Rising to face the toughest challenges

Rising to face the toughest challenges

Friends and neighbors,

May 8th was the final day of the 2023 legislative session. It was turbulent to say the least, but at the end of an incredibly challenging session, I’m proud to say we rose to meet the challenges facing the people of Colorado.

We prioritized Coloradans’ most urgent needs and made advancements in gun violence prevention, reproductive healthcare access, and lowering the cost of housing. Not only that, but we also made record investments in our K-12 public schools and made progress on many other issues, including improving our healthcare system, protecting our environment, reforming our criminal justice system, and expanding protections for renters. 

You can read more about our legislative achievements in the Colorado House Democrats’ 2023 end-of-session report. 

I played a part in supporting all of this work, but as you know, we all tend to specialize and focus on passing our own bills. This year, I continued to focus most of my energy on health care, energy, and tax policy. Here’s a rundown of the bills I sponsored this session.

SB23-303: Responsible Reductions in Property Taxes, and; HB23-1311: TABOR Refund Fairness

Sometimes, a piece of legislation must tackle several problems at the same time. And this set of problems was a doozy. 

First, rising home values are causing a huge spike in the property tax bills that homeowners, renters, and businesses will face at the end of this year. Second, our schools, fire districts,  libraries, and county services (including critical work like child welfare, human services, and public safety) have been facing major funding challenges for years. Third, right-wing groups have kept proposing draconian tax cut measures that would deliver property tax reductions at the cost of devastated public services.

We knew we needed a balanced solution that could help people and small businesses keep up with the cost of living but that wouldn’t destroy the critical services funded by property taxes. 
SB23-303 refers a measure to the November ballot that will deliver responsible reductions while providing state backfill funding to protect schools, fire districts, and other critical public services. If voters approve Proposition HH in November, the increase in residential property taxes will be cut in half, saving the average homeowner $1264 over the next two years. The increases facing businesses will also be meaningfully reduced. Senior homeowners who are eligible for the homestead exemption will receive a larger exemption than before, and their exemption will be made portable–that means that these seniors will be able to downsize and continue to receive their property tax exemption.

To ensure the state will have sufficient revenue to backfill revenue losses to local governments, Prop HH will also allow the state to retain an additional 1% of revenue above the TABOR limit. This is the pay-for, and is necessary to ensure that local governments are protected.

But lest you think this is not complicated enough, there’s more. There are two more big problems with cutting property taxes. First, the largest benefits go to people with the most expensive homes and businesses with the largest properties. Second, there’s no guarantee that landlords will pass along their property tax savings to renters.

As a condition for my support and sponsorship of this policy, I insisted on addressing these two problems. We did so in two ways. First, an amendment made on the House floor set aside up to $20M a year for rental assistance programs. Second, we made a one-year change to the distribution of TABOR refunds through a separate-but-connected bill, HB23-1311. Current law would distribute refunds based on a complicated formula known as the six-tier sales tax refund. This formula would give $454 to Coloradans with incomes below $50K and $1434 to Coloradans with incomes above $280K. HB1311 will send $661 refunds to everybody, which means a little bit more for everybody making less than $100K per year.

I won’t pretend this is simple or elegant, but I do believe we have found a reasonable and balanced solution that addresses the multiple problems we needed to solve with the bill. Voters will have a chance to read even more about it in their blue books before they cast their votes on Prop HH this November.

SB23-291: Addressing Rising Utility Prices

Coloradans have faced unprecedented utility bills, causing financial strain as many struggle to cover the cost of basic necessities. To address this issue, we established the Joint Select Committee on Rising Utility Rates to investigate rising utility costs and possible policy interventions. The work of the committee informed the contents of the bill, which will lower utility bills by removing profit motives for utilities to build unnecessary gas infrastructure, smooth out unpredictable rate spikes, create a fairer utility rate-setting process, and prevent utilities from charging their customers for lobbying and advertising costs.

