Feb 12, 2016

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Legislative Update: Feb. 12, 2016

by | Feb 12, 2016

Imagine a living minimum wage
No matter where you live in Colorado, the minimum wage would not pay enough to support a family.  According to the Colorado Center on Law and Policy’s Self-Sufficiency Standard for Colorado 2015, an adult with an infant and a preschooler in Morgan County would need to make $20.02 an hour to cover the family’s basic needs without public assistance. That’s $11.71 an hour more than Colorado’s minimum wage of $8.31. In fact, among Colorado’s 65 counties, the minimum wage only pays enough to support a one-person household in Bent, Otero and Custer Counties.

While Colorado’s minimum wage is higher than the federal minimum wage, it only totals $17,284 as a full-time income – well below the federal poverty level of $20,090 for a family of three. Since families earning minimum wage struggle to support themselves, the onus often falls on state and local governments (and ultimately, taxpayers) to help cover the increasingly high cost of living in the state. According to a CCLP briefing published last year, empirical evidence overwhelmingly indicates that restoring power to local governments to set a local minimum wage above the statewide minimum has positive effects on workers, employers and local economies.

To that point, Senate Bill 54 would permit local governments to set the minimum wage at a level that is appropriate for their own municipality, residents and economy. A similar measure failed in the 2015 legislative session. Sponsored by Sen. Michael Merrifield, D- Colorado Springs, the bill faces an uphill battle in the Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee, where it will be heard on Feb. 17. A representative for CCLP will testify in support of legislation.

Whatever the fate of SB 54, the minimum wage simply doesn’t provide adequate compensation and hampers self-sufficiency for Colorado families. That’s why CCLP will continue to work with other organizations to raise the wage throughout the state.

Bill to Watch: HB 1148
More than three years after its launch, Connect for Health Colorado has endured its share of highly publicized technical, administrative and budgetary challenges. But because Colorado’s health benefit exchange serves as the conduit to ensure that low-income families can access the tax credits that enable them to afford health insurance, CCLP has worked hard to ensure that it functions well.

House Bill 1148 is an effort to increase transparency and enhance public participation in Connect’s decision-making processes. It also provides the Legislative Oversight Committee with additional information about Connect’s operations.

The legislation is sponsored by Rep. Lang Sias, R-Arvada, Rep. Diane Primavera, D-Broomfield, Sen. Ellen Roberts, R-Durango and Sen. John Kefalas, D-Fort Collins. As introduced, the bill was overly broad and confusing. The exchange would have been required to create a process to allow public participation on a wide variety of policy decisions.  CCLP believed such a requirement would have made it impossible for the staff to function since virtually everything they do directly or indirectly affects consumers. CCLP worked with its partners and HB 1148’s sponsors, particularly, Rep. Sias, to amend the legislation so that it would accomplish its original goals without adversely complicating Connect’s operations.

The bill, which CCLP supports in its amended form, passed unanimously in the House State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee on Wednesday and now goes to the House floor for action.

On the Radar
SB 27 would give Medicaid recipients in Colorado the option to receive Medicaid prescriptions by mail. CCLP supports this bipartisan legislation, which was approved by the Senate Health & Human Services Committee and is awaiting consideration from the Senate Appropriations Committee.

SB 118 would direct the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to develop a questionnaire to screen for prenatal substance use so that referrals for treatment could be made to address early childhood development, behavioral and education issues. CCLP is currently neutral on the bill but is concerned that the legislation could disproportionately affect low-income families, resulting in referrals to social services, and does nothing to make appropriate treatment or services available.

Off the Radar
The Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee indefinitely postponed SB 57, which would have granted the Division of Housing more power to promote the development, safety and maintenance of mobile home communities across the state. The bill was supported by CCLP and sponsored by Sen. John Kefalas, D-Fort Collins.

Responsible Re-Entry update
CCLP is developing legislation that will open up opportunities for job-seekers with criminal records.  Learn more in this recent article in The Durango Herald and this segment on Colorado Public Radio. To get more involved, check our Responsible Re-entry webpage.

Women’s Legislative Breakfast
Rosemary Lytle, Executive Director of Positive Impact Colorado and President of NAACP’s Colorado, Montana and Wyoming State Area Conference, will be the keynote speaker at the 27th Annual Women’s Legislative Breakfast. The event takes place Feb. 23 at the Scottish Rite Masonic Center, 1370 Grant St. in Denver. This annual event sells out every year, so register now.

Recent articles

CCLP Statement on Health and Hospital Corporation v. Talevski

Last term, we watched as the Supreme Court issued rulings that had wide sweeping consequences for individuals across the country. The Court tipped its hat to the second amendment by expanding the ability to carry guns in public while simultaneously decimating the...

New Public Charge Rule is a Victory for Immigrant Communities

Some immigrants who apply for a green card or a visa to enter the United States must pass what’s called a “public charge” test. The test is designed to evaluate whether the person will primarily depend on the government for support in the future, based on factors such...