Coverage of Rental Applications Bill

Session delivers bills on transportation, pension reform

By Ellis Arnold (May 18th, 2018)

n a work season buoyed up by unforeseen revenue, Colorado lawmakers passed a deal to put more money toward the state’s deep transportation needs, gave the green light to a last-minute compromise on its public-retirement system and made progress on curtailing the opioid epidemic.

As conservative lawmakers note, the Legislature passed heavy spending lifts without a tax hike — enabled by favorable forecasts to the tune of a $1.3 billion increase in state revenue from last fiscal year. Strong economic growth and changes in federal tax policy set the state up to take in more revenue.

But Democrats and Republicans still battled on how to split that pie, and compromises left both sides without their ideal path forward.

Meanwhile, developments were less noteworthy on affordable housing, as prices continue a years-long spike.

The regular session — the 120-day term when bills can be passed — ended May 9. Here’s a look at some of what was accomplished.

Wheels turn on transportation

Colorado landed itself in a $9 billion hole as of 2016, according to state projections of transportation-spending needs through 2025, and lawmakers aimed to chip further away at that price tag.

“Transportation was a — if not the — priority for Republicans this session,” said state House Minority Leader Patrick Neville, R-Castle Rock. Roads and bridges had been “neglected by the Democrats for 13 years,” he added.

For the Democrats’ part, state House Speaker Crisanta Duran supported an unsuccessful bill last year to ask voters to raise sales and use taxes by 0.62 percentage points to raise about $375 million per year for the Colorado Department of Transportation, with other revenue going to counties and municipalities.

Senate President Kevin Grantham, R-Cañon City, supported that bill along with Duran, D-Denver.

This time around, lawmakers passed a $645 million boost over the next two years in a bill that would also ask voters in 2019 to approve about $2.3 billion in bond funding for transportation. That option would put Colorado on the hook for up to $3.25 billion in borrowing costs over 20 years.

But before that, outside groups may ask voters in 2018 to approve either another spending requirement without taxes, or allow a sales-tax increase.

“The Legislature will have no choice, I think, but to spend more on transportation and spend less on other things” if the first option passed, said Chris Holbert, state Senate majority leader. Holbert, R-Parker, was skeptical of the tax increase passing, “given the voter reaction to prior tax increases.”

Senate Bill 18-001, the deal lawmakers passed, headed to the governor’s desk May 17.

Small steps on housing

Housing affordability, on the other hand, didn’t see a grand bargain that would move the needle much.

“There was more lip service than anything else,” said Eric Sondermann, a Colorado independent political analyst.

Democrats unsuccessfully tried to pass a tax on shopping bags to fund affordable-housing assistance, while Republicans focus on what they say are regulations that make construction unaffordable.

“House Republicans are optimistic that the construction-litigation reform law passed in 2017 will spur more affordable home construction, but we need to give the market time to adjust before enacting more legislation,” said Cole Wist, state House assistant minority leader, R-Centennial.

Lawmakers passed a bill that extends the state’s ability to allocate affordable-housing tax credits through the year 2024. It would have expired at the end of 2019, according to the Legislature’s website.

It was a welcome move, but Coloradans need more support, state Rep. Faith Winter said.

“I’m excited that we were able to (extend) affordable-housing tax credits so that more affordable-housing projects can get off the ground,” said Winter, D-Westminster. “However, the response from the Legislature was woefully inadequate in addressing the affordable-housing crisis in Colorado.”

The Legislature passed what state Rep. Chris Kennedy called a “renters’ rights bill” that would require landlords to provide a copy of a lease to each tenant, as well as receipts for cash rent payments, he said.

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State Bill Aims To Relieve Rental Applicants From Burden Of Multiple Fees

By Tyler Young (March 05, 2018)

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. – Rental application fees, they can run as high as $50 to $60 dollars and do not have a cap on what a property management can charge.

“We do have a rental application fee of $35. That fee just covers our background checks which in covers credit criteria background check and felony criminal background check”, says Cindy Hoppe a property manager for Bray Property Management.

Every property management company charges an application fee to cover background check costs, with background checks pricing around $32 combined both credit and criminal background check.

