by Kate Meyer
The Legislative Council met October 14th, 2016, to review and approve bills recommended by interim study committees during the 2016 interim. The merits of each bill were not under consideration at this hearing; rather, the standard of review used by Legislative Council is whether the bills fit within the committees’ charges.
Of the bills that LegiSource summarized in Part 1 of this two-part series, every bill was approved by the Legislative Council except Bills “A” and “E” of the Committee on Cost-benefit Analysis of Legalized Marijuana in Colorado.
Below is a summary of the bills recommended by the remaining 2016 interim committees. Except where noted, the Legislative Council determined that the recommended bills fit within their respective committee charges and were passed out of Legislative Council.
Legislative Oversight Committee for the Continuing Examination of the Treatment of Persons with Mental Illness in the Criminal and Juvenile Justice Systems
The Legislative Oversight Committee for the Continuing Examination of the Treatment of Persons with Mental Illness in the Criminal and Juvenile Justice Systems is a statutorily created committee that meets both during the year and the interim. It met four times in 2016. This committee is unique in that it has an advisory task force, also created in statute.
The task force is directed to examine the identification, diagnosis, and treatment of persons with mental illness who are involved in the criminal and juvenile justice systems. This includes the examination of liability, safety, and cost as they relate to these issues. The task force met monthly throughout the year and reported its findings to the legislative committee. In 2016, the task force updated the oversight committee on the following topics:
- Housing for a person with a mental illness after his or her release from the criminal or juvenile justice system;
- Medication consistency, delivery, and availability; and
- Juvenile competency and restoration services.
The committee is responsible for overseeing the task force and recommending legislative changes, either on its own or at the suggestion of the task force. At its meeting on Aug. 22, 2016, the committee voted to draft six bills, two of which were not recommended to the Legislative Council. That left these four bills:
Bill A allows different state agencies to accept public or private money to provide ongoing, permanent staff assistance for the task force.
Bill B increases medication consistency for persons with mental illness who are involved at some capacity with the criminal or juvenile justice systems. This would involve the use of an agreed upon medication formulary, use of a pharmaceutical-cooperative purchasing entity for cost savings, and the development of processes by which basic patient-specific medication and treatment information can be shared between mental health and justice providers.
Bill C is related to increasing access to competency restoration services for juveniles and adults, including establishing the Office of Behavioral Health in the Department of Human Services as the entity responsible for the oversight of restoration education and the coordination of competency restoration services.
Bill D provides vouchers and additional housing resources for individuals with mental illnesses who are being released from incarceration.
Transportation Legislation Review Committee
The Transportation Legislation Review Committee toured south-central Colorado from Alamosa to Antonito. Several projects were visited, including one where a steel grate covers a hole in a bridge. The committee also learned about the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad.
The TLRC met twice during the interim at the Capitol. On both occasions, the committee heard from regulators, stakeholders, and other experts on a variety of transportation-related issues. The committee voted to draft six bills, but Representative Jon Becker withdrew one of his requests in order to allow every bill to be heard. The committee approved the following five bills:
Bill A requires the TLRC to meet five times before November 15, 2017, once in each geographic quadrant of the state and once in the Denver metropolitan area. The meeting must make available the 2016 research study of changes to the state transportation commission districts since the boundaries of the districts were last redrawn in 1991 and offer opportunities to the public to express opinions regarding whether the districts should be modified. The committee may consider the availability of remote testimony from a single geographic quadrant of the state or from the Denver metropolitan area.
Bill B increases the minimum weight for classification as a commercial vehicle for equipment purposes from 10,001 pounds to 16,001 pounds unless the vehicle is registered for use in interstate commerce. With respect to those vehicles used in commerce between 10,001 and 16,000 pounds, the chief of the Colorado state patrol may adopt rules to annually inspect these vehicles; enforce all requirements for the securing of loads in commercial vehicles; and enforce all requirements for the use of coupling devices.
