Colorado 2023 Legislative Preview
January 12, 2023
On Friday, Jan. 6, the University of Northern Colorado (UNC) convened a panel of state legislators and local leaders to preview the spring 2023 legislative session that kicked off on Monday, Jan. 9. The pressing topics of interest this year include the Joint Budget Committee’s consideration of higher education, affordable housing to help keep college graduates in the state, workforce issues and funding for UNC’s exploration in creating a College of Osteopathic Medicine.
This is the fourth annual Colorado legislative session preview, prompted by UNC President Andy Feinstein, as he continues to advocate for higher education funding and support from across Colorado. State Senator Kevin Priola, District 13, and House Representative Mary Young, District 50, joined the panel alongside lobbyist for Northern Colorado Legislative Alliance Sandra Hagan Solin, lobbyist for District 6 Anne Barkis, lobbyist for AIMS Community College Tonette Salazar and UNC’s lobbyist Kayla Tibbals.
Both Senator Priola and Representative Young verbally committed to do what they can this legislative session to help raise funding for the construction of a building to house the College of Osteopathic Medicine on UNC’s campus noting how beneficial the medical program would be in addressing healthcare shortages.
“We realize not only do we have a shortage of physicians, but many of the ones currently working are also hitting that retirement phase, so we have an aging population,” Rep. Young said. “As of this year, there are more people over the age of 65 in the state than the ones under the age of 18, that requires additional physicians.”
During the 2022 legislative session, the Governor signed Senate Bill 56 allowing UNC to offer specialized degree programs in osteopathic medicine, making funding the college the next step.
Tibbals also addressed problematic shortages in the teacher and nursing workforces. She says UNC will be deeply involved in helping pass bills that will provide incentives for college students to pursue nursing and education degrees. As well as push for more funding in higher education in general. Governor Jared Polis proposed that $69 million in revenue will go toward Colorado’s higher education system in his budget, which the legislature would have to approve. However, President Feinstein, among other higher education leaders, is asking the Governor to bump that up to $144 million with a tuition cap of 4% to cover minimum higher education costs including adequately paying employees.
Another topic discussed among many panelists included affordable housing. Rep. Young said affordable housing has been a pressing issue that interacts with other issues like economics and behavioral health. There will be an affordable housing caucus held during this legislative session to discuss solutions.
The legislative preview was originally the result of conversations between President Feinstein and community leaders about how the university can be more involved in the region.