by OLLS Staff
Several interim committees have met during the 2014 interim to examine a wide range of topics. They are wrapping up their work in the next couple of weeks and preparing recommendations for legislation that they will submit to the Legislative Council. This week, we’re summarizing the bills approved by the Transportation Legislation Review Committee, the Police Officers’ and Firefighters’ Pension Commission, the Legislative Oversight Committee Concerning the Treatment of Persons with Mental Illness in the Criminal and Juvenile Justice Systems, and the Early Childhood and School Readiness Legislative Commission.
Transportation Legislative Review Committee (TLRC)
The TLRC requested that the staff of the OLLS draft five potential bill concepts; considered three of the requested drafts at its September 9, 2014 meeting; and approved the following two bills as recommended legislation for the Legislative Council’s approval or disapproval:
Bill A “Concerning authorization for firefighter license plates to be issued for motorcycles.” The bill directs the Colorado department of revenue to issue firefighter license plates for motorcycles, passenger cars, trucks, or noncommercial or recreational motor vehicles that do not exceed 16,000 pounds empty weight. Currently, the department issues this plate for all of the listed vehicles except motorcycles. The prime sponsors of the bill, which will be a House Bill if approved, will be Representative Tyler and Senator Todd.
Bill B “Concerning funding for the safe routes to schools program.” For the 2015-16 fiscal year, the bill requires the Colorado department of transportation to award grants under the safe routes to school program using state money available to the department in a total amount of at least $3 million. The required total amount is reduced by the amount of any federal moneys received by the department for the program. Current law requires the department to award at least 20% but not more than 30% of the state grant money for noninfrastructure programs. The prime sponsors of the bill, which will be a House Bill if approved, will be Representatives Tyler and Mitsch Bush and Senator Todd.
Legislative Oversight Committee Concerning the Treatment of Persons with Mental Illness in the Criminal and Juvenile Justice Systems.
The legislative oversight committee considered and approved one bill as recommended to them by the task force concerning treatment of persons with mental illness in the criminal and juvenile justice systems.
Bill A “Concerning competency to proceed for juveniles involved in the juvenile justice system.” The bill changes the definition of “incompetent to proceed” and addresses the evaluation of competency to proceed for juveniles involved in the juvenile justice system. A subgroup of the task force, which included representatives from the district attorney’s office, the office of the public defender, the division of behavioral health, forensic psychology, the office of the child’s representative, and social workers, worked for several months to develop a definition of “incompetent to proceed” that allows the differences between juveniles and adults to be factored into a determination-of-competency evaluation. Updated definitions for “developmental disability”, “intellectual disability”, “mental capacity”, and “mental disability” are included in the bill. The prime sponsors of the bill, which will be a House Bill if approved, will be Representative Rosenthal and Senator Newell.
Police Officers’ and Firefighters’ Pension Reform Commission (Commission)
The Commission met once during the 2014 interim for an annual briefing from the Fire and Police Pension Association (FPPA) and to consider five bills recommended by the FPPA Board of Directors (Board) for introduction during the 2015 legislative session. Based on the Board’s recommendations, the Commission approved the following bills as recommended legislation for the Legislative Council’s approval or disapproval:
Bill A “Concerning the transfer of an individual’s retirement funds to the statewide defined benefit plan administered by the fire and police pension association.” Current law allows a member of the FPPA to roll over distributions from an eligible pension plan to the statewide defined benefit plan administered by the FPPA for other employment that isn’t covered by the statewide defined benefit plan. But, current law treats these roll overs as a purchase of service credit. The bill authorizes a separate process for a member to be granted service credit upon a qualified transfer of funds from an eligible pension plan for other employment that is not covered by the statewide defined benefit plan and maintains the current process for the purchase of service credit. The bill specifies that the Board will award service credit to the member in an amount that the Board calculates on an actuarially equivalent basis. The prime sponsors of the bill, which will be a Senate Bill if approved, will be Senator Jones and Representative Melton.
Bill B “Concerning additional authority of the board of directors of the fire and police pension association to assess administrative charges.” The bill authorizes the Board to promulgate rules for assessing interest on unpaid contributions to statewide plans, which rules may allow for the waiver of interest due for good cause. The interest rate will be one-half of one percent per month. The Board may also assess the individual plans administered by the FPPA with the reasonable actuarial, audit, and operational costs that the FPPA incurs in complying with regulatory requirements and that are attributable to each plan. The prime sponsors of the bill, which will be a Senate Bill if approved, will be Senator Ulibarri and Representative Court.
Bill C “Concerning the contribution rate for participants beginning membership in the fire and police pension association’s statewide defined benefit plan.” This bill specifies the contribution rate for an active employee of a municipality, fire protection district, fire authority, or fire improvement district who is directly involved in providing police or fire protection and who becomes a participant in the statewide defined benefit plan administered by the FPPA because of a merger, consolidation, or exclusion or dissolution proceeding among one or more employers. The contribution rate for these employees is the continuing uniform rate of contribution that the Board establishes as directed by statute. The prime sponsors of the bill, which will be a Senate Bill if approved, will be Senator Balmer and Representative Ginal.