HB23-1167: Good Samaritan Overdose Law

Across Colorado, five people die each day from preventable overdoses. The Good Samaritan Law provides certain legal protections to incentivize people witnessing an overdose event to seek assistance rather than run from law enforcement. Unfortunately, a technical cross-reference error in last year’s big fentanyl bill rendered the law null. This bill restores immunity for all drug possession charges and expands immunity to people sharing small amounts of drugs among friends. This will save lives and ensure that the fear of criminal charges does not stop Coloradans from calling 911, staying at the scene of an overdose, and fully cooperating with law enforcement to try to save a life.

HB23-1244 Regional Health Connector Program

Colorado’s system of Regional Health Connectors plays a vital role in connecting healthcare providers with public health, social service providers, and community organizations to improve integration and coordination in our healthcare system. The nonprofits that manage these RHCs have been operating on shoestring budgets for several years since the initial federal grant expires. HB1244 will provide sustainable funding for the program into the future.

HB23-1225: Prescription Drug Affordability Board Update

Too many Coloradans struggle to afford the prescription drugs they need to stay healthy. In 2021, the Prescription Drug Affordability Board was established to limit the cost of the highest-cost prescription drugs. This bill strengthens the board by loosening restrictions on how many Upper Payment Limits the Board can set in its first three years and improving the criteria for selecting drugs for an affordability review. These changes will better allow us to address rising drug costs and ensure that patients can access the medications they need.

HB23-1226: Hospital Cost Transparency Update

Hospitals account for a significant portion of Colorado dollars spent on health care, but policy makers need a clearer picture of where those dollars are going. In 2019, I carried a bill that gave us a closer look at hospital finances, which informed some of the major policies we’ve passed to lower the cost of health care. This bill builds on this work to address gaps, increase compliance, and provide data to understand the financial health and performance of Colorado’s hospitals so we can continue creating policies that put people over profits and save Coloradans money on health care.

SB23-271: Regulation of Intoxicating Hemp Products

Many Coloradans enjoy and benefit from hemp products, which can take the form of everything from clothing to nutritional supplements like CBD. Because these products contain very low levels of THC–the intoxicating chemical in marijuana–they have been regulated differently from marijuana. 

But certain hemp manufacturers started concentrating and altering hemp products to produce highly intoxicating substances like Delta-8 and Delta-10 THC, which are unregulated and can be bought by kids at gas stations. Needless to say, this is a huge problem.

A task force met over the summer and fall of 2022 and came up with a set of recommendations that formed the core of this bill. Right off the bat, we’ll be banning the sale of synthetic cannabinoids and other highly intoxicating products. 

What was trickier was figuring out how to regulate “full spectrum” hemp products, which means unaltered extracts of the hemp plant which typically contain at least a 15:1 ratio of CBD to THC. There is some recent evidence that higher ratios of CBD to THC mitigate the intoxicating effect of the THC, but there is still concern that a kid might be able to buy a large package of CBD gummies and eat them all in order to get a high enough quantity of THC to get high. The bill sets limits on products that can be sold without an ID, and establishes new and robust labeling requirements.

SB23-176: Protections For People With An Eating Disorder

It is estimated that more than 30 million Americans will experience an eating disorder during their lifetime, but less than 20% will receive treatment. Unfortunately, weight is a significant barrier to receiving treatment, even though most people with eating disorders are not medically underweight. This bill prohibits Medicaid and state-regulated health benefit plans from denying treatment for an eating disorder based on a patient’s body mass index, ideal body weight, or any other standard requiring an achieved weight. The bill also prohibits the sale of diet pills for individuals under 18. 

HB23-1284: Modifications To The Property Tax Deferral Program

Colorado’s Property Tax Deferral Program provides a last-resort option for those who can’t afford their property tax bills. The program allows homeowners to postpone payment of their property taxes until a specified time frame, death, or transfer of property. The current law allows for unlimited deferral by seniors and active military, and a limited deferral for any other residential property tax payer. For seniors and active military families, HB1284 eliminates a prohibition on rental income, which will allow folks to rent out an ADU (accessory dwelling unit) on their property while still deferring their property tax bills. This is just one small step to help these folks keep up with the high cost of housing.

I can say a lot more about our work this year, but I’ll leave it here for today. I’m grateful for the opportunity to continue serving Colorado, and after a little bit more of a break, I’m planning to dive into planning the legislation I will sponsor in my 8th and final year as your State Representative.


