Too often, the broader economic debate focuses on the diminishing middle class and the demonic super-rich. The discussion whirls around Wall Street and its trickle-down wealth to the rest of America.

But, let’s not confuse the middle class with rural America, the invisible class. The discussion about the loss of the middle class needs to take a back seat to the spine that built America. These are proud hard working people. Respect should be shown.

Go to the four corners of the state of Colorado alone and bear witness to people hurting. Take a trip to Burlington, where the key economic highlight was the private prison shut down last year. Urban Colorado may engage in the public/private prison debate; but, do Coloradans fully understand the death knell sounding in that section of the state? Urban Colorado views the closing of private prisons from a much different perspective than those living in Burlington. This prison was a core economic driver; not just a for-profit prison issue.

Will the Hospital Provider Fee debate follow this same nail-in-the-coffin storyline? The threat to shut down rural hospitals is real. These hospitals power the economies of the communities they serve. Here in the metro area, we now have 46 emergency rooms. Is this irony or tragi-comedy? All of this under one state roof.

The single biggest economic driver in the past twenty years has been the Internet, at the center of all commerce. High-speed broadband is a rock-solid statewide long-term investment. Rural Colorado needs this playing field to begin to even out; especially when there are strategies lined up to do just that.

Let’s acknowledge the invisible as soon as possible, because it will cost the state even more if we pretend our neighbors will thrive despite the setbacks. When opportunity is stripped away, when hope is no longer on the menu, the disenfranchised can only look to the government for help.

Will we, in our arrogance, then claim that our rural neighbors are on the government dole due to so many with no place to work and no other place to turn? See this piece in today’s Denver Post: Disabled or Desperate?

Coloradans, especially those who have been here for a good while, celebrate a brotherhood with our frontier neighbors. Shame on us for pretending they are not even there.

New Bills we are watching

Chance to Compete Act. Prisoners who’ve done their time must ‘wear’ their record when set free. That, in itself, condemns them again. What’s the fairest way? Judiciary. Nothing scheduled

Documentary fee to Fund Affordable Housing. Increases the documentary fee for real estate property transactions by one cent per $100 valuation, and is estimated to generate $9 million- $10 million per year. On a $300,000 home, this would total a $30 fee increase and would yield significant benefits across the state. Local Government, Nothing scheduled

Application Fees for Renters. Keeps application fees to the price of what is actually necessary to screen residents—such as credit reports, reference checks or tenant screening reports—and ensures the fee is refunded if the applicant is never screened. Finance. Nothing scheduled

Receipts for Renters. Gives renters the right to have a copy of their lease and to receive receipts for cash payment of rent. Without a receipt, tenants facing eviction cannot prove they have paid what the landlord says they owe. Local Government. Nothing scheduled

The Long Bill. Introduced in House. It is budget time; always the highlight of the session. It passed the Senate with harmful cuts remaining to rural Colorado hospitals. The House examines it this week. And, then back to the Joint Budget Committee for further discussion the following week. Where will all the money go? Appropriations

Hospital Reimbursement Rates. How should hospital rates work moving forward? House. Appropriations

Sustainability of Rural Colorado. Reclassify the state’s hospital provider fee as an enterprise fund. An examination of rural Colorado’s fiscal status across the board. This is one of those bills that’s served best by reading the whole thing. Deep inside, for example, proposed statewide budget cutting. Human Services, Apr 6th, Finance + Appropriations, Apr 11th, SCR 357

Bills we are watching

*Strongly Support       **Support       ***Oppose       ****Strongly Oppose

Reverse Mortgage Repayment when Home Uninhabitable. Concerning the suspension of a borrower’s obligation to repay a reverse mortgage when a force majeure renders the subject property uninhabitable as a principal residence. Local Government Committee, Apr 12th, 1:30p, Room 0107

Extend Home Care Allowance Grant Program. Third Reading House, Apr 3rd, 10:00am

Update National Standards Citations Accessible Housing. Signed by the Governor

Requirement Durable Medical Equipment Suppliers. Individuals in the state, closer to other state borders, can only find suppliers across the border. This is primarily an access bill. Current law says the supplier must be from Colorado. Refer Amended to Appropriations

Office of Public Guardianship Pilot Prevention Program. The bill creates the office of public guardianship (office) within the judicial department to provide legal guardianship services to indigent and incapacitated adults. House, Third Reading, Final Passage, Apr 3rd, 10:00am

Telehealth Coverage under Health Benefit Plans. Clarification of services that should be covered whether via telehealth or in person. Signed by the Governor

Direct Primary Health Care Services. Parameters under which a direct primary care agreement may be implemented. Third Reading, Apr 3rd, 10:00a, Final Passage

Continue Low-income Household Energy Assistance. This bill continues energy-related assistance to low-income households. In Senate, Ag, Natural Resources & Energy, Refer Unamended to Appropriations

