Return to the Latest

Reflections on the 2024 Colorado Legislative Session

The 2024 Colorado legislative session ended on May 8th. This year, YI had the opportunity to work on 17 bills, 13 of which had successful outcomes.

The work of our Young Advocates cohort was deeply intertwined in the legislative session. Our deepest gratitude goes out to each of our cohort members: Lexie Allen, Giselle Arroyo, Aaliyah Berry, Gaby Garcia, Miguel Garcia, Maryori Guzman, Mia Henderson, Jessie Jennett, Rhiannon Mills, Joseph Mitchell, Jakye Nunley, Erin Olesiewicz, and Katrina Zamudio, for their passion and drive in advocating for policy that prioritizes the needs of young adults in Colorado.

unnamed 2

During the bills’ journey through the capitol, advocates with YI shared stories directly with legislators in public testimony, were featured as speakers during press conferences, hosted a Day at the Capitol Policymaker Panel, and constructed online actions to engage Coloradans in grassroots lobbying.

This session, our collective efforts propelled four incredible bills across the finish line in the higher education sphere. In workforce development and finance legislation, we were thrilled to see an incredible five bills pass the general assembly. In health care, we saw the passage of one supported bill and the successful defeat of our only opposed bill during the session. These victories are not just legislative wins, but steps towards a brighter future for young Coloradans.

Higher Education Successes
Cultural Identity and Higher Ed Representation
HB 24-1323 School Graduation Attire protects students’ rights to wear cultural or religious attire at graduation ceremonies, ensuring that our students of color and LGBTQ+ students can celebrate their academic accomplishments and identities in our public education system. HB24-1082 First-Generation-Serving Higher Education Institutions develops criteria to determine which public colleges and universities in Colorado are “first-generation-serving,” enabling students to select an institution familiar with their unique background and needs.

Students’ Rights in Higher Ed
HB24-1364 Education-Based Workforce Readiness establishes a statewide longitudinal data system that will collect and systematize data on Colorado’s many education and workforce programs through which students obtain college credits, industry credentials, and work-based learning experiences. Finally, SB24-164 Institution of Higher Education Transparency Requirements strengthens the “Student Bill of Rights” by adding the following rights: Transparency regarding the cost of their education program, a seamless transfer of credits between schools, the right to appeal an institution’s decision if they won’t accept transferred credits and the right to know if their work experience or previous learning can count for college credit at their school. HB24-1364 and SB24-164 build off the state’s existing resources while making huge strides in providing transparency for Colorado students seeking postsecondary education or credentials. On each of the four higher education bills, our young advocates who were directly impacted provided much-needed perspective through testimony during the committee hearings at the Capitol.

Workforce Development and Finance Successes
Gig Work Transparency
HB24-1129 Protections for Delivery Network Company Drivers and SB24-075 Transportation Network Company Transparency, a pair of gig work bills, passed amended during the 2024 session after being killed as a joint bill last year. They pave the way for progressive protection for gig workers, often low-income, young adults, or immigrants seeking alternative workforce models. Advocates from YI had the opportunity to directly lobby for these two bills, speak at a press conference representing consumer voices seeking fare transparency, and testify at committee hearings for each bill.

Refundable Tax Credits
Colorado has a regressive tax system, primarily due to the parameters of TABOR (Taxpayer Bill of Rights). Amongst other provisions, TABOR requires all “surplus” tax collected by the state be refunded to the taxpayers. This provision leaves many public services underfunded, and the refund mechanisms often disproportionately benefit higher-wage earners—those who need the refund least. HB24-1311 Family Affordability Tax Credit and HB24-1312 State Income Tax Credit for Careworkers create refundable tax credits for families with children and personal caseworkers. Creating refundable tax credits is one way to tip the scales slightly toward low-income Coloradans, offering a way to put cash directly back into the hands of our community members who need it most

Access to Public Assistance Programs
HB24-1223 Improved Access to the Child Care Assistance Program streamlines the application and renewal process for the Child Care Assistance Program. This public assistance program helps families access child care while working, looking for work, or in school. Streamlining this process will enable more families to access the childcare they need to survive the rapidly rising cost of living and cost of childcare in Colorado. YI was proud to have Young Advocate Rhiannon Mills featured in a press conference with Healthier Colorado to publicly endorse HB24-1223, and we are thrilled to see its passage.

