The Legislative Council met Tuesday, November 10, 2015, to review all of the bills recommended to them by the legislative study committees that met during the 2015 interim. With the exception of one Transportation Legislation Review Committee bill that did not require Legislative Council approval, the Legislative Council approved all of the bills, resolutions, and memorials presented by the 2015 interim committees.
This week’s article summarizes the recommendations from six of the 11 interim study committees that met this year. Next week, LegiSource will post summaries of the remaining five committees.
The Colorado Health Insurance Exchange Oversight Committee
The Colorado Health Insurance Exchange Oversight Committee met five times over the 2015 interim and is scheduled to have one more meeting in December. The committee received briefings from the exchange board and staff at most of the meetings and, per its statutory charge, covered a range of topics pertaining to the operations and finances of the exchange.
At the last meeting, the committee considered four bills and voted to move one bill forward for consideration by Legislative Council as follows:
Bill A: Concerning the use of qualified insurance brokers to enroll eligible participants in health benefit plans through the Colorado health benefit exchange. This bill requires the Colorado Health Benefit Exchange to establish a system to refer consumers to qualified insurance brokers to enroll consumers in health benefit plans. The established system must include the installation of a call center and the necessary software to make referrals. The prime sponsors of the bill are Senator Martinez Humenik and Representative Sias.
All of the bills that the committee considered are available for review on the committee’s website. For questions concerning the Colorado Health Insurance Exchange Oversight Committee, contact Kristin Forrestal.
Early Childhood and School Readiness Legislative Commission
The Early Childhood and School Readiness Legislative Commission created in section 26-6.5-203, C.R.S., met six times from June through October. They heard testimony and discussed a wide range of subjects related to early childhood care and education, including operations of the Colorado child care assistance program, child care quality initiatives, early childhood mental health and school discipline, continuity from preschool and kindergarten, child welfare, access to child care, home visitation programs, and child care licensing. The commission also collaborated with the early childhood leadership commission regarding early childhood issues.
The commission requested five bills. Of those five, the commission recommended three to the Legislative Council as follows:
Bill A: Concerning the start of the child tax credit. In 2013, the General Assembly created a state income tax credit that low- and middle-income taxpayers could claim for each child under six years old. The amount of the credit was based on a related federal child tax credit and a taxpayer’s income. But the credit is only allowed after the United States congress enacts a version of the “Marketplace Fairness Act,” which could lead to increased sales tax collections. This bill repeals the contingent start of the tax credit and instead allows the credit to be claimed for all years beginning with the 2016 tax year. The prime sponsors of the bill are Representative Singer and Senators Merrifield and Kefalas (joint prime sponsors).
Bill B: Concerning removing certain limitations on the pilot program to mitigate cliff effect for low-income families who are working and receiving child care assistance. The department of human services is operating a pilot program to look at ways to mitigate the “cliff effect” that low-income families who are working and receiving child care assistance often experience. The pilot program has been limited to 10 counties. This bill removes the limit and allows the executive director of the department to select additional counties to participate in the pilot, subject to available appropriations. The prime sponsors of the bill are Senator Martinez Humenik and Representative Pettersen.
Bill C: Concerning a task force to address the child care needs of low-income parents of young children as the parents seek to advance their education. This bill creates a task force to address the child care needs of low-income parents of young children as the parents seek to advance their education. The task force consists of the leaders of several departments; parents and representatives of child advocacy organizations; and employees of county departments of human services. The task force has several duties, including identifying and reducing, if possible, barriers to obtaining child care from the range of available governmental and private child care sources, determining whether existing child care resources are adequate, reviewing and streamlining the processes for providing child care for parents, and communicating the availability of child care from public and private sources to parents who are seeking education or training. The prime sponsors of the bill are Representative Pettersen and Senator Merrifield.
All of the bills that the commission considered are available for review on the commission’s website. For questions concerning the Early Childhood and School Readiness Legislative Commission, contact Julie Pelegrin.
Police Officers’ and Firefighters’ Pension Reform Commission
The Police Officers’ and Firefighters’ Pension Reform Commission met once during the 2015 interim for an annual briefing from the Fire and Police Pension Association (FPPA) and to consider three bills recommended by the FPPA Board of Directors (Board) for introduction during the 2016 legislative session. Based on the Board’s recommendations, the commission approved the following two bills:
Bill A: Concerning optional affiliation with the fire and police pension association by a county sheriff department that does not participate in social security. Legislation passed in 2003 allows county sheriff departments that participate in social security to affiliate with the FPPA. The bill allows sheriff departments that do not participate in social security to participate in the FPPA. The prime sponsors of the bill are Representatives Melton and Salazar (joint prime sponsors) and Senator Jones.
Bill B: Concerning modifications to the statewide death and disability plan administered by the fire and police pension association. A member of FPPA who has a temporary disability and returns to work or retires can receive contributions from the statewide death and disability plan to the member’s normal retirement plan for his or her time on temporary disability. This allows the member to receive a full retirement benefit. Current law requires a transfer from the statewide death and disability plan to the member’s normal retirement plan at the rate of 16% of the member’s monthly base salary for the time that the member received temporary disability benefits, even if the contribution rate for the member’s normal retirement plan was less than 16%. The bill changes the contribution rate to an amount equal to the employer and employee contribution rate being made to the member’s normal retirement plan at the time of the disability, not to exceed 16% of the member’s monthly base salary.