The Last 13 Days

The Last 13 Days

We work a lot of long days during the legislative session, but I’ve never had such a streak of long days as I’ve had these past two weeks.

I’m starting to write this email from the House floor at 6:04pm on Saturday evening as we wrap up three straight days of debating a trio of bills to protect access to reproductive health care in Colorado.

We’ve worked the last 13 days in a row, and many of those days started for me at 4:00 or 5:00 A.M. and finished at 10:00 or 11:00 P.M. Tonight will be the 7th time I’ve missed my daughter’s bedtime, only seeing her for half an hour in the morning. It’s been really hard on my whole family, but you know what? 

It’s worth it.

It’s worth it because I know the work we’re doing this session will make our state safer and guarantee my daughter’s freedom to control her own body and be whomever she is meant to be.

Last weekend, it was guns. We passed bills to raise the age to 21 to purchase a firearm, allow victims of gun violence to sue firearms manufacturers and dealers for reckless practices, and expand the red-flag law that allows interventions when there’s a credible risk that someone may use a firearm to cause serious harm to themselves or others. Last month, we passed a bill establishing a three-day waiting period to purchase a firearm, and we will still be considering a bill to prohibit the sale of assault weapons in Colorado.

This weekend, it’s been about protecting access to reproductive health care, including contraception, abortion, and gender-affirming care. Our three bills build on last year’s Reproductive Health Equity Act as follows:

  • SB23-188 protects health care providers from adverse actions that could come from the abortion bans and anti-LGBTQ legislation being passed in other states. Some have called this a Shield Law because it makes Colorado a safe haven for legally protected health care. 
  • SB23-189 eliminates copays and other financial barriers to accessing reproductive health care
  • SB23-190 prohibits deceptive advertising by “crisis pregnancy centers,” some of which lure women to their facilities by suggesting they offer abortion care only to corner women and shame them. If an organization wants to help women find alternatives to abortion, that’s fine. They just can’t use false advertising to do it.

My descriptions of these bills simplify things a bit, but you can click the links above to learn a lot more about what they’re going to do to protect health care access in Colorado.

I just want to add one more thought today. During the debate on SB188, two of my colleagues got up to talk about their trans kids. One spoke about the journey of setting aside the movie that was in her head about what her child’s life would look like, and what it meant to just be there for her kid. The other spoke about how difficult it is to be a trans kid, and how she just wants to make sure her kid survives the 10th grade.

I cried my eyes out.

Maybe it’s because my best friend came out to me in 7th grade and struggled with her gender dysmorphia for years. That was 31 years ago now, in 1992, when Colorado voters passed one of the most discriminatory laws we had ever heard of: the infamous Amendment 2.

But I think it’s also because I have my own child now, and I don’t know what life holds in store for her. I don’t know who she’s going to love, and I don’t know who she’s going to be. All I know is that she’s perfect, and I’m going to do everything I can to give the the best possible life. I’m going to do that as her dad, and I’m going to do that as her State Representative.

And now I’m crying again.

It’s been a very long and draining two weeks. Thanks for reading my scattered thoughts. After a day of rest tomorrow, I’m going to get back at it on Monday morning as the House begins to debate the state budget.


Heating Up

Heating Up

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!


Opening Day for the 74th General Assembly

Opening Day for the 74th General Assembly

When Speaker Julie McCluskie addressed the House this morning, she asked all members entering their final term to stand and be recognized. There were only six of us, out of sixty five. 

So many of my colleagues who started this journey with me six years ago have moved on to the Senate, run for another office, or gone on to other pursuits. That means I’m one of the most senior members of the State House, which is strange to say the least. I feel like I just got here!

But then again, as I look back at all of the work we’ve done over this time, it’s amazing that we were able to do it all in only six years.

This experience has also given me a new perspective on the work. The same themes I talked about on my first campaign–cost of living, climate change, education funding, civil rights, and more–continue to resonate today. We’ve made tremendous progress in every category, but the amount of work that remains speaks to the ongoing challenge of governing. No problem is every 100% solved. Crises and other societal changes present new angles to existing challenges. A democracy requires constant maintenance.

