These are all of the human services bills proposed in the 2021 session. Each bill has its own bill number, please use your browser search feature to find the bill you are interested in. Return to the Colorado home page to pick a different bill category.

None of the text is the opinion of Engage. Each bill's description, arguments for, and arguments against are our best effort at describing what each bill does, arguments for, and arguments against the bill. The long description is hidden by design, you can click on it to expand it if you want to read more detail about the bill. If you believe we are missing something, please contact us with your suggestion. Some of these bills have the notation that they have been sent to the chamber's "kill" committee. This means that the leadership has decided to send the bill to the State committee even though it does not belong there based on its subject matter. This committee, in both chambers, is stacked with members from "safe" districts and the idea is to kill the bill without forcing any less safe members to take a hard vote. It is possible for a bill to survive the kill committee, but it is very rare.

Prime sponsors are given after each bill, with Senate sponsors in () and House sponsors in []. They are color-coded by party.

Some bills will have text highlighted in pink or highlighted in orange or highlighted in yellow. Pink highlights mean House amendments to the original bill; orange mean Senate amendments; yellow highlights mean conference committee amendments. The bill will say under the header if it has been amended.

Each bill has been given a "magnitude" category: Mega, Major, Medium, Minor+, Minor, and Technical. This is a combination of the change the bill would create and the "controversy" level of the bill. Some minor bills that are extending current programs would be major changes if they were introducing something new, but the entire goal here is to allow you to better curate your time. Something uncontroversial likely to pass nearly unanimously that continues a past program may not be worth your time (and please remember, you can still read all of the minor bills!). Technical bills are here to round out the list. They are non-substantive changes.

House

Click on the House bill title to jump to its section:

MEGA

MAJOR

HB21-1094 Foster Youth In Transition Program PASSED AMENDED

MEDIUM

HB21-1110 Colorado Laws For Persons With Disabilities PASSED AMENDED
HB21-1169 Prohibit Discrimination Organ Transplant Recipient PASSED
HB21-1187 Long-term Services And Support Case Management Redesign PASSED AMENDED
HB21-1222 Regulation Of Family Child Care Homes SIGNED INTO LAW AMENDED

MINOR+

HB21-1096 Foster Parents' Bill Of Rights KILLED BY BILL SPONSORS
HB21-1099 Policies And Procedures To Identify Domestic Abuse SIGNED INTO LAW VERY SIGNIFICANTLY AMENDED (category change)
HB21-1101 Preserving Family Relationships In Child Placement PASSED SIGNIFICANTLY AMENDED
HB21-1113 Income Tax Deduction For Mil Retirement Benefits KILLED BY HOUSE COMMITTEE
HB21-1123 CAPS Checks For Substantiated Mistreatment Of Adult SIGNED INTO LAW AMENDED
HB21-1151 Indian Tribes To Certify Own Foster Homes SIGNED INTO LAW
HB21-1217 Military Family Open Enrollment In Public Schools SIGNED INTO LAW AMENDED
HB21-1220 Colorado Child Support Commission Recommendations SIGNED INTO LAW
HB21-1228 Domestic Violence Training Court Personnel PASSED AMENDED
HB21-1248 Colorado Children's Trust Fund Act PASSED AMENDED
HB21-1270 Appropriation To Department Of Human Services For Supplemental Assistance Nutrition Program PASSED COMMITTEE
HB21-1313 Child Protection Ombudsman and Immigrant Children PASSED

MINOR

HB21-1014 Disability Symbol Identification Document PASSED AMENDED
HB21-1016 Transfer Jurisdiction To Veteran's Speciality Court SIGNED INTO LAW AMENDED
HB21-1018 Adoptive Parents Payments To Outside Providers SIGNED INTO LAW AMENDED
HB21-1084 Drivers' Licenses For Foster Children SIGNED INTO LAW
HB21-1116 Purple Heart Recipient Free State Park Access SIGNED INTO LAW
HB21-1166 Behavioral Health Crisis Response Training SIGNED INTO LAW AMENDED
HB21-1227 Medicaid Nursing Facilities Demonstration Of Need SIGNED INTO LAW
HB21-1231 United States Space Force SIGNED INTO LAW
HB21-1257 Recognition Of Veterans In Capitol Complex Parks PASSED SIGNIFICANTLY AMENDED
HB21-1272 Supporting The Child Protection Ombudsman PASSED AMENDED
HB21-1277 Eligible Recipients For Final Disposition Expenses PASSED

TECHNICAL

Senate

Click on the Senate bill title to jump to its section:

MEGA

SB21-286 Distribution Federal Funds Home- and Community-based Services PASSED

MAJOR

SB21-140 Child Abuse Reporting Information Concerning Child KILLED BY SENATE COMMITTEE
SB21-242 Housing Development Grants Hotels Tenancy Support Program PASSED SIGNIFICANTLY AMENDED

MEDIUM

SB21-014 Allocation Formula Colorado Child Care Program KILLED BY SENATE COMMITTEE SIGNIFICANTLY AMENDED
SB21-027 Emergency Supplies For Colorado Babies And Families PASSED AMENDED
SB21-075 Supported Decision-making Agreement SIGNED INTO LAW AMENDED
SB21-129 Veteran Suicide Prevention Pilot Program PASSED SIGNIFICANTLY AMENDED
SB21-277 Child Welfare Services Allocation Formula PASSED
SB21-290 Security For Colorado Seniors PASSED
SB21-292 Federal COVID Funding For Victim's Services PASSED

