I know the switch to Daylight Savings Time brings with it many problems, but there’s something about the first sunset of the year that happens after 7:00pm that just fills my heart with joy.
Winter in Colorado can be quite beautiful, but this one has felt long and cold. And it’s not just a feeling. Average temperatures across some of the last few months have been 10 degrees Fahrenheit colder than last year. It’s no wonder that people are using more energy to heat their homes, and paying much higher utility bills.
We have just passed the halfway mark of the legislative session, and big things are happening under the Golden Dome. The Joint Budget Committee is hard at work crafting a budget that will continue our progress on increasing our investment in K-12 education through buying down the BS Factor as well as responding to the many challenges facing Colorado families. We have begun to debate and pass significant legislation to prevent gun violence by establishing a three-day waiting period, raising the age to purchase a firearm to 21, expanding the use of our Red Flag law, and addressing our bizarre gun manufacturer liability laws. And on Thursday, we introduced a package of three bills designed to ensure women and pregnant people in Colorado continue to have safe access to abortion care.
Here’s a bit more on some of the things I’ve been spending my time on.
Joint Select Committee on Rising Utility Rates
This winter, Coloradans have faced unprecedented utility bills that have strained their finances in an already tough time. That’s why we’ve established a special committee to dig deeper into what’s driving these costs. Because of my work in previous years to shore up funding for our bill-pay assistance and weatherization assistance programs, I was tapped to serve as Vice Chair of this committee.
It’s clear that the high costs are primarily being driven by our colder-than-average winter and the high prices utilities are paying to purchase natural gas on the commodity market. These gas costs are just passed through to customers without the utilities tacking on a profit margin, but at the same time, these utility companies are benefiting from record profits. So what’s the deal?
Most Coloradans buy their electricity and natural gas from utilities that operate as regulated monopolies. This concept emerged more than a century ago when it became clear that the heavy infrastructure investments required to provide utility service did not create opportunities for competition between multiple utility companies. So a deal was struck. One company would provide utility service, but they would face heavier regulation than the average business and be guaranteed a reasonable rate of return.
Last Tuesday, we heard very informative presentations from the Public Utilities Commission, the Utility Consumer Advocate, Energy Outreach Colorado, and the Colorado Energy Office. Tomorrow, we’ll be hearing from the utility companies themselves. Tune in here.
Making Health Care More Affordable
Two years ago, I sponsored a bill to establish a Prescription Drug Affordability Board in Colorado with the goal of setting an “upper payment limit,” or UPL, on some of the drugs that Colorado families are struggling most to afford. This year, I’m carrying a bill to update this law to expand the number of drugs for which a UPL can be set and make a number of adjustments to address issues that have arisen during the implementation of this innovative policy.
I have also been hard-at-work developing a bill to shore up Colorado’s system of Regional Health Connectors, which play a vital role in connecting health care providers with public health, social service providers, and community organizations to improve integration and coordination in our health care system.
I am also supporting bills to beef up two pieces of legislation I carried in 2019 around hospital cost transparency and hospital community benefit spending. And I’m supporting the work of my colleagues on numerous other bills to reduce cost and expand access in our health care system.
What else should I be focusing on right now? Reply to this email with your ideas or pop by my next town hall to discuss your concerns!