Another successful kickoff!

Another successful kickoff!

Thanks so much to all of you who came out to support me last night! I’m excited about the work we’re all going to do together over the next few months to elect some great folks to lead Colorado forward over the next few years!

And a special thanks to Dan and Dona for hosting me once again (and for all of your work to get the yard ready after Monday night’s flood)!

If you couldn’t make it, you can still donate at Kennedy4CO.com/donate.

What happened at the legislature this session?

The whirlwind of the 2018 Legislative Session has come to a close. It was packed with ups and downs, vigorous debates, bipartisan breakthroughs, and a fair amount of drama. At the end of the day, I feel like we actually got a lot of good work done!

Though this was only my second session as a legislator, it was my sixth session counting my years as a staffer. This session stands out from the rest for one primary reason – we decided to tackle the issue of sexual harassment in the workplace, and we started by making sure there were real consequences for the unacceptable behavior of one of our own members. Read more about the expulsion of Rep. Steve Lebsock here.

Handling the sexual harassment issue the right way was very time consuming, but we kept plugging away at a number of issues throughout the session. Many of us were engaged in negotiations since opening day on issues of transportation and education funding, reforming our state pension system, and continuing the Colorado Civil Rights Division. On all of these issues, we were successful in passing bipartisan legislation that will soon be signed into law by Governor Hickenlooper.

With any big bipartisan deal, both sides have to compromise. Some of those compromises were really painful, especially in the pension reform bill. By way of background, our Public Employee Retirement System (PERA) was in need of some adjustment following a reduction in the long-term expected rate of return on our investments along with an update to our mortality tables to reflect the longer expected lifespan of Coloradans. We approached the policy with the idea of “shared sacrifice” in which employers, employees, and retirees would all need to give a little. This meant increasing the retirement age, increasing the employer and employee contributions, decreasing the annual cost-of-living-adjustment, and more. While I would have favored structuring the bill somewhat differently, we had to make some concessions to get a deal with Senate Republicans. I ultimately voted yes on the bill because I think it’s critical to protect the pension program and I was uncomfortable with kicking the can down the road another year, especially when we don’t know who will be the Governor next year.

As for my own legislation, I focused mostly on health care issues. I am extremely proud of the five bills we passed addressing the opioid epidemic and the two bills we passed to increase cost transparency for consumers at free-standing emergency departments. I also worked hard to increase cost transparency for hospitals and pharmaceutical companies, though those efforts were defeated by Senate Republicans.

Last but not least, I poured enormous effort into a bill to stabilize the individual health insurance market. For those who don’t get health care through their employment or public programs, costs have been ridiculous – largely because President Trump and Congressional Republicans have gutted the Affordable Care Act in every way they know how. My bill would have established a reinsurance program to share the risks and costs of health care more broadly across all markets rather than concentrating those costs in the individual market. I worked hard to earn the support of several House Republicans and a couple Senate Republicans, but it wasn’t enough to get Senate Republican leadership to give the bill a fair hearing. Read more about the reinsurance bill here.

This is just a small sample of the work we did this year, but if you’re interested in digging deeper, check out this report on our accomplishments and attempts this year.

Reflecting on my first two legislative sessions, I feel like I’ve learned a lot about what it means to try to make progress in a messy, complicated system. The partisanship can be frustrating and the special interest politics can be pretty gross, but there are moments that give me hope. When you work hard, persevere after failure, and focus on building constructive relationships, there is common ground to be found. So, I’m going to keep plugging away and trying to make things happen. Thanks again for all of you who helped elect me to this crazy job, and I’ll be asking for your support again soon because I want to keep doing this job as your State Representative!

Transparency in Health Care

Transparency in Health Care

We all know that the high cost of health care is a problem, but the solutions are far from obvious. That’s why we must start by increasing the transparency of our health care system, and more specifically, hospitals.

