2021 Session Recap

The 2021 session can be summarized with this: This session, we saw voters ignored and abused, students failed, bureaucracy expanded, criminals enabled, and recovery delayed. All of which was rubber-stamped by weak legislative leadership that ceded its constitutional authority to the Executive Branch.


The 2021 session can be summarized with this: This session, we saw voters ignored and abused, students failed, bureaucracy expanded, criminals enabled, and recovery delayed. All of which was rubber-stamped by weak legislative leadership that ceded its constitutional authority to the Executive Branch.

As Colorado emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic and the worst economic crisis since the Great Recession, Senate Republicans were focused on getting Coloradans back to work, students back in school, and fixing our roads and bridges. While some progress was made in each of these areas, Democrats in the legislature seemed more focused on ideological pet projects. 

A beleaguered economy was an opportunity for Democrats to “reimagine” our economy. Failing students were ignored and the system that failed them was only addressed by attempts to push off annual testing to avoid meaningful critique. Crumbling roads became an opportunity to deploy social engineering to keep Coloradans off the roads in the long-term.

Voters Ignored & Abused

Despite numerous examples of statewide polling in favor of TABOR, the passage of Proposition 117 in 2020, and the failure of numerous ballot initiatives to increase taxes failing over the last few years, Democrats ignored Colorado voters by pushing numerous “fees” on Coloradans without seeking their approval. Examples include:

  • Senate Bill 21-260: Democrats passed SB21-260 which imposed taxes on gasoline, ridesharing, retail deliveries, and food deliveries. Rather than send a tax increase to the ballot, the Democrats ignore TABOR by calling these charges “fees” rather than taxes.
  • House Bills 21-1311 and 21-1312: Presented as “restructuring” the state tax code, but in reality, these bills increase taxes on Colorado businesses just as they are starting to recover from the pandemic and bring unemployed Coloradans back into the workforce.
  • House Bill 21-1321: Requires language to be included in a ballot question intended to confuse and scare voters from ever approving a tax reduction.
  • House Bill 21-1162: After surging demand for disposable bags during the COVID-19 pandemic, Democrats passed this bill which imposes fees – and eventually outright prohibits – plastic bags at retail locations. Places additional fees on retail businesses and banning materials widely used for food and beverage containers is no way to build back better.

As we emerge from this pandemic – and our economy slowly recovers – this additional burden on Colorado taxpayers and businesses is counterproductive. The government burden on Coloradans is greater than it was at the beginning of this legislative session.

Students Failed

The Senate Republicans demanded that the Legislature support families as they navigated home learning, and once kids were back in the classroom, to make sure that every student’s education could move on seamlessly beyond the pandemic era. Unfortunately, Democrats seemed more focused on appeasing the union than on supporting students.  

  • Democrats rejected a call for an emergency special session in 2020 to address disparities in education in Colorado. It was labeled as a “political stunt” and promptly dismissed.
  • Senate Bill 21-037: Would have provided an average of $4,000 to eligible students’ families to help them adjust to home learning during COVID-19. The demographic note for the bill states that providing these payments may “potentially decrease economic and education disparities by race/ethnicity and by geography”. 
  • Senate Bill 21-172: Brought back from 2020, this bill creates the Educator Pay Raise Fund from which to provide raises to teachers and school staff. The catch is, the bill did not have an appropriation, so it’s unclear if and when these raises will happen. While every staff member in a school is valuable, it is classroom teachers who bore the brunt of the impact of COVID-19, which is why Senate Republicans argued that the focus of this bill was misaligned. When we have offered bills that would actually put more money into teachers’ pockets, Democrats have killed those efforts. 
  • House Bill 21-1295: Although this bill was killed in the House, Senator Tammy Story (R-Conifer) and other legislative Democrats gave her approval to a bill that would have silenced the voices of parents and students who support charter schools.