MINOR+

SB21-032 Mobile Veterans-support Unit Grant Program PASSED AMENDED
SB21-095 Sunset Employment First Advisory Partnership PASSED VERY SIGNIFICANTLY AMENDED (category change)
SB21-118 Alternative Response Mistreatment At-risk Adults PASSED
SB2-120 Open Caption Requirement For Movie Theaters KILLED BY BILL SPONSORS
SB21-188 Ballot Access For Voters With Disabilities SIGNED INTO LAW AMENDED
SB21-201 Stricter Transparency & Enforcement In Child Care SIGNED INTO LAW AMENDED
SB21-231 Energy Office Weatherization Assistance Grants (state stimulus bill) SIGNED INTO LAW AMENDED
SB21-275 Child Find Responsibilities PASSED
SB21-276 Childrens Habilitation Residential Program Enrollment PASSED

MINOR

SB21-015 Veterans Service Organization Stipend For Funeral Services SIGNED INTO LAW
SB21-018 Continutation Of Necessary Document Program PASSED AMENDED
SB21-024 Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day SIGNED INTO LAW COMMITTEE
SB21-099 Sunset License Plate Disability Support Act SIGNED INTO LAW
SB21-104 Sunset Special Education Fiscal Advisory Committee SIGNED INTO LAW AMENDED
SB21-115 Annual Funding For Talking Book Library Services SIGNED INTO LAW
SB21-117 Foster Care Student Services Coordination SIGNED INTO LAW
SB21-128 Modification To Administration Of The Nursing Home Penalty Cash Fund PASSED AMENDED
SB21-210 Remote Supports For Elderly, Blind, And Disabled Waiver SIGNED INTO LAW
SB21-216 Auxiliary Services Rural Areas SIGNED INTO LAW
SB21-269 Licensing Of Respite Child Care Centers PASSED

TECHNICAL

SB21-107 Honoring Carrie Ann Lucas SIGNED INTO LAW
SB21-267 Office Of Public Guardianship Extension PASSED

HB21-1014 Disability Symbol Identification Document (Danielson (D)) [Michaelson Jenet (D), Baisley (R)]

PASSED

AMENDED: Minor

Appropriation: $119,198
Fiscal Impact: None beyond appropriation

Goal:

  • Allow people with disabilities to put a discreet identifier symbol on their driver’s license or identification card
  • Require the state to collect any information the owner of a vehicle with disability license plates voluntarily discloses about the condition of the disabled person which must be immediately made available to a police officer who looks up the vehicle

Description:

The symbol must respect all types of disabilities, including cognitive, neurological, or physical. The state may not charge a fee for placing the symbol. State must notify police officers about the symbol. State also cannot charge a fee associated with putting information about someone’s disability on their vehicle record, either to the individual or to police officer’s for accessing it.

State must develop an application and renewal for for the symbol that requires signature by a professional under penalty of perjury that the applicant meets the requirements for the symbol.

State must nofity legislature each year on the percentage of people using these programs.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • There is strong correlation between use-of-force incidents by police officers and people with disabilities, so we need to do all we can to get officers more comfortable interacting with people who have disabilities and, in possible, forewarned when looking at identification or vehicle information that they are about to encounter someone with a disability
  • Everything here is voluntary, no one is forced to use the symbol or give out any information

In Further Detail: One of the strongest commonalities among those killed by police officers is a disability of some sort, a 2016 study found that half of people killed by police in the US had one. Police officers may lack training or experience in identifying and interacting with someone with a disability, so the hope of this bill is to reduce the number of use-of-force interactions between police and those with disabilities by increasing the awareness and comfort level of police officers. It may also serve to forewarn police officers so they will be more patient and understanding without resorting to force. And everything here is voluntary, no one will be forced to disclose anything they don’t want to.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • There may be other technological answers to this issue: the VITALS app is being used in Minnesota—it uses Bluetooth to automatically notify police officers of an individual’s disability via an imbedded item carried by the individual. It is voluntary, although there is a fee associated with the app

In Further Detail: This bill relies on several tenuous factors: voluntary participation by those with disabilities in a program they may not be so eager to divulge personal information to, and police noticing these symbols and seeing the information on file. A better way may be to push technology as an answer. The VITALS app is being used in Minnesota and it uses Bluetooth to automatically notify officers of the individual’s disability. Might need a pilot program to start but could work better.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1014

HB21-1016 Transfer Jurisdiction To Veteran's Speciality Court (Garcia (D), Gardner (R)) [Ortiz (D), Lynch (R)]

SIGNED INTO LAW

AMENDED: Minor

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

  • In jurisdictions that do not have a veteran’s specialty court, require courts to inform veterans of their right to petition to transfer their case to a jurisdiction with a veteran’s specialty court. Require transfer if the jurisdiction has the capacity to provide services and supports to the defendant agrees

Description:

Under current law, judges must ask defendants if they are veterans or active duty members of the armed forces, and if they are, inform them of mental health and/or substance use disorder treatment they may be eligible for. Veteran’s specialty courts are designed to offer an alternative to jail time for qualifying veterans, providing them with treatment, accountability, and structure to help them learn coping strategies and adjust to civilian life. Each court in the state sets its own criteria for eligibility.