“It’s making them fully disclose what their fees are and we’re already doing that”, says Hoppe, “Now, different companies have different fees and they’re probably using different processing companies and the fees will fluctuate based on who you use and how many credit applications you put through a month, that kind of thing.”

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Colorado landlords would have to limit rental application fees and explain why tenants were rejected under measure

By Jesse Paul (February 26, 2018)

Landlords would be required to tell prospective rental-property tenants more about their application costs and requirements in a measure that passed the Democratic-controlled House on Monday.

House Bill 1127 also seeks to limit rental application charges to the costs of background and credit checks and mandate that landlords spell out to applicants the requirements for approval — such as rental and credit histories and income.

The legislation would also require landlords to provide a written notice to rejected tenants, as well, explaining on what grounds they were turned away. Landlords, under the measure, would also be barred from charging different rental application fees to different applicants and from changing those fees between different properties they might be offering for rent.

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Dems try to ease cost of apartment screenings

By Charles Ashby (February 18, 2018)

DENVER — Landlords who charge for rental screening applications would be restricted on just how much they can charge under a bill the Colorado House is to debate this week.

The measure, HB1127, which has no support from House Republicans so far, is aimed at making it less expensive for low-income people to get affordable housing, said its main sponsor, Rep. Dominique Jackson, D-Denver.

“The fact of the matter is, this is pretty common-sense stuff,” Jackson said. “Everybody knows that we’ve got a massive affordable housing problem. If you can’t even get into a piece of property because you’re paying so much for application screening fees, the bill limits the amount that a landlord can charge to screen a prospective tenant to their actual cost of those screenings.”

Jackson said many people can’t afford to spend money on multiple screenings at different apartments they are considering renting, and then come up with first- and last-month’s rent along with a security deposit.

Rep. Chris Kennedy, D-Denver, who also is sponsoring the bill with Jackson, said he’s hopeful changes to this year’s bill will win the approval from the Colorado Apartment Association with some changes, which haven’t been worked out yet.

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State Lawmakers Push For ‘Renter’s Rights’ Bill

By Shaun Boyd (February 12, 2018)

DENVER (CBS4) – Finding an affordable apartment in Colorado is tough enough, but some people are spending hundreds of dollars just to apply for places.

Two state lawmakers say it’s time renters had some rights.

Rep. Dominique Jackson and Rep. Chris Kennedy are carrying a bill that would limit application fees to the actual cost of screening a prospective tenant.

“We talked about whether we wanted to set a specific dollar amount. We decided we did not, that it was okay for the landlords to figure out what those costs were,” said Kennedy.

Read full story at CBS Denver

Lawmakers seek to give renters more rights when applying for an apartment

By John Herrick (February 12, 2018)

Renters looking for a more affordable place to live are spending hundreds of dollars applying for apartments, prompting Democratic lawmakers to set limits on how much landlords can charge for these applications.

bill to cap apartment application fees cleared the House Finance committee on Monday by a 7-6 vote along party lines. The bill would cap the fee at the actual cost to screen the applicant.

There is no legal limit on how much landlords can charge for applications. Rep. Chris Kennedy, D-Lakewood, a lead sponsor on the bill, said he wants to make sure landlords are not profiting off these fees. He also said renters should have more rights.

“It’s tackling just another facet of the affordability problem,” Kennedy told The Colorado Independent.

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Capitol zeros in on opioid problem

By Charles Ashby (February 25, 2018)

The Colorado Legislature is slowly making progress on some of the measures that have been introduced this year to deal with the opioid crisis.

Last week, the Colorado Senate approved a bill designed to restrict the number of pills a health care provider can prescribe, to a seven-day supply.

While there are some exceptions to that restriction ­— such as patients that have chronic pain that lasts longer than three months — SB22 is designed to help prevent overprescribing, and prevent people from accumulating too many unused pills that others might find and abuse.

“The latent supply of prescription opioids in people’s cabinets, waiting to be acquired by those who may abuse and misuse, is a looming danger,” said Sen. Jack Tate, R-Parker, who introduced the bipartisan measure with Sen. Irene Aguilar, D-Denver, and Lakewood Democratic Reps. Brittany Petterson and Chris Kennedy. “Reducing these latent supplies that result from clinical opioid overprescribing is a critical first step.”

