CFB Policy Watch: State legislature shuts down for now, COVID-19 impacts the budget and more

COVID-19 Shutdown Affects State Legislative Branch

On Saturday, March 14, the Colorado Legislature passed a resolution recessing from the general session for two weeks, until March 30th. This came as a precautionary measure to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus in the Capitol building. While there were no reports that any legislators, staff or lobbyists have been exposed, “business as usual” during the legislative session brings hundreds, sometimes thousands, of people to the Capitol each day. This poses a particularly easy spread of the virus as citizens often come from all around the state.

The legislature also passed a resolution asking the Colorado Supreme Court (CSC) if the legislative session has to be counted in consecutive days or if the legislature can reconvene after the threat of the virus has minimized and pick up where the session left. The constitution indicates that the regular sessions of the general assembly shall begin no later than the second Wednesday of January and will last 120 consecutive calendar days.

Legislative rules passed in 1999 state that the legislature can meet for 120 separate business days. The CSC’s impending opinion will significantly impact how the legislature moves forward, not only in two weeks, but through the beginning of the summer.

For questions about the status of the legislature, contact Emily, Emily@ColoradoFB.org.

Tired of Hearing about COVID-19? The State’s Budget Sure Is!

In other COVID-19 news, the economy is racing to a halt, not only in Colorado but across the nation. The virus has already had an incredible impact on the economy but over the last few days the government has called for bars and restaurants to close in-person dining services while ski resorts have been directed to close for a week with some electing to close for the rest of the season. Theaters, gyms and casinos are also shuttered for 30 days. This will have a tremendous impact on tourism and travel revenues.

In addition to these challenges, social distancing is contributing to the strain on the economy while Saudi Arabia and Russia are fighting over oil prices, flooding the market with fuel and lowering prices. This has a direct impact on Colorado’s oil and gas industry, one of the state’s top revenue grossing industries.

With tourism, travel and energy being hit hard in the state, there are concerns about what the impacts to the state’s budget will be. Yesterday, the JBC received the March forecast and the message was not positive. Revenue projections were about $773 million less than the December projections which means there will only be an estimated $27.3 million of new dollars for next year’s budget. This means that, at best, the budget will remain flat and at worse cuts to current programs will have to occur. In addition, revenue is not expected to meet the TABOR cap, so TABOR refunds are not expected for the next couple of fiscal years.

Colorado Politics reported that there will be serious impacts to Governor Polis’ budget requests. There will be virtually no money for funding early childhood education or paying down K-12 debt and increasing the state’s reserves are all off the table. The Joint Budget Committee (JBC) will meet again on March 23 to determine where cuts will happen, and how significant current events are going to affect how the state is funded through the 2020-21 fiscal year.

Contact Emily, Emily@ColoradoFB.org with questions.

USMCA Passes Canadian Parliament

Late last week, the Canadian Parliament passed USMCA. This is exciting news during a time of uncertainty across the globe.

“In a time of uncertainty, the passage of USMCA by Canada’s Parliament is a welcome celebration for agriculture and the nation. Maintaining open trade with our largest trading partner is an important victory in our food system. We are eager to work with our neighbors to the North and South in the coming days to implement USMCA and ensure high quality, safe, consistent food delivery to Coloradans and people across the country,” says Colorado Farm Bureau president, Don Shawcroft.

Learn more here.

COVID-19 Resources

These are strange times for all of us. CFB has compiled a few resources to help you navigate the situation and understand how organizations like CFB and the Colorado Department of Agriculture are continuing to serve you:

For updates from the Colorado Department of Agriculture, click here.

For updates from the Colorado Farm Bureau, click here.

By Brian Allmer - The BARN

Brian Allmer & the BARN are members of the National Association of Farm Broadcasting (NAFB), the Colorado FFA Foundation, the Colorado 4H Foundation, the Colorado Farm Show Marketing Committee, 1867 Club Board Member, Denver Ag & Livestock Club Member, the Weld County Fair Board, the Briggsdale FFA Advisory Council, Briggsdale 4H Club Beef Leader & Founder / Coordinator of the Briggsdale Classic Open Jackpot Show.