Currently, FPPA employers are required to ask prospective employees to complete a statewide standard health history form, and the prospective employees are required to complete the form before they may begin employment. The bill changes this requirement and now requires that a newly hired FPPA member complete and submit the form to the FPPA within 30 days of the newly hired member’s first day of employment. The prime sponsor of the bill is Representative Van Winkle.
Off-highway Vehicle Interim Committee
After several years of unsuccessful legislation to address the registration of off-highway vehicles bill, the Executive Committee created the Off-highway Vehicle Interim Committee to work on the issues. The committee met several times to hear from off-highway vehicle enthusiasts, dealers, counties, hunters and environmentalists plus representatives of state patrol, municipalities, insurers, hospitals, disabled veterans, and many others. After all the testimony, the committee considered two bills and recommended one of them to the Legislative Council.
Bill A: Concerning the registration of off-highway vehicles with the division of parks and wildlife. The bill makes several major changes to current law: Local authorities may require driver’s licenses and insurance, and these requirements are exempted from the rule that local ordinances must be consistent with state-promulgated rules; local authorities may require a person to register with the county clerk before a person may operate an off-highway vehicle on the road; and local authorities may enter into cooperative agreements with federal land management agencies. The bill creates a voluntary registration program. But the voluntary registration program does not apply to trails unless a local government classifies a trail as a road.
The bill also imposes several requirements and restrictions on off-highway vehicles and the persons who drive them. These include: Requiring a driver’s license to drive on a road, unless waived by a local authority; issuing license plates for off-highway vehicles; requiring drivers to obey the rules of the road; prohibiting off-highway vehicles on limited-access highways and roads with a speed limit of 45 miles per hour or more; requiring eye protection; requiring helmets for minor drivers and passengers; requiring brakes and, if driven at night, headlamps and tail lamps; imposing a speed limit of 40 miles per hour; and including off-highway vehicles in the careless driving and reckless driving statutes. The prime sponsors are Representative Brown and Senator Donovan.
The School Safety and Youth in Crisis Interim Committee
The School Safety and Youth in Crisis Committee is created in section 22-15-101 , C.R.S., and charged with the following duties:
- Study issues relating to school safety and the prevention of threats to the safety of students, teachers, administrators, employees, and volunteers who are present on the grounds of each public and private school in the state;
- Study and evaluate programs and methods for identifying and monitoring students in crisis;
- Develop standardized criteria for school personnel to use in assessing the potential threat posed by one or more students; and
- Study and evaluate the implementation of S.B.15-213 (the “Claire Davis School Safety Act”).
The committee met five times during the interim and heard testimony from many diverse stakeholders, including teachers, students, parents, school districts, charter schools, law enforcement officers, mental health professionals, and social workers. On October 27, the committee considered seven bill drafts. At the onset of the discussion, various bill sponsors withdrew all but two of the requested bills. The committee then discussed the remaining two bill drafts, but both of the drafts failed to pass a majority vote of the legislative committee members. As a result, the committee is not advancing any legislation in the 2016 session.
Water Resources Review Committee
The Water Resources Review Committee (WRRC) had a busy interim this year. With 15 hearings throughout Colorado, the WRRC spent a lot of time together. The chair of the committee, Senator Ellen Roberts, reflected on more than one occasion that the WRRC was “like a family” this interim. Nine of the WRRC’s hearings were held pursuant to Senate Bill 14-115, which requires the WRRC to hold hearings in each of the nine water basins in the state to obtain public feedback on the draft Colorado Water Plan.
As with all families, the WRRC did not always agree. At its final hearing on October 29, 2015, the WRRC considered five bills and three resolutions. Requiring a two-thirds majority vote to recommend legislation for the Legislative Council’s consideration, four of the five bills failed, and the final bill was withdrawn from consideration. All three of the resolutions passed, however, and were recommended to the Legislative Council. The resolutions are summarized below:
Resolution 2: Concerning Timely Access to Federal Lands for Dam Restoration. The resolution urges the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management to respond promptly to requests for permission to access a dam located on federal land when the owner or operator of the dam requests access to the dam for the purpose of maintenance, repairs, or restoration. The prime sponsors are Representatives Coram and Mitsch Bush and Senator Baumgardner.
Memorial 3: Concerning the need for Congress to fund catastrophic wildfire response costs outside of federal forest management agencies’ normal budgets. The resolution encourages Congress to enact laws to protect forest land management agencies’ ability to mitigate the risk of catastrophic wildfires and manage lands within their jurisdiction by funding catastrophic wildfire response in the same manner that natural disasters are funded. The prime sponsors are Senators Jones and Roberts and Representatives Coram and Vigil.
Memorial 6: Concerning protection from liability for voluntary reclamation of abandoned hard rock mines. The resolution urges Congress to pass legislation establishing a Good Samaritan exemption from liability under the “Clean Water Act” and the “Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980” (Superfund), to encourage third-party remediation of abandoned hard rock mines. The prime sponsors are Senator Roberts and Representatives Coram and Mitsch Bush.
All of the bills, resolutions, and memorials that the committee considered are available for review on the committee’s website. For questions concerning the Water Resources Review Committee, contact Jennifer Berman.