Colorado lawmakers reach sweeping deal to stave off $528 million cut to hospitals (Denver Post)

by Brian Eason (May 4, 2017)

Top Colorado lawmakers on Thursday announced a major agreement to avert potentially catastrophic cuts to the state’s hospitals, capping off weeks of tense negotiation on the far-reaching package.

The measure would reverse a planned $528 million cut to hospitals, while boosting funding to roads and schools. It also would provide a tax break to small businesses, hike recreational marijuana taxes, increase Medicaid co-pays and lower the state’s spending cap by $200 million…

The final obstacle was a provision to increase the cost of health care for patients with Medicaid, the government insurance program for lower-income residents.

Democrats initially balked at a GOP proposal to increase all co-pays to the federal maximum, but this week agreed to a deal that would double co-pays on prescription drugs from $1.25 to $2.50. The co-pays for urgent care and outpatient services also would increase, but the agreement would maintain existing exemptions for children and a number of women’s health services.

But even the reduced hike in co-pays will be a bitter pill to swallow for many Democrats.

“I think that really does hurt some people who are struggling,” said Rep. Chris Kennedy, a Lakewood Democrat. “There are a lot of things in this bill a lot of us have concerns about, but I think we’ve kept our eyes on the prize. I think we all know that converting the provider fee into an enterprise is a critical priority.”

Read the full story at DenverPost.com.

Update from the Colorado Center on Law and Policy

(May 4, 2017)

On Monday, the Senate State, Veterans & Military Affairs Committee killed HB 1310 on another party-line vote. The bill would have limited the application fee a landlord may charge a prospective tenant to cover the cost of a personal reference check, consumer credit report or tenant-screening report. CCLP thanks Reps. Chris Kennedy and Dominique Jackson, and Sen. Stephen Fenberg, for sponsoring the bill.

Read the full legislative update at CCLPOnline.org.

Relief for would-be tenants in Colorado’s superheated rental market (ColoradoPolitics.com)

by Dan Njegomir (April 25, 2017)

The state House hopes to give prospective renters a break on the application fees they face when leasing an apartment.

House Bill 1310 passed the lower chamber Monday, proposing limits on the fees, which can add up fast. The bill restricts application fees to the price of what is necessary to screen residents—such as credit reports, reference checks or tenant screening reports. The bill requires the fees to be refunded if the applicant is never screened.

Read the full story at ColoradoPolitics.com.

Reasonable Limits on Rental Application Fees

Press Release (April 21, 2017)

The House gave initial approval this morning to a bill by Reps. Chris Kennedy and Dominique Jackson that would protect renters from unnecessarily high rental application fees.

“Some landlords are using rental application fees as a source of profit, rather than to simply find good tenants,” said Rep. Kennedy. “By limiting these fees to actual costs and ensuring tenants aren’t charged when they aren’t even screened, we’re giving more people a chance to find rental housing without going broke.”

“This is a commonsense move to ensure that landlords only charge the actual cost of screening applicants and that they give a receipt to potential tenants,” said Rep. Jackson, D-Aurora. “It’s expensive to move and Coloradans shouldn’t have to pay inflated and unnecessary fees.”

HB17-1310 puts practical limits on the application fees that renters face as they search for their next rental home. The bill keeps application fees to the price of what is necessary to screen residents—such as credit reports, reference checks or tenant screening reports—and ensures the fee is refunded if the applicant is never screened.

The bill is part of a five bill package to help Coloradans access and retain affordable homes for purchase and rent. It now continues to a third reading recorded vote.

See more press releases at COHouseDems.com.

Increasing Transparency in our Health Care Spending

Increasing Transparency in our Health Care Spending

There’s a reason health care policy is a hot topic right now, and it’s not that “Obamacare is exploding.”

Health care costs have been growing faster than inflation for as long as I can remember. When I was working at my engineering firm in the mid-2000s, I remember the broker coming by every year to tell us how much our premiums would be going up. After the passage of the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare), premiums continued to rise, although not as quickly as before. Millions more people had coverage, which insurance companies could no longer deny to people with preexisting conditions.

But the fact remains that premiums are rising too quickly, and every voter I met last year knows it. That’s a big part of why I requested to serve on the Health, Insurance, and Environment Committee this year.

I started the legislative session hoping to identify some concrete steps we could take to address the growing cost of health care, but as I started to dig, I discovered how little we actually know about how our health care dollars are being spent. This is especially true with hospital care, which makes up 37 percent of our health care spending in Colorado.

We’re looking at several pieces of legislation this year to address concerns with pharmaceutical costs, insurance company practices, and the new free-standing emergency departments springing up all over the metro area. But my highest priority this session is getting to the bottom of the cost increases for hospital care.