Overall, Democrats’ rhetoric on helping our students ended soon after their opening-day speeches. There was almost no legislation that properly addressed our public education crisis except for efforts to prevent testing.

Bureaucracy Expanded

Since Democrats have taken control of the entire state government, we have seen an unprecedented expansion of the bureaucracy that not only further encroaches upon the lives of every Coloradan, but also increases the cost of government. We have seen the creation of at least 10 new “offices” that have resulted in the hiring of at least 42 new full-time taxpayer-funded employees at a cost of over $4.1 million with future ongoing costs.

Examples of these include: Office of Just Transition, Office of Saving People Money on Healthcare, Office of Financial Empowerment, Office of New Americans, Office of the Future of Work, Office of Gun Violence Prevention, Office of Public Guardianship, Office of Colorado Resiliency, Office of Agricultural Drought and Climate Resilience, Office of the Insurance Ombudsman, and the Freight Mobility and Safety Branch of the Transportation Development Division.

Additional examples of Democrats siding with bureaucracy include:

  • Senate Bill 21-132: Though the bill was eventually defeated, Senator Kerry Donovan (D-Vail) attempted to regulate speech through an unelected “Division on Digital Communication”. This division would have been tasked with determining what is “fake news” and then how to regulate it. 
  • Senate Bill 21-163: Senator Bob Rankin (R-Carbondale) sought to hold agencies accountable with this bill that made certain changes to the cost-benefit analysis procedure for draft rules. Instead of allowing for more detailed and pertinent analysis for different diverse regions across the state, Democrats killed the bill.
  • Senate Bill 21-165: Senator Ray Scott (R-Grand Junction) sought to hold the Department of Transportation (CDOT) accountable by requiring it be more transparent with its bidding process and require the use of competitive bidding. Projects delivered using a non-competitive procurement method have consistently proven to be late and over budget. The Central 70 project, improvements on C-470 and a $300 million change order to the $200 million I-25 North Project are just a few examples. Democrats on the Senate Transportation and Energy Committee swiftly rejected Senator Scott’s efforts to make certain that CDOT is using taxpayer dollars wisely and gives local contractors a fair shake. Instead, Democrats included a watered-down version of this bill into their fee bill, Senate Bill 21-260.

Criminals Enabled

This session, Democrats stood on the wrong side of criminal justice by introducing a startling number of bills that defend the criminal more than the victim. To show how out of touch they’ve become, Democrats even passed a law that will make criminals out of those who have been victimized by theft. 

  • Senate Bills 21-062 and 21-273: When SB21-062 became unworkable, SB21-273 was introduced at the eleventh hour. Both bills would have made it more difficult for law enforcement to hold criminals accountable. 
  • Senate Bill 21-071: This will permit juvenile defendants charged with a felony or class one misdemeanor to be released on a personal recognizance bond. The percentage of youth convicted of violent crimes has increased year-over-year for the past five years which shows us that Colorado youth need investments made in mental health, not a free pass after violence has already been committed. 
  • Senate Bill 21-078: Senate Republicans will always stand with victims, but it is unacceptable to make a criminal out of somebody who has had a possession stolen—even if that possession is a firearm. This bill does just that. 
  • House Bill 21-1209: This will allow those between the age of 18 and 21 to apply for the DOC special rehabilitation program in certain circumstances, after serving a portion of their sentence; the bill could allow them to be up for early parole. 

