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!

Thanks!
Chris
 


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!

Chris

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!

Chris

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.
Chris

Caucus Night is March 1st

It’s that time again!

Every two years, the Democratic and Republican parties begin the process of nominating their candidates with the precinct caucuses.

If you’ve never been, caucus night has evolved considerably over the years. Once upon a time, caucuses took place in living rooms. A volunteer leader would offer their home and host neighbors from across their precinct for a discussion of candidates and issues and an election of delegates to represent that precinct at the county assembly.

When I attended my first caucus in 2008, the parties had started organizing larger events at schools where anywhere from 3 to 40 precincts would all gather together, allowing the candidates to attend caucuses and meet a greater number of attendees.

This year, many caucuses will be held on Zoom to make sure people feel comfortable participating without risking exposure to COVID19. It’s much less intimate, but I’m so grateful to the party leaders who have done the work to make it all happen.

  • Democrats in JeffcoFind all information about your caucus here.
  • Democrats elsewhere in Colorado Find your caucus date/time/location here.
  • Republicans Start here.
  • Minor Party Members – You will have a different kind of assembly process. Google your state party organization for details.
  • Unaffiliateds – You cannot participate at caucus. However, you will still be able to cast a ballot in the June primary election for either the Democratic or Republican party, whichever you choose to influence this year.

To participate in caucus, you must be affiliated with the party of your choosing and registered to vote in your current precinct 22 days in advance (by February 7th, 2022). State law and party rule also allow for participation of pre-registered 16 and 17 year olds. You can learn about voting pre-registration here.

What happens at caucus & assembly?
In years with highly competitive races for Governor or US Senate, there are lively debates about candidates and preference polls to allocate delegates. This year, however, it will be a more simplified process. There will still be discussion, but anyone who has signed up in advance to be a delegate to the county assembly will automatically be elected. Delegates should be prepared to commit half a day to attending the county assembly on March 19th starting at 8:00am.

Caucuses also elect two Precinct Organizers (formerly known as Precinct Committee Persons) for every precinct. These POs become members of the county central committee for the next two years and will help conduct the business of the party including the election of party officers, organizing Democrats in your precinct to turn out to vote in November, and serving on vacancy committees should a Democratic elected official resign or pass away.

At the assembly, there will be discussion and voting to nominate all Democratic candidates for districts contained wholly within Jefferson County, including many State House, State Senate, and county level offices. Delegates will also be elected to the Congressional District and State Assemblies.

There may not be many Democratic primaries in our neck of the woods this year, but I would encourage you to sign up and attend anyway. It’s a great opportunity to get connected to your neighbors and start building momentum for an incredibly important election this November.

I remember showing up to caucus in 2008 to support Barack Obama, Mark Udall, and Gwyn Green. It was a brand new experience for me, and I loved every minute as I was elected delegate to assemblies and conventions at every level. Sure, that meant giving up a lot of Saturdays, but it also sparked my passion for politics. And every since, I’ve committed myself to making the biggest difference I can, every day.

I hope you choose to attend this year. We need your energy and passion to keep Colorado moving forward. Feel free to reply with any questions.

Chris

As we begin another legislative session

As we begin another legislative session

Every January, the opening day of the General Assembly marks the beginning of another opportunity to spend 120 days developing policies and fighting the big fights to make the biggest difference we can to make life better for the people of Colorado.

This year, the shadow of the pandemic looms large, as do the economic disruptions from the COVID hangover. While we’re all eager to get back to a more normal life, many are struggling to keep up with the high cost of living. There’s little we can do about the global factors that are driving prices of things like gas and groceries, but we’ve been working for years on solutions to bring down the costs of healthcare, housing, child care, and higher education. We will be continuing that work this session.

For the families struggling the most, our work last year to close tax loopholes on wealthy corporations and special interests has allowed us to increase funding for the earned-income tax credit and child tax credit. And I’m crossing my fingers that the US Senate gets it together to pass the Build Back Better plan that wil continue the federal child tax credit and do even more to help hard-working families get through this tough time. I know Senators Bennet and Hickenlooper are supporting that effort.

Our public schools are also struggling. On top of being chronically underfunded for decades, the pandemic has strained our educators and set back our students. That’s why we’ll be boosting funding for education this year to support those teachers and make sure every kid is given the educational opportunities they need to prepare for a successful life.

There are so many other ways we’ve made progress over the last few years on dozens of issues covering everything from climate change to transportation infrastructure to gun violence prevention, and I’m excited to continue that work while we also address the most immediate needs of the people of this beautiful state. 

