Another legislative session has come to an end. I cannot believe I’ve been your State Representative for six years already, and that I only get to do this amazing job for two more years before term limits kick me out of office.
This session, we did some incredible work for the people of Colorado. We responded to the most pressing issues of the moment, including pandemic/economic recovery, cost of living, and public safety. But we also continued our progress on many other issues including improving our health care system, guaranteeing a high-quality public education for every kid, and protecting Colorado’s air, water, and land.
You can read all about our work including the session highlights on saving people money, housing and homelessness, student success, behavioral health, and wildfire mitigation, and the Colorado House Democrats’ 2022 end-of-session report.
For my part, I focused on several bills that I’m very excited about. Here are the things I’m most proud to have accomplished this session.
Transforming Primary Care (HB22-1325 & HB22-1302)
I truly believe that some of the most meaningful things we can do to reform our health care system are to (a) pay for value instead of volume, and (b) integrate behavioral health care into our primary care settings. I sponsored two bills that together will advance these alternative payment and care integration models and provide grants to help primary care practices make the transition. Read more in my recent op-ed in the Colorado Sun.
Reducing Emissions of Toxic Air Contaminants (HB22-1244)
Did you know that Colorado doesn’t have an air toxics program? Well, that’s going to change as soon as Governor Polis signs this bill. We have various regulations related to greenhouse gases, as well as ground-level ozone and the other EPA criteria pollutants, but there are numerous hazardous air pollutants that go largely unregulated. This bill funds six new monitoring stations across the state that will measure ambient levels of benzene, formaldehyde, ethylene oxide, and dozens of other air toxics. It also directs the Air Pollution Control Division to propose health-based standards for the highest priority toxics and establish emission control regulations that will require the biggest polluters to install new technologies to reduce their negative impacts on nearby communities.
Helping Seniors Afford Housing (HB22-1205)
Colorado seniors who have owned a home for 10+ years are eligible to receive the “senior homestead exemption” which gives them a break on their property taxes. But what about seniors who rent? Or those who have owned their home for fewer than ten years? This bill provides a one-time, refundable tax credit to these seniors to help them afford the high cost of housing.
Expanding Consumer Protections for Utility Customers (HB22-1018)
Sometimes it’s hard to pay the bills, but that doesn’t mean you should have your power or gas shut off without adequate warning. The bill builds on previous years’ efforts (SB20-030, HB21-1105) by setting more limited hours for disconnections, requiring same-day reconnections when bills are paid by a certain time, and requiring more robust communications from utilities before they shut off your power, including information about how to apply for payment assistance programs.
Helping People Make the Most of LEAP and SNAP Benefits (HB22-1380)
Some of our state databases don’t talk to each other, and that means that we’re not always able to connect people with all the support to which they may be entitled. This bill makes a number of improvements to the state’s benefits management systems, including integration of the systems that manage the low-income energy assistance program (LEAP) and the supplemental nutrition assistance program (SNAP). This integration will ensure income-qualified individuals receive the maximum benefits from each program.
Requiring County Jails to Offer Meaningful Treatment for Substance Use Disorders (HB22-1326)
As part of a larger bill addressing the fentanyl crisis, I wrote an amendment that requires every county jail in Colorado to provide screenings for recent substance use and offer medical withdrawal management and appropriate medication-assisted treatment. The amendment also requires jails to make an appointment with a community treatment provider for a person prior to their release. This amendment builds on our work from 2020 (HB20-1017) which we had to water down due to opposition from county sheriffs.
Providing Better Information to Voters on Tax-Related Ballot Measures (SB22-222)
Last year, we passed a bill requiring ballot measure titles to include more information about impacts of tax increases and reductions on the programs those taxes fund (HB21-1321). This year, we added one more piece of information. For measures that increase or reduce the income tax rate, this measure will require the ballot to include a table showing how much taxes would increase or decrease based on eight income brackets. We believe there can be a lot of sticker shock with certain tax measures, but if voters see that they may only have to pay another $20 per year (whereas millionaires may pay a bit more), they’ll be able to make a more informed choice. This measure will only take effect if voters approve a ballot measure this November.
These bills were the things that took up most of my time and energy this session, but I also served on three committees and helped pass, amend, or defeat scores of bills on a wide range of topics. There’s so much more I could say about what all we did this year, but I’ll leave it here for today and let you read the links I’ve provided if you feel like digging deeper.
One more thing. Due to availability, we won’t be holding a town hall meeting in May, and then we’re taking our normal summer break from town hall meetings. Stay tuned for the next one in September!