The bill requires a defendant who is currently serving in the military requesting transfer to identify the specific jurisdiction they want to be transferred to and the services or supports available in that district. The court must then confer with the chief judge of that district and, if applicable, the veteran’s specialty court administrator to determine capacity.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • These courts provide veterans across the state an early-stage option to criminal convictions, pairing them with skilled treating professionals, supervisory staff, and peer veteran mentors to help them break the cycle of mental health, crime, and convictions
  • But they are not available without a change of venue to an estimated 30% of Colorado veterans, we need to ensure all of our veterans have access to the best possible chance of successful reintegration into civilian life

In Further Detail: These courts are specifically designed to help veterans trying to navigate post-traumatic stress and/or substance abuse problems as they attempt to reintegrate into civilian life. Veterans face challenges that require extremely specific supports, and these courts are designed to provide them. Using them can prevent a veteran from spiraling into a lifetime of hardship and crime. As for the defendant being responsible for navigating the system, that burden will fall on the defendant’s attorney, not the defendant themselves. And we provide every defendant in this country with a lawyer.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • This doesn’t address root problems with the system, which include that is already nearly at capacity and that the eligibility process may contain potential biases leaving out people of color at disproportionately high rates
  • This puts the entire burden on navigating the system on the defendant, who will need deep knowledge of the state’s veteran’s specialty courts to make a proper transfer request and may miss out simply for not knowing which districts have capacity and which do not and what the various eligibility requirements are. They need help

In Further Detail: These courts are already operating at near full capacity, so the bill may not make much of dent in terms of helping veterans get into them. It also does not address concerns about bias in these specialty courts, where data has consistently shown higher percentages of white people admitted to them (this is specialty courts in general, which includes drug courts) than commit criminal offenses in the district. The bill also puts a large burden on the defendant. This is a complicated system with no easy way to determine what districts offer what services, what the eligibility requirements are, and what capacity looks like at a given moment. We should be providing court-appointed aid to help the defendant navigate the system.


Bottom Line:

  • We try to keep cases within jurisdictions because the victims and witnesses are likely to be there. Forcing everyone to travel across the state will add to the costs of the prosecutor’s office, which is required to pay for all of it, including their own travel.

Bottom Line:

  • This appears to disregard the eligibility requirements around these courts, since the law requires transfer if there is capacity with no further restrictions and is silent on eligibility. These courts are designed for specific crimes and are completely inappropriate for others and each district has its own criteria.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1016

HB21-1018 Adoptive Parents Payments To Outside Providers (Jaquez Lewis (D)) [Bernett (R), Van Beber (R)]

SIGNED INTO LAW

AMENDED: Minor

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

  • Allow adoptive parents of kids with special needs adopted under the state’s subsidized adoption program to knowingly take on additional costs for items or services that are otherwise covered by Medicaid. To do this the parents must enter into a written agreement with the provider who does not accept Medicaid.

Description:

This program exists for kids with special needs that the state has not been able to place without the subsidies provided by the program.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • This allows parents to choose the doctor they want for the child and take Medicaid off the hook for those payments.

In Further Detail: Part of this program is an agreement that the child is enrolled in Medicaid and currently the program does not allow parents to use (and pay for) services that could be covered by Medicaid from a non-Medicaid provider. This in effect can limit the ability of the parents to choose the doctor they want for their child. The bill makes it clear that the parents are entirely on the hook for the costs (subsidies under this program are not a flat amount but provided for specific costs, so the parents would not be able to use them for this purpose) so we will not be paying extra. In fact quite the opposite, we won’t be paying for these services at all (the parents will).

Arguments Against: n/a

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1018

HB21-1084 Drivers' Licenses For Foster Children (Hisey (R)) [Exum (D), Van Winkle (R)]

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: Negligible each year

Goal:

  • Reimburse counties for costs paid to driving schools that provide instruction to foster kids in the custody of the state who are between ages of 15-21. Directs the state to create rules for kids who are in the custody of the state and do not possess all of the documentation required so they can still apply for an instruction permit or a minor driver’s license.

Description:

Program does not create liability for counties for contracting with private driving schools for injuries that occur during instruction. May accept gifts, grants, and donations.

Clarifies that a guardian ad litem, county official, or state official who signs a minor’s permit for a instruction permit or minor’s driver’s license does not add liability to themselves or their organization unless they sign an affidavit of liability.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • This removes two of the obstacles foster children face in getting a driver’s license, which is the ability to pay for private driving instruction, in particular those who are in state custody and may have a really hard time finding an adult to teach them, and lack of all required documentation. And removing the liability from counties should ensure that they use the program.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • There is no requirement to take driving classes once you reach a certain age in order to obtain a permit. We don’t need to spend money to ensure that foster kids in state custody are able to get permits and licenses at the earliest possible date.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1084

HB21-1094 Foster Youth In Transition Program (Zenzinger (D), Coram (R)) [Daugherty (D), Van Beber (R)]

PASSED

AMENDED: Moderate

Appropriation: $563,015
Fiscal Impact: None beyond appropriation in year 1, $1.6 million per year in Colorado funds at full implementation (there are matching federal funds)

Goal:

  • Create the foster youth in transition program to provide extended child welfare services to eligible youth who were in the foster care system (see Description) but have left, up until they are 21 years-old (you can stay in foster care through age 21 in Colorado). Eligible youth must request access to the program through their local juvenile court or county. Program is entirely voluntary and the youth can leave at any time. Program must provide help with Medicaid enrollment, securing safe and stable housing, case management services, and multiple other areas (see Description)
  • Create the foster youth successful transition to adulthood grant program to support youth who are 18-23 and were in foster care after their 14th birthday in making the transition to adulthood. Counties must receive priority over all other grant applicants and programs with evidenced-based services priority over other programs. Creates an advisory board to help oversee the program but the state makes the grant award decisions
  • Require all youth in the foster care and kinship care programs to have a transition hearing within 35 days of their 18th birthday to determine if the youth will chose to opt-in to the transition program or emancipate out of foster care. All youth wanting to emancipate must have an emancipation plan (see Description)

Description:

To be eligible, youth must have been in either foster care or noncertified kinship care on or after turning 16 and must be engaged in at least one of the following: completing secondary education or an educational program leading to an equivalent credential, attending an institution that provides postsecondary or vocational education, working for at least 80 hours per month, or participating in a program designed to promote employment or remove barriers to employment. Youth incapable of engaging in these required activities as a result of a documented medical or behavioral condition are exempt.

