Pot revenue could fund new education and law enforcement programs

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The Colorado General Assembly has been in session for less than two weeks, but lawmakers are already hard at work and have introduced more than 200 bills so far.

A key part of a bill's success or failure is how much money it would cost taxpayers and where the money used to fund the initiative would come from. Since 2014, one of the easiest targets for funding has been marijuana tax dollars.

"Any new revenue source to the state is something that everyone is going to take a chunk of, if available," explains Jason Warf, executive director of marijuana lobbying group Southern Colorado Cannabis Council. Warf says he and his colleagues regularly look at bills asking for marijuana funds to make sure the proposals aren't overreaching or too costly.

So far, seven bills asking for marijuana funding have been introduced, calling for tens of millions of dollars to support causes such as expanded public school construction and educational programs, health-care initiatives, law enforcement intelligence and reform of programs for the homeless. And many more are expected to come through the State Capitol.

"As long as the money is appropriated properly, we allowed the state to appropriate it as they see fit through the lawmaking process," Warf explains. "I'd give some credit to legislature. Thus far, the allocation of marijuana funds has been pretty fair. It's going to be a busy year, as always. We just encourage people to show up at the Capitol and make their voices heard."

Find information on the seven bills (their text and funding requests could change with amendments) asking for marijuana revenue funding below. The language comes directly from the bills.

HB 1096: Colorado Right to Rest

Prime Sponsors: Representative Jovan Melton (D-District 21)

Summary: The bill creates the "Colorado Right to Rest Act," which establishes basic rights for people experiencing homelessness, including but not limited to the right to rest in public spaces, to shelter themselves from the elements, to eat or accept food in any public space where food is not prohibited, to occupy a legally parked vehicle, and to have a reasonable expectation of privacy of their property.

The bill prohibits discrimination based on housing status.

The bill creates an exemption of the basic right to rest for people experiencing homelessness for any county, city, municipality or subdivision that can demonstrate that, for three consecutive months, the waiting lists for all local public housing authorities contain fewer than fifty people.

The bill allows the General Assembly to appropriate marijuana tax funds to the state's Department of Local Affairs to enable governmental entities that do not meet the exemption requirement to reduce the housing waiting lists to fewer than fifty people for at least six months per year.

The bill allows any person whose rights have been violated to seek enforcement in a civil action.

Funding: Up to $10 million over three years from Marijuana Tax Cash Fund

HB 1073: Law Enforcement Information Sharing Grant Program

Prime Sponsors: Representative Adrienne Benavidez (D-District 32), Senator Rhonda Fields (D-District 29)

Summary: The bill creates the law enforcement, public safety and criminal justice information sharing grant program within the division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management in the Department of Public Safety. The grant program would assist local law enforcement agencies in gaining access to the information-sharing system created by the Colorado information sharing consortium (CISC). Grant recipients can use the money to pay for computer hardware, software and programming costs necessary to connect to CISC's information-sharing systems. As a condition of each grant, the grant recipient and CISC are required to ensure that the information systems comply with federal data security requirements, and that the law enforcement data and intelligence information that is shared complies with federal regulations governing the use of criminal justice information systems.

Funding: $1.9 million over one year for from the Marijuana Tax Cash Fund

HB1055: Public School Cap Construction Financial Assistance

Prime Sponsors: Representative Shannon Bird (D-District 35)

Summary: Current law requires the greater of the first $40 million of state retail marijuana excise tax revenue or 90 percent of the revenue to be credited to the public school capital construction assistance fund and limits the maximum total amount of annual lease payments payable by the state under the terms of all outstanding lease-purchase agreements entered into as authorized by the "Building Excellent Schools Today Act" (BEST) to $100 million. Beginning July 1, 2019, the bill:

  • Requires all state retail marijuana excise tax revenue to be credited to the assistance fund;
  • Increases the maximum total amount of BEST annual lease payments to $105 million for state fiscal year 2019-'20 and to $110 million for state fiscal year 2020-'21 and each state fiscal year thereafter;
  • Changes the percentage of the state retail marijuana excise tax revenue credited to the assistance fund that is further credited to the charter school facilities assistance account of the assistance fund for distribution to charter schools from 12.5 percent to a percentage equal to the percentage of students included in the statewide funded pupil count who were enrolled in charter schools for the prior school year; and
  • Changes the total amount of money annually appropriated from the state education fund for charter school capital construction from a flat amount of $20 million per year to $20 million per year annually adjusted for changes in the percentage of students included in the statewide funded pupil count who are enrolled in charter schools.

