was designed to handle
when built more than 40 years ago.
It is time that we stop being held hostage on I-25.
Therefore, I propose the following Roads and Rail Package to
solve the gridlock on I-25.
I will direct Senator Tom Norton -
whom I trust the Senate will shortly confirm as head of the Department
of Transportation -
to work with RTD to ensure that more lanes and light rail are
added with all deliberate speed.
Today, RTD collects and spends almost 40% of the
transportation funds collected by all the governments -
federal, state, and local -
within its operating area . . . yet it carries only about 2% of
the vehicle miles traveled in that same area. Let me repeat that:
RTD spends almost 40% of our metro transportation dollars for
only 2% of the miles traveled.
Advocates of light rail along the I-25 Southeast
corridor need to lobby RTD to become more efficient and to do
a better job of using its present resources. Therefore, I favor
requiring RTD to increase its mandatory contracting out of bus
routes from the 20% presently required by statute. The cost savings
achieved are clear.
RTD saves between $13 and $20 an hour on privatized
routes. And when you realize that RTD operates hundreds of thousands
of hours a year, that adds up to huge savings. Additionally,
if RTD does achieve these savings, it will not have to build an
expensive new operating facility, saving more than $16 million
dollars. The free market works, and subjecting RTD to its competitive
pressures will save Colorado taxpayers millions of dollars and
free up the money to build light rail.
So, friends, there are four things we need to do
to unclog I-25:
Working together we can start to address the single
worst transportation problem we have in Colorado. If we are to
succeed in this effort, all stakeholders in this project must
come together and cooperate to get it done. I invite regional
organizations to update their plans to reflect the reality that
I-25 improvements will consist of both more lanes and light rail.
I hope that local governments join us in seeing this essential
project is completed quickly.
Along with increased road congestion, many Coloradans
are concerned that our recent growth may threaten open space.
I share your concerns. That is why I support conservation easements.
They allow ranchers and farmers to keep working their land rather
than seeing those lands be developed. When negotiated voluntarily,
conservation easements protect private property rights and are
less expensive than the government taking over the land itself.
I look forward to working with Rep. Lola Spradley on this important
Conservation easements are an important tool to save
open space, but they are not the whole answer. As we move forward
into the new century, we have an obligation to enhance and protect
beautiful natural environment. If we work together rather than
become polarized, if we recognize that markets work better than
mandates, and if we reward results, not programs, we will do much
to save Colorado's
open space and protect our environment.
like to turn our attention for a few minutes to Colorado's
families. There is no institution more important to our success
than the family. Strong families are our first and most important
bulwark against poverty, teenage pregnancy and juvenile crime
against most of society's
problems which today challenge us all.
We live in a culture that glorifies violence and
often blurs the difference between right and wrong. Our efforts
to instill in our children the commonsense values of faith, honesty
and hard work are too often undermined when we send our children
out of the house.
I believe that government has an obligation to help
yet sometimes we do the opposite. So I ask this legislature -
whether we are dealing with taxes, with education reform, or with
our juvenile justice system -
to either help Colorado's
families or, in Hippocrates words, "to
do no harm."
As Governor, I will veto any bill which harms Colorado
families. I will measure each bill against a simple standard
a Family Impact Statement, if you will. If it harms the family,
it will be vetoed.
The welfare reforms recently passed by the Legislature
in Colorado are working. More people are taking responsibility
for their lives, learning new skills and going to work. Welfare
rolls are down since the Legislature overhauled our welfare system.
But the easiest cases were the first ones to leave welfare and
the most difficult cases remain.
Having said that, I believe that it is time for government
to recognize the essential role of Colorado's
faith-based organizations. Patient, one-on-one mentoring from
a caring person will in many cases do more to help our neediest
citizens than will any government program. It is often only in
our churches and synagogues that we find volunteers willing to
make long-term investments in helping needy individuals and families.
From Topeka to Boston, from South Carolina to Michigan,
there is a new spirit of cooperation emerging in America among
state and local governments and faith based organizations. These
cooperative arrangements observe the separation of church and
state. But they are also opening up new opportunities for those
And while I believe that the best care is delivered
locally, state government has an important role to play as well.
