Case Studies

Our individualized approach allows us to tailor our strategy to the unique complexities of each campaign or initiative. The Capstone Group takes on every challenge, no matter how involved, with the targeted focus and wide-ranging tactics needed to advance issues and drive outcomes. A few examples of The Capstone Group’s successes include:

I’ve worked with The Capstone Group for six years. Sometimes our positions have been in alignment, and other times we’re on opposite sides of an issue. Regardless of the situation, this team conducts themselves with the utmost integrity and transparency, always working hard to ensure that accurate information is provided to legislators, stakeholders and clients.

– House Majority Leader Daneya Esgar

Regulating Marijuana Concentrates | HB21-1317

Challenge: Colorado state laws had not kept up with the evolution of marijuana products. In the time between when marijuana was legalized for medical and recreational use, the concentration of THC had risen and new high-potency marijuana products, including concentrates, came into the market. Advocates heard stories of the negative physical and mental effects of high potency marijuana concentrates from parents, educators, and mental health professionals.

Strategy:Representative Yadira Caraveo, the only physician in the legislature started the conversation on marijuana potency in an effort to address negative effects of high-potency marijuana. During the 2020 interim, Smart Colorado and Blue Rising joined together to lead an effort to address the effects of high-potency marijuana concentrates on youth. On behalf of Smart Colorado, The Capstone Group worked with Blue Rising, mental health experts, and parents of affected youth to educate Colorado’s legislators about how marijuana products have changed and about the potential negative mental health impacts on Colorado’s youth. Smart Colorado and Blue Rising met individually with nearly three quarters of the 100-member General Assembly. Simultaneously, The Capstone Group and Smart Colorado built a coalition of health care organizations, mental health advocates, school districts, parents and education stakeholders to support the introduction and passage of a bill to regulate marijuana concentrates.

Outcome:: Over the course of three months, The Capstone Group on behalf of Smart Colorado, Blue Rising, representatives from the marijuana industry, and Speaker Alec Garnett met in a series of intense small group meetings to determine the best public policies to protect youth from harmful practices and products while allowing Colorado’s marijuana industry to continue to thrive. The discussions resulted in the introduction of HB21-1317 Regulating Marijuana Concentrates. The bill strengthened doctor/patient requirements for medical marijuana cards, lowered the daily purchase limits of concentrates, and directed the Colorado School of Public Health to study the health effects of concentrates. The bill passed 35-0 in the Senate and with strong bipartisan support in the House.

Immigrant Data Privacy | SB21-131

Challenge:In 2013, the legislature passed SB13-251 which allowed individuals, regardless of immigration status, to obtain a driver’s license or state issued ID. In recent years, community members throughout the state began to share concerning reports that ICE was utilizing DMV records inappropriately to detain immigrants and separate families. Advocacy groups submitted a Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) request and obtained hundreds of emails from the Department of Revenue showing cooperation and information sharing between the DMV and ICE. The immigration advocacy community had to develop an approach that would allow for the information sharing to come to light without dissuading immigrants from accessing government services. In tandem, legislation to address this egregious data sharing had to be crafted to protect an individual’s private information while still ensuring public safety in necessary circumstances.

Strategy:On behalf of, The Capstone Group worked with other immigration advocacy groups on a joint legislative and public relations strategy to reveal the emails from the CORA request without instilling fear in the community, publicizing the policy approach to restore trust in government while still prioritizing public safety. We worked closely partner organizations, the Governor’s Office and appropriate state agencies to draft a solution that was aligned with state and federal law. We built a comprehensive outreach strategy to educate legislators and pertinent stakeholders during the 2020 interim and 2021 legislative session to build a broad base of support for the new policy.

Outcome::SB21-131, Personal Identifying Information Kept by the State, was introduced early in the 2021 legislative session; it limited state agencies from sharing personally identifiable information (PII) unless required by a valid criminal investigation or to administer a state program. The initial extensive outreach led to significant support and little opposition from outside stakeholders. The legislation passed with bipartisan support in the House and Senate and signed by the Governor despite the partisan political narratives that often unfolds on immigration issues.

Supporting Educator Workforce in Colorado | SB21-185

Challenge:The COVID-19 pandemic upended many parts of life, including education. Educators shifted to remote teaching and faced many challenges through the year. The pandemic highlighted systematic inequities that result in achievement gaps leaving some students farther and farther behind from their peers. In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic led to drastic cuts in state funding for teacher recruitment, training, and support.

