Highlights of the Week
In the final days of session, bills are moving quickly and hundreds of bills are still in the works. With calendars growing long, the House and Senate both convened Saturday to continue their work, the first Saturday the legislature convened since a July 2006 special session. A bill can be introduced as late as May 1 and still make its way through the process and all bills have to be in their second chamber and pass second reading by midnight on May 2 to have a chance of making it through by the final gavel on May 3. After over a week of the FAMLI bill stalled in the Senate, SB 188 was amended significantly Wednesday on the Senate Floor. Now the bill directs CDLE to conduct a study about designing and implementing a paid family leave program. It also creates a task force to study an option for a third party to run a paid family and medical leave program. Both of these entities are tasked with making recommendations to the General Assembly and the Governor. Implementation of the recommendations would require another bill in the 2020 legislative session. SB 188 passed the Senate on Thursday and was sent to the House where the House Finance Committee passed it Friday evening.
This week referred measures to authorize a framework for sports betting in Colorado, create a new tobacco tax, and a statewide de-brucing proposal moved forward. HB 1327 which refers a measure to the voters to approve sports betting and tax the proceeds passed the House Wednesday 58-6 and was heard and passed through the Senate Finance Committee Friday evening and the Senate Appropriations Committee Saturday evening. On Thursday, HB 1333 was introduced which will ask voters to implement a new tax on nicotine vaping products and raise the existing taxes on tobacco products. The revenue, estimated at over $300 million, would be split between education and health care. Estimates are that the new tax could bring in $158.5 million for pre-kindergarten and after school educational programming, $75 million for lowering health care costs, $45 million for tobacco addiction prevention, and $38 million for behavioral health. HB 1333 passed the House Finance Committee Friday afternoon with one Democrat, Rep. Sullivan, voting with Republicans in opposition. The bill was expected to be heard in House Appropriations Saturday morning and debated on the House Floor but the bill wasn’t read over the desk Friday night so it will have to wait until Monday. HB 1257 and HB 1258, the de-brucing package, moved through the Senate this week, passing the Finance Committee on Tuesday on a 4-3 vote. Both bills were the last two bills on the Senate calendar Saturday afternoon. Due to a deal struck earlier in the day between Senate Democrats and Senate Republicans, there was almost no debate on either bill. They face a final vote in the Senate Monday.
HB 1168, the bill to establish a state reinsurance program, hit a roadblock when it was discovered that the bill’s funding source could put federal funding for the state’s Medicaid expansion and the Colorado Health Care Affordability and Sustainability Enterprise fee in jeopardy. The Governor’s office and sponsors worked behind the scenes to find a new approach that would scale back the program from an estimated $750M over five years to $200M over two years, with $80 million from a new fee on hospitals, $55 million from the general fund via a reduction in the fee paid to vendors for collection of state sales tax, $30 million from the Health Insurance Tax, and $10 million from the Insurance Premium Fee. HB 1245 changing the vendor fee was subsequently amended and passed Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee this weekend. On Wednesday, the new version of HB 1168 passed the Senate Health and Human Services Committee to the Finance Committee on a 4-1 vote.
Two key child welfare bills passed the legislature this week with unanimous approval by both the House and Senate. HB 1133 will create a Child Abuse Response and Evaluation Network (CARE Network) that develops and maintains a standardized, coordinated medical response to suspected child abuse and neglect and behavioral health assessments through a network of designated providers, a coordinating Resource Center, child welfare, other agencies, and relevant community partners. HB 1288 passed the Senate this week as well. The bill creates a bill of rights for foster youth siblings. When children are removed from their home, sometimes the only strong relationship they have is with their sibling. Under the current structure, it is common for siblings to be separated once they enter the foster care system or at various stages in the system. HB 1288 will ensure that foster siblings can be placed in the same home, be placed close to each other, and to allow them to continue to be involved in their lives.
Several opioid bills are moving quickly with strong bipartisan support. SB 228 Substance Use Disorders Prevention Measures, SB 227 Harm Reduction Substance Use Disorders, and HB 1287 Treatment for Opioids and Substance Use Disorders each target a different type of person affected by opioid and substance use disorders. SB 228 aims to provide prevention and support services to at-risk individuals, SB 227 contains measures to reduce harm for those going through addiction, but who are not ready for treatment yet, and HB 1287 focuses on the individuals who are ready for treatment. These bills are now moving through the second chamber. HB 1269, Mental Health Parity Insurance Medicaid, passed the House and the Senate and is awaiting concurrence in the House. The bill modernizes behavioral health laws to increase access to behavioral health services, strengthen prevention and screening, and ensure enforcement of existing parity laws. The bill also required Medicaid to cover all MAT products without prior authorization or step therapy.
HB 1320, Hospital Community Benefit Accentuality, was amended in the House Health and Insurance Committee on Wednesday, bringing several hospitals into a support position on the bill. The bill’s initial Hospital Community Accountability Boards was replaced with an annual community meeting focused on community benefit. The bill passed 9-2 with bipartisan support and passed the House Appropriations Committee and second reading of the House floor on Saturday. SB 173, Colorado Secure Savings Plan Board, passed the Senate on Monday and moved quickly through House committee. The bill would create a board in the Treasurer’s Office to study several public policy options with the aim of increasing the amount Coloradans are saving for retirement. The bill passed second reading of the House on Saturday and will have a final vote on Monday.
Both the Senate and the House met almost all day on Saturday to work through bills that have been delayed because of their controversial nature or from the various filibusters over the past week. The House finally took a final vote on the proposal to change how the immunization opt-out process works in Colorado. After a few hours of third reading debate, the bill passed on almost a party line vote with Representative Titone voting in opposition to the bill along with the House Republicans. The Senate moved through more than 40 bills in just under five hours which is the fastest they had worked all week. Several controversial bills though were not taken up including HB 1032 Comprehensive Sex Education. As the Senate finished up their work on Saturday evening, they also introduced two new bills – SB 262 and SB 263. SB 262 is a bill from the JBC to transfer $100 million to the HUTF for transportation funding. This bill along with SB 261 contain the provisions of the transportation funding bill that were hashed out during the budget process. SB 263 bumps out the SB18-001 bonding ballot provision from 2019 to 2020 so the state can transfer the second $500 million payment of the SB18-267. The bill also transfers $50 million to help with the SB 267 debt payment. All three bills were heard Saturday evening in the Senate Appropriations Committee and passed with unanimous support.
Bills of the week