Case management services for the transition program include development of a plan with a roadmap to success, which is developed in collaboration with the youth and is a plan to successful adulthood. Transition program can also assist with: provision of resources to assist transition to adulthood, obtaining employment or other financial supports and improving financial literacy, obtaining a driver’s license or other government issued ID, obtaining appropriate community resources and public benefits, satisfying any justice system requirements and assisting with record expungement, pursuing educational goals and applying for financial aid, help with immigration status, obtaining copies of health and education records, maintaining and building relationships with people important to the youth including searching for people they have lost contact with, and accessing information about biological relatives, including siblings.

All youth in the program must create a voluntary services agreement with their county. It specifies the terms of the agreement, the youth’s rights including the right to leave the agreement at any time, and the county’s obligations. It must also specify the circumstances under which the county may request a court terminate the agreement. Then they can petition a court to bring force of law to the agreement. Youth must consent to potentially being required to attend court at least once every six months. These periodic hearing are held to ensure the youth is getting the support and services they need. If the court finds the youth is not meeting their obligations under the plan the court can order the youth to do so in order to stay in the plan. Courts can terminate plans if the youth no longer meets eligibility requirements, but must inform the youth that they can reenter once they do again meet the requirements.

Participating youth must be appointed counsel from a list of attorneys approved by the state. Those over 18 who have diminished capacity may have a guardian ad litem appointed.

Every youth in foster care or kinship care must have an emancipation transition plan in place no more than 90 days prior to an emancipation hearing. Plan must include specific options concerning housing, health insurance, education, local opportunities for mentors and continuing support services, and workforce supports and employment services. Must also provide youth with information on living wills and power of attorney for health care decisions and give the option to execute such arrangements at the youth’s discretion. These plans must also exist for youth that stay in the program up until their 21st birthday.

Courts must review transition plans for completeness, advise the youth they are eligible for Medicaid up until their 26th birthday, and that they can reenter the transition plan at any time up until their 21st birthday.

A youth’s legal status as an adult is not changed by this program.

Grant program advisory board is to advise state on implementation of the grant program, funding models and allocation methodologies, content for grant program applications, and scoring methodology for grant program application review. State is to set all rules for the program, including grant eligibility requirements, enrollment into the transition program and expedited procedures for securing temporary shelter for youth who are currently homeless or at imminent risk of homelessness.

Encourages the state to make additional funding requests for their annual budget to fulfill this program.

Additional Information:

Counties must determine youth eligibility for the program. They have 10 3 business days to do so after receiving a request from juvenile court the youth.

For housing supports, if the youth is in the legal custody of the county then it is funded through foster care maintenance payments but the youth can be expected to help pay if it is reasonable for them to do so.

If the youth is petitioning to be removed from a home, the petition must either summarize the reasonable efforts that were made to prevent foster care or a describe the emergency that required these efforts not be undertaken.

Youth may request someone be named as their special respondent on the grounds that they reside with, have assumed a parenting role toward, or maintain a significant relationship with the youth.

All hearings or reviews held regarding the participating youth must include notice to the youth’s licensed foster parents with whom the youth is placed. Foster parents have a right to be heard at all such hearings or reviews.

Counties must file all documentation required for a periodic review hearing prior to the hearing, which must include the youth’s roadmap, progress toward their goals, if the youth is fulfilling their end of the bargain, and any roadblocks to meeting the youth’s goals.

Counties must file all documentation required for an emancipation hearing at least 7 days prior to the hearing with the court. Youth can continue a hearing for up to an additional 119 days but not past the last day of the month when they turn 21.

Programs receiving grant money must be used for youth who are in the program voluntarily.


Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • Many foster youth exit the program before their 21st birthday and do so dealing with issues far beyond the typical 18 year-old and many with no social safety net. Every year more than 200 youth exit the system in this manner with no established home
  • It is no wonder that 1 in 5 former foster kids will experience homelessness and a higher percentage end up in jail than graduate high school on-time
  • Creating a voluntary transition support program gives these kids the specialized support they need to make the transition into adulthood as successfully as possible
  • We will get matching federal funds for this program, which also provides us a way to get all of the kids who left foster care during the pandemic a way back into the system

