HD43 Highlights

News from the legislative session, plus other key insights for HD43 residents.

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In November, Governor Polis called for legislators to address some pressing matters to curb the effects of inflation and increase in property taxes and rents for Colorado citizens. Here are the highlights from the session of bills that passed into law:

  • Property Tax: Increase base exemption $55K (70K total); reduce assessment to 6.7% from 6.765%; $200M backfill for schools/1st responders from GENERAL (not TABOR) Funds.

  • TABOR refund: Flat rather than 6 tiered SALES TAX refund; about $850/every taxpayer. One year (We’ve had 22 refund mechanisms since TABOR was enacted - including 3 & 4 tier systems). This was as good, if not better, than previous mechanisms in my estimation). See 2019 Legislative Council Staff Memo on TABOR refund mechanisms available here

  • Summer EBT. Opted into a federal program to provide summer "school lunches"

  • Emergency Rental Assistance: Increased emergency rental assistance appropriation by $30M. One year

  • Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC): $185M TABOR funds to increase state EITC to 50% of the federal EITC. One year (I voted against this bill for multiple reasons).

  • Appropriation to Department of Revenue: $88K to DoR for extra staff to process property tax deferments. One year

  • Property Tax Task Force: Set up to propose long-term solutions

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November and December Town Hall Update

I believe in accessible, transparent and accountable governing, and I try to practice what I preach. I held a town hall update on November 28th and December 14th. I host regular town halls to update my constituents on what I am doing and what is happening in the state Capitol. If you missed it, not to worry...the town hall is live streamed on my Facebook page, available for viewing for 30 days after the event. Since being elected, I have hosted nine solo town halls, which I believe is not matched by any other legislator in the state. And certainly not matched by any legislator from Douglas County.

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Douglas County School District

The Douglas County Board of Education elected some new Board Directors in the November local election. Incumbent Susan Meek from District A, Brad Geiger from District B, and Valerie Thompson from District F were elected. Douglas County voters also voted for 5A, allowing the district to increase teacher salaries and provide additional SROs in schools across the district. However, measure 5B did not pass and this will limit the district’s ability to build new schools and repair existing infrastructure needs.

I was invited, along with other local legislators, by the Douglas County School District to discuss their legislative priorities for the upcoming session. There are many laws that influence school funding and learning environments for Colorado students. I shared my idea about the “Purple Star School” initiative bill I intend to introduce during the next legislative session to help military children integrate better into local schools. The idea was well received by the school district, and I hope that it will have a positive impact for military families and their students.

It is important for citizens to continue to stay informed about school funding and inclusive learning environments for the future of our children. We need to move forward from polarization and build bridges towards progress for our public education.

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Douglas County Sheriff Academy Graduate

The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office welcomed 13 new deputies on November 30, 2023. They spent the last 21 weeks working hard at the Highlands Ranch Law Enforcement Training Facility.

And I had a huge surprise in being able to see newly graduated Lone Tree Police Officer Olivas sworn-in. Officer Olivas was a DACA recipient who had been a member of the community since childhood and a community service volunteer for years with the Lone Tree Police Department. The Lone Tree PD and the City wanted him to be a Law Enforcement Officer in their community, but the law stood in the way.

That was corrected by a bill this past legislative session. I was on the Judiciary Committee when the Lone Tree PD Chief and Mr. Olivas came to testify. Officer Olivas has a very inspiring story. And he had a huge cheer section from Lone Tree, including City Council Members.

I was glad to see Officer Olivas sworn in as a Law Enforcement Officer based upon work our legislation did at the Capitol.

One Fair Wage

One of the things I care strongly about is how the system is working for everyone. We are all Americans and all of us need to believe the system works for all of us. So I was invited to an event by One Fair Wage, a national campaign to secure more reliable wages for restaurant workers. Unexpectedly, the event had me step in to experience what it is like to be a server! Thankfully, I had a strong knowledge about serving, having bussed tables in high school. It is hard work, but my customers left happy and the restaurant owner praised my work ethic and focus on ensuring the food was hot and out as quickly as possible to the customers.

Meeting Young Constituents

I spent some time answering questions about the state legislature with some of my youngest constituents at STEM School Highlands Ranch Elementary School. I was warmly welcomed by the fourth grade students and staff, and was amazed at the thoughtful questions they asked. I also received many letters from the students regarding their concerns and look forward to answering them.

I also helped some Webelos (i.e., group between Cub and Boy Scouts) with their requirements for the Arrow of Light badge. One of those requirements was for the scouts to talk to a community leader about their leadership journey and some problems that they are working hard to solve. The scouts and their parents were very engaged and asked great questions about my work as a legislator.

I truly believe that lifelong civics education and intentional engagement by citizens of every age strengthens our democracy, and allows us to work towards the greater ideals of our country.

Partnership of Douglas County Government

It was great to spend some time with the government officials of Douglas County at the Partnership of Douglas County Government’s end of year event. I am glad to enjoy good working relationships with many Douglas County government colleagues. I look forward to continuing engaging with them as we work towards solutions to make Douglas County a great place to live.

