Part time, you say?

Colorado’s legislature is part-time and only in session from January through May, but if you’re trying to actually get something done, the summer days fill up pretty quickly!

So how have I been spending my time?

Engaging with My Constituents
Since the end of the session, I’ve been going all over the district to neighborhood meetings and various events. I’m still getting a good amount of phone calls and emails from people who need a little help or just want to talk about the issues, and I’m trying to be as responsive as I can be!

Developing Policy Ideas and Working with Stakeholders
The first legislative session is challenging for many reasons, including the fact that you’re so busy during campaign season that you don’t get to start truly working on bill ideas until after the election. This summer, I’ve been getting the ball rolling on a bunch of policy ideas. It starts with meetings with experts and other stakeholders to learn about their perspectives, identify policy and political issues, and understand the potential unintended consequences. There’s a lot of reading about these complicated topics… and then there are more meetings.

One of my most exciting projects involves the development of a bipartisan health care agenda for 2018. Despite the uncertainty at the federal level, there are many things we can do at the state level. I’m working to build a bipartisan group of legislators to study the recommendations of the Colorado Commission on Affordable Health Care, which was tasked at getting to the bottom of the rising cost of care. Their final report was released in June and contains some interesting ideas, particularly when it comes to increasing transparency. Rep. Susan Lontine and I organized a presentation last week and invited all members of the General Assembly to hear the recommendations. We’re now trying to identify key partners on both sides of the aisle to get together, meet with more stakeholders, and start to come up with some bill ideas for 2018.

I’m also working closely with the Division of Insurance (DOI) on how Colorado might implement a reinsurance program, which is possibly the number one thing we can do to stabilize the individual market. I passed a bill last session to authorize DOI to study the problem, and I’ve attended every stakeholder meeting they’ve held. Alaska is putting in place a reinsurance program right now, and there are exciting possibilities for putting in place such a program in Colorado too.

Interim Committee to Study the Opioid Crisis
Every year, a limited number of committees are established to meet over the interim and study complicated policy problems. This year, I was appointed to serve on the Opioid and Other Substance Use Disorders Interim Study Committee. We have had two all-day meetings so far to hear testimony from substance abuse treatment experts, law enforcement, doctors, dentists, pharmacists, insurance companies, the state Medicaid administrators, and more.

I’ve been impressed with the work going on to date, and I think we will be successful in coming up with several pieces of legislation that will enhance programs to prevent opioid addiction, improve early intervention, and expand counseling and medically-assisted treatment programs for those who need help getting clean.

Our meetings are open to the public, so if you’re interested, come on down! The next meeting is Tuesday, August 22nd at 9:30am down at the Capitol in room 271 (2nd floor, between the elevators).


With all of this going on, I can’t say it feels like “summer break,” but I’ve made an effort to get out of town for a few long weekends of hiking, camping, and spending time with family and friends. I feel very lucky to live in this beautiful state, and I feel very lucky to have a job in which I get to spend my working hours trying to make life better for all Coloradans.

Thank you for your continuing support.

Instead of Turning People Away, Suburban Denver Could Surround Rail Stations With Transit-Oriented Development (Denver Streetsblog)

by David Sachs (June 28, 2017)

Recent news out of suburban Denver has been decidedly anti-growth. First it was Greenwood Village voters shunning compact, walkable development that would have allowed more people to live near the Orchard RTD station. This week, in a disturbing development in Jefferson County, elected officials nearly turned down $1.7 million in federal funds for affordable housing and sidewalks because of a perceived “war on the suburbs.”

After a six-hour debate Tuesday over whether Jeffco should take money from the Department of Housing and Urban Development for sidewalks, up to 500 new housing units, and more affordable homes for low-income residents and people of color, commissioners grudgingly accepted — with caveats, lest the county get too diverse and accepting of new people…

“It makes sense that we’re having a robust debate about growth in Jeffco, but it’s crazy that anyone would want to decline the HUD funding,” said Rep. Chris Kennedy, who represents Jefferson County in the General Assembly. “Our local governments depend on these funds to meet the affordable housing needs of their residents. In many parts of Jeffco, these funds have been used to plan smart growth and concentrate more units near transit or commercial areas so that we limit the number of new cars on our roads.”

Read the whole story at denver.streetsblog.org.

