Legislative Update: March 31

Bill to Watch: HB 1305
In theory, every Coloradan should be able to participate in the state’s booming economy. In practice, however, that’s not always the case. Many Coloradans in the state’s criminal-records database continue to encounter permanent unemployment or under-employment and unstable incomes.

The reason these Coloradans face such a significant barrier to employment is a common question on job applications regarding past arrests and convictions. In some cases, employers note that applicants with criminal histories “need not apply” for advertised job openings. Though every employer has a right to conduct a criminal background check or to ask about one’s criminal history, these methods for preliminary screening can prevent many Coloradans from having a chance to compete for jobs.

Clearing the way for every Coloradan to compete for a job makes our economy stronger. That’s why CCLP has worked hard to develop House Bill 1305, the Colorado Chance to Compete Act. Sponsored in the House by Reps. Mike Foote, D-Lafayette and Jovan Melton, D-Aurora, the legislation prohibits employers from asking about criminal history or from including disqualifying language about criminal history on job applications.

Under HB 1304, employers can still ask about a criminal history prior to a job interview, conduct a thorough background check and decline to hire an applicant with a criminal record. The bill would simply give such applicants a chance to get their “foot in the door” and be considered on their merits.

As the organization that developed HB 1305, we intend to keep Coloradans informed about its progress in the days and weeks to come.

On the Radar: SB 267
Critical programs and services in Colorado perennially face cuts even in times of prosperity because of the budgetary constraints under the amendment known as the Taxpayers Bill of Rights (or TABOR). This paradox has been inadvertently exacerbated by a hospital provider fee established by lawmakers in 2009.

In short, the fee lets Colorado’s Medicaid program draw matching federal dollars to fund hospital care for indigent patients and expand access to Medicaid without using General Fund dollars. On the downside, under TABOR, the fee essentially forces the state legislature to cut government programs and under-fund other priorities. To avoid budget cuts in roads and schools, Gov. John Hickenlooper has proposed cuts in the provider fee in recent years – largely, at the expense of health care facilities in rural Colorado.

Known as the Sustainability of Rural Colorado Act, Senate Bill 267 would create an enterprise to collect and administer the hospital provider fee and provide other services for Colorado hospitals. Creating an enterprise would exempt revenue from the fee from TABOR’s spending limits, which would allow the fee to grow to the full extent allowed under federal law without putting pressure on other government priorities, like K-12 education. The legislation is sponsored by Sens. Lucia Guzman, D-Denver, and Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, in the Senate and Reps. Jon Becker, R-Fort Morgan and KC Becker, D-Boulder in the House.

While CCLP has endorsed legislation to create an enterprise for the provider fee in previous years and applauds lawmakers for working on a bipartisan budget solution, we’re gravely concerned that other budgetary impacts of SB 267 would hurt low-income Coloradans in the aggregate and cause future fiscal problems for the state. While we don’t support the bill in its current form, we are hopeful that those concerns will be addressed as the bill moves through the General Assembly.
– By Bob Mook