Seven Republican senators opposed the bill, including Sen. Randy Baumgardner, whose district includes Garfield County, saying they did so because partly it was unfair to rural patients who might have to travel miles to their local pharmacies to get medications.

The bill is one of six related measures recommended by the Opioid and Other Substance Abuse Disorders Interim Study Committee, which met last summer to discuss the issue.

That panel, of which Tate was a member, recommended this bill and several others:

■ HB1007 requiring all individual and group health benefit plans to similarly restrict certain opioid prescriptions.

■ HB1136 adding residential and inpatient substance abuse disorder services to be eligible for the state’s Medicaid program.

■ SB24 making several changes to the Colorado Health Service Corps Program, including adding grant money to substance abuse providers in underserved areas.

■ SB40 offering liability protection to health care providers who provide clean syringes.

■ HB1003 creating a permanent legislative committee to monitor the issue and recommend changes as needed.

The House measures aren’t scheduled to be discussed in the House Public Health Care and Human Services Committee until late March.

SB22 now heads to the House, while SB24 awaits approval in the Senate Appropriations Committee because of its $2.5 million price tag.

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Funding A Sticking Point As Colorado Debates Reinsurance Program

By Amy Lotven (January 29, 2018)

Stakeholders in Colorado continue to debate the development of a reinsurance program for the 2019 plan year that would cost about $346 million in order to significantly reduce premiums. Sources note that gathering the funding is a key sticking point in the debate because issuers are hitting back on using a premium assessment and other funding is elusive.

Colorado’s legislature approved a bill last year requiring the state’s Department of Insurance to look into options for setting up a reinsurance program through a 1332 waiver. The department commissioned a report to study how much a reinsurance program would cost, and its impact on claims, premiums and the morbidity of the risk pool.

While some states have opted to explore or implement condition-based programs, or so-called “invisible high-risk pools” that reimburse carriers claims for patients with certain high-cost diseases, Colorado has opted to do a claims-based approach under which plans typically are partially reimbursed for claims after a certain “attachment point” and up to a set threshold.

Milliman did an analysis and found that in order to achieve a 25 percent claims reduction, the program would cost $346 million in 2019. The firm says about half of the program costs would be covered by the federal pass-through money under the 1332 waiver, while Colorado would need to provide $178 million. The program would reduce premiums an average 21 percent statewide, boost enrollment by 17,000 and lower morbidity by 2.0 percent compared to the baseline, Milliman says in its final report. Importantly, Milliman notes, premiums would fall by 35 percent in the high-cost Western region and rural areas of the state; the average decrease in non-rural areas would be 17 percent (hence the 21 percent average).

The state legislature is now working to craft a bill that would create the reinsurance program, but the big question is funding, according to Mara Baer, president of AgoHealth, the lead author of the DOI’s report to the legislature.

The funding is tricky, says Colorado Democratic Rep. Chris Kennedy, who shepherded the legislation to get the study and is now working on the bill to create the program. A large problem, Kennedy says, is that unlike most other states, the Colorado legislature cannot legally raise taxes due to a 1992 state constitutional amendment. The state now requires voter approval for any tax hikes. In addition to its tax-raising restrictions, the legislature also faces budget caps, Kennedy notes, “so funding anything is challenging.”

Other funding possibilities have been discussed but each has their own drawbacks. Increasing the “provider fee” on hospitals would be difficult because the tax is already high and needed to support rural hospitals, Kennedy says. There are talks about getting private grants, but while that could help with start-up funds, the key is to find something that is sustainable over the years.

One funding source that Kennedy says should be on the table is related to the state’s income tax base. Kennedy explains the state’s taxable income base is anchored to the federal base, which was broadened under the tax law passed in December. According to the Denver Post, the base expanded due to the elimination of deductions and will bring in from $196 million to $346 million in state revenue.

However, Kennedy notes, GOP lawmakers want that money to go toward transportation.

This leaves the state with essentially one option, a per-member, per-month assessment on insurance plans, to collect a large portion of the funding. And because the state cannot tax self-insured employer-sponsored coverage, the fee would likely fall on fully insured group plans, individual plans, and stop-loss coverage.