In Further Detail: Every year more than 200 youth exit the foster care system before their 21st birthday with no established home or stable support network. Most of these youth exit close to their 18th birthday. Many of these youth are dealing with issues far beyond the typical 18 year-old (many of which also struggle with the transition to adulthood). Trauma due to abuse or neglect, lack of resources, and the sudden removal of the array of services available to them while in foster care (many of the services provided by the transition program are the same as those available to foster care kids). Many of them have no social safety net to fall back upon. Nearly 1 in 5 former foster youths experience homelessness at some point. Foster youth in the state are more likely to end up in prison than graduate from high school on-time. Research shows that delaying leaving foster care until 21 has great benefits, but the sorts of supports those who are legally adults need are a bit different than those under 18. And legal adults are free to make their own choices. Thus a voluntary transition plan is the best solution, in part funded by state grant money and by federal matching funds, to try to do the very best we can to set these kids up for success in adulthood. Those federal funds, which account for about 42% of the costs of the program, are available because the federal government has recognized this problem and will help states who address it. The federal government has also required a way for states to get kids who left foster care during the pandemic to reenter, this program would fit that bill. In many ways the state is the true parent of these kids. We owe this to them.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • The bill puts a lot of burdens on county governments without any further guarantees of support. The fiscal note prepared by the non-partisan legislative staff assumes that the state will allocate increased funding to counties through existing processes for child welfare but that is absolutely not required by the bill and not guaranteed through the unfunded grant program
  • That same fiscal note is likely lowballing the amount of money required to fund the program because it is assuming only youth who left foster care during the pandemic will use it. That is clearly not the intention of the program, so the per-participant cost of $15,311 is an important number to remember, because the fiscal impact could be higher than the note is anticipating

Bottom Line:

  • The work/school requirements for eligibility are too restrictive, sometimes its the youth are aren't in either that need this kind of help the most

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1094

HB21-1096 Foster Parents' Bill Of Rights [Van Beber (R)]

KILLED BY BILL SPONSORS

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: Not yet released

Goal:

  • Create a foster parents’ bill of rights that includes multiple rights for foster parents to be included in decision-making, be treated with respect, be given support and training, and receive timely reimbursement (full list in Description). These rights do not apply to anyone against whom criminal charges have been filed for child abuse, unlawful sexual offenses, or for any felony

Description:

The full list of rights:

  • Be treated with respect and consideration as a team member with important contributions to make
  • Promote the continuance of positive family patterns and routines
  • Be provided training and given support
  • Be informed on how to contact appropriate placement agency and county departments and receive supportive services on a 24-7 basis
  • Receive timely financial reimbursement
  • Object to placement recommendations for a particular child
  • Take leave from foster parenting as needed
  • Assurances to their family’s health and safety
  • Have a clear understanding of a placement agency’s plan for the child
  • If being investigated, to be investigated by an agency that did not place the child and have written results delivered no later than three weeks after investigation is concluded
  • Request any additional or necessary information relevant to the child’s care
  • Be notified of all scheduled meetings and staff members involved in child’s placement, including court decisions. Can communicate with other professionals who work with the child so long as communications are kept confidential
  • Be provided with timely information on biological family if it is pertinent to the child’s welfare and to permanent plans for the child
  • Reasonable notice of any change to the child’s plan and if termination from the placement is coming, the reasons why
  • Have “interested party” status for court hearings involving the child and upon request be notified as to the date and time of any hearing, the name of the judge assigned, and the docket number
  • Be notified if a child previously placed with the family is re-entering the system
  • Have access to the grievance process in the placement agency and be able to file a grievance if any rights have been violated

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • Foster parents are a critical part of our child welfare system and provide great service to our state. But they don’t have enough legal protection to be true custodians of a child’s welfare and of their own
  • Having assurances like those in this bill may help in the recruitment of more foster families in the future
  • Multiple other states from all sorts of different political persuasions have adopted similar laws

In Further Detail: Around 5,550 kids in Colorado are in foster care right now and around 10,000 will pass through the system in a given year. It brings much needed stability to the lives of children who frequently have been in extremely rough situations and is a bridge to a brighter future. But it is really hard, many families quit after some time, and while this bill won’t make many things easier, it will provide solid legal footing for these foster parents to assert their rights as temporary guardians of these children. That means being involved in decision making, being given all relevant information, being given proper training and support, and yes, being paid on-time. Having all of these assurances may help in the recruitment of more foster families: the state is almost always critically short. None of these rights, properly applied, should interfere with biological parents' rights or with final placement of the child. Multiple other states from all over the political spectrum have adopted versions of this bill. If Massachusetts and Alabama can agree its necessary, who are we to argue?

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • This goes a bit too far, giving the right to object to placements, information about the biological parents, an interested party in court proceedings, all could interfere with the biological parents’ rights and trying to move the case out of foster care, which is always the end goal

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1096

HB21-1099 Policies And Procedures To Identify Domestic Abuse (Zenzinger (D), Smallwood (R)) [Ransom (R), Michaelson Jenet (D)]

SIGNED INTO LAW

AMENDED: Very Significant (category change)

Appropriation: $22,500
Fiscal Impact: None beyond appropriation

Goal:

  • Recognize exposing children to domestic abuse as a form of child abuse or neglect.Create a task force to study the best way to create legislative language recognizing the impact domestic violence has on the emotional and and developmental well-being of children Require the state to create rules to implement assessment policies, procedures, and training for case workers to use to recognize and assess situations where children are being exposed to domestic abuse based on task force recommendations. Must consider role of non-abusive parent and diversity sensibilities cultural considerations

Description:

State must create rules by July 2022. Bill also requires creating similar rules for mandatory reporters of abuse. These are people who by law must report suspected abuse to law enforcement and include professions like doctors and teachers.Task force must represent the broad cultural and socioeconomic diversity of the state, including people with lived experiences or professional expertise. Must report to legislature by December 2022.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • Domestic abuse and child abuse are often linked, and even without physical abuse of the child being a witness to domestic abuse is psychological abuse that leaves life-long scars and can perpetuate damaging personal relationship cycles
  • Child in domestic abuse situations are in danger, from being abused themselves up to increased risk of death
  • Current law requires explicit connections between domestic abuse and child abuse—it is not enough that the domestic abuse is occurring. This is inadequate to address the real dangers of domestic abuse to children but we need to look before we leap and figure out the best way to move forward because it would also be wrong to do a 1:1 comparison of direct abuse to witnessed abuse