Strategy:A client of The Capstone Group, Public Education & Business Coalition (PEBC) along with the Keystone Policy Center convened a group of over 80 education stakeholders including education administrators, teachers, parents and business leaders to research ways to improve Colorado’s educator workforce. The Education System Resiliency and Innovation Initiative (ESRII) released a report of 16 recommendations prior to the start of the 2021 legislative session. Many of the recommendations were incorporated into SB21-185, Supporting Educator Workforce in Colorado.

Outcome::SB21-185 was introduced in the 2021 session to bring comprehensive support to the educator pipeline. A hallmark of the legislation was the broad support from organizations and individuals that are often at odds in K-12 policy space. The legislation creates two new teacher recruitment and retention programs, restores funding for successful data-supported grant programs cut in 2020, extends a program providing mental health supports to educators, and implements policy to support placement of educators in rural schools. The Educator Recruitment and Retention Program provides up to $10,000 in tuition support to eligible participants. The Teacher Recruitment Education and Preparation Program (TREP) will allow high school students to concurrently enroll in postsecondary courses in the two years after the 12th grade year. The bill restored funding to the Quality Teacher Recruitment Program, which creates teacher pipelines for hard to serve teaching positions based on geography and subject area. The bill also expands the available use of adjunct teachers in rural districts that cannot fill positions with licensed educators and directs state agencies and higher education institutions to design a teaching career pathway. When Governor Polis signed the bill, he recognized the work of The Capstone Group clients.

E-Scooter’s in Colorado | HB19-1221

Challenge: In 2017 electric scooters began popping up in major US cities, seemingly overnight. The scooters are available for rent for short distance rides through a phone app. Riders saw the benefits of the scooters to connect them from other transit options to their final destination or as a convenient way to get around a city and not have to worry about the hassle of parking. These options from Lyft, Bird, and Lime caught on quickly while many cities scrambled to come up with a regulatory infrastructure to accommodate the new mode of transportation. In Colorado, state law classified e-scooters as “toy vehicles” and so riders were only legally allowed to ride on sidewalks, putting pedestrians potentially in harms way.

Strategy:The Capstone Group brought together a group of industry representatives from the e-scooter industry including Lime, Bird, and Lyft and brought in disability advocates, community planners, environmental advocates, and local governments to form a coalition of support.

Outcome:HB19-1221 was introduced in the 2019 session and ultimately passed with broad bipartisan support in both chambers of the legislature. The bill re-classified e-scooters, giving riders the same rights of ways and responsibilities of electric bike riders and local governments were given authority to regulate traffic rules and fines. Now e-scooters can safely ride on roads and in bike lanes.

Reforming Colorado’s 811: Call Before You Dig | SB18-167

Challenge: Colorado’s 811 system (Call Before You Dig) was a two tier system that did not treat all underground lines and facilities equally and lacked an enforcement mechanism. As a result, Colorado’s businesses and government entities lost valuable time and money from expensive underground cuts. Changes in federal regulations from the US Department of Transportation Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) required each state adopt an enforcement authority. If Colorado did not comply with the new rules, the state faced a loss of PHMSA grant funding and other penalties.

Strategy:On behalf of the Colorado Contractors Association (CCA), The Capstone Group spearheaded the reform effort for Colorado’s 811 system. After a year of small group stakeholder meetings, our firm secured bill sponsors in the summer of 2017 and initiated a broader stakeholder process with more than 100 individuals representing every aspect of the affected industries, local governments, and communities. After holding various statewide meetings in the fall, support for the measure swelled and draft language in the bill was refined. In February 2018, SB18-167 was introduced with bipartisan sponsorship. Even after introduction, Capstone had to help navigate disagreements and craft compromise between oil and gas and the agriculture industry as well as excavators and counties. Capstone spent countless hours with the sponsors preparing them for committee hearings and developing a clear message for CCA to share with the media.

Outcome:The Capstone Group led the negotiations between hundred plus stakeholders, drafted various technical amendments, and was able to find creative solutions to address specific problems legislators had with the bill. After hundreds of hours and many, many months of work, the bill ultimately passed the Senate unanimously and the House with only one no vote.