There are many sources of information about hospital spending including the Medicare Cost Reports, the Colorado Healthcare Affordability and Sustainability Enterprise Annual Report, the Financial Health of Colorado Hospitals Report, and the All-Payer Claims Database, but none of them are able to answer a key question:

After all the money we’ve invested in our hospitals to improve Medicaid reimbursements and reduce uncompensated care, why is the cost shift to privately insured patients increasing?Text BoxHouse Bill 18-1207 requires hospitals to share more of their financial information with the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing, including audited financial statements, utilization and staffing information, and access to the existing secure data system containing utilization and financial data at the individual hospital level. With this data, HCPF will be better equipped to engage with Colorado hospitals to design the Delivery System Reform Incentive Payments (DSRIP) program, also known as the Hospital Transformation Project, which seeks to accelerate hospitals’ transitions to value-based payment systems and improved care coordination.

 

The Expulsion of A Serial Sexual Harasser

The Expulsion of A Serial Sexual Harasser

On Friday, I voted yes to expel Representative Steve Lebsock from the Colorado House of Representatives. A thorough, independent investigation reviewed 11 allegations from 5 women and found them all to be credible. One incident that stood out to me was when he solicited sex from a female lobbyist who had stopped by his office to talk to him about a piece of legislation.

This was probably the most serious vote I’ve been asked to take since being elected, and I did not arrive at my decision lightly. I read the redacted report and all related materials that were made available for those of us voting on the expulsion resolution. I was sufficiently convinced that Rep. Lebsock’s behavior has been both severe and pervasive, and there is no place for such behavior in any workplace, let alone the State Capitol.

You can hear my remarks during Friday’s debate here:

I am so proud of the conversation we had on Friday. Members of both parties took their responsibilities very seriously and worked through a difficult decision about expelling a member for the first time in 103 years. At the end of the day, 16 Republicans joined 36 Democrats in casting their vote to expel.

We were called upon to make a decision that was not about the fate of one man – it was about whether or not we would continue tolerating sexual harassment in the workplace. Now that we’ve taken this step, we must move forward with a commitment to changing this culture and setting a new standard at our own workplace and workplaces across our state and country.

Caucus is This Tuesday!

I’m excited to be running for reelection this year, and the first step is coming up on Tuesday, March 6th at 7:00pm. Both the Democratic and Republican parties will be holding their precinct caucuses all across Colorado, and I’ll be attending the Democratic precinct caucus in my area and seeking to earn the support of attendees, many of whom will be elected delegates to the Jefferson County Assembly on March 17th. At that assembly, I hope to be nominated to get my name on the ballot for the June 26th primary election.

If you’ve never been before, it can be a bit of a process. Fortunately, there’s some great info available on the Jeffco Dems webpage and the Colorado Dems webpage.

If you’re a Democrat living in House District 23, join us at Creighton Middle School (50 S. Kipling St, Lakewood) at 7:00pm. It shouldn’t be nearly as much of a circus as 2016 and I expect there to be ample parking in the school lot. That said, you should still plan to arrive between 6:00 and 6:30 so we can get started right on time.

More questions? Email me at chris@kennedy4co.com. See you Tuesday!

Presentations from Public Lands Town Hall

Presentations from Public Lands Town Hall

We had a fantastic town hall this morning with great speakers talking about all the ways we protect the lands that make our country and our state so special. If you missed it, check out the presentations below.

 

Public Lands 101

Josh Kuhn from Conservation Colorado gives an overview of federal and state lands.

Contact Josh at josh@conservationco.org.

 

 

Private Land Protection

Jordan Vana from Colorado Open Lands talks about how private landowners can opt to protect their land from development in perpetuity through our conservation easement system. Jordan didn’t give a powerpoint, but we have a map of Colorado’s conservation easements and you can learn more at the Colorado Open Lands website.

Contact Jordan at jvana@coloradoopenlands.org.

 

 

A History of Jeffco Open Space

John Litz from PLAN Jeffco talks about the 1/2 sales tax adopted by Jeffco voters in 1972 and all the projects funded with that revenue over the last 47 years.

Contact John at jklitz@comcast.net.