Second Reading
(On the Floor)

Senate Republicans introduced a multitude of bills that would have empowered businesses and residents during the COVID-19 crisis that were rejected by Democrats. Examples include:

  • Senate Bill 21-005: Senator Rob Woodward (R-Loveland) introduced this bill to help keep small businesses open during the pandemic as long as the businesses took the same health precautions as larger businesses that were allowed to stay open. Democrats chose to side with big businesses and against small businesses when they killed this common-sense bill.
  • Senate Bills 21-028 and 21-036: Senators Barbara Kirkmeyer (R-Weld County) and Bob Gardner (R-Colorado Springs) respectively brought these bills to ensure health departments and agencies follow the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). The law currently allows for certain exemptions in following the APA when a public health emergency is active. However, those exemptions can extend well beyond the necessary amount of time to enact a rule. These bills would have cut the proper balance between executive authority and oversight during times of emergency, but were killed by Democrats.
  • Senate Bill 21-080: Senator Rob Woodward (R-Loveland) fought to keep businesses open with this bill, which would have protected businesses from liability for loss due to COVID as long as the business acted in good faith to follow applicable public health guidelines.

Rather than help struggling businesses stay afloat during this pandemic, Democrats instead focused on ideological pet projects. One example of these pet projects is Senate Bill 21-111, which supports entrepreneurs in the marijuana industry despite that industry needing no assistance.


All of the above was rubber-stamped by weak legislative leadership that has ceded its power to the Executive Branch. On a multitude of occasions, Democrats in the legislature had major reservations about bills that were “priorities” of the Governor, only to vote yes to advance the bill through committees and both chambers. 

Democrats also rolled over to the Executive Branch when it came to approving the Governor’s appointments to boards and commissions. Statute dictates who is eligible for boards and commissions, but the Governor enjoys ignoring eligibility requirements whether they be based on party affiliation or geography. This session, the Governor appointed an unaffiliated member to the PERA board who was a registered Democrat as recently as 38 days before being appointed (the other two members are Democrats). Additionally, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) commissioners shall be appointed taking into account geographic representation. However, the Governor appointed three Democrats and two unaffiliated individuals. The two unaffiliated commissioners are from Lakewood and Denver – not significant oil and gas producing counties.

Democrats in the General Assembly have failed to assert their rights as a co-equal branch of government, effectively handing over control of the purse and policy to Governor Jared Polis.

GOP Successes

Long Bill (Senate Bill 21-205):

Led by Senator Bob Rankin (R-Carbondale), Senate Republicans helped craft the state budget into a document that better suits our values with amendments that increase funding for: special education, bullying prevention and education, substance use disorder and prevention, a suicide prevention program, and local governments to obtain body worn cameras. What should have been a Long Bill success is the $579.9 million in amendments we offered to fund transportation projects without raising taxes or fees, but Democrats rejected those amendments.

Stimulus Bills: 

Other Bills:

  • Senate Bill 21-039: Requires that people with disabilities to be paid a fair wage (Sen. Hisey)
  • Senate Bill 21-056: Further protects students whose health relies on the use of medical marijuana at school (Sen. Holbert)
  • Senate Bill 21-058: Assists those who wish to become licensed as a school principal (Sen. Coram)
  • Senate Bill 21-079: The “Ranch to Plate Act” – allows for the safe selling of meat directly to consumers (Sen. Sonnenberg)
  • Senate Bill 21-090: Helps businesses keep their group health insurance plan while still encouraging hiring and growth (Sen. Smallwood)
  • Senate Bill 21-106: Allows an underprivileged student who graduates from high school early to transfer a percentage of the tax dollars set aside for their education to college (Sen. Priola)
  • Senate Bill 21-119: Helps students connect their school credits to real world jobs (Sen. Lundeen)
  • Senate Bill 21-130: Keeps more money in the accounts of those who pay business personal property taxes (Sen. Holbert)
  • Senate Bill 21-154: Creates a crisis intervention hotline (Sen. Simpson)
  • Senate Bill 21-190: Protection of personal data privacy. (Sen. Lundeen)
  • Senate Bill 21-280: Protects victims of bias-motivated crimes (Sen. Cooke)
  • Senate Bill 21-282: Simplifies the tax collection process for small businesses (Sen. Woodward)
  • House Bill 21-1327: Restructures the state tax code so pass-through businesses can fully deduct state and local taxes against federal taxable income at no expense to the State (Sen. Woodward)

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