In Further Detail: Domestic abuse and child abuse are often linked but even in cases where the child is not yet directly being abused (and in many cases, the key word there is “yet”), they are being abused psychologically. Witness abuse leaves life-long scars and can lead to children repeating the patterns they have learned in childhood in their adult relationships, whether that be as the abuser or the abused. This of course is not an absolute link and nothing is predetermined, but we all know children model the behavior of the adults they are exposed to. This is also critically important for the child’s safety. Roughly 40% of child fatality cases reviewed between 2014 and 2019 found domestic abuse as a stressor. Risk of abuse of a previously unabused child rises after domestic partner separation. These two elements came together tragically in the case of Ty Tesoriero, murdered by his father on the last night his father was allowed to have him. Our current laws require child welfare caseworks to connect the dots between domestic abuse and child abuse: that is just the presence of domestic abuse is not enough. That is not good enough and this bill begins to rectify the situation. As for the idea of using this as a weapon, anyone who wanted to falsely accuse someone else of abuse wouldn’t need the added weapon of child abuse in a custody case. So this bill would not materially change that sort of hypothetical situation, a domestic abuse charge alone, as would occur under current law, would be enough. And we don’t decide not to protect people based on hypotheticals on potential abuse of law. We have courts to sort out false claims.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • Children are being exposed to this abuse right now, in all the ways Arguments For details. We don't have a year to dilly around with a task force when we already know the answer

Bottom Line:

  • Family disputes can be fraught and false claims of abuse can happen. This could be used as a weapon in child custody cases

In Further Detail: While we must protect children who are truly in danger, we also know that family disputes over child custody can get overheated and a false accusation of domestic abuse could be used to trigger a child abuse charge.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1099

HB21-1101 Preserving Family Relationships In Child Placement (Buckner (D)) [Ransom (R)]

PASSED

AMENDED: Significant

Appropriation: $13,789
Fiscal Impact: Negligible this year

Goal:

  • Require courts to grant temporary visitation orders with the parents in cases where the government has taken a child from a home for allegations of neglect if the court finds the orders are in the child’s best interests. Courts must order ongoing, in-person visitation unless this would endanger the child’s welfare. Counties have 30 days to make recommendations to the court on visitation going forward and parents are entitled to a hearing
  • Allow courts to grant a delay or continuance in cases involving kids under 6 and dependency and neglect if there is evidence that in-person visitation or services were significantly delayed or disrupted by a public health emergency (like COVID) Creates a task force to study current state laws and rules around supervised parenting time in cases where the child was removed from the home for neglect, consider best practices including for judicial review, evaluate rights and remedies for parents and siblings, consider how current state practices match up, make recommendations for changes, and recommend best practices for the state to follow. Report due by October 2022
  • Creates rules for optional post-adoption contract agreements for contact in open adoptions, including a requirement that any child over 12 agree to all terms of the agreement. Courts must include the agreement in the adoption decree if they find it is in the best interests of the child. Violating the agreement does not annul the adoption

Description:

Court orders for visitation must specify minimum frequency, duration, and terms of these visits. This includes the amount of supervision required. The temporary orders must be the least restrictive in terms of location and supervision that meets the needs of the child. Contact must commence within 72 hours (excluding non-work days for the court) after the hearing but it can authorize delays if they are in the child’s best interests.

For best interests of the child, the opening assumption must be that it is in the best interests of the child to have contact with their parent(s). This can be overcome by showing that any contact would endanger the child’s health or welfare. Counties can cancel a visit if it believes the child’s health or welfare is at risk (or obviously parents can cancel visits).

The county recommendation must include, where appropriate, opportunities for the child to have telephone, mail, and other communication with the parent and if siblings are not placed together, contact between siblings. Task force must consider all laws and rules, both state and federal, best practices in other states, federal guidance on best practices, and laws in other states. In addition to changes to laws and rules, the best practice recommendations must include: ensuring fair and equal access to all families across the state, including culturally appropriate and inclusive services and identification of barriers to implementing best practices across the state and how to overcome them. Task force is not compensated and does not receive reimbursement for expenses. It must meet at least monthly.

Only emergency orders can reduce or suspend contact or increase levels of supervision without a hearing. If there is an emergency order, there must be a hearing within 72 hours (excluding non-work days of the court) of the order unless the parents agree in writing to waive their hearing right.

The post-adoption agreements can include family of the biological parents or, if the child is an American Indian, their tribe, unless the adoption is expedited in which case only the biological parents and siblings may be included. No parent who has had their parental rights terminated by a court may be a party to an adoption agreement. Parties must attempt in good faith to settle their disputes through mediation or other similar methods prior to going to court to enforce an agreement unless the other party cannot be located. Courts can only terminate agreements by mutual decision of the parties or if there has been a change in circumstances and the agreement no longer is in the best interests of the child. Contracts cannot prohibit the adoptive family from moving out of state.

Additional Information:

Nothing in the bill allows counties to violate protection orders or to produce a child for a court-ordered visit if it is impossible due to the policies of the facility where the parent is incarcerated or in treatment.

Parties to post-adoption agreements can filed amended agreements at any time, so long as the over 12 age limit assent is adhered to. Courts can appoint guardian at-litems for adopted children for the enforcement or termination of an adoption agreement if it deems it necessary for the child’s interest and for children over 12, the court may appoint an attorney. Cost for these is to be borne by the parties to the agreement unless the child is placed by the county itself. Any party to a post-adoption agreement can file a motion in court to enforce or terminate the agreement. Courts do have to hold a full-blown hearing to enforce or terminate a post-adoption contract but can if they wish.