Bill C, which did not pass out of Legislative Council, concerned infrastructure funding. Specifically, the bill would have:
- Authorized new transportation revenue anticipation notes (TRANs) after the final payments of principal and interest on TRANs authorized by voters in 1999 are made;
- Repealed a requirement that the state treasurer make conditional transfers of a specified percentage of total general fund revenues from the general fund to the capital construction fund and the highway users tax fund (HUTF) for state fiscal years 2017-18, 2018-19, and 2019-20;
- Required the state transportation commission to submit a ballot question to the voters of the state at the November 2017 statewide election, which, if approved, would authorize the executive director to issue additional TRANs in a maximum principal amount of $3.5 billion and with a maximum repayment cost of $5.5 billion once; required the proceeds to be used only for the 42 projects that are on the current priority list when the question is submitted to the electors; and specified additional transportation project contract award process requirements and limitations for a project to be funded; and
- Required 5% of state sales and use tax net revenue to be credited to the HUTF, paid from the HUTF to the state highway fund for use for payment of the notes and state transportation projects.
Bill D amends the definition of “autocycle” to explicitly exclude motorcycles, clarifies that the driver and each passenger in an autocycle ride in either a fully or partly enclosed seating area, and eliminates the requirements that an autocycle be equipped with airbags and a hardtop enclosure. The bill also amends the definitions of “motor vehicle” used in the safety belt and child restraint laws to clarify that those laws apply to autocycles.
Bill E prohibits a local government from imposing inspection requirements for underground petroleum storage tanks or charging inspection fees for the inspection of underground petroleum storage tanks.
2016 Interim Study Committee on Communication between the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing and Medicaid Clients
The Interim Study Committee on Communications Between the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing and Medicaid Clients was charged with studying the following policy areas:
- The current form and content of letters that are sent to Medicaid clients by the department and the frequency of those letters; and
- Whether the letters can be simplified and the content made clearer so as to improve the information that is communicated to Medicaid clients.
The committee met four times over the interim and heard testimony from state agencies, county Medicaid administrators, Medicaid clients, and advocates concerning Medicaid client correspondence. The committee’s work culminated in its approval of the following four bill drafts at its final meeting on September 29:
Bill A clarifies that a Medicaid recipient filing an appeal need not make an affirmative request in order for Medicaid benefits to continue during the appeal. Yet the form and electronic appeals filing process should include a method for the appellant to indicate if they do not want continuing benefits. The department must send a notice to the appellant confirming the continuation of benefits. In addition, the bill requires the form and electronic appeals process to include a check box or other method for requesting a county conference or reasonable accommodation during the appeals process. Finally, the appeal filing website must allow an appellant to submit sufficient supporting documents with the appeal form.
Bill B requires the administrative law judge hearing Medicaid appeals concerning the termination or reduction of an existing benefit to conduct a review of the legal sufficiency of the notice of action from which the appellant is appealing. If the notice is legally insufficient, the appellant may ask the judge to set aside the order or may waive the defense of insufficient notice and proceed to a hearing on the merits.
Bill C directs the office of the state auditor to conduct or cause to be conducted a performance audit of client communications sent to clients of applicants in Colorado Medicaid programs affecting or concerning eligibility for program benefits or services. The auditor is planned for the 2020 and 2023 calendar years and thereafter at the auditor’s discretion. The bill sets forth the audit requirements and requires the findings, conclusions, and recommendations resulting from the audit to be submitted to certain committees of the general assembly.
Bill D requires the department to engage in an ongoing process to create, test, and improve Medicaid client communications that concern eligibility for or the denial, reduction, suspension, or termination of a Medicaid benefit. Among other requirements included in the bill, the department ensures that client communications are accurate, readable, and understandable, clearly conveying the purpose of the letter or notice and the specific action or actions that a client must take. In certain types of notices, the department must explain the basis for the action, and, if relevant, specific information relating to household composition, income sources and amounts, and assets. To the extent practicable, the department shall test new or significantly revised client communications against the requirements in the bill with Medicaid clients, advocacy organizations, and county representatives prior to implementation. As part of testing, the department solicits feedback from a workgroup it establishes. The department prioritizes the improvement of client communications that affect clients with disabilities, seniors, and other vulnerable populations. Finally, the department will annually report on improvements.
To review the bills considered by the 2016 Interim Study Committee on Communication between the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing and Medicaid Clients, please visit the committee’s website by clicking here. For questions concerning the legislation, please contact Brita Darling.