Highlights of the Week
It was a busy week under the gold dome with a filibuster on the Senate Floor, several health bills moving forward in committee and on the floor, and Governor Polis signing his second executive order to create a new state office.
A lively debate took place on the House Floor this Wednesday about SB19-039, Interdistrict Transportation of Students. The bill would remove language from a section of statute created last year by HB18-1306, Improving Education Stability for Foster Youth. An amendment late in the 2018 session added language to allow school districts to provide transportation for students to a different school district without the consent of that school district. The original intent of HB18-1306 was to assist foster youth to stay in their school district of origin when they move to another foster home or other out of home placement in a different school district. A Denver court ruled that the added provision allowing transportation between districts without consent of the school district unconstitutional because it violated the constitutional requirement that every bill have a single subject. SB19-039 restores statute to the original language before HB18-1306 passed so that districts are allowed to provide transportation to a neighboring district, but only if the district gives approval. Senator Gardner and Senator Hill led a filibuster on the Senate Floor and the debate ended late in the evening. The senators brought several amendments that generally aimed to keep the transportation provision from HB18-1306 effective in limited circumstances. All 8 amendments brought on Second Reading failed. SB19-039 passed the Senate on Second Reading on Wednesday and passed 19-16 on Thursday along a party line vote with Senate Democrats in favor of the bill.
On Wednesday, Governor Polis signed an executive order to create the Office of Saving People Money on Health Care. Lieutenant Governor Primavera will head up the new state office. The Office will work to address many of the health care issues that Governor Polis addressed in his State of the State speech earlier this month. Governor Polis requested $247,000 to fund the Office of Saving People Money on Health Care. The executive order charges the Office to work with the Legislature to create a reinsurance program, lower the costs of health care in mountain and rural communities, increase hospital price transparency, and lower prescription drug prices. Much of the executive order is direction to develop policy proposals to lower cost across the sectors of health care. A reinsurance program is the only explicit policy outlined in the bill to be pursued. Reinsurance programs help insulate insurers from high cost clients, which often require large payouts, by covering a portion of the costs above a threshold.
At this point, the full Senate has made the following confirmations of Governor Polis’s appointments to lead his executive branch departments:
- Joseph Barela as Executive Director of the Department of Labor and Employment
- Richard Williams as the Executive Director of the Department of Corrections
- Stan Hilkey as the Executive Director of the Department of Public Safety
- Angie Paccione as the Executive Director of the Department of Higher Education and Commissioner of the Commission on Higher Education
- Richard Garcia as Executive Director of the Department of Local Affairs
- Kim Bimestefer as Executive Director of the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing
- Michael Conway as the Commissioner of the Division of Insurance
It is still early in the legislative session and many bills have yet to be introduced. In the coming weeks look for bills to limit oil and gas development, to increase prescription drug price transparency, to alter electric vehicle tax credits, to establish paid family leave, to repeal the death penalty, to address sexual harassment on college campuses, to allow local governments to set their own minimum wage, to reform arbitration processes, and many more.
The Joint Budget Committee finished up the hearings for supplementals this week. Supplemental bills true up the current fiscal year and this process happens before the JBC sets the budget for the upcoming fiscal year. On Thursday, the Joint Budget Committee gave initial approval for the mid-year adjustment for the Colorado Department of Education. This is a true up to adjust the budget to account for actual local revenues for K-12 education and actual per pupil counts. The JBC approved a staff recommendation to hold the budget stabilization factor flat at $672 million for FY2018-19. An $56 million increase in local property tax revenues and a decrease in the at risk per pupil count led to a $77 million decrease in the state share of school finance. Next week the JBC will meet for Office of State Planning and Budgeting comebacks on decisions for supplemental requests that were initially denied by the JBC.
Bills of the Week