February Under the Golden Dome

February Under the Golden Dome

We’re now in the 4th full week of the 2018 legislative session. Things still feel a little quiet, but there’s a ton of work going on in the background as we all engage with stakeholders on our bills and finalize drafting. Six of my bills have now introduced, and I’m signed onto three in the Senate. Check them out here!

My first bill, HB18-1032, passed the House yesterday 44-20. I worked closely with Rep. Dan Thurlow (R-Grand Junction) on this bill to facilitate the sharing of certain health data to improve the quality of care. With the advent of electronic health records, more medical professionals are able to access patient data to better coordinate care, reduce duplicative tests, and save cost.

This is one of many bipartisan bills I’m working on this session. In fact, I’m partnering with Republican colleagues on nearly all of my bills. There will always be areas of disagreement, but the truth is there is a great deal of common ground. You just have to invest the time and energy to seek it out and build trust across the aisle.

Meanwhile, committee meetings are in full swing and we’re regularly working through bills. Just last week, my committees heard bills about oil and gas permitting, four-year nursing degrees, marijuana taxes, newborn hearing screenings, child care tax credits, teacher’s license renewals, and aquatic nuisance species.

Believe me when I say that it takes a bit of practice to jump from topic to topic every day like that. But it’s so interesting to learn about so many different issues and to see the legislators and advocates who engage to solve these kinds of problems.

This week, many of us are participating in #FightingForFamilies week. It’s the 25th anniversary of the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and we’re spending a lot of time talking about steps we can take in Colorado to build upon FMLA. One of our top priorities of the session is the similarly acronym’d FAMLI Act, which will establish an insurance program to provide wage-replacement benefits for workers who are sick or who need time off to care for a child or other family member.

For my part, I’m pretty focused on the ways that the high cost of living makes it difficult for working families to get by. While it’s true that our economy is doing well, the costs of housing, health care, and child care are growing faster than income for many hard-working Coloradans.

Along with Rep. Dominique Jackson (D-Aurora), I’m sponsoring a bill to limit rental application fees and require landlords to be more transparent when processing applications for vacant units. You can read the bill here, and you can check out a little video I recorded with Rep. Jackson here:

Happy February!

Open enrollment ending soon

It’s open enrollment season, and if you don’t already have health insurance, you can sign up between now and January 12th via Colorado’s health insurance marketplace, ConnectForHealthCO.com.

While there’s been much uncertainty about the future of health insurance, Colorado’s exchange has been seeing a record number of plan selections as well as a significant increase in the number of folks qualifying for financial assistance. While the federal government has recently repealed the individual mandate and canceled payments for the cost-sharing reductions (which reduce out-of-pocket expenses like deductibles), the advanced premium tax credit (APTC) is still fully funded for individuals and families with income between 138% and 400% of the federal poverty level (FPL). Individuals and families with income below 138% FPL qualify for Medicaid.

That means any individual with annual income below $48,240 or a family of four with income below $98,400 will receive assistance paying their premiums. Learn more at ConnectForHealthCO.com.

When more healthy people sign up, costs are shared more broadly and the system is more sustainable for everyone. Sign up soon and share with anyone you know who needs health insurance!

Even with premium assistance, we need to do more to address the unsustainable cost growth in our health care system. Learn more about what I’m working on here. 

Thanks,

Open Primary vs Party Caucus

Colorado voters passed an “open primary” law on the 2016 ballot, but there’s been some confusion about what all is changing. With competitive primaries for Governor and many other statewide and local offices this year, I thought I’d share some information to make sure all of you know how to participate.

Open Primaries
In Colorado, our primary elections are used to determine the major party nominees for the general election ballot. In 2018, our primary election is on Tuesday, June 26th and our general election is on Tuesday, November 6th.

With the passage of Proposition 108 in November 2016, there’s a new way for unaffiliated voters to participate in the primary elections. Previously, they could choose to affiliate with either the Democratic or Republican party up until 6:59pm on the day of the primary election, cast their ballot, and then go back to being unaffiliated the next day.