Making Autonomous Vehicles a Reality in Colorado | SB17-213

Challenge: Colorado statute was silent on the legality of driverless cars and risked missing out on the development and deployment of this promising technology. There was no clear model legislation that fit Colorado’s circumstance, and stakeholders held dissenting views about how to proceed.

Strategy: SB 213 was introduced to specifically authorize testing and deployment of automated vehicles, with bipartisan sponsorship in both chambers. SB 213 created a statutory definition for the technology, created regulatory uniformity by establishing self-driving cars as a statewide interest, established a framework for testing, and allowed cars with autonomous driving systems that comply with all state and federal laws to be deployed. On behalf of General Motors, The Capstone Group spearheaded stakeholder negotiations, interaction with state agencies, bill and amendment drafting, and the outreach and education of legislators.

Outcome: Lawmakers ultimately approved by an overwhelming margin, a measure that is considered one of the most industry-friendly laws in the nation, endorsed by the Colorado Department of Transportation and others ranging from disability advocates to farmers and chambers of commerce. Coloradans are poised to benefit from the innovative technology of automated vehicles. Self-driving cars are expected to drastically reduce accidents and fatalities on the road, since more than 90% of crashes are attributed to human error. Automated vehicles could also provide greater mobility for a wide range of individuals, a reduction in congestion, and benefits to the environment.

Governor Hickenlooper signing SB 213 joined by CDOT Executive Director Shailen Bhatt, legislative sponsors Representative Jeff Bridges and Senator Owen Hill, June 2017.

Governor Hickenlooper signing SB 213 joined by CDOT Executive Director Shailen Bhatt, legislative sponsors Representative Jeff Bridges and Senator Owen Hill, June 2017.

Combating the BDS Movement Against Israel in Colorado | HB16-1284

Challenge: A bipartisan group of legislators at the state capitol were interested in pursuing legislation to combat the negative effects of the BDS movement but were unsure how to move forward. The Boycott, Divestment and Sanction (BDS) campaign calls for the international community to impose broad boycotts, implement divestment initiatives, and impose embargoes and sanctions against the state of Israel. While some supporters of BDS may genuinely believe that these efforts will encourage Israel to change policies with which they disagree, the predominant drive of the BDS campaign and its leadership is not criticism of policies but to demonize and delegitimize Israel. The Colorado legislators wanted to ensure that Colorado took a stand against these policies.

Strategy: The Capstone Group in partnership with a key contingent of bipartisan legislators conducted extensive research and decided to develop a bill that would prohibit the Public Employees’ Retirement Association (PERA) from investing in national and international companies that engage in the BDS campaign. Prior to introduction of the bill, the Capstone Group engaged PERA to ensure their input was received and included so the bill could be implemented if passed. Our team also initiated conversations with caucus leadership to ensure any outstanding issues were addressed, that the legislation had strong bipartisan support and to take the necessary precautions to avoid the bill becoming political ammunition for either side of the aisle.

Outcome: After nine months of detailed and thorough work, Colorado became the fourth state to pass anti-BDS legislation. HB 1284 soared through the House and Senate with strong bipartisan support and robust debate. The Governor enthusiastically signed the bill into law on March 18, 2016. Since its passage, several other states have followed suit and introduced similar legislation.

Sales and Use Tax Exemptions for Residential Energy Use | HB16-1457

Challenge: In the waning days of the 2016 legislative session, Colorado’s utility companies realized that without a change to existing law, current practice for residential exemptions from sales tax would cease to exist which would result in an extremely negative impact on consumers. With only two and a half weeks left until sine die, proponents of the change had to not only draft a bill to correct the issue, obtain late bill status, and find sponsors but also pass the bill through the House and Senate.

Strategy: The Capstone Group helped develop a coalition including Intermountain Rural Electric Association, Xcel Energy, Colorado Rural Electric Association, Energy Outreach Colorado, among many others, to quickly reach out to legislative leadership and secure support for a late bill. The coalition sat down with the Department of Revenue to draft language to better define that residential apartments with meters, although owned by a commercial entity, were still exempt from state sales tax collection. Bipartisan sponsorship was quickly assembled and within the week, HB 1457 was introduced in the House.

Outcome: A week after introduction, the bill passed the Senate Floor on Third reading unanimously. HB 1457 as approved by the Colorado General Assembly specified that charges for a single meter for residential use in apartments, condominiums, townhouses, mobile homes, or other multi-unit residential facilities of any kind are exempt from state sales tax. Through team work and quick thinking, Colorado’s utilities were able to prevent potential astronomical rate hikes on Colorado’s most vulnerable households.