Healthcare Successes
Continuing Education Requirements
HB24-1153 Physician Continuing Education establishes a continuing medical education (CME) requirement for physicians licensed in this state. By requiring continuing education, we ensure our physicians continue to be at the forefront of the most recent medical knowledge, including, but not limited to, reproductive care, LGBTQ+ care, and culturally competent care for populations excluded from past medical research and practice.

Defeating the PDAB Exemption
YI was proud to work alongside the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative (CCHI) in defeating SB24-060, Prescription Drug Affordability Board Exempt Orphan Drugs. This carve-out bill would have significantly reduced the ability of the Prescription Drug Affordability Board (PDAB) to place upper-payment limits on drugs, which ensures Coloradans can afford their prescription medications. We are proud of all the cross-organizational work and testimony our advocates put into defeating this bill.

Other Successes
HB24-1059 Compensation for State Elected Officials establishes an independent commission responsible for setting the compensation for state elected officials. YI is dedicated to ensuring fair participation in government at the state level. We hope this legislation will establish pay for elected officials so that even low-income and young Coloradans can consider running for state office.We look forward to the outcomes from the commission in 2025.

Last but certainly not least, we are thrilled to have supported the passage of SB24-053 Racial Equity Study, which establishes a commission to conduct a study to quantify the historical and ongoing effects of slavery and other acts of systemic racism on Black Coloradans. The commission will publish findings and recommendations to address Colorado state practices, systems, and policies impacting Black Coloradans.

Falling Short of the Finish Line
Like in any session, we can’t win ‘em all! This year, four bills YI was engaged on didn’t make it out of the general assembly. Despite these setbacks, our Young Advocates remained resilient and continued to advocate for the needs of young adults in Colorado.

No way forward
HB24-1040 Gender-Affirming Health-Care Provider Study and HB24-1049 School Mental Health Professional Loan Repayment Program, both bills brought forward by the Colorado Youth Advisory Council (COYAC), were both postponed indefinitely after being determined to be unfeasible by their sponsors.

Lost by a vote
HB24-1028 Overdose Prevention Centers died in its second committee, Senate Health and Human Services. After hours of testimony both for and against the measure, with testimony from several YI advocates, the bill was voted down (5-4) as Senator Joann Ginal (D) and Senator Kyle Mullica (D) joined committee Republicans in voting against the bill.

Killed by the clock, or so they say
HB24-1075 Analysis of Universal Health-Care Payment System died “on the calendar” for the second year in a row. Despite a quick introduction on the first day of the 2024 session, the bill didn’t make it through the Senate, the second chamber required to pass the bill before being sent to the Governor. HB24-1075 would have commissioned a study on the logistic feasibility of a Universal Health Care Payment System in Colorado. YI has been deeply engaged in the efforts to fund a UHC study in both the 2023 and 2024 sessions, and many representatives of YI have engaged in coalition work behind the scenes of the bill and at public testimony this year. Many coalition partners debate the ‘true’ culprit of the bill’s death. Due to its sizable fiscal note, the bill was significantly delayed (10 weeks) in the House after passing its first committee while waiting for the long bill. Even after passing the hurdle of the House on April 22nd, the bill was delayed for a week before being introduced in the Senate. As the session petered to a close, watchers say HB24-1075 was delayed and ignored on the calendar as the Senate heard other bills. As of May 7th, the bill had died on the calendar. What was the final nail in the coffin—pressure from the governor, inaction by moderate Senate leadership, or the looming threat of a filibuster from Republican Senator(s)—is unclear.

Budget Blues
While the 2024-2025 Budget ended up being slightly better than original forecasts, any growth in the Colorado Budget is still hindered by TABOR. This year, we saw a budget restructuring that enabled the general assembly to forego the Budget Stabilization Factor, meaning Colorado will fully fund K-12 education for the first time in 15 years. The budget also increases General Fund spending on higher education by about 10%. In the short term, higher education will see improvements in funding. Still, each year is a toss-up for young adults as Colorado’s budget is limited by our (TABOR-induce) funding formula.

Another painful side effect of this budget process and the legislature’s make-up is the unwillingness to push progressive policies early in the session. Like in past years, we see bipartisan bills pushed through the legislature early and quickly. This leaves the more progressive bills that would benefit young adults for the end of the session, where the mad scramble for funding slashes any bills that could make substantial waves for young Coloradans.

Our budget is projected to be tighter next year. While we made it out this year without too much of a hit to our policy priorities and public education systems, there’s no guarantee that these programs and policies will be funded beyond the fiscal year. We must reform Colorado’s budgetary policy to properly support young Coloradans. Good fiscal policy would ensure young adults can thrive, not just survive.