SESSION HIGHLIGHTS, FEB 1-5, 2016
Campaign Begins Against Single-Payer Amendment
The campaign to defeat Amendment 69, a proposal for a single-payer health insurance system in Colorado, kicked-off on Thursday with some high-profile leaders.
The opposition, led by bipartisan co-chairs, former Democrat Governor Bill Ritter and Republican State Treasurer Walker Stapleton, outlined their position during a morning news conference at the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, home to other campaign leaders.
In their press release, opponents called the initiative "a risky and untested state-run health insurance system" that would raise taxes by $25 billion in its first year, functionally doubling the state’s current budget.
Advocates proposing the 10 percent payroll tax, with two-thirds of the money coming from employers and one-third from employees, argue that by eliminating layers of bureaucracy and reducing administrative and other non-medical costs, Amendment 69, or ColoradoCare, would cover all residents and cost less than the current system. Furthermore, they contend that the state could save money by reducing administrative costs for private insurance providers and by purchasing pharmaceuticals at bulk rates.
It is true that other countries have government-run health care systems, but opponents are quick to remind voters that neither the United States as a whole, nor any individual states, have followed that approach.
Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce President Kelly Brough said Colorado should not risk being the first state to pass the measure. She continued, "Regardless of where you live in our state, regardless of your party affiliation and even regardless of whether or not you philosophically believe in a national single payer health care system — we can all agree that this proposal is bad for Colorado.”
Joint Budget Committee and Capital Development Committee Meet Again to Discuss Options for Transportation Funding
As the House and Senate majorities seek options to creatively address transportation funding given the state’s current budget situation, the two committees with equal Republicans and Democrats continue to meet to find solutions. The Capital Development Committee (CDC), chaired by Senator Randy Baumgardner (R-Hot Sulfur Springs), and the Joint Budget Committee (JBC), chaired by Rep. Millie Hamner (D-Summit County), met this week to discuss issues related to transportation, state-wide building improvements, and controlled maintenance.
The JBC, made up of Senators Kevin Grantham (R-Canon City), Kent Lambert (R-Colorado Springs), and Pat Steadman (D-Denver); and Representatives Millie Hamner, Dave Young (D-Greeley), and Bob Rankin (R-Carbondale) is arguably the most powerful committee in the legislature as those members are responsible for prioritizing the state’s needs and spending. The CDC, made of Senators Randy Baumgardner, John Kefalas (D-Fort Collins) and Jerry Sonnenberg (R-Sterling); and Representatives J. Paul Brown (R-Ignacio), KC Becker (D-Boulder) and Ed Vigil (D-Fort Garland), is powerful in its own right as those members oversee and recommend priorities for building construction and maintenance projects. During session, these committees meet frequently to align interests on appropriations for capital construction. Funding for transportation is getting more and more attention.
A few ideas related to transportation were discussed, but none were agreed upon, although all members felt that it needed to be addressed.
Senator Baumgardner, who is also chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, suggested repealing SB08-228 (which would begin a $200 million appropriation for transportation for the next five years) and replace it with a $300 million allocation for the Controlled Maintenance Trust Fund. $20 million of which would be earmarked for capital construction and $250 million would be allotted for transportation construction. Senator Lambert suggested another alternative: repeal SB08-228 and use $60 million of that bill’s $200 million allocation to balance the current year’s budget ($60 million in the red) and then use the rest for transportation and controlled maintenance for the next five years. Yet, JBC staff pointed out that they would only see that $200 million “extra” from SB08-228 if they also passed a bill reducing the Hospital Provider Fee by $100 million.
Complexities and lack of consensus resulted in no commitments at this time and another meeting will be held in the coming weeks.
End-Of-Life Bills See Outcomes in Committees
Only one day after legislation to provide doctors the ability to write a prescription for terminally-ill patients that would aid in the dying process was defeated in a state Senate State Affairs hearing, the House Judiciary Committee passed a bill doing just that.
In both cases, committee rooms were packed with opponents and supporters. Those opposed call the program “assisted suicide." They pointed to religious concerns and possible unintended consequences. Those who came in support argued that the bill expanded choice at the end of life. Currently, the terminally ill can only opt to endure palliative sedation, which is a medically-overseen last resort for patients whose symptoms cannot be controlled by any other means.
The Senate-version of the bill was struck down on a vote of 3-2 on Wednesday.
The House-version of the bill passed on a 6-5 party-line vote near midnight yesterday at the end of the hearing that started at 1:30 p.m.
Opponent, Margaret Halpern, said "I'm glad the people here had the opportunity to air their grievances.”
Bill supporter, Laurie Brock, agreed.
"I think it's a process," she said. "It'll take time, but it's good that people are getting educated.”
The only remaining bill will now be heard on second reading on the House floor.
Currently, Washington, Oregon, California, and Vermont are the only states that have “Death with Dignity” laws on the books.
Parental Involvement Bill Passes House
The House of Representatives passed a bill by Representative Janet Buckner (D-Aurora) to allow parents to take unpaid leave to attend their children’s academic activities. HB16-1002 updates and reenacts the 2009 “Parental Involvement in K-12 Education Act,” which sunset in early September 2015.
“By passing this bill we will create a foundation for all parents to be involved in their children’s education, while giving flexibility to employers and employees to decide what works best for them,” said Representative Buckner on the House floor.
The bill includes protections to ensure the necessary flexibility for employers and employees to work together and the requirement only applies to businesses with 50 employees or more. Parents must provide their employer with at least one week’s notice, taking no more than six hours per month with a maximum of 18 hours per year.
The bill passed on a vote of 35 to 30 and now moves to the Senate.