The idealistic grad school student I was 15 years ago would perhaps be disappointed, but the reality is that we have indeed made big changes that have made people’s lives significantly better. And we have to keep making those changes, every year. As with so many aspects of life, in public service we must focus more on the journey than on the destination.

The journey that lies ahead this session is just starting to come into focus. Voters were crystal clear last November that they want leaders who roll up their sleeves and solve real problems, not ideological crusaders who are all noise and no substance. As such, they elected historically large Democratic majorities of 46-19 in the House and 23-12 in the Senate. 

I feel so honored that I will be serving as Speaker Pro Tempore of the House of Representatives for my final two years as we take on the work with which voters have entrusted us. In this position, I will be helping guide the legislature in the great work of governing for all of the people of our beautiful state.

We are going to build on our previous work to make housing, health care, and child care more affordable. We’re going to address the pressing air quality concerns that are negatively impacting the health of our residents and the depletion of the Colorado River and other river basins. We’re going to invest as heavily as we can in K-12 and higher education. We’re going to do everything we can to reduce the scourge of gun violence that takes too many lives in this country every single day. And we’re going to make sure that Colorado remains a state where women know they can access abortion care without government interference.

There’s much more to talk about, and I look forward to sharing more with you in future newsletters and town hall meetings. Until then, thank you again for giving me the opportunity of a lifetime in four consecutive elections. This work is the most meaningful I’ve ever done, and I’m going to give it everything I’ve got for another two years.


P.S. You may have noticed I’ve started officially using my new last name, deGruy Kennedy (pronounced like “degree” Kennedy). Kyra and I got married over two years ago, but I only made this change official after the 2022 elections. Guess I didn’t want to order new yard signs…

Eleven Statewide Ballot Measures

Thanks so much to all of you who joined one or both of our town hall meetings in September and October! We heard some great presentations from those supporting and opposing many of the eleven statewide ballot measures we’ll all be voting on this November.

If you haven’t yet, make sure to read your Blue Book to get the full picture on some incredibly consequential votes you’ll be casting.

I’m also providing very quick summaries with my endorsements below. Enjoy, and VOTE!


Statewide Measures

Amendment D
This measure simply helps allocate judges in the new 23rd Judicial District, which was created when the legislature opted to split the 18th District in half. There’s no downside. I’m voting yes.

Amendment E
This measure creates a small tax benefit to help people who have lost their spouse in war. I’m voting yes.

Amendment F
This measure tweaks some rules for nonprofits using bingo or raffle for fundraising to make it a little bit less cumbersome. I’m voting yes.

Proposition FF
This measure significantly expands healthy food programs in schools, paid for by limiting income tax deductions for households making more than $300,000 per year. I’m voting yes.

Proposition GG
This measure will add a new tax impact table to the ballot for future measures that would increase or reduce the state income tax rate. This information will help voters make educated decisions about how a measure will impact their pocketbook compared to the impact on funding for state programs. I’m voting yes.

Proposition 121
This measure slashes income tax rates in a way that will create long-term problems for funding of K-12, higher education, and other state priorities. I’m voting no.

Proposition 122
This measure creates a structure for medical use of natural psychedelic substances (the most well known of which are psilocybin mushrooms) and decriminalizes simple possession. I think the medical research shows incredible promise for how these substances can help people with PTSD, depression, and other mental health disorders. I’m voting yes.

Proposition 123
The measure carves out a portion of the dollars above the TABOR revenue limit to be used for affordable housing programs. In surplus years (like this one), this means we’ll be sending out a smaller amount of TABOR refunds to taxpayers. In non-surplus years, this funding may compete with other state priorities, but because it’s a statutory measure, the legislature will have discretion and will not be forced to cut other programs in order to fund the transfers into the housing fund. This last piece is a bit complicated, and for that reason, I’ve wrestled with this ballot measure. At the end of the day, however, there’s no denying the great need for more affordable housing, and I’m confident the legislature can solve the out-year problem. I’m voting yes.

