The dust has settled on the 2022 elections and we’d like to let our members know what to expect as we look ahead to the 2023 legislative session here in Colorado.
Races for all four statewide offices (Governor, Secretary of State, Attorney General, and Treasurer) always occur during presidential midterm elections. This year all four Democratic incumbents got re-elected by margins ranging from 10 to 19 points over their opponents. Of these offices, the Governor’s race is by far the most impactful to architects though. Governor Polis is a strong proponent for combatting climate change and for reducing carbon emissions in particular. Not only does Governor Polis have his own legislative agenda, state agencies that matter to us (such our DORA regulatory board, the Colorado Energy Office, and the Office of the State Architect) are executive branch agencies and their work is influenced as well. We’ve seen the Colorado Energy Office gain new responsibilities related to building energy use and will continue to look for opportunities to work together on new legislation and implementation of laws passed in recent years.
This has been a tricky year for predictions with new legislative districts across the state based on the 2020 census. This was also the first time in Colorado that districts were created by non-partisan commissions with specific fairness and competitiveness criteria. Compared to previous decades, there was a much bigger change in district borders and incumbents found themselves with sizable numbers of new constituents. Finally, issues that have historically been tied to the federal government also impacted voter decisions in local races more than in most elections but was difficult to quantify before the votes were counted.
All 65 House seats are up on the ballot every two years and Democrats had a sizable 41-24 majority coming into the elections. This was anticipated to shrink somewhat but instead grew to a 46-19 supermajority in the chamber. Over in the senate, 17 of 35 seats were on the ballot. Democrats started with a 20-15 majority, but Republicans believed that the new districts gave them a real chance at regaining control. However, Democrats won every competitive race and with former Republican Kevin Priola changing parties in August, they now have a 23-12 advantage.
ARCpac and ARCsdc made contributions to 18 total candidates this year, splitting checks between 13 Democrats and 5 Republicans whose expertise and values align with the architecture profession. Candidates we supported won in 14 of these races and we’re well-positioned to build new and strengthen existing relationships.
There was a solid blue wave in Colorado this year, but what does it mean? In the last two years, AIA Colorado has seen a significant increase in climate and carbon bills that align with our sustainability imperative. We’ll continue to partner with legislators on these bills to ensure they understand how architects work and how we can realize shared goals successfully. We will remain vigilant for bills that unfairly increase risk and liability for architects in contracts and construction defect lawsuits that are more likely to get introduced by Democrats. Affordable housing is another topic that we expect to see more of and look forward to opportunities to share our expertise in tackling this difficult subject. We’re setting the stage for a successful architecture licensing bill that we know will be introduced in the 2024 session.
Finally, just like in every election, there will be a lot of new faces in the general assembly in 2023. If you know your state representative or senator, we’d love to hear from you! Personal connections with constituents are one of the most effective ways we can make our voices heard and AIA Colorado can’t do it without help from our members.
— AIA Colorado Advocacy Engagement Director Nikolaus Remus and AIA Colorado lobbyist Jerry Johnson