In the ballroom of the Antlers Hotel Friday, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis spoke about parents in Lewis-Palmer School District who, he says, pay up to $200 for their children to go to full-day kindergarten, as he announced funding for one of his main campaign promises.
“This simply means that kindergarten is treated like first grade, rather than half of first grade,“ Polis said.
Polis and other legislators from the Joint Budget Committee announced $185 million in funding dedicated to statewide full-day kindergarten. Polis asked the legislature for $225 million earlier this year, but still said the funding is “huge progress.“
Polis said it can save families who do not have full-day kindergarten in their districts up to $500 each month. School districts currently subsidizing it will be able to use that money elsewhere.
“Kindergarten is every bit as important, if not more, as first and second grade, and we ought to have free full-day kindergarten in every part of our state and I’m confident we will work with our legislators, both Republican and Democrat, to get there for this coming fall,“ Polis said.
The plan will also open 5,000 preschool spots in the Early Childhood At-Risk Enhancement (ECARE) program.
Polis said the bill has bipartisan support, as would an income tax cut he told the Colorado Springs business community he wants to pass this year.
“Now is the time to unite around our common purpose to move forward and make sure our state works better for everyone here,“ he said during his speech.
Not every purpose is a common one in the legislature this year. With Democrats controlling the governorship, state House, and state Senate for the first time since 2010, they have often shown the consequences of the 2018 election with bills that change the way the state regulates oil and gas, give Colorado’s electoral votes to the winner of the popular vote, repeal the death penalty, and create extreme risk protection orders related to firearms.
Ads have been run on television in regards to Senate Bill 181, called “Protect Public Welfare Oil and Gas Operations.“
That bill would change state statute in regards to oil and gas operations, prioritizing public health when making regulation decisions and allowing local governments to set their own regulations, should they so choose.
“We can finally have local control in our state.“ Polis said. “If you had an unelected panel in Denver telling people in Pueblo or Colorado Springs where they could build houses or malls, people would get upset. Same with oil and gas. Let our commissioners, the city council, let the people closest to these communities make those decisions, rather than an unelected panel in Denver.“
The ad says Coloradans spoke about regulations in November, when Proposition 112 was soundly defeated.
Extreme Risk Protection Orders is a bill coming back up after being introduced late in the 2018 session. If passed, it would allow family members, people close to the person, or law enforcement to apply to a judge to temporarily take a person’s gun away if they think the person is a risk to themselves or others. The person could appeal to a judge in two weeks’ time.
The governor didn’t commit to a position either way.
“I look forward to seeing what it looks like when it gets to our desk,” Polis said. “I certainly encourage legislators to work with sheriffs, work with police chiefs, to make that a better tool respects people’s Second Amendment rights and provides a way that in a very dangerous situation, we can have some kind of interaction to make things a little bit safer for reducing suicides,“ Polis said.
Neither of those bills, as the governor alluded to, has completely passed through the legislature and made it to his desk for signing.
One that Polis has signed into law has mobilized opponents to get the issue on the ballot.
That bill would give Colorado’s electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote during a presidential election. That would only happen if enough states sign on to do the same thing, and pass the 270-electoral vote threshold needed to win the White House.
Opponents see it as an attack on President Donald Trump’s 2016 win, where he lost the popular vote but won the electoral college count. Some also say it would move the power of presidental elections to the coastal states and leave out rural America.
Active opponents are calling for the state to vote on the issue as a whole.
“If people want to put that on the ballot, that’s fine,” Polis said. “Otherwise, in the legislature, a majority said, we want to have one person one vote. We’re tired of Coloradans’ votes counting one-third of Wyomingites, for an example, as they do now. Let’s just let every vote count and stop silencing the voice of rural Colorado and of smaller communities.”
There are less than two months left in the legislative session. Polis said during his speech at the Antlers that climate change is a priority for his administration. Legislation on that could still be proposed before the session’s end in May.