AARP Colorado is pleased to report on its 2019 legislative activities. All bills referenced in this report were signed by Governor Jared Polis, unless otherwise indicated. An asterisk (*) denotes a priority vote. Scroll all the way down to see if we will be visiting your community during our state tour in the fall, and click here for a complete list of the bills we worked on in 2019.
AARP Colorado's priorities for 2019 and beyond were to work toward lowering the cost of prescription drugs, fight utility rate hikes, help create affordable housing and ensure all Coloradans have the ability to save for retirement.
Stop Rx Greed
*Senate Bill 19-5 passed. The importation bill by Senators Robert Rodriguez and Joann Ginal and Representative Sonya Jaquez Lewis requires the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing to design a wholesale importation program for prescription pharmaceutical products from Canada and, subject to federal approval, to implement this program, making wholesale imported prescription pharmaceutical products from Canada available to Colorado consumers by 2022. Consumers covered by private insurance and those without insurance will both benefit as the state’s accumulated savings are directly passed on to help bring down the cost of drugs for all.
Colorado Secure Savings
After several attempts, the Colorado Legislature finally passed a study bill to consider giving all Coloradans the ability to save for retirement.
*SB 173, by Sens. Kerry Donovan and Brittany Pettersen and Reps. Tracy Kraft-Tharp and Chris Hansen, creates a Board of Trustees to develop a plan for a universal, automatic and portable low-fee IRA for employees without access to workplace plans. It will be based on detailed market and financial analyses and managed by a financial services company. If found feasible, the board would send the the Colorado Legislature its recommendations for final approval, as well as a thorough analysis of the likely costs to implement a savings program.
Utility Customers Lose
Consumers stand to pay more in electricty bills from Xcel Energy and Black Hills Energy as these well-intentioned bills are fraught with unintended consequences. These bills listed below were aimed at addressing environmental concerns, but have the consequence of raising utility costs for Colorado’s consumers to cover costs that should rightly be born by Xcel and Black Hills shareholders. *SB 77, sponsored by Rep. Hansen and Sens. Kevin Priola and Angela Williams, will give Xcel and Black Hills, the two PUC-regulated utilities in the state, rate-base protection for their electric vehicle charging stations to the detriment of their competitors who provide this service today. No other provider of the nearly 700 charging stations in the state is able to get a state-authorized rate of return on its investment. Even more troubling, the cost for the charging stations would be paid by all 1.6 million Xcel and Black Hills ratepayers, the vast majority of whom are residential and only a small percentage of whom have electric vehicles.
As originally introduced, *SB 236 sponsored by Sens. Leroy Garcia and Steve Fenberg and Reps. K.C. Becker and Hansen, was supported by AARP because it called for continuting the Public Utilities Commission, which is under sunset rules. Unfortunately, the bill was amended in the House of Representatives in the final days of the legislative session. After immense lobbying by Xcel, the bill was amended to include the construction of costly new power plants and the issuance of ratepayer-backed bonds to retire functioning power plants early, effecting “securization of the debt.” The proponents argued securitization is beneficial to ratepayers because it replaces the utility’s higher-cost debt with lower-cost bond debt, which reduces financing costs. However, they neglect to mention that this financial mechanism ultimately results in utility customers paying a surcharge that the utility will transfer to bondholders as payment. Xcel and Black Hills customers will likely see new surcharges on their statements as a result of this amendment: One to fund worker re-training, another for all compliance costs related to the bill and the final to raise rates by adding a new, long-term surcharge on utility bills to pay off bond costs.
Colorado's Fiscal Health
Colorado has the most restrictive tax and spending limitation in the nation embedded in our constitution. Known as TABOR, it creates winners and losers and forces the legislature to make tough spending decisions. In recent years, our transportation and education systems have suffered with limited state dollars. Funding for services that help older adults stay in their communities have also been negatively impacted by TABOR. This year, we thwarted the biggest attempt to date to make changes to the Senior Homestead Property Tax Exemption as a result of limited state funds. AARP remains committed to the idea that we need to make changes to TABOR before we make any changes to the homestead amendment. House Bill 19-1257 and HB 1258 by Reps. Becker and Julie McCluskie and Sens. Lois Court and Priola will allow voters to decide if we as taxpayers want to keep or spend all of the revenue in excess of the TABOR constitutional limitation, beginning with the 2018-19 fiscal year in order to provide funding for public schools, higher education, as well as roads, bridges and transit.