For my part, I’m focusing my efforts on a few specific things:

  • Utility Consumer Protections – When a customer is overdue, they may receive robocalls and letters that they’ll soon be disconnected, but it’s rare that someone actually talks to them and helps connect them to consumer assistance programs. And when a customer pays an overdue bill, there’s no guarantee their service will be reconnected the same day. We can do more to make sure consumers’ needs come first.
  • Primary Care Payment Reform – We’ve been talking for years about the need to prioritize preventive care and move from fee-for-service to paying for quality outcomes, but progress has been limited. I want to pick up the pace and move closer to a system of universal primary care.
  • Health-based Air Pollution Standards – We’ve made a lot of progress on climate change and monitoring air toxics around refineries, but what about other toxic chemicals released by a variety of industries that may cause cancer or other health effects? It’s time to beef up air quality monitoring across the state for all harmful chemicals and hold industry accountable for the health of their surrounding communities.
  • Senior Housing Supports – Since my first year at the legislature, I’ve been working on finding ways to replace the broken senior homestead exemption with a better senior housing benefit that will give more support to lower-income seniors including renters and remove the ten-year residency requirement so that these seniors can downsize and take their tax credit with them. It’s the most complex policy I’ve ever worked on, and I’m getting closer to the right solution. Maybe this year will be the year.
  • Protecting Voting Rights – As Chair of the State Affairs Committee, I hear all proposed legislation related to elections and voting. I will hold the line against “bie lie” conspiracy theorists and protect Colorado’s gold-standard election system from right-wing attacks. This shouldn’t be a partisan issue, and even the vast majority of Colorado’s County Clerks (most of which are Republicans) agree that our election systems are secure. But there are several GOP legislators who brought legislation last year to undermine our election system and chip away at voting rights in the name of increased security. They’re wrong, and I’ll fight them at every turn.

As I’ve said before, legislating is a team effort. None of us can be experts on everything, so we each specialize and work to build support among our colleagues. While I’m focused on the ideas above, I know my colleagues are digging into countless other ways to help Coloradans get through this tough time and make this beautiful state even better and more prosperous than it already is. I can’t wait to see what they come up with.

Follow our work at the legislature this session here and join our Zoom town hall on January 22nd.

And stay well. Hold your loved ones close. This too shall pass.

Chris

What happened with redistricting

What happened with redistricting

I hope this warm fall has been treating you well! I’ve loved the warmer days and beautiful colors, but it’s a reminder of how much more work we must do to prevent the most harmful effects of climate change. We will certainly be continuing that work next year, but for now, I have a few important updates to share.

Firstly, the COVID-19 pandemic rages on. Hospitalization rates are high, and there are many reports of breakthrough cases. The good news is that kids 5-11 are eligible for vaccines now, and every Colorado adult is now eligible for a booster shot. Learn how to get yours here.

Secondly, I’d like to introduce you all to my baby girl, Lennon! She was born on August 28th, and Kyra and I have loved every minute of the last three months with her. It’s true what they say about the wholly different kind of love you experience with your child.

Thirdly, the independent redistricting commissions have completed their work and the Colorado Supreme Court has signed off on the final maps. The commissioners and staff had a monumental task in front of them—maybe an impossible one. I’ll admit I’m frustrated that they disregarded some of the public testimony about communities of interest, and I’m saddened that, as a result, some wonderful public servants will not be returning to the legislature after the 2022 election.

But another outcome is that the new maps are more competitive than they would be if either political party had full control of the process. While I might have chosen a map that was more reflective of our increasingly blue state, I don’t regret my support of Amendments Y & Z which were designed to take that choice out of my hands to prevent abuses of power from either side.

So what does this mean for Lakewood?

Well, it’s a pretty big shakeup. For the next year, I’ll continue to represent House District 23, which includes north Lakewood and the Green Mountain area, and Kerry Tipper will continue to represent House District 28, which includes south and east Lakewood.

But in the 2022 election, I’ll be running to represent the new House District 30, which is now drawn as the east/northeast Lakewood plus the city of Edgewater.

That means I’m losing about 2/3 of my current district as I’ll no longer be representing any of Lakewood west of Kipling. It’s a strange thing to spend so many years getting to know these communities and the ideas and concerns of the people who live there, only to find out that there’s a whole new community to get to know and represent for my final two years in the House.