Proposition 124, 125, & 126
These ballot measures deregulate different parts of Colorado’s alcohol laws and are intended to benefit certain businesses and increase consumer convenience. However, there are potential negative impacts to other businesses. Prop 124 allows liquor retailers to expand how many stores they can open. Prop 125 allows grocery and convenience stores to sell wine (in addition of full-strength beer, which they’ve been able to sell for a couple years now). Prop 126 allows delivery by third party delivery apps and removes an existing legal requirement that delivery be done by a store’s employee, allowing independent contractors to deliver.

You should definitely read the Blue Book on these three to understand all potential benefits and concerns, but here’s how I’d simply express my views. I’d prefer to stand with small retailers over large ones. I’d like Colorado’s small breweries to have a real shot at getting their beers on shelves at local liquor stores. I’d like delivery of alcohol to be held to the highest standards to prevent access by minors. And I want to support businesses who hire full-time employees over businesses who use gig workers to avoid paying benefits. For these reasons, I’m voting no on all three measures.

Local Measures

Jeffco Issue 1A
This measure de-bruces state funds going to the county. What this means is that grants from the state won’t force the county to issue larger refunds and can instead put our tax dollars to the best possible uses. I’m voting yes.

Jeffco Issue 1B & 1C
These measures authorize and tax, respectively, marijuana sales and manufacturing in the unincorporated parts of the county. I’m voting yes.

NW Lakewood Sanitation Issue 6A
This measure de-bruces property tax revenues for this crucial community service. It doesn’t raise tax rates and will invest dollars in important infrastructure for our community. I don’t live in the boundaries of this special district, but I support the measure.

Upcoming Meet-and-Greets!

Upcoming Meet-and-Greets!

While the Colorado legislature has been out of session since May, it’s been incredibly exciting to see the US Congress finally pass the Inflation Reduction Act which makes historic investments in fighting climate change, reducing energy bills, and bringing down the cost of health care and prescription drugs.

I’ve been busy campaigning this summer and I want to invite you to join me at one or more of three upcoming meet-and-greets. These aren’t fundraisers–they’re just opportunities for the people of House District 30 to come out and talk with me about their ideas and concerns for the future of Colorado!

Southeast Lakewood

  • Tue 9/6, 5:30-7:00pm
  • Lasley Park
    6677 W Florida Ave, Lakewood

Central Lakewood

  • Thu 9/8, 6:00-7:30pm
  • Home of Sandie Weathers
    8107 W Virginia Ave, Lakewood — across from Belmar Park

Edgewater & Northeast Lakewood

  • Sat 9/10, 1:00-2:30pm
  • Home of Allie Morgan & Brett McMillian
    2190 Jay St, Edgewater

Please email me at chris@kennedy4co.com to let me know which one you’d like to attend!


What we did this session

What we did this session

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!


Transforming the way we pay for and deliver primary care!

Transforming the way we pay for and deliver primary care!

In my nearly six years as a State Representative, I’ve spent more time and energy on healthcare reform than on any other topic. I’ve sponsored legislation to improve regulations of free-standing emergency rooms, require cost transparency from hospitals, implement a reinsurance program (which has saved consumers more than 20% on premiums in the individual market), and establish a board to set upper payment limits on prescription drugs. 

I’ve also proudly supported the work of my colleagues on preventing surprise out-of-network bills, capping the price of insulin, establishing a standardized health insurance option, and more.

Though these efforts have done much to save people money and improve health outcomes, they all treat symptoms rather than curing the disease, which is that our healthcare system incentivizes a higher volume of services rather than a higher value of care.

I’m not the first person to notice this problem. From 2015-2019, Colorado’s State Innovation Model (SIM) utilized federal grant funding to advance value-based payment structures and support 344 primary care practices and four Community Mental Health Centers in integrating behavioral and physical health care.

The Hospital Transformation Program (SB17-267) and the Primary Care Payment Reform Collaborative (HB19-1233) have also meaningfully advanced conversations about paying for value over volume.

Last Spring, after the passage of the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), House Speaker Alec Garnett encouraged my colleagues and me to think big about how we can use these one-time federal resources to meaningfully transform systems. Many of my colleagues are doing incredible work to transform behavioral health, housing, workforce development, and economic support programs in Colorado.