Bill D “Concerning requirements for employee participation in a plan administered by the fire and police pension association.” A municipality that offers police or fire protection service and a special district, fire authority, or county improvement district that offers fire protection service (employer) must provide to its employees the pension benefits of the statewide defined benefit plan (defined benefit plan) administered by the FPPA. Currently, the department chief of a fire or police department may be exempt from the defined benefit plan upon written agreement and notice to the FPPA. The bill clarifies that, if a chief opts out of the defined benefit plan, federal law requires that the chief participate in either social security or a federal insurance contribution act (FICA) replacement plan. And, if a chief opts for a FICA replacement plan, the chief may participate in an employer-sponsored plan, the statewide money purchase plan, or the statewide hybrid plan. A chief who elects to become exempt from the defined benefit plan must participate in a plan with a contribution rate of at least 16% if the chief wants to maintain coverage in the statewide death and disability plan. In addition, currently, an employer that participates in the social security supplemental plan may also elect coverage under the statewide death and disability plan. Beginning January 1, 2017, an employer that elects coverage under the statewide death and disability plan must also participate in the social security supplemental retirement plan. The prime sponsors of the bill, which will be a Senate Bill if approved, will be Senator Balmer and Representative Ginal.
Bill E “Concerning a study of volunteer firefighter pension plans in the state.” The state auditor, in cooperation with the FPPA and the Department of Local Affairs (DOLA), must contract with a nationally recognized law firm with experience in federal tax law as it relates to public sector pension plans to study specified issues regarding the legal status of the volunteer firefighter pension plans in the state. The law firm must deliver a report detailing the findings of the study to the state auditor, FPPA, DOLA, and the Commission. The bill requires the state auditor, FPPA, and DOLA, upon receiving the report, to work collectively to develop recommendations for the General Assembly regarding changes to the system of volunteer firefighter pension plans based on the information contained in the report. The Commission must meet after it receives the report to hear a presentation of the report from a representative of the law firm and to hear a presentation from the state auditor’s office, FPPA, and DOLA regarding recommendations for the volunteer firefighter pension plans in the state. The Commission must discuss the presentations and, after hearing input from relevant stakeholders, decide whether to propose legislation relating to the funding and structure of the volunteer firefighter pension plans. The prime sponsors of the bill, which will be a Senate Bill if approved, will be Senator Ulibarri and Representative Melton.
Early Childhood and School Readiness Legislative Commission (ECSRLC)
The ECSRLC met four times during the interim to hear presentations and discuss several aspects of and policies related to early childhood care and education, including tax credits, professional development for early childhood education providers, family resource centers, and the family, friends, and neighbors programs for early childhood care. In addition, five working groups met to discuss specific aspects of early childhood care and education more in depth. The ECSRLC requested the OLLS staff to draft four bills. Ultimately, one was withdrawn and the Commission recommended the following three bills to the Legislative Council for approval:
Bill A “Concerning the treatment of child support for purposes of the Colorado works program.” When a person receives assistance through the Colorado works program, the person must assign the right to receive child support to the state as partial reimbursement for the assistance the person receives. The bill requires the department of human services to pass through to the person the amount of current child support that it collects as a result of the assignment. The department will report the amount of the pass through to the joint budget committee. The amount of child support that the person receives will not be counted as income for purposes of calculating the person’s basic cash assistance payment. The prime sponsors of the bill, which will be a Senate Bill if approved, will be Senators Kefalas and Marble and Representative Pettersen.
Bill B “Concerning the creation of an income tax credit for certain early childhood education providers.” For income tax years commencing on or after January 1, 2015, the bill allows an income tax credit to a taxpayer who is an early childhood education provider if:
- The taxpayer holds a Colorado early childhood professional credential issued by the department of education; and
- The taxpayer:
- Is employed, and has been employed for at least six months, by a child care center that accepts children through the Colorado child care assistance program; or
- Is a licensed family child care home provider who has been doing business for at least six months.
The amount of the income tax credit varies from $1,600 to $2,500 depending on the level of credential that the taxpayer holds. If the income tax credit is more than the amount of income taxes due, the department of revenue will refund to the taxpayer the amount of the credit that is not used. The prime sponsors of the bill, which will be a House Bill if approved, will be Representative Pettersen and Senator Todd.
Bill C “Concerning increasing the number of students enrolled in the Colorado preschool program as preschool students.” Starting in the 2015-16 budget year, the bill increases by 3,000 the number of students who can participate in the Colorado preschool program as either half-day or full-day preschool students. The prime sponsors of the bill, which will be a House Bill if approved, will be Representative Pettersen and Senators Kefalas and Todd.