2013-2022 House Districts
2023-2032 House Districts

Well, I’m always up for a new challenge, but I’ll truly miss serving the people of my current district. I can’t thank you enough for all of the support you’ve given me over my last three elections and last five years in the House. I hope to stay connected with you all, even when I’m no longer your Representative, and I hope you know that you can always reach out to me if you need anything or if you just want to share thoughts or ideas.

The good news is that you’ll all be in good hands with the legislators who will be running to represent you in 2022. And I’d like to take just a moment to sing their praises.

Currently representing House District 24 (Wheat Ridge, Golden, Edgewater) is Monica Duran. She’ll be running to represent the new House District 23, which picks up most of the territory I’m losing. Monica is most proud of her work to require safe storage of firearms, increase protections for victims of domestic violence, and reform construction retainage practices.

In south Lakewood, it’s a bit more complicated. Two amazing representatives, Kerry Tipper and Lisa Cutter, were drawn into the same district. They are still working through which will be running to represent the new House District 28, which includes the southernmost parts of Lakewood and much of unincorporated south Jeffco, in the House for the next two years.

Currently representing House District 28 (currently south and east Lakewood) is Kerry Tipper. Kerry is most proud of her work to expand health insurance coverage to include fertility treatment, funding of census outreach efforts to ensure an accurate count, and a significant increase of more than $400M in funding for early childhood education and child care programs.

Currently representing House District 25 (the Jeffco foothills & some unincorporated south Jeffco) is Lisa Cutter. Lisa is most proud of her work on improving enforcement of mental health parity laws, building out a better recycling infrastructure, phasing out single use plastics and styrofoam, and creating media literacy curriculum for kids.

Whichever of these three admirable leaders runs to represent you in 2022, you’ll be lucky to have such wonderful representation. But I’ll still miss you. And again, I’m so grateful for all of your support these last several years.

I’ll also take just a moment to talk about the State Senate and Congressional maps. Lakewood is currently split between two Senate districts, where Brittany Pettersen represents east Lakewood and Jessie Danielson represents west Lakewood. The new map essentially splits Lakewood north to south, and it will likely be the case in 2022 that Jessie Danielson runs to represent the northern part and Brittany Pettersen runs to represent the southern part.

Meanwhile, in Congress, we’re lucky that all of Lakewood is still in Congressional District 7 where we have the hardest working and most down-to-earth Representative in the whole US Congress, Ed Perlmutter.

Ok, I’m guessing only a small fraction of you have read this far, so I’d better wrap it up for today. Stay tuned for an announcement of a town hall in January, which will most likely be via Zoom unless pandemic conditions have dramatically improved. Until then, feel free to reply to this email with any thoughts, concerns, or ideas for the future!

Yours,
Chris Kennedy

Ten Big Huge Pieces of Legislation

Ten Big Huge Pieces of Legislation

By Chris Kennedy (July 15, 2021)

Friends and Neighbors,

Every legislative session brings its own challenges, and I’ve previously written about the work we did this session to prioritize pandemic-and-economic relief and recovery. Now that the dust has settled and bills have been signed into law by Governor Polis, I wanted to take a moment to tell you about the bills I spent the bulk of my time developing, stakeholding, and passing over the last several months.                   

In addition to maintaining my focus on reducing the high cost of healthcare and expanding prevention and treatment programs for substance use disorders, I dug in on democracy reforms, energy efficiency and utility assistance programs, rural broadband infrastructure, civil law, and health care services for people with severe disabilities. Read about my bills below, and click here to read the House Democrats’ comprehensive end-of-session report.

HB21-1047: County Commissioner Districts Gerrymandering                                              
In 2018, Colorado voters overwhelmingly chose to adopt Amendments Y and Z, which established guardrails to prevent gerrymandering for state legislative and congressional districts. My bill applies similar standards to county commissioner districts in counties that elect some or all of their commissioners by district (rather than countywide),  establishing clear criteria for fair and representative maps and requiring robust public participation.

HB21-1071: Ranked Choice Voting In Nonpartisan Elections                   
This bill seeks to encourage voter engagement and expand voter choice by making it easier for local governments to use a ranked-choice voting system. The bill allows municipalities to run ranked-choice elections through a county coordinated election, and directs the Secretary of State’s office to create statewide rules regarding voting systems and auditing practices for municipalities that opt into a ranked-choice voting system. Ranked-choice voting is secure, saves money, and empowers voters to rank candidates in order of their preference rather than being forced to select only one.