We have an opportunity with moneys we will receive from the recent
tobacco settlement to help our families. We do not know exactly
when Colorado will get its first tobacco funds, and the initial
payments will be lower than in later years. Therefore, it is
important not to over commit ourselves with new programs or fritter
away this opportunity on every special interest's
Every child in Colorado deserves a healthy start
in life. Unfortunately, too many in Colorado don't
receive it. Health insurance means access to health care which
means better health. Too many of Colorado children today have
no health insurance. Most of these uninsured children have hard
working parents who just cannot afford the protection their children
deserve. Too many parents lie awake at night worried about what
would happen if their child becomes sick. Too many parents worry
that if they lose their job, their children will not be insured.
We can do something to still these fears. I believe
that we should use a portion of the tobacco settlement money to
fund the Children Health Plan Plus. We will be able to use this
existing program to provide health insurance for at least 60,000
low income children in Colorado.
I also support the creation of a trust fund into
which the tobacco settlement moneys would flow. I believe that
a portion of the settlement should ensure a future revenue stream
that is available from these tobacco settlement funds when the
fund payments are completed.
There is one final issue that is important in strengthening
families that I would like to discuss, and that is adoption. On
any given day in Colorado, we have close to 7,000 children in
foster care. And to foster parents who open their homes, God
bless you. But children need to find permanent, loving homes
as quickly as possible.
In 1994 the General Assembly passed a law to expedite
permanent placement for children under the age of six. In the
counties where it has been put in place, it appears to be working.
But there is more we can do, especially for harder to place older
It is proper that adoptions are handled by our counties
at the local level. But that often means parents hoping to adopt
a child have to go to 63 counties to find out which children are
available for adoption. To complete this search can be difficult
and time consuming -
and each day these potential adoptive parents must spend going
county to county is a day that a child is denied a permanent,
Therefore, I support having information regarding
adoptable children available at the state level. The Department
of Human Services should be a one-stop clearing house for parents
approved to adopt to learn what children are available. And,
as is done in other states, the Internet should be utilized to
even more quickly make this vital information available.
One of the most important things government can do
families is to not take away their hard earned money in ever increasing
taxes to feed ever increasing government spending. And with their
rejection of Referendum B in November, Coloradans made it clear
that they think government has enough money to do what it needs
Across state government, in every department and
agency, we must discover ways to innovate, to encourage employees
to deliver better service to citizens at less cost. Every day,
workers in the private sector focus on producing more at better
quality with less money. We in government should do no less.
I will soon unveil the details of a new initiative
to focus on government innovation and technology. We will explore
how to turn the institutions of today's
20th century government into institutions that will work for the
people of Colorado in the 21st century.
Another important and urgent effort regarding government
and technology is the year 2000 computer problem. I am very concerned
about the progress or lack thereof on this issue. While I have
only been in office a few days, I am concerned about the state's
ability to be year 2000 compliant. While the hour is late, I
have discussed this issue with my Cabinet and directed them to
swiftly undertake a testing and validation process to have the
state ready for the year 2000.
I will also extend my efforts at government reform
to the judicial system. Therefore, by Executive Order I am creating
two taskforces. The Governor's
Task Force on Civil Justice Reform will explore ways to improve
the quality and affordability of civil justice in Colorado. Second,
Task Force on Crime and Technology will work to ensure that Colorado's
criminal laws and criminal law enforcement keep pace with technology.
And while speaking of crime, those of you with whom
I served in the House and Senate know I was often active in the
criminal justice debate. I will continue this interest as Governor
in working with you to keep those who break our laws off our streets
and out of our neighborhoods. Toward this end, I will appoint
tough judges who care as much about victim's
rights as they do about the rights of criminals. I will also
place a victim on the Clemency Board to ensure that the voice
of the victim is heard in these proceedings where the pleading
of the felon is all too often heard, while the victims are all
too often silent.
I would like to finish today with a discussion about
one of the most important issues to face the 1999 session: how
best to cut taxes and thus return about $3 billion in taxpayer
dollars over the next five years.
I join you in believing that we must have a responsible
tax relief package that returns these taxpayer dollars while not
putting the state's
financial health at risk. Also, we must maintain a tax system
that is fair and thus any tax relief must not unfairly favor one
group over another.
