Happy New Year!
I’m always excited about the new opportunities a new year brings. Last year, we made remarkable progress on so many policies to help the people of Colorado. This year, we’re set to continue that progress with a twist – it’s an election year, so the temperature’s going to be even hotter than last year.
That said, I have a great deal of confidence in my colleagues. We showed that we’re willing to do the work, researching tough topics and engaging with stakeholders in diverse communities and across the political spectrum to create the best policies. As a result, 95% of the bills signed into law by Governor Polis last year passed with bipartisan support.
It should be no surprise, then, that the first bill we introduced this session has bipartisan sponsorship in both the House and the Senate. There has been a growing consensus about the response to the developing teen vaping epidemic, and while we passed good legislation to empower local governments to regulate tobacco retailers last year, we need to do more. I’ve been part of a working group all summer/fall that successfully reached bipartisan agreement on how to increase the purchase age to 21 across Colorado with appropriate enforcement of retailers and prohibitions on direct-to-consumer online sales. Check out House Bill 20-1001.
The interim also kept me quite busy with two interim committees: the Opioid & Other Substance Use Disorders (SUD) committee and the Investor-Owned Utilities (IOU) committee. I’ll be continuing that work this session by carrying several bills through the legislative process. For the SUD committee, I’m carrying five bills that continue the effort started in 2017 to curb Colorado’s opioid epidemic and build a functional treatment/recovery infrastructure. I’m particularly proud of a provision in the prevention bill that will require insurance companies to cover alternatives to opioids with limited copays.
On the IOU committee, I was excited to once again immerse myself into renewable energy policy – a topic on which my predecessor, Rep. Max Tyler, led the state for his seven years. I will be working on a few bills in the energy policy space this year.
Much of my work this session will continue to focus on health care costs. I’m so proud of what we accomplished last session, but costs are still out of control and we need to do more. I am very involved in conversations about continuing the reinsurance program and establishing a public option – both of which are coming under extreme pressure from hospitals and insurance companies, who have invested some of their multi-billion-dollar profits into TV and mail ad campaigns over the last few months. While these stakeholders may have important feedback on how we change policy, we can’t let their desire to protect the status quo trump the needs of the people who are struggling to afford the high cost of health care (not to mention the high costs of housing, higher education, child care, and more).
My first bill, however, is about protecting our democracy.Colorado led the nation in 2018 by passing two constitutional amendments to reform the redistricting process for congressional and state legislative districts. The districts will now be drawn by nonpartisan staff according to unbiased criteria, approved by independent commissions, and subject to clear rules about public meetings and judicial review. However, for county commissioner districts, there are no such rules. In most cases, this isn’t a huge problem because most Colorado counties elect their commissioners countywide. Still, in home-rule counties and/or counties larger than 70,000 people that have increased from three to five commissioners of which at least some are elected by individual districts, there is a risk of partisan gerrymandering. House Bill 20-1073 will reform this system by following the model of Amendments Y & Z.
It feels like there’s plenty more to say, but I think I’ve written enough words for one newsletter. More soon. Until then, please feel free to reach out about anything you need this session! And if you’d like to schedule a time to visit the Capitol, please contact my legislative aide, Jakki Davison, at email@example.com.
P.S. Thanks to all of you who donated food and/or socks at our November town hall! We helped the Action Center break a world record when the collected 37,556 pairs of socks on one day!