Patient Safety Act. The bill requires applicants for initial licensure or certification, as well as current licensees and certificate holders, to submit to a fingerprint-based criminal history record check. Includes: Podiatrists, Dentists and dental hygienists, Medical doctors, physician assistants, and anesthesiologists; Nurses, Certified nurse aides, Optometrists and Veterinarians. Finance, Refer Unamended to Appropriations

Medicaid Appeal Review Legal Notice Requirements. The bill requires the administrative law judge hearing Medicaid appeals to review the legal sufficiency of the notice of action from which the recipient is appealing at the commencement of the appeal hearing if the notice of action concerns the termination or reduction of an existing benefit. If the notice is legally insufficient, the judge shall advise the appellant that he or she may waive the defense of insufficient notice and proceed to a hearing on the merits or may ask the judge to decide the appeal based on the judge’s finding of insufficiency. The judge shall advise the appellant that a legally sufficient notice may be issued in the future and that the state may recoup benefits from the appellant. Senate Third Reading Passed, No Amendments, on to the Governor

Medicaid Provider Compliance Billing Safety Rules. The bill subjects a provider of Medicaid services to a civil monetary penalty if the provider improperly bills or seeks collection from a Medicaid recipient or the estate of a Medicaid recipient. Public Health Care & Human Services, Apr 4th, 1:30p Room 0107

Audits of Medicaid Client Correspondence. The bill directs the office of the state auditor (OSA) to conduct or cause to be conducted an audit of client communications, including letters and notices, sent to clients or potential clients in Medicaid programs. The audits will be conducted in 2020 and 2023 and thereafter at the discretion of the state auditor. Signed by the Governor

Remedies for Forcible Entry and Detainer. The bill adds to the current descriptions of forcible detainer the act of a person preventing an owner from access to or possession of property by locking or changing the lock on the property. The bill creates a procedure for the plaintiff to seek a temporary, mandatory injunction giving the plaintiff possession of the property if a complaint for forcible entry or detainer is filed. The procedure requires the plaintiff to store any personal property found on the property but allows the plaintiff to recover the costs of the storage. The bill establishes as new crimes related to forcible entry and detainer the crimes of unlawful occupancy and unlawful reentry. Judiciary + Appropriations, nothing scheduled

Domestic Violence Awareness Barbers Cosmetologists. A training bill to improve awareness. House, Third Reading, Final Passage, Apr 3rd, 10:00a

PERA Public Employees’ Retirement Association Retirees Employed By Rural School Districts. Concerning an extension of the employment after retirement limitations for retirees of the public employees’ retirement association employed by a rural school district after retirement. House, Third Reading, Final Passage, and Apr 3rd 10:00a

Harassment Sexual Orientation or Disability. The bill adds physical or mental disability and sexual orientation to the categories described in the harassment statute to make the statute consistent with Colorado’s law concerning bias-motivated crimes. Senate, State & Military Affairs, Apr 5th, 1:30, Room 357

Demographic Notes for Certain Legislative Bills. The bill requires the staff of the legislative council to prepare demographic notes on legislative bills in each regular session of the general assembly. The speaker of the House of Representatives, the minority leader of the House of Representatives, the president of the senate, and the minority leader of the senate are authorized to request 5 demographic notes each, or more at the discretion of the director of research of the legislative council. Finance, Refer Unamended to Appropriations

Create Family Caregiver Support Fund Tax check-off. Caregiving costs in Colorado and across the nation are through the roof with no end in sight. House, Second Reading, and Apr 3rd 10:00a

New Transportation Infrastructure Funding Revenue. This bill requires a ballot question to be submitted to voters in November 2017. The voters will be asked to approve a temporary sales and use tax rate increase with the money going solely to fund transportation infrastructure issues. Senate, Transportation, Nothing scheduled

Task Force Recommendations for Heart Attack Care. A task force was created out of SB13-225 to improve quality of care to STEM1 heart attack patients. This bill implements or modifies the recommendations of that panel. Senate, Health & Human Services, Nothing Scheduled

Protect Seniors from Financial Abuse. If licensed securities professionals (qualified individuals), while acting within the scope of their employment, reasonably suspect that an elderly or at-risk person is the subject of financial exploitation, the bill requires the broker-dealer or investment adviser to report to the commissioner of securities (commissioner). House, Second Reading, Apr 3rd, 10:00a

PACE Ombudsman Program Add Local Ombudsmen. There is urgent need to get more boots on the ground, especially for our rural citizens. Ombudsmen are our eyes and ears for those who have no voice. Refer Unamended to Appropriations

Construction Defect Actions Notice Vote Approval. Require majority approval by homeowners to initiate a legal action against a builder rather than leaving that decision to a homeowner association board. State & Military Affairs, Apr 5th, 1:30p, Room LSB-A

Data System Check for Employees Serving At-risk Adults. This bill establishes a state level program within the department of human services for a check of the department’s Colorado adult protective services data systems. Health, Insurance & Environment. Apr 13th, 1:30p, Room 0107

Colorado Secure Savings Plan. A retirement savings plan for private-sector employees in the form of an automatic enrollment payroll deduction individual retirement account. Business Affairs & Labor, Apr 13th, 1:30p, Room LSB-A

Local Government Officials on Nonprofit Boards. This bill specifies it is neither a conflict of interest nor a breach of fiduciary duty or the public trust for a local government official to serve on the board of directors of a nonprofit entity. Local Government, Apr 12th, 1:30p, Room 0107

Repeal Colorado Health Benefit Exchange. Repeals the Colorado Health Benefit Exchange Act of 2010 and gives that entity one year to ‘wind up its affairs’ by January 1st, 2018. Finance Committee, Refer Unamended to Appropriations.