HB 1008: Include Career and Technical Education in Building Excellent Schools Today Program

Prime sponsors: Representative Tracy Kraft-Tharp (D-District 29), Representative Colin Larson (R-District 22), Senator Nancy Todd (D-District 28), Senator Paul Lundeen (R-District 9)

Summary: The bill amends the "Building Excellent Schools Today Act" to allow the public school capital construction assistance board to provide grants to support career and technical education capital construction, which is defined as:

  • New construction or retrofitting of public school facilities for certain career and technical education programs; and
  • Equipment necessary for individual student learning and classroom instruction, including equipment that provides access to instructional materials or that is necessary for professional use by a classroom teacher.

The bill requires the board to report annually to the Capital Development Committee and to the Education and Finance Committees of the House of Representatives and the Senate, or to any successor committees, concerning the issuance and denial of career and technical education capital construction grants during the preceding year.

Funding: A combination of State Land Board proceeds, marijuana excise tax, Colorado Lottery spillover funds, and interest accrued in the Public School Capital Construction Assistance Fund. Matching funds are required from grant recipients.

SB 010: Professional Behavioral Health Services for Schools

Prime Sponsors: Senator Rhonda Fields (D-District 29), Representative Barbara McLachlan (D-District 59), Representative Donald Valdez (D-District 62)

Summary: The bill allows grant money to be used for behavioral health care services at recipient schools and specifies that grants may also fund behavioral health services contracts with community providers. The bill requires the Department of Education to prioritize grant applications based on the school's need for additional health professionals, and grant applicants must specify the extent to which the school has seen an increase in activities or experiences that affect students' mental well-being.

The bill allows a community provider to commit money to schools. It also changes the amount the department can expend to offset the costs incurred in implementing the program from 3 percent to 5 percent of money appropriated for the program.

The bill allows school districts to enter into agreements with specified groups to implement evidence-based, school-wide behavior supports and strategies to build and support positive school climates, including providing behavioral health services and support; implement strategies to reduce the incidence of suspension and expulsion; and implement alternatives to suspension or expulsion.

Funding: The bill itself does not require additional funding for grants; however, the General Assembly may decide whether to appropriate additional money for the modified program. Current appropriations are from the Marijuana Tax Cash Fund.

SB19-001: Expand Medication-Assisted Treatment Pilot Program

Prime Sponsors: Senator Leroy Garcia (D-District 3)

Summary: In 2017, the General Assembly enacted Senate Bill 17-074, which created a two-year medication-assisted treatment (MAT) expansion pilot program, administered by the University of Colorado College of Nursing, to expand access to medication-assisted treatment to opioid-dependent patients in Pueblo and Routt counties. The 2017 act directs the General Assembly to appropriate $500,000 per year for the 2017-’18 and 2018-’19 fiscal years from the Marijuana Tax Cash Fund to the University of Colorado board of regents, for allocation to the College of Nursing to implement the pilot program. The pilot program repeals on June 30, 2020.

The bill:

  • Expands the pilot program to the counties in the San Luis Valley and two additional counties in which a need is demonstrated;
  • Shifts responsibility to administer the pilot program from the College of Nursing to the Center for Research into substance use disorder prevention, treatment, and recovery support strategies;
  • Adds representatives from the San Luis Valley and any other counties selected to participate in the pilot program to the advisory board that assists in administering the program;
  • Increases the annual appropriation for the pilot program to $5 million for the 2019-’20 and 2020-’21 fiscal years; and
  • Extends the program an additional two years.

SB 066: High-Cost Special Education Trust Fund Grants

Prime Sponsors: Senator Nancy Todd (D-District 28), Representative Bri Buentello (D-District 47)

Summary: The bill creates the high-cost special education trust fund to be used for high-cost special education trust fund grants to public school special education administrative units that have made significant expenditures in providing special education services to a child with a disability.

The trust fund consists of money transferred from the general fund to the trust fund for the 2018-’19 fiscal year, as well as an annual appropriation beginning in the 2019-’20 fiscal year from the marijuana tax cash fund to the trust fund.

The Department of Education may expend interest and income from the trust fund for trust fund grants awarded by the Colorado Special Education Fiscal Advisory Committee.

The bill specifies the eligibility criteria for a trust fund grant and criteria that the committee shall consider in determining the trust fund grant recipients and the amount of the trust fund grants.

The bill requires an annual report to the education committees of the General Assembly concerning trust fund grants awarded during the fiscal year.

Funding: An annual appropriation beginning in the 2019-’20 fiscal year from the Marijuana Tax Cash Fund to the trust fund equal to 2 percent of the amount available for appropriation from the Marijuana Tax Cash Fund.

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