Legislative Update: May 4, 2017

The final countdown
With only four more days left in the 2017 Colorado legislative session, here’s the low-down on how our bills did this week:

ALIVE (AND IN NEED OF SUPPORT): We’re pleased that House Bill 1002 was approved by the House on Wednesday with a strong bipartisan vote of 41-16. Sponsored by Rep. Brittany Pettersen, D-Lakewood, the legislation renews the child-care tax credit for low-income families.

In 2014, CCLP championed the bill that created a tax credit for workers earning less than $25,000 a year who have child care expenses. Since the passage of the bill, over 32,000 families have claimed the credit, providing a total of $4.9 million every year to help defray child care costs for low-income working parents. That bill included a “sunset” provision that ended the tax credit after the 2017 tax year. HB 1002 ensures that low-income parents can continue to enjoy the established tax credit for another three years.

HB 1002 heads the Senate on Friday, where it is co-sponsored by Sens. Beth Martinez Humenik, R-Thornton and John Kefalas, D-Fort Collins. CCLP is hopeful that state Senators will realize the value in giving low-income families relief from child-care expenses so that parents can build a foundation for self-sufficiency.

Please let members of the Senate Finance Committee know you support the bill, which is scheduled to be considered May 5 in the morning. If approved, HB 1002 could be considered by Senate Appropriations Committee as soon as Friday afternoon, so please contact members of that committee as well!

DEAD: CCLP is perplexed that a measure as reasonable and nonpartisan as HB 1312 went down on party lines in the Senate State, Veterans & Military Affairs Committee on Thursday.

HB 1312 would have enacted a basic, common courtesy in the tenant-landlord relationship into law. In short, the bill would have required landlords to provide a copy of a signed lease so that tenants could understand the terms of their living arrangement. It also required landlords to provide a receipt of rent payments made by cash or money order upon request.

That’s it in a nutshell. Frankly, it’s surprising that Colorado doesn’t already have such a law on the books. Because it is common for low-income renters to pay rent with cash or money order, there is no record of a transaction unless a landlord provides a receipt of payment. As a result, many Colorado renters have been vulnerable to eviction or late charges because they were not able to prove that they had already paid rent – creating greater instability for those who are struggling to make ends meet.

Apart from the legislators who voted against it, HB 1312 had no opposition. Even the most likely opponent, the Colorado Apartment Association, declared a neutral position. The bill appears to have fallen victim to reflexive partisan voting given the lack of explanation from committee members. Regardless, we’d like to thank our House and Senate sponsors and all those who supported the bill.

On Monday, the Senate State, Veterans & Military Affairs Committee killed HB 1310 on another party-line vote. The bill would have limited the application fee a landlord may charge a prospective tenant to cover the cost of a personal reference check, consumer credit report or tenant-screening report. CCLP thanks Reps. Chris Kennedy and Dominique Jackson, and Sen. Stephen Fenberg, for sponsoring the bill.

Also on Monday, the Senate State, Veterans & Military Affairs Committee killed HB 1305 on party-lines. Commonly known as the Chance to Compete Act, the legislation would have provided unemployed people with an opportunity to pursue a job without having to disclose criminal history on an initial application.

CCLP would like to thank the bill’s sponsors, Rep. Mike Foote Rep. Jovan E. Melton and Sen. Lucia Guzman, for their hard work. We’d also like to thank our coalition partners, including faith-based groups, nonprofit organizations, business owners and the Colorado Department of Corrections, for their amazing support.

Though we are disappointed by this setback, the basic premise of HB 1305 — that everyone should have the opportunity to apply for a job despite their past mistakes — seems to be taking root in Colorado and nationwide. After all, giving people a chance to work is one of the surest ways to build financial security and to reduce the probability those with criminal records will reoffend. We will continue to seek support for this commonsense idea that could make a difference in the lives of millions of Coloradans.

OTHER THOUGHTS: As with any legislative session, things get crazy in the final days. Indeed, we haven’t even mentioned SB 267, which would create an enterprise to collect and administer the hospital provider fee and provide other services for Colorado hospitals – but with many different strings attached, including raising co-payments on Medicaid recipients and reducing how much revenue the state can raise to fund state services.

That bill is changing rapidly, and an amendment that creates an entirely new bill will replace the original bill when it receives its first committee hearing. Not having access to the new bill language, the most CCLP can say at this point is that removing the funds generated by the hospital provider fee from the state budget is critical for the future of health care in Colorado and for Colorado in general.  Indeed, the bill will provide more funds for schools, transportation, and capital improvements, and reduce personal property taxes on businesses. But, we are extremely disappointed that achieving that benefit could only be done by imposing a cost on low-income Coloradans.

Look for a more comprehensive analysis of the 2017 session in next week’s edition of CCLP Heads-Up. Also read our blogs and follow us on Facebook and Twitter to keep up with our work in real time!

-By Bob Mook



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