For me, it kept coming back to value and integration in healthcare. I remember lying awake in bed one night, my mind racing through possibilities, when I decided to get up sometime after midnight and write an initial proposal for what I called “SIM 2.0.” 

I know I’m not the only person to have thought of this idea or moniker, but my proposal included a new grant program to help primary care practices integrate behavioral health services and move toward value-based payments. The theory was that the grants and technical assistance could help practices upgrade technology and change workflows, and that the improved payment models would sustain the practices over the long term as care delivery became more efficient, health outcomes improved, and downstream costs caused by untreated conditions were avoided.

That idea is now the core of House Bill 22-1302, which appropriates $32M of ARPA funds to primary care practice transformation grants and technical assistance programs.

As these ideas were developing, I began work on addressing another component of this problem–the conflicting requirements of health insurance plans. You see, many health insurance carriers have made progress on incorporating value-based payments–also commonly called alternative payment models, or APMs–into their contracts with primary care providers. But they all do it their own way, which leaves the average doctor’s office dealing with a different set of quality metrics and payment parameters for every insurance company. Can you imagine a doctor having to identify their patient’s insurance company before they could know which health outcomes would determine how they get paid? It makes no sense.

That’s why I’m sponsoring House Bill 22-1325 with Representative Yadira Caraveo, a pediatrician who shares my commitment to transforming our healthcare system. The bill will require alignment between insurance carriers of certain APM parameters to reduce administrative cost and simplify the work of primary care providers so they can spend less time dealing with insurance companies and more time focusing on their patients.

I truly believe these are the most significant things we can do in Colorado to improve equity, outcomes, and value in our healthcare system. 

Together, these efforts build the foundation of a universal primary care system in Colorado that will provide more efficient, whole-person care that will make people healthier and save them money by reducing the need for expensive hospital care and prescription drugs.

These are the kinds of transformations that go beyond treating symptoms of a broken system to actually start curing the disease.

Read more at ColoradoSun.com

Fighting all night for abortion access in Colorado

Fighting all night for abortion access in Colorado

I’m writing this note after staying up all night fighting to protect a woman’s right to control her own body.

The debate is still going, and I’m here for it no matter how long it takes.

This summer, the US Supreme Court is set to rule on Dobbs v Jackson Woman’s Health Organization. The 6-3 conservative majority on the court, which includes a seat stolen by Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) when he refused to act on President Obama’s nominee in 2016, is very likely to strike down Roe v Wade, the landmark 1973 case that established a woman’s right to abortion care.

This year, 561 abortion restriction bills have been introduced in all but three states. 19 states have already enacted 106 restrictions, including 12 abortion bans.

But not Colorado.

That’s why we introduced House Bill 1279, which codifies contraception and abortion protections in Colorado state law and prohibits local governments from enacting abortion restrictions if Roe is struck down.

On Wednesday night, I sat on the Health and Insurance Committee from 1:30pm until 3:40am as we heard hours of witness testimony for and against the bill. I voted yes, and the bill passed on a party line vote.

On Friday morning at 10:53am, we started the 2nd reading debate on the House floor. I told Kyra not to expect me home before she went to bed that night, but I didn’t expect that I wouldn’t be there when she woke up this morning.

It’s no secret there are deeply held views on both sides of this issue, and I don’t blame my colleagues across the aisle for fighting for what they believe in.

But the Colorado House Democrats have deeply held beliefs, too. We believe that what happens in a woman’s body is her business and nobody else’s. We don’t believe the government should dictate when a woman must carry a pregnancy to term versus seeking an abortion. We believe abortion should be safe, legal, and accessible. We believe contraception should be universally available and affordable. And we believe in woman’s fundament right to choose.

I’m not sure how much longer this debate will carry on, but I know what the result will be. The voters of Colorado have elected Democratic majorities in both House and Senate, and this is an example of why majorities matter.

When the vote is finally called, we will pass this bill and make sure Colorado law reflects a woman’s fundamental right to control her own body.

And then, we will sleep.