Courts are prohibited from ordering any further investigation or evaluation by any public or private agency or individual relating to post-adoption agreements unless is it clear and convincing it is needed for the best interests of the child and it will not disturb the child’s home to their detriment.

Exact composition of the task force is as follows. First, a steering committee of a representative of a statewide assocation of human and social service directors and the executive directors of the following agencies: office of the respondent of the parents' counsel, division of child welfare, office of the child's representative, and the child protection ombudsman office. Steering committee appoints the rest of the task force, which must not exceed 25 members but must have the following: one person representing court improvement program, one current or retired judge in the child protection system, two representing service providers (one in urban areas, one in rural), one who is director or administrator of a county department, three representing county departments (two urban, one rural) one of which must be an attorney, licensed psychiatrist or psychologist or social worker or therapist that works with abused or neglected children, two parents with experience in the child welfare system (one must have a child with a disability), two with experience in the welfare system as children, one who is a foster parent or kinship provider, one service provider who works with people with disabilities, and a social worker or family advocate or parent advocate with experience serving families in these cases.


Auto-Repeal: July 2023 for the task force

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • There is numerous evidence that when it can be done safely, keeping contact between parents and their children who are taken out of their care is in the best interests of everyone. It makes it more likely we will get successful family reunification and it increases the child’s emotional and mental well-being
  • The bill uses this notion to tilt this process in favor of contact while still maintaining the judge’s role to make a final decision and keeping the safety of the child paramount. We are quite capable of judging every case individually and doing what is best in each circumstance That said we must proceed carefully here as the safety and welfare of children is at stake. More study of the issue is required before acting
  • Having legal contracts for open adoptions ensures that all parties stand by promises made at adoption, while still leaving open avenues for the contracts to be altered or discarded and putting the best interest of the child at the center of decision-making

In Further Detail: We’ve come around to the correct position that keeping contact between parents and their children is actually in the best long-term interests of everyone, obviously to the degree possible while keeping the child safe. Multiple studies have found that increasing these visits increases the chances of successfully reuniting the child with their parents, which is the best possible outcome (again, when the child is safe). Maintaining the child-parent bond is also essential for child development (again, when it is safe) and multiple studies have shown that contact with parents is positively correlated to the child’s emotional and mental well-being. We are completely capable of treating every case uniquely and applying contact standards that are truly in the best interests of the child but the starting point must be, as this bill makes it, that what is best for the child is continued contact with their parents. If we can demonstrate otherwise, then we don’t allow contact. The exact terms surrounding such contact are still left up to the judge. Because this is such a delicate area and the safety and welfare of children is at stake, we need to look before we leap, so a quick intense study of the issue with concrete recommendations to proceed is the best way to go. For the adoption agreements, in cases where the biological parents want to maintain contact and the adoptive parents are willing, it makes sense to set down the agreement on paper in a legal setting. Because these are extremely charged situations, among the most that any people will undertake. What seemed fine at adoption may feel different later and we want to ensure that all parties stand by the promises made at adoption. And no one is ever forced into accepting an open adoption: adoptive parents are free to not adopt the child if those circumstances don’t feel right to them. And even then, no one is forced into accepting an adoption agreement. You can have an open adoption without one. The bill still leaves avenues for agreements to be altered or discarded and always puts the best interests of the child as the central factor to weigh.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • We need to trust our courts more and not try to push toward one outcome or another. The child was taken from the home for a reason. Immediate contact should not be our first priority in these cases
  • The post-adoption agreements give too much power to the biological parents in what can be a competitive marketplace and force adoptive parents to jump through legal hoops when circumstances change

In Further Detail: Our current system places our trust in our courts to figure out what is right for the child without tipping the scales in either direction. We should continue to trust that when contact can be done safely and won’t harm the child, courts will order it. We also should be less concerned with immediate contact—the child was taken from a home for a reason. This is a huge step and involves serious wrongdoing by the parent(s). Contact can come if appropriate, but we shouldn’t be rushing to immediately institute it. On the post-adoption agreements, this is too much power to the biological parents/family/tribe. It can be difficult, time-consuming, and expensive to adopt a child and that sets up a competitive environment. Adoptive parents might agree just to get the child they have always wanted only to discover that they are competing with the biological parents. It might be awfully difficult to prove in court that this is damaging to the child, but the simple fact that you have to pursue mediation first and then go to court may stop some people from trying to alter or discard agreements that aren’t actually proving to be beneficial to the raising of the child as the child of the adoptive parents, not a child with two different sets of parents.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1101

HB21-1110 Colorado Laws For Persons With Disabilities (Danielson (D)) [Ortiz (D)]

PASSED

AMENDED: Minor

Appropriation: $312,922
Fiscal Impact: About $300,000 a year

Goal:

  • Strengthen laws protecting people with disabilities by prohibiting public entities and state and local governments from excluding or denying benefits to services, activities, or programs based on someone’s disability (what is already required in federal law)
  • Require all public entities to comply with the most recent web content accessibility guidelines from the state office of information technology. Bill requires that office to establish standards based on the world wide web consortium web accessibility initiative. Each state agency must include in its annual information technology plan how it will comply with these standards and has until July 2024 to do so

Description:

Bill also tweaks the fine for violating the state’s disability discrimination laws by allowing the maximum fine of $3,500 to be paid to each plaintiff, rather than be the total amount.

