State Rep. Marc Snyder is the incumbent representative for Colorado House District 18, which encompasses Manitou Springs and western Colorado Springs.
What is your top issue for the next legislative session, and how do you plan to fix it?
One thing I’ve learned from being a state legislator is that different people have different urgent needs.
Some people are unemployed and need immediate assistance. Some people are experiencing homelessness. Other people are worried about racial justice, climate change, election security, school safety, transportation infrastructure, and/or water scarcity, among other things. So, there isn’t just one pressing issue facing the people of Colorado, there are several, and they all need immediate attention. Which is why we won’t have just one top priority in the next legislative session, we’ll have many:
1. Running legislation to help fix whatever damage is still being done by the coronavirus crisis: from improving healthcare coverage and affordability, to expanding small business development and preservation, increasing worker protections, and creating safer school systems for students and teachers.
2. Rebuilding a good state budget, to make up for the massive cuts (of more than $3.3 billion) we had to make this year, sorting out this fiscal thicket we find ourselves in.
3. Finding sustainable sources of funding for public education and transportation / infrastructure needs.
4. Addressing further issues of systemic racism, pushing for racial justice, equality, and equity. 5. Continuing to support environmental protections and combat climate change – which these massive wildfires prove is still an ever-present and ever-growing threat.
How can the legislature address the state's housing and cost of living issues?
The good news is our state legislature has already increased access to affordable housing.
In 2019, I supported and voted for HB19-1322, which transfers up to $30 million each year from the unclaimed property trust fund into the housing development grant fund, to help buy land and build utilities for affordable housing projects, help low-income buyers get a house by helping with down payments, and help with rental assistance for homeless families, Medicaid clients in nursing homes, family unification, veterans, households below 60 percent of the area’s median income, and survivors of domestic violence.
That good bill was signed into law by Governor Polis last year and was expected to go into effect this year – until the coronavirus crisis came along and destroyed our financial prosperity. So, it may be another year or two before our financial stability is regained and money goes from the unclaimed property trust fund goes into the housing development grant fund.
And we’ve already begun work to help address the rising threat of evictions faced by people who couldn’t pay their rents or mortgages because they lost their income when so many businesses shut down during the early days of this pandemic.
In 2020, I supported, voted for, and co-sponsored HB20-1410, using $20 million of our federal CARES Act money for two critical services: $350,000 for an evictions defense fund to help people pay the legal expenses of defending themselves in court from eviction proceedings, and the remaining $19.65 million for rent and mortgage payment assistance.
That money is being used right now to help people pay their rents and mortgages and fight against evictions. And the money is being prioritized towards helping people who live outside the Denver-metro area, because Denver and the surrounding areas already have existing programs to help with rent and mortgage assistance. So the money from HB20-1410 is coming down here, to Colorado Springs, and Pueblo, and the western slope, and other areas, where it’s vitally needed.
Despite what progress we’ve made, though, more work on these issues will certainly need to be done in the next legislative session.
Should COVID-19 be handled more at a local level or from a top-level approach in the state?
Every level of government has a role to play in this pandemic, because COVID-19 affects everyone everywhere.
There will always be a balance, ever shifting, between the different levels of government, about who should have the greatest responsibility for protecting the people and how to do so, and people of good intentions may disagree on what that right balance is. But Colorado seems to have found a good balance between local and state government responsibilities: with the state government devising science-based measurements for when restrictions need to be implemented and when they can be lifted, and local governments taking the lead on enforcing those restrictions or applying for waivers and variances if their local area is less affected by the virus and can safely go without those restrictions.
Local governments have the best information about what’s going on within their areas, and it’s right that they should have the most control over what’s happening in their areas; but the state government (including the Governor) has its own responsibilities for protecting the people of Colorado everywhere, because the virus doesn’t care about city limits as it goes everywhere.
We’re all in the same boat, and we need to work together to weather this storm.