Promoting Workforce Development in Colorado | HB15-1271, HB15-1170, & HB15-1276

Challenge: During the 2014 interim, various candidates, legislators, and diverse industries expressed an interest in policy changes to promote and incentivize entry into the skilled trades to meet the needs of the construction, technology, and energy industries in Colorado. Although industries in the state had an excess of job openings, there was a lack of individuals with the needed skills to fill those positions.

Strategy: With so many ideas and concepts floating around, The Capstone Group along with a key coalition of partners came together to determine the best path forward. An aggressive outreach plan was implemented to review potential ideas, and refine and gain buy in to specific legislative proposals to effectively spur development of needed workforce for key Colorado industries. Democrat and Republican legislators were strategically identified to shepherd the proposals.

Outcome: The result was a ten bill bipartisan package of legislation to address diversified needs of industry in the state. Legislation in the package included HB 1271 Mobile Learning Labs; HB 1170 which requires the Department of Education to include the percentage of high school student graduates who enroll in a postsecondary education program immediately following graduation, as part of key success measures; HB 1276 which creates a skilled worker outreach, recruitment and training program; career pathways that direct the state workforce development council to coordinate with industry to design more career pathways in growing industries; and the establishment for a matching grants program to award funds to organizations that offer skilled worker training programs to assist in their outreach, recruiting, and training efforts. The workforce development package was lauded as one of the most impressive bipartisan efforts of the 2015 legislative session.

Pay for Success | HB15-1317

Challenge:Although the state’s economy is rebounding from the great recession, state revenues are not widely available for important prevention programs due in part to Colorado’s complex constitutional budget demands. Prevention programs need to find an innovative approach for financing.

Strategy: A first attempt at creative financing in the 2014 session failed, and following the 2015 elections it was clear that bipartisan buy-in would be critical to the success of any measure. The Capstone Group led the search for strong sponsors, engaging in strategic talks with each of the four legislative caucus leaders on policy, politics, strategy and execution. At the same time, intense negotiations with interested stakeholders on the left and right of the policy spectrum were ongoing.

Outcome: After months of negotiation, the final version of HB 1317 passed the House and Senate with strong bipartisan support. Governor Hickenlooper signed the bill in to law at an early childhood center, pointing to the importance of quality early childhood services as a sound policy investment and signaling the types of opportunities that could be explored under a Pay for Success model.

Telecommunications Modernization Act | HB14-1329, HB14-1331, HB14-1330, HB14-1328, & HB14-1327

Challenge: For more than five years, Colorado's telecommunication industry has pushed for modernization of Colorado's 30 year-old telecom laws. Competing interests clashed over priorities and strategy, and regulators and other stakeholders pressured the legislature to keep the status quo.

Strategy: Stakeholders from the telecommunications industry, the public safety industry, state regulators, and local governments tediously negotiated and vetted language to be placed in five different pieces of legislation introduced in the 2014 legislative session and known collectively as the "Telecommunications Modernization Act.” The Capstone Group team was at the table throughout the process, ensuring that our client’s perspective was consistently represented.

Outcome: After years of tireless work, five separate bills that made up the telecommunication modernization act passed with strong bipartisan support and few no votes. Two highlights from the package were the deregulation of Voice Over Internet Protocol and establishment of a sales tax exemption for private investment in broadband equipment.

The Future of School Funding in Colorado | HB14-1292 & HB14-1298

Challenge: After voters handedly rejected a tax increase for education at the November ballot, the efforts to the rework the school finance formula the previous year (SB 213) were essentially tossed out as well. The vastly diverse education community had little time between the election and the start of session to develop a targeted funding measure that could gain enough support to pass.

Strategy: A group of bipartisan legislators introduced HB 1298 and HB 1292, which combined had the goal of providing additional and targeted funding for students across the state. The Capstone Group was instrumental in making sure the needs of their clients were heard and met in a competing group of stakeholders and legislator interest. Upon introduction, there was disagreement and disapproval from differing stakeholders, but the end product passed the House and Senate with strong support from the majority of the education community.

Outcome: The passage of HB 1292 and HB 1298 increased total education funding by 2.6%, $5.91 billion for fiscal year 2014-15. This results is a rise in per pupil funding from $6,839 to $7,020. The Capstone Group tirelessly advocated for $18 million additional dollars to help 3rd grade students struggling to read, $3 million for a statewide financial transparency reporting system, $27 million for English Language Learners, and $17 million additional dollars to expand access to quality learning for at-risk preschoolers or kindergarteners. Other provisions in the two measures included $110 million to restore cuts to the negative factor, $3 million additional dollars for the Counselor Corps Grant program, and $11.5 million more for charter school facilities.

The Innovative Motor Vehicle Tax Credit | HB19-1159

Challenge: The Innovative Motor Vehicle Tax Credit program has gone through several updates and revisions at the state capitol and once again the tax credit’s sunset date approached. With a change in the administration to a Governor known to be wary of tax credits, 2019 looked to be the year to extend and improve the Innovative Motor Vehicle Tax Credit. The tax credit is a vital incentive to encourage adoption of alternative fuel vehicles. Since 2011, Transportation Network Companies have become major player in transportation systems, but they were excluded from the Innovative Motor Vehicle Tax Credit.

Strategy: The Capstone Group convened a group of diverse stakeholders including the Governor’s Energy Office, alternative fuel vehicle businesses, automobile dealers and manufacturers, consumers, environmental interests, and the energy industry to draft a tax credit formula. The Capstone team took the lead in updating the tax credit so it reflected current technologies, simplified administration of the credit, and made it easier for Coloradans to understand credit eligibility. In 2019, the coalition was brought back together.

Outcome: With a $54.9 million fiscal note through 2021, HB13-1247 passed the House and Senate with significant bi-partisan support. In 2019, HB19-1159 extended the tax credit from 2022 to 2025 and now TNCs can also claim the tax credit for alternative fuel vehicles rented to drivers on a short-term basis. EV purchasers will be able to receive a credit of $2,500 in 2022 and $2,000 in the years after. By forging ground between environmental, energy and consumer interests, the tax credit continues to deliver a significant incentive to the market.

FASTER | SB09-108

Challenge: In 2008, the Governor-appointed Colorado Blue Ribbon Transportation Finance and Implementation Panel reported a multi-billion dollar shortfall in transportation infrastructure funding. Previous efforts to increase funding for a backlog of unsafe bridges and deteriorating roads had been unsuccessful.

Strategy: The Capstone Group worked with the Governor’s administration, Democrat and Republican legislative leadership, the Colorado Contractors Association, the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, and other business leaders in negotiating and narrowing the issue. We continuously negotiated with the group, strengthening collaboration and amending the bill language to reflect the coalition’s interests. Our team steered an extensive legislative and public relations strategy to support the legislation’s passage.

Outcome: An intense, coordinated effort resulted in a bill generating an estimated $250 million annually for transportation projects introduced in January of 2009 and signed into law in early March of the same year—a remarkably short time frame for such major legislation. Since passage of the FASTER legislation, the Capstone team has actively worked each session to protect the measure from repeal. In 2014, SB 197 threatened to negatively affect the ability of counties and municipalities to pursue public-private partnerships to fund roadways – a permission first established by SB 09-108. SB 197 passed through the legislature very late in the session, and The Capstone Group led a successful effort to make the case to the Governor that the measure should be vetoed. In 2015, another piece of legislation targeting public-private partnerships was introduced. Our team rallied opposition to the measure, which was subsequently killed in its first committee.

Colorado Water for the 21st Century Act | HB12-1317

Challenge: Colorado’s rapid growth and development led to conflicting interests and controversy regarding use of water resources and about how state-wide decisions about complex water issues are made. A need was identified for a solution that would provide a collaborative decision-making approach among stakeholders.

Strategy: The Capstone Group worked with the Department of Natural Resources to develop a statewide legislative strategy to bring stakeholders together. We helped secure bipartisan sponsorship for the bill and advanced the complex legislation through every step of the process.

Outcome: Passage of the Colorado Water for the 21st Century Act, which provides a permanent forum for broad-based water discussions in the state through two new structures: The Interbasin Compact Committee and nine Basin Roundtables based on Colorado’s eight major river basins and the Denver metro area.

Governor Hickenlooper signs HB 15-1317 in to law, May 2015

Governor Hickenlooper signs HB 15-1317 in to law, May 2015