According to Milliman, for the 25 percent claims impact, that fee would have to be set at $7.98 per-member, per month. And, Kennedy acknowledges, because Milliman conducted the report prior to enactment of the legislation repealing the individual mandate, that number could go up.

While insurers are supportive of the reinsurance proposal, they are less pleased with the price-tag. Issuers have argued that slapping a fee on plans basically re-circulates the dollars and does nothing for underlying costs, Baer says. State officials have acknowledged the concerns, but note that getting the program up and running is a good opportunity to help force a direct conversation on cost control.

Kennedy, who has been meeting with a wide range of stakeholders, says he often hears that industry agrees there is a crucial need to save the market, especially in the Western region. But issuers also complain that reinsurance funded by assessments is a cost-shift that fails to tackle the underlying issue.

For that reason, Kennedy says he is exploring some cost-control measures that could be added to the reinsurance bill. Details of those potential policies are being hashed out now, according to Kennedy, who declined to publicly discuss the options.

Other key details for the reinsurance program, including the attachment point and co-pay rate, are also unclear at this point. Kennedy says that once the funding level is clear, lawmakers can work backward to figure out the best design.

Meanwhile, at the federal level, lawmakers continue to work on legislation that would provide funding for reinsurance programs. In exchange for her support of the tax bill, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) secured an agreement with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to back $10.5 billion in reinsurance funding, of which she wants $500 million available for seed money in 2018.

Collins and Senate health committee Chair Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Patty Murray (D-WA) have said they are continuing to work on marketplace stabilization legislation and want to see it attached to the omnibus bill expected in March. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (NY) said in floor remarks last week that he would like to see market stabilization legislation move along with an expected Feb. 8 continuing resolution.

Collins recently said that House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and his colleagues are warming to the idea of reinsurance legislation. Others have noted that the concept should carry support from House Republicans considering they all voted for it as part of their repeal-and-replace legislation: In April, the House attached to its repeal bill an amendment from Freedom Caucus members Rep. Gary Palmer (R-AL) and Rep. David Schweikert (R-AZ) that would have allocated $15 billion from that bill’s Patient and State Stability Fund from 2018 to 2026 to create a federal “invisible risk sharing program.”

Kennedy says he would appreciate federal reinsurance funding but is not wildly optimistic that it will come through. He notes he has had some initial conversations with Sen. Michael Bennet’s (D-CO) staff, and hopes to speak with other members of the Colorado delegation who could help push for funding.

Story also posted (behind paywall) at

Bill would share data EMTs gather on patients

Bill would share data EMTs gather on patients

By Charles Ashby (February 6, 2018)

DENVER — It seemed a no-brainer idea to Rep. Dan Thurlow. Health care providers already have access to individual patients’ medical histories, but not information gathered by emergency medical technicians.

A bill the Grand Junction Republican introduced with Rep. Chris Kennedy, a Denver Democrat, would fix that. That measure, HB1032, would require the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to make individualized patient data from emergency medical service providers available to all health information computer networks.

“I refer to this bill as merely a business process bill,” Thurlow said in arguing for the bill in the House, which gave preliminary approval to the measure Monday.

“There’s a health information exchange system, which is now in place,” he added. “There’s one piece missing with the information that comes into the exchange, it’s the emergency medical system information that’s already being collected. Every time you ride in an ambulance there’s a trip sheet, and that information is going to CDPHE, but that’s not where it needs to be.”

Read full article at Grand Junction Daily Sentinel

Lakewood legislators ready for challenges of 2018

Lakewood legislators ready for challenges of 2018

By Clarke Reader (January 16, 2018)

The 2018 legislative session is just getting started, and there’s no shortage of work to be done in the coming months.

Lakewood residents are facing the same challenges many metro area residents are dealing with — development, education funding, and transportation needs.

Finding affordable housing is an issue for middle-class residents, too, said state Rep. Brittany Pettersen (D-28) — and that includes teachers.

“Our education committee is looking at dealing with our teacher shortage,” Pettersen said. “Our teachers aren’t able to (continue to) live in communities they live in on their salary.”

Rep. Chris Kennedy, D-23, said opioid addiction will be a serious issue for debate as the session progresses, and Sen. Andy Kerr, D-22, said the Public Employees’ Retirement Association (PERA), Colorado’s public-pension system, is more than $30 billion underfunded, and that needs to be addressed.