Taking Real Action to Address Our Affordable Housing Crisis

Like homeowners across Colorado, I received a notice of valuation from our county assessor earlier this year. I heard from many Jeffco residents that they were shocked to see the huge increases in property value, but honestly, I wasn’t all that surprised. After all, we’ve been hearing about skyrocketing housing costs for a few years now.

Colorado’s economy is among the strongest in the country with unemployment now at a record low of 2.3 percent. We also have some of the country’s lowest income taxes and residential property taxes, which attracts new residents but has made it impossible for growth to pay its own way. Furthermore, we can all attest to the Colorado quality of life, so it’s really no surprise to see how many people are moving here – and that’s the main thing driving increasing housing costs.

This year, your state legislators worked on several ideas to address the affordable housing crisis and provide relief for both homeowners and renters.

First, we achieved a major bipartisan breakthrough on construction defects reform. After months at the negotiating table, a consensus bill to settle a major aspect of the issue passed both chambers unanimously. For years, developers have claimed that our laws encouraged “frivolous lawsuits” and thus discouraged the construction of affordable condos, a critical missing piece in our market-rate affordable housing picture. The bill requires “informed consent” and a vote of all homeowners in an HOA before a lawsuit is filed, addressing the builders’ stated concerns while protecting homeowners’ rights regarding their most important asset—their home. Now that this bill is law, it’s time for builders to step up to the plate and build affordable condos.

Second, we increased investment in the construction of affordable housing. If we want apartments to be rented at more attainable prices, we need to spend public dollars to make it possible for builders to construct affordable rental properties. I was pleased that we were able to allocate money from the marijuana tax cash fund for the construction of housing for some of our most vulnerable Coloradans.

However, I was incredibly disappointed to see a bill killed by Senate Republicans that would have provided a stable source of funding to build more affordable homes by increasing the documentary fee on home purchases by one penny per $100 of home value. This is a smart way to create sustainable funding as newcomers to Colorado would also pay this fee. The revenue from this small change would have provided stable funding to help prevent Colorado families from being priced out of their neighborhoods.

Finally, we ran a series of bills to improve renters’ rights. One new law will require 21 days’ notice before a landlord can raise rent or end a month-to-month tenancy, and another will reform the tax lien process for mobile home owners so that they don’t lose their homes over minor tax delinquencies. These are good steps, but we need to do more for renters. We also worked hard to pass bills to limit rental application fees to actual costs and to require landlords to provide tenants with copies of their leases and receipts for cash payments, but these bills were killed by Senate Republicans. As more and more Coloradans are renting, it’s more important than ever to keep fighting for basic fairness for renters.

These issues are not going away. There are some who would like to build a wall around our state or set arbitrary growth caps that would only make housing affordability crisis worse, but I believe we must take real action.

We must plan for smart growth in areas where people have access to transit and bike paths so that we minimize the number of cars we’re adding to our already-congested roads. And we must make sure growth pays its way in Colorado so that we can build more affordable housing, preserve our neighborhoods, and invest in improving our schools, roads, and bridges to accommodate our growing population while protecting the quality of life that we Coloradans enjoy so much.

I will continue working on these issues in the years ahead, and I would love your feedback. Please call my office at (303) 866-2951 or email me at chris.kennedy.house@state.co.us.

This op-ed appeared in the June 22, 2017 issue of the Lakewood Sentinel and the June 19, 2017 issue of the Neighborhood Gazette.

100% Scores from Conservation Colorado, NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado, OneColorado, and many more!

100% Scores from Conservation Colorado, NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado, OneColorado, and many more!

The summer solstice is apparently scorecard day for some of Colorado’s leading progressive organizations, and I’m honored to have earned a 100% score from these three:

Conservation Colorado – The Colorado Legislative Conservation Scorecard highlights the priorities of the conservation community for the 2017 legislative session. Here, you will find factual, nonpartisan information on bills related to our environment and how each member of the state legislature voted on issues that affect Colorado’s air, land, water, and people.

NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado – Every year in Colorado there are dozens of bills introduced that impact reproductive health, rights and justice in Colorado. See NARAL’s scorecard here.