HB21-1105: Low-income Utility Payment Assistance Contributions
This bill creates a sustainable funding mechanism to support utility bill payment assistance, weatherization retrofits, and a cross-enrollment with the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program to maximize the number of Coloradans who can access these programs. Not only will these expanded programs help families afford their utility bills, but the increased weatherization investments will reduce energy consumption in the first place and help protect our environment.

HB21-1188: Additional Liability Under Respondeat Superior
In 2017, the Colorado Supreme Court made it easier for employers to shift liability for negligent or harmful actions to an employee and thus protect themselves from additional liability (Ferrer v. Okbamicael). This bill holds corporations accountable by allowing a plaintiff to bring direct negligence claims against an employer who has already admitted vicarious liability for its employee’s negligence.

HB21-1276: Prevention Of Substance Use Disorders
In 2019, Colorado experienced an unprecedented 1,062 drug overdose deaths. This bill requires health insurance plans to reduce copays for safer alternatives to conventional opioids including physical therapy, acupuncture, and atypical opioids. The bill also continues the 7-day limit for opioid prescriptions and the requirement that prescribers check the prescription drug monitoring program before prescribing, establishes new guardrails on benzodiazepine prescriptions, forms a university collaborative to bring together experts to identify and implement the best evidence-based prevention programs, and funds expanded prescriber education programs.

HB21-1289: Funding For Broadband Deployment
The need for broadband access and reliability has burdened Colorado communities for years, and the COVID-19 pandemic made this need even more apparent. This bill provides $75 million to increase internet access and reliability across the state through the deployment of devices, and the development of middle and last-mile infrastructure to support essential services like telehealth and education. 

HB21-1321: Voter Transparency In Ballot Measures
Because of TABOR, the title for any ballot measure raising taxes must be in ALL CAPS and must begin with “SHALL TAXES BE INCREASED BY $###,###,###. However, there’s no requirement that a ballot measure reducing taxes show where the cuts will come from. This bill adds new requirements to ballot titles and blue books to make sure voters have all the information they need to make informed decisions about ballot measures that have such a profound impact on our state.

SB21-038: Expansion of Complementary And Alternative Medicine
Coloradans with long-term physical disabilities like spinal cord injuries, multiple sclerosis, brain injuries, spina bifida, muscular dystrophy, or cerebral palsy currently face difficulties accessing affordable integrative therapies. There is strong evidence that alternative treatments including massage, acupuncture, and chiropractic services dramatically improve the quality of life for people with disabilities and keep them off of opioids and out of the hospital, which saves money. For nearly a decade, Colorado has studies these impacts through a five-county pilot program for people with spinal cord injuries. Building on the success of the pilot, this bill expands the program to include persons with the aforementioned conditions in every county in Colorado.

SB21-137: Behavioral Health Recovery Act
For a long time, Colorado has underfunded mental health services and so Coloradans struggle to get the mental health care that they need. Last year, we were forced to cut funding even further for many behavioral health programs because of COVID-19. This bill invests $114 million in various behavioral health programs that address substance abuse, maternal and child health, and other behavioral health prevention and treatment programs around the state.  It also established a process that will take place this summer and fall to take a look at our behavioral health system and target investments from the American Rescue Plan to make transformative changes and create a true system so that every Coloradan can access behavioral health services when and how they need them.

SB21-175: Prescription Drug Affordability Review Board
Nearly one in three Coloradans across the state currently struggles to afford the prescription drugs they need to stay healthy. This bill will help reduce the high cost of prescription drugs by establishing the Prescription Drug Affordability Review Board, which will research, review, and limit costs for up to 12 unaffordable prescription drugs each year.

For me, the best parts of this job are that I get to help people every day and that I get to learn new things every day. I’ve already started working on legislation for 2022, and I can’t wait to share with you what I have in store. Make sure to send me your ideas too!

Chris


P.S. Check out these news stories written about many of these pieces of legislation:

73rd General Assembly adjourns, with historic moves made on transportation, tax policy, mental health care

Colorado looks to lower high prescription drug costs by reviewing prices, setting ceilings

9 bills that will likely shape Colorado in years to come from the 73rd General Assembly

Colorado Has New Laws For Health Insurance And Drug Prices. What’s Next?

Polis signs Colorado Option bill into law, along with bill meant to reduce prescription drug prices

Polis signs bills on mental and behavioral health and substance abuse

Governor signs bills on elections, tribal nations and broadband expansion

Power provider plans to bring fiber-optic broadband service to rural parts of El Paso County

Polis signs bill to increase broadband access in rural Colorado

Polis signs substance use prevention bill but warns against future health insurance mandates

Colorado law boosts utility bill payment assistance for low-income households