South Metro Fire Rescue

Recently, I visited South Metro Fire Rescue Station #20 in Highlands Ranch to gain a deeper understanding of the needs facing our fire service and community. Station #20 on Wildcat Reserve Parkway is the newest fire station that opened in March 2021. Station #20 is built to state of the art specifications and equipped with state of the art technology. I met with Chief Government Affairs Officer Mike Dell’Orfano, Board Director Kevin Leung, Medical Director Dr. Jonathan Apfelbaum, Battalion Chief Mike Gilbert, and Captain Paul Slater, and some of the firefighters on duty. While I didn’t get a chance to talk with the station team in depth because they were called out, I appreciated learning about what they do for our community.

South Metro Fire Rescue has a focus on public health and proactive community engagement and outreach. All of their medics and firefighters are trained above and beyond the minimum national requirements. The South Metro Fire Rescue routinely engages in many community services and outreach. If you are interested in learning more about local fire service, please visit https://www.southmetro.org/243/Services.

Highlands Ranch Tornado Update

End of Year Tax Planning:

If you had unreimbursed losses from the Highlands Ranch Tornado, review IRS Publication 547 (Casualties, Disasters, Thefts) AND consult your tax advisor.

The HR Tornado FEMA Disaster code is DR-4731-CO For more information, visit https://www.irs.gov/forms-pubs/about-publication-547 and https://www.fema.gov/disaster/4731

Upcoming 2024 Legislative Session

The 75th Session of the Colorado General Assembly begins on January 10th, 2024. I am assigned to the Finance Committee. I have been removed from the Judiciary Committee, according to the Speaker, in order to ensure more progressive outcomes and a more collaborative process. I am a strong believer in the concept of “Fair process; Fair results” (i.e., you should not be able to guarantee the results you want, but if the rules are fair and everyone plays by them, people should accept them). No matter who brings a bill to a committee, I believe that it should be fully vetted, probed and analyzed in public for both weaknesses and strengths. Probing and exposing weaknesses and tradeoffs in legislation includes bills that I support and will ultimately vote for in the end. So I am concerned that attempting to guarantee certain results and an emphasis on “collaboration” can lead to groupthink and poorly thought out or incompletely vetted legislation.

Every legislator is allowed to introduce five “individual” bills. During this next legislative session, I have pre-filed three bills by the deadline for the following:

  • Purple Star Program: 42 states have a version of this program to help integrate the children of active duty military families more seamlessly into local schools when they constantly move. Colorado has one of the highest per capita military populations, but has not adopted or instituted this program, yet. Senator Fields, whose district covers Buckley Space Force Base, asked if I would be willing to help her run this bill from the House. It was shocking and frustrating that we could not find another legislator who would run it and since I owe a deep debt to Senator Fields who helped me pass my first bill as a new member last session, I am honored to be the prime sponsor on this bill.
  • Commissioner Elections: I have filed a proposed version of the County Commissioner Elections bill that I ran last year which failed in committee 5-5. Last year’s version required counties with more than 70K residents to have 5 commissioners, the majority of which had to be elected by district, not “at large” from voters across the county. This year, I may reduce it to simply require the commissioners to be elected by district. It is an acute issue in Douglas County as Highlands Ranch with Lone Tree makes up around 28% of the population of Douglas County, and the northwest corner of the county is undeniably a suburb of Metro Denver (the Broadway “0” RTD line ends at Town Center; RTD’s light rail southern tip ends in Lone Tree). The rest of the County, however, is not, and does not want to be a Metro Denver suburb. Furthermore, Highlands Ranch is unincorporated, therefore, it is totally reliant on the County for local government services. Currently, our “representation” is dominated by interests from the rest of the county. I have been accused of partisanship on this bill, i.e., just trying to get a Democrat elected to the County Commission. I truly believe that local government should not be a partisan issue. Areas with different interests should be represented for their particular interests, whether urban, suburban or rural. So this is an acute representation issue that impacts 7 counties which elect all their Commissioners “at large”, 5 of which have all Democrat commissioners and 2 which have all Republican commissioners. Most states had these “at large” local elections declared illegal under the Voting Rights Act in the 1980s as they have always been used to keep a political minority from having a voice in government. Unfortunately, in the vast majority of cases it was a racial political minority that was targeted. So when people argue it should be left to “local control” to decide, that ideal breaks down when “local control” means a majority constantly voting to freeze out a minority voice from being allowed to participate in local government. Good governance is a long-term issue regardless of who may be up or down at any particular moment in time. I expect a lot of continued pushback from defenders of the status quo on this bill. Systemic changes are always difficult as the only ones who can change the system are those in power, and if the system brought them to power, they are unlikely to see it change. But I strongly believe this is simply “the right thing” to do for better representation and governance in the larger and more diverse counties.
  • Vacancy Appointments: I pulled a bill title regarding how we make vacancy appointments in Colorado. Currently, almost 30% of all state legislators were initially put into office through a vacancy appointment. That seems excessive and un-democratic. Both parties have used term limits and vacancy appointments to game the system for the advantage of party insiders. While several ideas of how to draft the bill have been floated, I am thinking that requiring that anyone appointed into a vacancy is considered to have been appointed into a term-limited position is the right way forward. That will take away the “unearned” incumbency which often means lengthy control of a seat in districts that are not competitive. The electorate will decide in an open “scrum” who their next representative may be. Special elections to fill the positions would be the “Gold Standard” to ensure a democratic process, but the cost of running those elections is extremely large.