OneColoradoOneColorado’s Legislative Scorecard highlights the priorities of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) Coloradans and their families in the 2017 legislative session. In this scorecard, you will find accurate, nonpartisan information on bills related to LGBTQ equality and how each member of the legislature voted on issues that affect Colorado’s LGBTQ community.

Many other organizations, including the Colorado Education Association, Colorado AFL-CIO, Women’s Lobby of Colorado, Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition, and Planned Parenthood Votes Colorado joined together with the three organizations above to compile the Colorado Values Scorecard, where I also scored 100%!

And last but not least, I also scored 100% with the Colorado Senior Lobby!

Colorado Passes Law Restricting Step Therapy! (Arthritis Foundation)

On May 2, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper signed Senate Bill 203 (SB 203) into law! This important bill stops insurance plans from requiring patients to go through step therapy for their medication if they previously went through step therapy protocols with their current or former insurer.

Step therapy, or ‘fail first,’ requires patients to try and fail a series of medications, typically cheaper drugs, before the insurance plan will cover the medication their health care provider originally prescribed. The bill increases access to care for arthritis patients by limiting step therapy practices in Colorado. Specifically, an insurer will not be allowed to require patients to go through step therapy if they already completed step therapy for the same drug, either with their current or former insurance provider…

We would like to thank Senator Nancy Todd, Representative Chris Kennedy and Representative Phil Covarrubias for their leadership in sponsoring the bill. The sponsors and their staff worked with stakeholders from the very start to ensure that step therapy protocols would be addressed by the Colorado legislature in 2017.

Read the full story at PublicNow.com.

Freshmen representatives instrumental in last-minute push to pass Open Records law (Complete Colorado)

Freshmen representatives instrumental in last-minute push to pass Open Records law (Complete Colorado)

by Sherrie Peif (June 2, 2017)

Just before Governor John Hickenlooper signed into law one of the most talked about bills of the 2017 legislative session, Senator John Kefalas, (D-Fort Collins) joked about the ups and downs of getting Senate Bill 17-040, known as Public Access to Government Files, through both chambers of the General Assembly…

Although supporters say there is still a long way to go with Colorado’s open records laws, the bill makes it easier for those seeking access to spreadsheets and other manipulatable data to obtain that data in its original format…

“The goal was to get it out of the Senate in a reasonable form,” Kefalas said. “They would have a lot of leverage in the House to take out the stuff that didn’t need to be in there and to add provisions that would strengthen the bill.”

That wasn’t quite as easy as first thought it would be, however. The bill’s House sponsor, Dan Pabon, (D- Denver) enlisted the help of freshman legislators Chris Kennedy, (D-Jefferson County) and Mike Weissman, (D-Arapahoe County) to strike a balance that would make the most stakeholders happy – or at least get them moving in the same direction.

Kennedy said he heard it the first time in the House Finance Committee, and it was clear there were a lot of issues that were going to make it hard to get it past his colleagues, so he asked Pabon what he could do to help.

Read the full story at CompleteColorado.com.

Read some great background from attorney Steve Zanzberg in the Fort Collins Coloradoan.

VIDEO: 2017 Highlights

VIDEO: 2017 Highlights

We covered quite a range of topics at the legislature this session, and it turns out I had a few things to say about many of them.

My amazing staff, Susannah and Cortland, put together a highlights video of many of my speeches on the House floor on topics ranging from capping rental application fees to increasing transparency in our health care system to regulating marijuana grown in the home. Check it out:

 

Interested in learning more? Click here for my full End-of-Session Report!

Getting to yes, just saying no: Lawmakers Everett, Hansen and Kennedy talk session votes (Colorado Statesman)

Getting to yes, just saying no: Lawmakers Everett, Hansen and Kennedy talk session votes (Colorado Statesman)

by Ernest Luning (May 25, 2017)

…Hansen and Kennedy, in turn, say they didn’t set out to vote ‘yes’ on every bill but, because of their own approach all session long, they wound up with bills they could get behind by the time they made it to final votes.

“We tried to work really hard in committees to improve bills before they got to the floor, so by the time we were here on third readings, we would have had a chance to amend pre-introduction, a chance to amend in committee — perhaps two committees — and make second-reading amendments,” Hansen says. “So, we tried to really put in a lot of work at the early part of the process so, by the time we got to thirds, we had something we could support.”

Read the whole story at ColoradoStatesman.com.