Now, unaffiliated voters do not need to change their party. Instead, they will receive two mail ballots – one with the Democratic candidates and one with the Republican candidates. They will be able to choose one ballot to complete and return.

Voters also passed Proposition 107 in 2016 which restored Colorado’s presidential primary. Learn more about both propositions in the 2016 Blue Book.

Party Caucuses & Assemblies
While the process for selecting nominees changed, the process for getting a candidate onto the primary ballot did not. Candidates must either collect petition signatures or go through a party caucus and be nominated at a party assembly.

This year’s Democratic and Republican Party Precinct Caucuses are on Tuesday, March 6th at 7:00pm. The caucuses are organized and paid for by the parties themselves and still rely on paper voter lists printed in advance, and that means that voters must be affiliated with a major party in advance if they want to participate. Same day registration/ affiliation for a caucus would require computers at every caucus site connected to the state voter database, and that’s just too expensive for the parties to handle.

If you’re already a registered voter, you will need to make sure your party affiliation is up to date by January 8th (60 days before caucus). If you’re registering in Colorado for the first time, you have a little more time and must register and affiliate by February 5th. Either way, you must be a resident of your precinct by February 5th.

If you’ve never attended caucus before, I highly recommend it. I’ll admit it’s more of a commitment than simply casting a ballot – you’ll need to dedicate the entire evening – but it’s a great way to meet people in your precinct and help determine which candidates go on to appear on the primary ballots in June.

Questions? Email me at chris@kennedy4co.com.

2018 Session Priorities

2018 Session Priorities

This is a challenging time for our country with a great deal of uncertainty about the future of federal policy, but here in Colorado we must keep moving forward. Our economy is booming, but our rapid growth and high cost of living are making it difficult for hard-working, middle class families to stay afloat. I will be focusing most of my energy this upcoming session on affordable health care and affordable housing.

I will also be working together with my colleagues on a variety of other big priorities including strengthening our public education system, accelerating our transition to renewable energy, investing in transportation and broadband infrastructure, protecting the equal rights of all our people, addressing the sustainability of our public employee retirement system, and working to eliminate sexual harassment from the workplace. It’s going to be a busy session!

Affordable Health Care

Since the passage of the Affordable Care Act, we’ve made great progress on expanding access to health care. Now it’s time to get serious about controlling costs. In June, the Colorado Commission on Affordable Health Care concluded three years of work and issued its final report on what’s been driving the cost increases. Unfortunately, part of their conclusion was that we don’t have enough data to really know. That’s why my #1 priority is to increase transparency in health care spending. I am sponsoring a bill (again) to require our hospitals to submit more data to the state so we can analyze both price and utilization trends and identify changes to reduce costs. I am also supporting a similar bill to increase pharmaceutical cost transparency.

Over the last few years, we’ve seen free-standing emergency departments spring up all over the Denver metro area. Sure, these facilities increase access to emergency services, but at what cost? Consumers are often faced with surprise out-of-network bills and the high operational costs are passed along to the rest of us in our increased premiums and deductibles. I am working with a bipartisan group of legislators on a trio of bills that will improve disclosures to patients, better track expenses, and create a more appropriate license type that comes with more appropriate regulations for these facilities.

Lastly, I will be continuing the work we started with the opioid interim committee to pass a package of six bills to address Colorado’s opioid epidemic by improving prevention education, limiting prescriptions, removing payment barriers in our insurance and Medicaid systems, and more.

Affordable Housing

Growth. It’s happening, and it’s our job to make sure it happens responsibly. That means investing in transportation infrastructure and protecting our open spaces and public lands. Most of all, it means incentivizing and requiring the inclusion of a significant number of affordable units in new construction projects. We must also improve renters’ rights, and I’ll be (again) sponsoring a bill to limit rental application fees to the actual costs so that landlords aren’t profiting by taking applications for units they never intend to lease.

Last but not least, I am taking a hard look at various senior tax exemptions and credits and exploring ways to reform them to give more support to seniors who own or rent so they can stay in their homes.

Download a printable version of these priorities here.