In the coming weeks, I look forward to working with
Senator Elsie Lacy, the Joint Budget Committee and the Finance
Committees to arrive at a common sense solution in terms of how
best to cut taxes. As a starting point in our discussions, I
would like to lay out a few broad ideas that might provide a framework
for a workable tax cut package.
First, $4.4 million from the 1997 TABOR refund has
not yet been returned to the people. I believe that we should
fully refund these taxpayer dollars this fiscal year in order
to comply with our constitution.
Second, I believe that because most of the surplus
comes from income taxes, any tax relief plan must start there.
I therefore support a permanent reduction in the
income tax from 5% to 4.75%.
Over five years, this would represent nearly a billion
dollars in tax relief. When Colorado workers open their paychecks
and look at the box marked "state
it would be lower. For the average Colorado family, it would
mean that they could keep almost $600 more of their earnings to
use for their purposes -
Think what a difference that would make. Families
would be able to afford a new set of tires for the car. Parents
would have a little more to make ends meet and afford a new computer
for the kids. And by letting Coloradans keep more of the money
they earn, we would be simply doing what is right.
And for those who saw our 15 year old Monica's
comments about her dad being "cheap" . . . I'd
even be able to buy the kids soft drinks when we go out to eat!
Such income tax relief would still leave excess TABOR
more than $350 million every year for the next five. This is
good for two reasons. First, we may enter a period of slowing
economic growth. Maintaining some surplus allows a cushion for
revenues to fall without impacting the state budget. Second,
this cushion provides us the freedom to provide refunds through
other targeted, temporary tax relief.
There are many taxes that we could temporarily reduce
to satisfy TABOR's
refund requirements. Here are just a few suggestions:
First, we could exempt telephone and telegraph services
from the sales tax. Access to telecommunications is the key to
enable small businesses and families to fully participate in the
Information Age. By exempting these services from the sales tax,
we will make access to the new century all that more affordable.
This tax relief would save Coloradans about $75 million the first
year and grow to savings of more than $100 million within five
Second, we could encourage savings and investment
among low-income Coloradans by exempting a portion of interest,
dividend and capital gains from the income tax. This would benefit
hundreds of thousands of Colorado families who are struggling
to save a portion of their earnings for a rainy day, college tuition
or for a down payment on their first home. This would also help
elderly citizens, who derive a large portion of their income from
interest and dividends.
Third, we should lessen the burden of the personal
property tax on our small businesses and entrepreneurs. It is
important that we eliminate disincentives for companies to make
investments that will lead to the creation of more quality, high-wage
jobs. I appreciate the work that Rep. Gary McPherson is doing
in this area and strongly believe we should cut the corporate
personal property tax.
Those are a few suggestions on providing tax relief,
but I know that you have many more. Whether it is through strengthening
the earned income tax credit to benefit low income citizens, or
providing an unearned income tax credit to assist our elderly
citizens who rely on their savings, I look forward to working
with you to craft a tax relief package that leaves no one behind.
Let us never allow budgets in the billions of dollars combined
with highly technical appropriations issues to obscure the fact
that we are in charge of our destiny.
I am prepared as Governor to help tighten our budget
belt in the Executive Branch to make this happen. To make better
use of the taxpayer money, we should consider alternatives to
the state funding all capital construction by exploring privatizing
buildings and using year-to-year leases. Working together we
can give the citizens of Colorado much needed tax relief while
protecting our investments in transportation and other priorities.
So this is my message. It is a message of opportunity.
Improve our education system by freeing parents, teachers and
principals at the local level to innovate and provide a world-class
education system while holding them accountable for results.
Accelerate our federal highway dollars so we can
start fixing our highways around the state. Quickly pursue a
road and transit solution to I-25 in Southeast Denver while requiring
that RTD become more efficient.
Strengthen our most needy families by calling upon
our faith based community to provide the kind of support that
only they can offer. Expand health insurance coverage for poor
children and speed up the adoption of children into permanent,
Make our government more efficient and effective
and provide major tax relief for our hard working families, entrepreneurs
and wealth creators.
In the relative calm and prosperity of today, let
us commit ourselves to blaze the trail that will prepare our state
for the new century. Let us be bold and undertake our work in
a spirit of reform. Let us do what is right to expand opportunity
for all our citizens.
Thank you, and God bless Colorado.
On motion of Senator Blickensderfer, the Joint Session was dissolved.