by Lisa Cyriacks

A Colorado bill that would change how the country elects the president is heading to its final vote after passing out of a House committee on a party-line vote. The bill passed the Senate in January without a single Republican voting for it, and now heads to the House where Democrats hold a substantial majority.

Much of the debate over the bill centers on the constitutionality of states banding together and altering presidential elections. The results of the 2016 election (where Trump lost the popular vote) played a significant role in the testimonies of people on both sides of the issue.

Senate Bill 19-042 directs the chief election official of each member state to determine the number of votes cast for each candidate in all 50 states and the District of Columbia and then add all of those together themselves in order to determine how to cast electoral votes.

The League of Women Voters has maintained a position to abolish the Electoral College since 1970, believing that a direct-popular-vote method for electing the President and Vice-President is essential to representative government.

Opponents argue that the bill 

subverts an Electoral College that the Founding Fathers created to ensure smaller states don’t get trampled when it comes to choosing the president.

Eleven states and the District of Columbia have joined the national popular vote interstate compact so far, bringing with them 172 electoral votes.

Red flag bill

Democratic lawmakers introduce legislation that would allow family members or law enforcement to petition the courts for a temporary extreme risk protection order (ERPO) if a person is thought to be a threat. A judge could issue a search warrant and seizure immediately under what many refer to as a “red flag” bill.

The bill was introduced on the one-year anniversary of the shooting that took place at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Lawmakers say the bill has the support of law enforcement.

Colorado Republicans and pro-Second Amendment groups strongly condemned the bill and vow opposition.

Equal Pay for Equal Work Act

Colorado Senate Democrats, on January 17, 2019, introduced the “Equal Pay for Equal Work Act” (SB 19-085) to prohibit a wage differential based on an employee’s gender.

According to recent studies by the American Association of University Women, the wage gap in Colorado is 82%. That is, women make 82¢ for every dollar a male earns. Women of color face an even wider wage gap than white women or men—63¢ for Black women and 54 cents for Latinas. 

Proponents of the legislation argue that if women in Colorado were paid the same rate as men, the poverty rate would drop from 5.6% to 2.8%. For working single moms in the state, the poverty rate would drop from 22% to 12.3%. The state’s economy would see an additional $9 billion of disposable income.

Opponents to the legislation are concerned that the bill, as introduced, would negate the state administrative process that has been in place for years that allows a worker to file a sex-based wage-discrimination complaint against an employer with the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE), instead permitting workers to file civil lawsuits which could result in greater penalties for employers who violate equal pay provisions.

Additionally, employers are required to disclose an hourly wage rate or range for all job postings.

If passed, this would be among the most aggressive equal pay laws in the nation.

Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission

Democrats are now aiming to do what they could not in the 2014 legislative session: fundamentally reform the way the state regulates oil and gas drilling, for the first time in almost 70 years.

In 2014, activists and the fossil-fuel industry faced off in bitter conflicts over health and safety. While the legislature then could not reach a compromise, the intervening years have spurred multiple events shaping Colorado’s recent political history.

A task force convened to address the issue went nowhere. Court battles rage. The industry even successfully fought to amend the state constitution, making future anti-fracking initiatives less likely. And at long last, frackers and fractivists faced off on the ballot in November 2018, in a $50 million showdown over Proposition 112 and Amendment 74. Both measures failed.

How much control legislators cede to local governments, and what environmental standards they’ll require state regulators to enforce could dramatically affect Coloradans living near the state’s oil and gas extraction areas, and corporate bottom lines for the fossil-fuel industry.

Fracking opponents have long alleged that the COGCC, which oversees drilling and production across the state, is fundamentally flawed. In its mission statement, as defined by Colorado’s 68-year-old Oil and Gas Conservation Act, the COGCC is tasked with “fostering” the development of the state’s oil and gas reserves “in a manner consistent with protection of public health, safety and welfare.”

For the fossil-fuel industry, the status quo has been immensely profitable. Average monthly oil production has increased more than fivefold since 2010, with no end to this soaring growth in sight.

A recent Colorado Supreme Court decision is prompting Democratic legislators to require the COGCC to make health and the environment the top priority when considering applications for energy development.

To meet those demands, legislators will have to be willing to shift the balance of power away from the oil and gas industry and toward residents who have felt powerless in the fight to protect their health and property.