This year will also be the last session for Kerr and Sen. Cheri Jahn, I-20, who have had years to work for their constituents.

“I have loved governmental affairs and policy and would like to continue that work,” Jahn said. “Whether in the private sector, nonprofit arena or possibly governmental agencies.”

We spoke with Lakewood’s legislators about the session, what’s important to constituents, and legislative goals:

Read Representative Chris Kennedy’s responses here

Read full article at

Majority House Dems unleash their first five bills

Majority House Dems unleash their first five bills

By Dan Njegomir (January 11, 2018)

Sure, there were all the opening-day rituals under the Dome on Wednesday — speeches, promises of bipartisanship and warm greetings among almost all of the 100 members, who insisted they were happy to see one another again. But then there’s the real business of the General Assembly: making laws (well, and killing legislation; plenty of that, too).

And the House Democratic majority got down to business the same day, releasing its caucus’s first five bills — enunciating some of their top priorities for the 2018 session. An announcement from the Dems’ press shop boiled it down to, “work-life balance, rural education, the opioid epidemic and college education credits.”

Or, as House Speaker Crisanta Duran put it:

“A major goal this session is to create more opportunities for Coloradans to turn their hard work into economic security. …These bills are part of a much larger agenda to preserve and enhance our Colorado way of life.”

Here’s the legislation — a lot of it with bipartisan sponsorship — as read across the House clerk’s desk:

  • HB18-1002/Reps. Millie Hamner, D-Dillon, and Bob Rankin, R-Carbondale – Enables students in the final year of a teacher preparation program to receive stipends for teaching in rural school districts with teacher shortages. The first of several bills to address the rural teacher shortage.
  • HB18-1003/Rep. Brittany Pettersen, D-Lakewood – Authorizes grants for education, screening, intervention and prevention services to address the opioid epidemic, which is now the leading cause of accidental death among Coloradans 55 years of age and under. Part of a package of opioids bills from a bipartisan interim committee being brought by Reps. Pettersen, Chris Kennedy, D-Lakewood, and Jonathan Singer, D-Longmont.
  • HB18-1004/Rep. James Coleman, D-Denver – Extends a tax credit for donations to child care facilities to help increase the availability of quality child care providers in Colorado.
  • HB18-1005/Reps. Brittany Pettersen, D-Lakewood, and Jon Becker, R-Fort Morgan – Expands notification to students and their parents about concurrent enrollment opportunities, so high school students can get a jump on their college educations

Read the full story at

Amid opioid epidemic, six Colorado proposals could fight trend (Lakewood Sentinel)

Amid opioid epidemic, six Colorado proposals could fight trend (Lakewood Sentinel)

By Ellis Arnold (December 22, 2017)

When state Rep. Brittany Pettersen was a child, her day started with finding and hiding her mother’s keys, pouring out her alcohol and pills, and then going to school. She’d get home, and she’d do it all over again.

“It took me probably, maybe being 9 years old, to recognize that my mom was very different from most parents,” said Pettersen, a Democrat representing the Lakewood area.

She was concerned about her mom, but she didn’t know what to do.

Her after-school routine grew to include checking to see whether her mom was breathing.

Pettersen’s mom, Stacy, had an opioid addiction from the time she was about 33. After being overprescribed for her back pain, she developed a dependency that escalated to heroin use when another doctor cut her prescription. After several recent trips to the ER from overdosing, she finally asked for help — the words Pettersen said she waited 29 years to hear.

She was far from alone in her fears. Colorado saw 108 opioid-related deaths — involving prescription drugs, heroin or both — in 1999, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment.

In 2016, in that same category, the state saw a death count of 504.

Now, Colorado legislators are putting forth six bills to make sure opioid substance abuse doesn’t progress that far. Spearheaded by Pettersen, the Opioid and Other Substance Use Disorders Interim Study Committee aims to tackle the problem from all sides: in the medical world, the law-enforcement field, the health-care industry and — perhaps most directly — where people inject drugs.