Colorado's Affordable Housing
HB 1085 by Rep. Tony Exum and Sen. Rachel Zenzinger will provide property-related expense assistance grants for low-income seniors and individuals with disabilities. In addition, HB 1106 by Reps. Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez and Brianna Titone and Sen. Pettersen states that a landlord may not charge a prospective tenant a rental application fee unless the landlord uses the entire amount of the fee to cover the landlord's costs in processing the rental application. HB 1118 by Reps. Dominique Jackson and Rochelle Galindo and Sen. Williams changes Colorado law from three to 10 days, in which a landlord has to provide a tenant the opportunity to cure a violation for unpaid rent or for a first violation of any other condition or covenant of a lease agreement. HB 1170 by Reps. Mike Weismann and Dominique Jackson and Sens. Williams and Jeff Bridges protects tenants in situations in which a landlord commits a warranty breach, meaning the residential premises is uninhabitable or unfit for human habitation. HB 1245 by Reps. Weissman and Sens. Mike Foote and Julie Gonzales creates an increase in affordable housing fund from increased state sales tax revenue that results from a modification to the state sales tax vendor fee. HB 1309 by Reps. Edie Hooten and McCluskie and Sens. Pete Lee and Fenberg concerns the regulation of mobile home parks, granting counties the power to enact ordinances for mobile home parks, extending the time to move or sell a mobile home after eviction proceedings, and creating the "Mobile Home Park Dispute Resolution and Enforcement Program."
HB 1319 by Reps. Hugh McKean and Shannon Bird and Sens. Faith Winter and Dennis Hisey incentivizes developers to create more affordable housing. HB 1322 by Reps. Dylan Roberts and Perry Will and Sens. Don Coram and Dominick Moreno expands the supply of affordable housing. Finally, SB 180 by Sen. Winter and Rep. McCluskie, creates an eviction legal defense fund.
Efforts to improve health care in Colorado that passed include HB 1001 by Rep. Kennedy and Sens. Moreno and Bob Rankin, concerning hospital transparency measures required to analyze the efficacy of hospital delivery system reform incentive payments. HB 1010 by Reps. Kyle Mullica and Lois Landgraf and Sens. Pettersen and Bob Gardner requires free standing emergency rooms to be licensed. HB 1150 by Reps. Brianna Titone and Sen. Jessie Danielson recreates the consumer counsel in the Division of insurance. HB 1174 by Reps. Daneya Esgar and Marc Catlin and Sens. Pettersen and Gardner helps correct the problem of balance billing by hospitals. HB 1320 by Reps. Susan Lontine and Kennedy and Sen. Winter requires each nonprofit hospital, in consultation with its board, to complete an annual community health needs assessment and an annual community benefit implementation plan.
Other Deserving Bills
Additional legislation that supports older adults include HB 1045 by Reps. Marc Snyder and Matt Soper and Sen. Ginal, which helps fund the duties related to the office of public guardianship. In addition, HB 1237 by Reps. Kerry Tipper and Yolanda Caraveo and Sens. Winter and Priola creates the 2020 census outreach grant program to provide grants to local governments to support the accurate counting of the population of the state for the 2020 census. HB 1289 by Rep. Weissman and Sens. Foote and Gonzales creates additional protections in the Colorado consumer code. SB 73 by Sen. Ginal and Reps. Lois Landgraf and Dylan Roberts creates a statewide system of advance medical directives. SB 172 by Sens. Danielson and Ginal and Rep. Jonathan Singer concern crimes related to an at-risk person of unlawful abandonment and unlawful confinement. SB 188 by Sens. Winter and Williams and Reps. Matt Gray and Monica Duran will study the creation of a paid family leave program in Colorado.
How They Voted
AARP Colorado asked for yes votes on SB 5 and 173. We asked for no votes on SB 77 and 236 (aa denotes as amended in the house).
These selected votes provide only a limited view of each legislator’s voting record. This voting record does not highlight unrecorded matters such as work in committees and constituent services. This voting record does not reflect the overall qualification a legislator has for public office and should not be the sole determinate in evaluating a legislator.
AARP on Tour
Join AARP Colorado staff and volunteers to discuss AARP legislative priorities. Good conversation and light refreshments provided. All forums are free and open to the public:
Sept. 4, 2019
Smokin’ Fins Restaurant
7600 Grandview Ave #100, Arvada, CO 80002
Oct. 2, 2019
Brues Alehouse Brewing Co.
120 Riverwalk Place, Pueblo, CO 81003
Oct. 10, 2019
New Belgium Brewery
500 Linden St, Fort Collins, CO 80524