DENVER- On Tuesday, Governor Jared Polis announced a special legislative session that will convene sometime within the next two weeks. The aim is to provide immediate relief across Colorado as the COVID-19 pandemic worsens.
Polis is calling for immediate relief for small businesses impacted by COVID-19 restrictions, housing and rental assistance, support for child care providers, and expanding statewide broadband access for online learning. The relief would total around $200 million.
“Extraordinary times call for extraordinary actions,” Polis said in a Tuesday news conference announcing the session. “I’ll be asking the General Assembly to take up critical legislation that will help Colorado families and Colorado small businesses survive these challenging winter months ahead.”
Representative Matt Soper, a Republican state representative who represents much of Mesa County and Delta County, says while he supports targeted COVID-19 relief statewide, he feels much of what will be addressed in this emergency session has already been handled.
“Everything the governor is asking for whether it’s small business grants, or direct tax relief for restaurants, or for childcare providers or for broadband, all that was included in his 2021-2022 budget,” Soper said.
What Soper says is true. If you look at Governor Polis’ 2021-2022 state budget proposal he released on Nov. 2, there are elements of the proposal which outline exactly what the special legislative session is set to address. For example, Polis is calling for $105 million in tax relief and direct aid for restaurants, bars, and other small businesses hit by capacity restrictions in his budget proposal, along with $50 million for eviction prevention, and $50 million for child care providers, along with $160 million to invest in broadband infrastructure. Soper feels it is in his constituents’ best interests if these issues wait until the next legislative session in the new year, and says this special session would be a fraction of what would be included in the total budget.
“$200 million is not much,” Soper said. “And given the fact that all this was included in the governor’s budget to me says that if we wait until January 13th when we’re scheduled to go back to Denver, we would be able to address all this.”
But Colorado Democrats at the governor’s Tuesday news conference say the next formal legislative session can’t wait. House Speaker-Designate Alec Garnet said relief is needed now.
“Frankly, January will be too late for too many small businesses, restaurants, bars and too many Coloradans who are on the brink of eviction and foreclosure.”