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PERA benefits bill slips out of House

The House voted 33-32 Thursday to pass House Bill 12-1150, which would change the method of calculating retirement benefits for state workers, teachers and others who join the Public Employees Retirement Association after Jan. 1, 2013.

There was no floor debate on the measure, but there was an amusing moment when the vote-total boards in the chamber showed a 32-32 tie. Only Speaker Frank McNulty hadn’t voted. The Highlands Ranch Republican paused to milk the moment, but then announced his expected yes vote. His vote button apparently wasn’t working. Republicans have a one-vote majority in the House.

The bill doesn’t have the best prospects in the Democratic-controlled Senate. For more background, see this article about preliminary House debate on the bill.

Kerr wins a point

Rep. Andy Kerr stormed out of the Feb. 27 House Education Committee hearing after he was blindsided by two Republican amendments to his House Bill 12-1240, an otherwise routine cleanup of state laws affecting the Department of Education. See this article for details of that fracas.

The Lakewood Democrat got his revenge Thursday in the House Finance Committee, which also was assigned to review the bill. Without debate, the committee voted 9-1 to approve a Kerr amendment to strip the two changes that had been added in House Ed. The panel then voted 10-0 to send the restored measure on the appropriations committee. Two Republican members and one committee Democrat were absent for the votes.

Asked after the meeting what sort of deal had been cut to achieve Thursday’s outcome, Kerr said he’d merely been successful in persuading his colleagues that he’d been unfairly treated in House Ed and that the two amendments didn’t belong in the cleanup bill.

The two contested amendments, introduced in House Ed by Rep. Carole Murray, R-Castle Rock, proposed to change state law to allow the commissioner of education to subpoena school district records for any material that might have bearing on the CDE’s denying, annulling, revoking or suspending an educator license and to give the State Board of Education the authority to require schools report teachers arrests to parents.

Council endorses ASSET bill, then it doesn’t

Sen. Mike Johnston is trying to garner every endorsement he can for Senate Bill 12-015, the so-called ASSET bill that would create a special tuition rate for undocumented students. The bill is pending a final vote in the Senate (where it will pass) while Johnston builds pressure for a favorable committee assignment in the House.

Johnston Thursday brought his campaign to the Education Leadership Council, a group of educators, business leaders and others that’s supposed to advise Gov. John Hickenlooper on education policy and legislation.

Johnston wanted to brief the group on the bill, but member Dan Ritchie, CEO of the Denver Center for the Performing Arts and former chancellor of the University of Denver, moved that the council endorse the bill.

There was assorted discussion, including some that questioned various aspects of the bill, and the council did support Ritchie’s motion, with Rep. Carole Murray voting no and Joe Blake, outgoing Colorado State University chancellor, abstaining. Blake said that was because the CSU board endorsed the concept of the bill but not specific language.

Later, during discussion of House Bill 12-1238, the early-childhood literacy bill, the council chair, Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia, thought better of the vote, if not of the sentiment expressed.

Recalling ground rules set at the panel’s first meeting last fall, Garcia said, “We weren’t really going to take formal votes here, and I sort of let that get away. … We’re just not going to take votes.”

Garcia said the governor would be briefed on the points members made during discussion of both bills.

The discussion did provide some insight into what Hickenlooper thinks of the ASSET bill.

Christine Scanlan, his chief lobbyist, said the governor “really believes we have to have national immigration reform. He has some concern that these kinds of bills distract from the larger goal.”

But, she added, “He doesn’t want to get in the way of those kids moving forward. He is, I believe, learning toward support of the bill.”

Garcia added, “The governor is in support of the bill concept but not any particular language.”

For the record

The Senate Education Committee voted 4-3 Thursday to pass House Bill 12-1144, which would allow state colleges and universities to enter multi-year contracts with non-tenure track faculty.
Use the Education Bill Tracker for links to bill texts and status information.