This week the General Assembly passed the most comprehensive oil and gas reform in decades, the sponsor of the bill to repeal the death penalty voluntarily pulled the bill, and the Equal Pay for Equal Work Act moved forward in the Senate. The House passed the budget bill on Thursday and Friday and next week the JBC will meet as the conference committee to reconcile differences and ensure it is a balanced budget.
The House added several amendments to the Long Bill during a lengthy budget debate on Thursday. A key amendment added was $70 million for transportation, a lesser amount than the $106 million added in the Senate, but a figure that brings the total General Fund investment in roads and bridges to $300 million. Next week the Joint Budget Committee will meet to reconcile differences between the two versions of the Long Bill and bring a balanced budget for re-passage. The following House amendments were added to the Long Bill on Thursday:
Increase $70 million General Fund for transportation
Increase $2.9 million total funds with $1.5 million General Fund for Personal Home Care provider rates
Increase $829,000 for the Victim Information Notification System.
Add a footnote to rollforward authority for the Family Planning Program from FY2018-19 to FY2019-20.
Increase $500,000 General Fund to the Department of Public Health and Environment for suicide prevention.
Add a footnote to the Department of Corrections expressing that soft-soled shoes will be available to inmates with diabetes.
Increase $168,900 General Fund for nutrition programs for K-12 schools through the Department of Education.
Increase $500,000 total funds with $250,000 General Fund for neonatal and pediatric intensive care unit provider rates.
Increase $3 million for the Wildfire Mitigation Grant Program.
Add a footnote clarifying that $1 million of the already included increase in the budget for specialty education programs at University of Colorado is intended to be used for scholarships for underrepresented minority students at the School of Medicine
Increase $500,000 of Marijuana Tax Cash Fund for the Tony Grampsas Youth Program
Increase $5.4 million Marijuana Tax Cash Fund for care coordinator trackers, related to one of the opioid bills
Adds a footnote to say that the Department of Public Health and Environment should study the potency of THC in marijuana and potency impacts on health.
SB19-181, Protect Public Welfare Oil and Gas Operations, has been one of the more controversial bills of this legislative session. The Senate concurred with House amendments to the bill and then repassed the measure. The bill awaits Governor Polis’s signature to become law. Industry voiced concern throughout the process that the bill could create a de facto ban or moratorium on new oil and gas permitting by allowing local governments to impose strict regulations. The amendments that were added eased concerns from industry, but the Colorado Oil and Gas Association remained opposed to the bill. Amendments added language to require the regulation of oil and gas operations to be “necessary and reasonable,” in an attempt to prevent local governments or the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) from enacting unwarranted bans or moratoriums on new development. Another amendment professionalized the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission so that it would meet full time. However, a central piece of the bill remains to change the mission of the COGCC to regulate oil and gas in a manner that protects public health and safety.
Before SB19-182, the bill to repeal capital punishment in Colorado, could see a vote on the Senate floor, Senator Gonzales postponed it until May 4th, the day after the legislative session ends. The bill’s process began with an abrupt introduction and a committee hearing scheduled only a couple days later. Sen. Fields, a Democrat from Aurora, came out opposed to the bill and was shocked when the bill was introduced without advance notice to her and other victims’ families. Two of her son’s murderers are on death row in Colorado. The other co-prime sponsor on SB19-182, Senator Williams, disagreed with her colleague and pushed for the bill to come to a vote. She did not stand with Senator Gonzales as she made her emotional announcement to pull the bill. Another attempt to repeal the death penalty will be back next year.
SB19-085, the Equal Pay for Equal Work Act passed the Senate this week on a party line 20-14 vote. Many changes were made previously in the Senate Judiciary Committee including a clarification that nothing in the bill limits a worker from filing a complaint with the Civil Rights Division. Geography, education or training, and travel were added as valid reasons for a difference in compensation. Also differing from the introduced bill, the number of years of back pay an employee could receive was reduced from 6 to 3 years. Passing the bill on second reading confirmed these changes made in the Senate Judiciary Committee in late February. Now the bill moves to the House.
The conversation of rising prescription drug costs continued under the gold dome on Wednesday in the House Health and Insurance Committee. HB19-1296, Prescription Drug Cost Reduction Measures, was considered and passed 7-4 along party lines with Democrats in support and Republicans opposed. The bill sponsors, Rep. Jackson and Rep. Jaquez Lewis, shared that a central tenant of the bill is to require rebates that carriers receive on prescription drugs to be passed on to consumers at the time of sale. The bill would also increases reporting requirements for insurance carriers, prescription drug manufacturers, and pharmacy benefit managers. The Commissioner of Insurance would use this information to perform analyses and make policy recommendations to lower prescription drug prices. Prescription drug manufacturers would be required to provide notice before specified price increases take place. Pharmaceutical manufacturers testified as opposed to the bill, especially provisions of the bill that would require advanced notice for price increases. Several amendments were added to the bill, but a change to the rebate language in the bill was not vote on in light of significant opposition from insurers. The sponsors vowed to continue discussions about that component prior to the vote on the House floor.
HB19-1168, the bill to create a state reinsurance program, passed the House on second reading on Friday after several amendments were added. Initially the reinsurance program was to be funded by reductions in payments to hospitals via rate-setting on provider services to be determined by the Commissioner of Insurance at a certain attachment point. Facing stiff opposition from providers and uncertainty over how the Trump Administration would react to a waiver request based on rate-setting, the sponsors and Polis Administration agreed to a revised approach. An amendment took out the rate setting portion of the bill, instead allowing the Insurance Commissioner to assess a fee to hospitals for up to $150 million a year for the first two years and up to $500 million total over five years to fund the reinsurance program. The Insurance Commissioner is directed to consider exemptions for certain hospitals that generally serve higher needs areas or persons and have lower profit margins. The bill will head to a recorded vote in the House early next week.
HB19-1261, Climate Action Plan To Reduce Pollution, was heard in the House Energy and Environment Committee on Friday. The bill would set carbon emissions reductions goals of a 26% reduction by 2025, a 50% reduction by 2030 and a 90% reduction by 2050. It also would require the Air Quality Control Commission (AQCC) to adopt rules to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It passed the Committee with an amendment added to include any additional legislative recommendations be included in reports to the General Assembly. The bill passed 7-4 along party lines to the Appropriations Committee after many hours of testimony from utilities, environmental advocates, and members of the public.