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Colorado Dems Call On Gardner to Fight for CHIP Program

Colorado Dems Call On Gardner to Fight for CHIP Program

CO House Democrats Press Release, December 11, 2017

53 Democratic members of the Colorado General Assembly sent a letter to Senator Cory Gardner urging him and his colleagues to reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). The Republican-controlled Congress failed to reauthorize the vital CHIP program before funding expired this past September, putting nearly 9 million children across the country at risk of losing health care.

“75,761 Colorado children and expectant mothers depend on the program for health insurance. It is unacceptable that despite broad bipartisan support for reauthorizing this critical program, it has languished for months in the Senate,” the lawmakers wrote.

“Senator Gardner, you have said that you support reauthorization of the program, and co-sponsored bipartisan legislation with Senator Bennet to reauthorize CHIP,” the letter continued. “That support is hollow if you and your Republican colleagues do nothing to advance the legislation. As an influential member of Senate leadership, our expectation is that you would zealously advocate for Colorado’s priorities to become the US Senate’s priorities.”

“Instead of passing tax breaks for corporations and the ultra-wealthy, Congress should be working to provide relief and security to the thousands of Colorado children and hardworking families who depend on the vital CHIP program,” said Speaker Crisanta Duran (D-Denver). “There’s no more time to waste. Congress has to prioritize CHIP now.”

“Senator Gardner just voted for a GOP tax bill that adds $1.5 trillion to the deficit in order to cut taxes for the 1% and corporations — that’s enough money to extend CHIP for the next 937 years,” said Senate Minority Leader Lucia Guzman (D-Denver). “There is absolutely no excuse for anything less than a full-throated defense of the CHIP program. The health of tens of thousands of Colorado children depends on it.”

The full letter can be found here.

6 Bills on Runway to Address Opioid Epidemic

6 Bills on Runway to Address Opioid Epidemic

CO House Democrats Press Release, October 31, 2017

The legislative Opioid and Other Substance Use Disorders Interim Study Committee voted today to move forward with a six-bill package of legislation that seeks to prevent opioid addictions, intervene early when possible and make sure people seeking help are able to get the help they need.

Today’s votes, with strong bipartisan support, put the six bills into the pipeline for consideration during the 2018 legislative session. Included are bills to:

  • Create training programs for health professionals, law enforcement, and at-risk communities for safe opioid prescribing, medication assisted treatment, and overdose prevention.
  • Limit most opioid prescriptions to a seven-day supply for acute conditions and mandate that medical professionals check the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program database before writing prescription refills.
  • Create a pilot project for a supervised injection facility in Denver. Like needle-exchange programs, data show that SIFs do not increase the use of illicit drugs, but do reduce the spread of diseases like HIV and hepatitis C while increasing referrals to medical and/or substance abuse treatment.
  • Expand the Colorado Health Service Corps program, which includes loan repayment and scholarship programs for medical professionals who commit to working in underserved areas where substance abuse is more likely to go untreated.
  • Significantly increasing access to residential treatment to qualifying individuals with substance use disorders.
  • Improve “prior authorization” standards to ensure that insurance companies and Medicaid give timely approval for medication-assisted treatment so patients with substance use disorders don’t go back to opioids while waiting for approval to begin their treatment. The bill also makes sure pharmacists are able to administer certain kinds of medication-assisted treatments and reduces copays for physical therapy, acupuncture and chiropractic alternatives to narcotics.

Rep. Brittany Pettersen, D-Lakewood, the interim committee’s chairwoman, noted the five committee hearings, three task force meetings and numerous stakeholder meetings that produced bipartisan consensus around the six bills.

“All of us know somebody affected by addiction; I had no idea how broken our system was until my mom was begging for help and there were no options available for her,” said Rep. Pettersen. “I am incredibly proud of the bipartisan work we have done through this interim committee to lay a foundation for addressing this epidemic, and to close the gaps faced by people who are trying to move toward recovery.”

“We are making meaningful steps forward to prevent opioid addiction and facilitate access to treatment,” said Rep. Chris Kennedy, who also sits on the interim committee. “But this is just the beginning, and we’ll continue working hard on this issue for many years.”

“I’m proud of how Democrats and Republicans put politics and personalities aside to do the right thing for everyday Coloradans struggling with addiction,” said Rep. Jonathan Singer, who also sits on the interim committee.

A few related stories: