Legislative Update: March 10, 2017

Legislative Halftime Report
With eight weeks down and eight weeks to go in the 2017 session, Colorado legislators have advanced several bipartisan measures that will make a positive difference to low-income Coloradans. While some CCLP-backed legislation did not make the final cut, we’re still working with lawmakers to develop other big proposals this session.

First, the good news: So far, four bills led by CCLP have gained support from both sides of the aisle. One of our measures, House Bill 1143, is heading to the Governor’s desk after sailing through the House and the Senate without a single “no” vote. The legislation would direct the state to audit Medicaid communications with clients. These audits would review Medicaid notices for legal sufficiency, clarity and accuracy. Audit findings, conclusions and recommendations will be presented to legislative committees, which can then consider whether the results warrant further reforms.

HB 1143 is part of a package intended to address shortcomings in client correspondence and notifications when Medicaid health care and essential services are about to be changed or terminated. The package, which also includes HB 1126 and Senate Bill 121,was drafted by CCLP and the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition during last summer’s Interim Committee on Medicaid Client Correspondence. HB 1126 would ensure that an administrative law judge reviews the sufficiency of Medicaid termination notices at the beginning of an appeal hearing. SB 121 requires the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing to engage in a process to improve Medicaid client communications – including client letters and notices – that deny, reduce, suspend or terminate Medicaid benefits.

Another CCLP-backed bill, HB 1002, cleared its first House committee on a 12-1 vote. Sponsored by Rep. Brittany Pettersen, D-Lakewood, the legislation would continue for three more income tax years the child care tax credit for workers earning less than $25,000. Learn more about HB 1002 in this CCLP fact sheet.

Now, a little bad news: Some legislation that will roll back progress for mid- to low-income Coloradans is still alive and kicking. SB 3 would repeal Colorado’s health insurance exchange, Connect for Health Colorado, a critical conduit for affordable health coverage under the Affordable Care Act. The bill cleared its first hurdle in a Senate committee.

Two other bills that CCLP strongly supported met an early demise this session: SB 118, developed by Colorado Skills2Compete and CCLP, would have made it easier for students to make wise investments by requiring private occupational schools to provide info about education outcomes. SB 98 which CCLP strongly supported, would have allowed residents to have an opportunity to purchase manufactured housing communities, while giving landowners tax incentives for entering into such deals. Regardless of these defeats, CCLP will continue to explore ways to make private occupational schools more transparent for consumers as well as policy remedies to preserve manufactured housing communities.

Over the next few weeks, CCLP will lead a measure that would extend the notification period for tenants without a lease to vacate their residences. In addition, CCLP is running legislation to address a persistent barrier to employment by prohibiting most employers from asking about past criminal records on preliminary job applications.

As with any session, things promise to get interesting over the next couple of months. Expect sharp divisions between lawmakers over HB 1187, which would let voters decide if they want to change the methodology for computing state revenues cap so that the state could more adequately meet the needs of its residents.

Also, keep an eye on a potential showdown over HB 1242, a bipartisan effort to use a mix of existing revenue and a sales-tax increase to fund and fix Colorado’s deteriorating transportation infrastructure. Although CCLP has not taken a position on this bill, we’ll need to consider whether there are genuine benefits for people who rely on public transportation that would offset the increase in the regressive sales tax.

Keep up to date with the session through CCLP’s Facebook and Twitter feeds.

– By Bob Mook