My bill, House Bill 1236, will require hospitals to annually submit their cost reports and audited financial statements to the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing (HCPF, often pronounced “hick-puff”). HCPF will then produce an annual report breaking down spending on inpatient and outpatient care, personnel and administrative costs, capital construction and equipment expenditures, and uncompensated care (including charity care and bad debt) so that policymakers and citizens have the information they need to understand the cost drivers in our hospital system.

It’s also not just about premiums. State spending on Medicaid has been growing, too. Part of this growth comes from increased enrollment and utilization, but much of it comes from the same inflationary pressures impacting our premiums.

Lieutenant Governor Donna Lynne testified in support of my bill in committee, saying, “This bill is important. It provides the basic financial information in the interest of providing appropriate oversight for such a large portion of taxpayer dollars. Hospitals represent 32 percent of all state Medicaid expenditures – the single largest portion of the program with the single largest budget in the state. These are public dollars and the public should know where and how they are used.”

The bill passed the House with bipartisan support and will soon go to the Senate where it also has bipartisan sponsorship. Watch my speech on the House floor here.

Increasing transparency is only a first step, but I’m hopeful we can identify some of the major cost drivers, partner with hospitals on future legislation, and pass the savings along to the people of Colorado.

Press Conference on Campaign Finance Reform Package

Today I was joined by Rep. Mike Weissman, Rep. Jeff Bridges, and Speaker Crisanta Duran to discuss four bills that will increase transparency and accountability in our elections. Press release after the video.

Campaign Finance Reform Press Conference

Campaign Finance Reform Press Conference this afternoon! Honored to work with Speaker Duran and Reps Weissman and Bridges to make some much-needed changes to the way our campaigns are funded.

Posted by Representative Chris Kennedy on Wednesday, March 15, 2017

 

2017 House Democratic Campaign Finance Reform Legislation

Voters of all political persuasions are tired of the large and growing influence of money in politics, especially when it’s difficult or impossible to tell who is spending that money.

Today House Democratic members are announcing four bills to close loopholes and increase transparency in Colorado campaign finance law.

Closing the Gap in Campaign Finance Reporting by Rep. Jeff Bridges, D- Greenwood Village

Problem:  Under current law, “electioneering communications” disclosure captures only mass communications sent 30 days prior to a primary election or 60 days prior to a general election.  However, the reality of modern campaigns is that political spending continues all summer. Colorado Ethics Watch estimates that, in 2016, more than $1.9 million fell through the “gap” between the primary election and 60 days before the general.

Solution:  Rep. Bridge’s bill will bring additional transparency to Colorado elections by closing that gap. It requires that all spending meant to directly influence voters between the date of the primary election and 60 days prior to the general election be subject to enhanced disclosure. Voters will be able to look up who is spending money to influence their vote throughout the campaign.

Taking Responsibility for Campaign Ads by Rep. Bridges

Problem: Under current law, mass “electioneering communications” are not required to state who is paying for them, leaving voters unable to assess the credibility of these communications, or know who is funding the effort.

Solution: Update Colorado law to require a short and simple disclosure of the “electioneering communication” spender’s identity.  This will bring additional transparency to Colorado elections by requiring “paid for by” disclaimers on all electioneering materials.

Eliminating Shadow Committees by Rep. Mike Weissman, D-Aurora

Problem: A recent Colorado Court of Appeals case left open the possibility that a candidate could create an independent expenditure committee to receive unlimited donations.

Solution:  Update Colorado law to make clear that candidate-controlled committees are subject to the same contribution limits set forth in the Colorado Constitution and approved by voters by a 2 to 1 margin. This would confirm the common sense understanding that an “independent expenditure committee” could never truly be independent from the candidate running it.

Contribution Limits for County Candidates by Rep. Chris Kennedy, D-Lakewood

Problem:  Our election system should provide a level playing field. Every candidate should have a shot – not just those with wealthy friends – but in county races, we often see contributions of $5,000 and $10,000, and sometimes up to $40,000 from wealthy individuals. Colorado has contribution limits for all state candidates, but there are no limits for county candidates.

Solution:  This bill levels the playing field by limiting individual contributions to county candidates to $2,500 per cycle with proportional limits for partnerships, political committees, small donor committees, and political parties. The bill maintains the prohibition on corporate contributions.

 

See coverage in the Denver Post here.

See coverage in the Grand Junction Sentinel here.

See covered on ColoradoPolitics.com here.

First Bill Signed Into Law

First Bill Signed Into Law

Governor Hickenlooper signed my first bill, House Bill 2017, into law today and I got my first bill signing pen!

The bill clarifies the duties of county surveyors, seeks to make it easier for small counties to appoint in the event of a vacancy, and modernizes some pretty outdated provisions. It was great to have several surveyors join us for the signing, along with some close friends and one of my youngest new constituents!