I have also narrowed down for consideration among my last two individual bills to file before the legislative deadline

  • Casualty Loss Tax Credit: Many constituents asked me regarding the damage during this summer’s Highlands Ranch tornado: “What are you going to do?”. My initial reaction was that disasters happen and we already have programs and processes in place to ameliorate the impact of disasters upon our citizens. And I am not one who likes to run niche special interest bills, even if it is for my own special interests. I did, however, think a case could be made to let the state government offset the minimum casualty loss tax hit that the IRS requires and had a bill drafted during the tax oversight committee during the summer to look at some form of tax credit to offset that minimum loss currently required by the tax code.
  • Teacher Tax Credit: I am looking at potentially running the teacher tax credit bill I proposed last session which made it out of the Education and Finance committees, but was not brought up for a vote in the appropriations committee.
  • EPA Air Emission Publication: The Colorado Attorney General filed suit against the EPA in July over an EPA regulation that requires major polluters to make their pollution records “accessible” to the public (i.e., a searchable public database). Colorado law only requires them to be “available” (i.e., records are kept on site by polluters and the state can inspect them). The AG is required to defend Colorado law from encroachment, but I do not see why we cannot make the records accessible on a forward looking basis (i.e., not require they post past records, but do it going forward). I consider myself very pro-business, but if you run a business that discharges pollutants into the air or water that leaves your property into the public domain, the public should have a right to know. Of course, the issue is that accessible knowledge can more easily lead to private rights of action. But the environmental laws exist for a purpose. People fought against the phase out of leaded gasoline and other environmental improvements, but it has been my experience that most people who remember the Cuyahoga River catching on fire or Denver’s infamous “Brown Cloud” and other environmental issues that have been corrected agree that getting ahead of an environmental issue is better than trying to clean it up after it becomes a crisis.
  • Subpoena Power for Legislative Committee: Colorado’s legislature does not have any subpoena authority. This makes it impossible for the legislature to conduct any type of meaningful investigation into the state government operations. We have to simply rely upon the good graces of the executive branch to provide information that we seek. Normally and historically this is not a problem or an issue. But we should not wait for an issue to arise before addressing this large potential weakness in our governmental system of checks and balances when the need may arise to conduct an in-depth investigation.

As a member of the Tax Oversight Committee, I was also tapped to be the prime sponsor of 3 of the 5 bills that we proposed, and leadership endorsed, to be introduced in the next session:

  • Tax Foreclosures (Tyler v. Hennepin County): This past year, the U.S. Supreme Court in a 9-0 decision declared Minnesota’s foreclosure process unconstitutional for violating the 5th Amendment against taking private property without just compensation. An elderly woman had her condo foreclosed on for tax delinquency and at the resulting tax foreclosure auction the state collected more than the owed taxes and expenses to collect the taxes. Furthermore, the state kept the excess rather than giving it back to the property owner. Unfortunately, Colorado is one of 12 states where this illegal taking of personal property may be a possibility. It is unlikely to happen with how Colorado’s tax foreclosure system works, but it is a possibility. So we are running a bill to revise the tax foreclosure process to ensure no foreclosure in Colorado will ever fall out of compliance with the 5th Amendment.
  • Tax Policy: A bill to provide direction and guidance to the Department of Revenue on process and procedures.
  • Senior Rental Housing Credit: An “equity” bill to provide a tax credit to seniors who rent their housing. Colorado has the Senior Homestead property tax exemption for seniors who own their homes. But for those who rent, they likely have experienced higher increases in housing costs than those who own their own home, but no provision or consideration is made in the law for them. This seeks to correct that.

Related News

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My Legislative Aides

Samson Leyba Samson has a B.S. in Political Science. He will be working full-time in the Capitol office doing policy research and scheduling for my office. You can reach him through email (co.aide.marshall@gmail.com or phone (303-866-2936)

Ishmeet Kalra Ishmeet has a M.S. in Molecular Biology and Microbiology. She has lived in Highlands Ranch since 2009. She is an involved and engaged citizen, who has been supporting constituent outreach and engagement for my office. If you have any issues or concerns, please reach out to her through email (co.aide.marshall@gmail.com) or phone (970-306-7828)

Other Useful Information

  • Follow bills at https://leg.colorado.gov/bills. If you feel strongly about an issue, please take action and write to the legislators. We love hearing from you! But do let me know right up front in the email/communication that you live in my district. I represent HD43 (Highlands Ranch). I’d like to help everyone. But I serve the 88K people within my district.
  • Follow the daily schedule of floor work and watch/listen. The more citizens who are aware of what their government is doing, the better!
  • Better yet, come visit us and take a tour!

Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year

In the News

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Help us work on the things that are important to Coloradans and our fellow neighbors in Highlands Ranch. Vote for Robert "Bob" Marshall for Colorado HD43.


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