Colorado Legislative Review

2020 Legislative Previews for CO, WY, and NM

Colorado – The 2020 legislative session is on the horizon with the General Assembly set to convene on Wednesday, January 8, and adjourn on Wednesday, May 6. With the Democrats remaining the majority in both the House and Senate, we anticipate legislative priorities will continue to be lowering healthcare costs, expanding in early childhood education, and investing in renewable energy and the environment. The Colorado Department of Agriculture is also seeking state funding to support Colorado farmers and ranchers in implementing energy efficiency measures and soil health modifications. In addition, bills seen in the past are expected to return including the creation of paid family leave, investments in rural economic development, and expanding support for local food markets. While most sessions tend to be contentious, this session may see more stall tactics and late nights than usual due to it being a major election year at the federal and state level. All the state’s House seats and half the Senate seats will be up for election in November 2020, thus legislators on both sides of the aisle will introduce statement pieces taking positions on the death penalty, gun rights, vaccinations, the national popular vote, oil and gas regulations, and more.

Wyoming – The 2020 Budget session of the Wyoming Legislature is set to convene on Feb. 11 and adjourn on March 12. The overriding topic is the biennial state budget for the fiscal years 2021 and 2022. Bills drafted in this interim by Joint Standing Committees are guaranteed to receive consideration. Any other piece of legislation will need to pass a two-thirds majority vote for the introduction. The budget situation is not rosy, but the proposed budget submitted by Governor Gordon is flatlined except for efforts to diversify the state’s economy and existing agency funding can be met by dipping into reserves. The Joint Appropriations Committee met through December to quiz agencies on their respective budget proposals. We expect to see considerable discussion on the proposal by Rocky Mountain Power to shut down coal-fired power plants earlier than the targeted shut down dates is reached. The state is looking at all options to sustain the coal production that remains. Many county central committees of the Republication Party are urging legislators to adhere to the party platform and resist any tax increases. It remains to be seen if the party can keep its members in line.

New Mexico – Last year, a new governor and money in the coffers set the stage for new or expanded programs including increased wages, education, and energy reforms. With the expansion of oil and gas extraction in New Mexico’s Permian Basin, increased oil and gas severance tax revenues paved the way to pay for more than a third of the state budget and its new programs. New Mexico legislators have worked all year to figure out how to pay for programs into the future and grapple with the mysteries of how long the oil boom will last. Still, communities, advocates, and legislators are optimistic. With the New Mexico Legislative Session scheduled to start on January 21, policymakers are focused on how best to appropriate the projected $797 million in new money, down from $907 million that had been estimated in the last quarter. The Legislative Finance Committee, both Democrats and Republicans, are united in their efforts to be more conservative in spending for the fiscal year 2021.

Although this is a budget year and the session will only last for 30 days, we expect many bills to come before the assembly. The New Mexico Department of Agriculture (NMDA) will be seeking funding for numerous projects including Ag Workforce Development, Healthy Soils, and Hemp Production. Bills to integrate gardens at schools with cooking classes to help kids learn about agriculture will be seeking funding as well. Building on new and expanded programs, policymakers are seeking increased funds for the New Mexico Grown Fruits and Vegetables for Senior Meals and the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program. There is a movement to raise the state’s tax on gasoline under the guise of a Carbon Tax.

New Mexico has legalized medical marijuana and there is a movement to advance this legalization to recreational marijuana. The state has also launched efforts through regulations to reduce methane and the use of produced water from the oil and gas industry. We will be monitoring these activities throughout the year. Governor Lujan Grisham has a strong desire for New Mexico to be a leader in renewable energy and carbon reduction. Early childhood education continues to be at the top of her priority list. With so many bills to be covered in such a short time frame, we do expect many long days at the roundhouse.