Colorado’s legislators returned to the Capitol yesterday, answering the Governor’s call for a special session to address skyrocketing property taxes following voters rejection of Prop HH. Progressives criticized the initiative in part for offering insufficient aid to the third of Coloradans who rent rather than own. In the first hearing of the session, House legislators debated a bill to create a $30M rental relief fund administered by the Division of Housing in partnership with housing nonprofits.

Despite the bill language listing just three “permissible uses” for the grant money to be spent on behalf of tenants, State Rep. Don Wilson (R-Monument), suggested that renters could spend the the money on cocaine. Bill sponsor Rep. Mandy Lindsay explained that the Emergency Rental Assistance Program, is an ongoing program and helps people struggling with rent.

Rep. Don Wilson asks if Colorado renters could use aid checks to “buy cocaine all day.”

Rep. Don Wilson: I’m just looking at the parameters. Do you guys see any sort of additional accountability coming from the nonprofit? From my understanding, your rent doesn’t have to go up because of property tax. it has nothing to do with property tax. Your income has to be 80% or less of the area medium, and you have to have an eviction. So it doesn’t matter what I spend my money on, I still get renter’s assistance. I want to go buy cocaine all day. I can still go- my point being, is there any sort of requirements coming from the nonprofit for accountability or how this money is going to be used?

Rep. Mandy Lindsay (D-Aurora)

Rep. Mandy Lindsay: First of all, coming from a community that desperately needs this kind of assistance –and it’s not because people are just doing cocaine all day–I went over data that showed working class people are struggling with rent. It’s regular people like myself that are cost burdened with housing. The program as it stands that’s already been running through ERAP [Emergency Rental Assistance Program] has boundaries of max caps, timelines, things that give people assistance. But it’s not meant to be a forever solution- people have a need and we need to meet it. We are here in this special session addressing homeowners’ burdens of costs where they’re living. And renters are a part of this mix. They’re a third of our population and people who are struggling. It’s not the characterization that you gave. And I’m happy to pass this bill or to bring this bill forward, because my neighbors, myself included, live in a community. And we’re not here because everyone’s on cocaine.”