Access to Providers for Medicaid Recipients. Concerning access by Medicaid recipients to non-enrolled medical providers. State & Military Affairs, April 13th, Upon Adjournment, Room LSB-A

Study Transportation Access for People with Disabilities. How can advanced technologies improve and increase access for people with disabilities? This would be a pilot project throughout the year. Signed by the Governor

Transportation Network Company Drivers Medical Certificate Not Required. The bill eliminates the requirement for a medical certificate for persons who drive for transportation network companies.  Transportation & Energy, Apr 12th, 1:30p, Room 0112

Construction Defect Claim Allocation of Defense Costs. Concerning a requirement for equitable allocation of the costs of defending a construction defect claim. This is just one bill expected on the construction defects issue. Business, Labor & Technology Committee, Refer Amended to Appropriations

Transparency in Direct Pay Health Care Prices. Concerning a requirement that health care providers disclose the charges they impose for common health care services when payment is made directly rather than by a third party. Senate, Concur, Repass, Nothing scheduled

Income Tax Deduction for Military Retirement Benefits. Concerning a state income tax deduction for military retirement benefits. Finance Committee. Refer Unamended to Appropriations

Allow Medicaid Home Health Services. Removes restriction that services be provided in the home alone. Health & Human Services Committee, Refer Unamended to Appropriations

Consumer Right to Know Electric Utility Charges. Concerning consumers’ right to know their electric utility charges by requiring investor-owned electric utilities to provide their customers with a comprehensive breakdown of cost on their monthly bills. Transportation & Energy, Apr 12th, 1:30p, Room 0112

Improve Medicaid Client Correspondence. Ensure due process is being followed. Health & Human Services, Refer Amended to Appropriations

Insurance Commissioner Investigation of Provider Complaints. Requires the commissioner to investigate provider complaints and notify the provider of the results of the investigation. Business Labor & Technology, Nothing scheduled

Access to Prescription Drug Monitoring Program. Concerning access to the electronic prescription drug monitoring program. Third Reading Passed, no Amendments, on to the Governor

Statutory Definition of Construction Defect. Concerning the statutory definition of a construction defect for purposes of the Construction Defect Action Reform Act. Business, Labor & Technology, Nothing scheduled

Homeowners’ Association Construction Defect Lawsuit Approval Timelines. The bill states that when the governing documents of a common interest community require mediation or arbitration of a construction defect claim and the requirement is later amended or removed, mediation or arbitration is still required for a construction defect claim. Veterans & Military Affairs, Apr 19th, 1:30p, Room LSB-A

Prohibit Carrier from Requiring Alternative Drug. Prohibits a carrier from requiring a covered person to undergo step therapy. In House, Health & Environment, Apr 11th, Upon Adjournment, Room 0107

Out of Network Providers Payments Patient Notice. The bill outlines the method for a health insurer to use in determining the amount it must pay an out-of-network provider that rendered covered services to a covered person at an in-network facility and requires the health insurer to pay the out-of-network provider directly. The bill also establishes an independent dispute resolution process by which an out-of-network provider may obtain review of a payment from a health insurer. Business, Labor & Technology, Apr 10th, 2:00p, SCR 354

Strengthen Colorado Behavioral Health Crisis System. The bill clarifies the intent of the general assembly for establishing a coordinated behavioral health crisis response system (crisis system). Judiciary. Refer Amended to Appropriations

Automated Driving Motor Vehicles. The bill declares that the regulation of automated driving systems is a matter of statewide concern, and, therefore, local authorities are prohibited from regulating these systems. The use of automated driving systems is authorized if the system is capable of conforming to every state and federal law applying to driving. If not, a person testing a system is required to coordinate with the Colorado state patrol and the Colorado department of transportation. House Second Reading, Apr 3rd, 10:00a

Expand ‘Notice to Quit’ ‘Notice of Rent Increase’ from 7 days to 21 days. Allowing more time for the transition prevents a host of additional problems down the road. Local Government, Apr 12th, 1:30p, Room 0107

*Strongly Support      **Support      ***Oppose      ****Strongly Oppose

View Colorado Senior Lobby’s Current Bill Sheet – CLICK HERE
– Steve

Steve Grund serves as Policy Chair for the Colorado Aging Commission and as a legislative liaison for the Colorado Senior Lobby. The Senior Space, however, is a reflection of his views only.
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