Bill also states that no state rules may be created that provide less protection than the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.

The most current guidelines from the accessibility initiative suggest the use of captions, keyboard alternatives, providing input assistance, and ensuring compatibility with current and future technologies to make content perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • Most of this is already federal law—so nothing new is being added, everyone should be doing this already anyway
  • So why the bill? Putting these provisions into state law gives us increased ability to enforce the federal law. We’ve already done this with other parts of the Americans with Disabilities Act that address businesses and employment. This portion, title 2, deals with government. The ADA has been in place for more than 30 years but the House chamber wasn’t wheelchair accessible until someone in a wheelchair got elected to the chamber
  • The Internet is a key feature of modern life and should be accessible to anyone. This is possible to do at a very basic level with current web technology
  • In the end, the disability community has double the poverty rate of the rest of America in part because they don’t have basic access to many of the places, services, and programs that the rest of us take for granted

In Further Detail: In 2021 there are still businesses, public places, and key websites that are inaccessible to people with disabilities. That of course violates the federal Americans with Disabilities Act but the key is that it still happens. The House chamber wasn’t wheelchair accessible until someone with a wheelchair got elected to the chamber. Elevators missing braille can’t be used by the blind. A business with no ramp can’t be entered by someone in a wheelchair. A website that isn’t up to modern standards can’t be accessed by the blind. Street crossing signals that don’t make noise can’t be heard by the deaf. Nearly 1 million Coloradans have a disability of some sort. This is not about convenience, it is about basic access to services. Because the disability community has double the poverty rate of the rest of America and part of that is that they cannot access many of the places, services, and programs that the rest of us take for granted. So adding the ability to bring cases at the state level opens up a new world of enforcement for this community by allowing them to use state courts, instead of forcing them to go to expensive and slower federal court.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • This is an unfunded mandate on our local governments who are being given requirements to meet, including potentially expensive web programming, without any state funds to help'

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1110

HB21-1113 Income Tax Deduction For Mil Retirement Benefits [Bradfield (R)]

KILLED BY HOUSE COMMITTEE

AMENDED: Significant

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: $6 million in lost revenue at full implementation

Goal:

  • Extends ability of those under 55 to claim a deduction to state income taxes for the individual’s military retirement benefits through 2034 (was set to expire in 2023) and increases the amount they can deduct in 2023 2028 from $15,000 to $20,000 17,500 and to $20,000 in 2032

Description:

The law allows those 55-64 to claim the $20,000 deduction while those over 65 can exclude up to $24,000. A bill passed in 2018 extended this ability to those under 55, but phased in the maximum deduction. It is currently at $10,000 and will go to $15,000 in 2022.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • This is a dollar-to-dollar deduction so it will have a proportional affect and off-set retirement income (military retirement benefits start the day you retire from the military). About 7,000 taxpayers have taken advantage of the 2018 law so far, and everything seems to be going well. There is no reason not to continue this benefit and phase-in all the way to the full $20,000 those 55-64 already enjoy. It makes the state much more attractive to military retirees, who deserve special treatment for the sacrifices they have made for our country.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • It will cost the state around $6 million a year in revenues to extend this deduction, which is also not offered by a majority of states in the country. While it is true that offering it may make the state more attractive for veterans, we are not having trouble attracting new residents to the state.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1113

HB21-1116 Purple Heart Recipient Free State Park Access (Liston (R), Garcia (D)) [Holtorf (R), Ortiz (D)]

SIGNED INTO LAW

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: Negligible each year

Goal:

  • Allow all Colorado residents who have received a Purple Heart free entrance to all state parks and recreation areas

Description:

This would be accomplished either with the existing purple heart license plate or by some method which the state needs to determine involving receiving a free transferrable parks pass by demonstrating proper documentation. Disabled veterans already enjoy this benefit (in a similar manner), as do active duty members of the national guard.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • The least we can do for those who have literally bled to defend our nation is to provide them free year-round access to our beautiful state parks. We can never really repay these heroes, but this is a nice, small gesture that we can easily do

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • We currently provide free access to all state parks in August to all active-duty military members and veterans. This is not only sufficient, it also covers a lot more people.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1116

HB21-1123 CAPS Checks For Substantiated Mistreatment Of Adult (Fields (D), Smallwood (R)) [Michaelson Jenet (D), Larson (R)]

From the Legislative Audit Committee

SIGNED INTO LAW

AMENDED: Minor

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

  • Require courts to request a check of Colorado Adult Protective Services (CAPS) to determine if someone petitioning to be a conservator or guardian of an adult has had any substantiated cases of mistreatment of an at-risk adult
  • Requires the state department of human services (DHS) to notify the department of regulatory agencies (DORA) anytime it makes a substantiated finding of mistreatment by an individual DORA licenses or regulates. DHS is to create rules around this process and DORA must keep it confidential and only use it for the purposes of conducting an investigation. DHS must also share with DORA the outcome of any appeals

Description:

Courts must start making these requests in 2022. They can pass the filing fee for the request onto the petitioner (it is $9 at the moment). DHS had seven calendar days to return results which must include the date of the finding(s), type and severity of mistreatment, and the county that investigated it. No information that was expunged in an appeal will be provided. Petitioners knowingly providing false information to the court for a CAPS check is a class 1 misdemeanor.

DHS has 10 calendar days to notify DORA of any substantiated findings of mistreatment. The information must include: license number of the individual, date of the finding, name and location of the at-risk adult, type and severity of the mistreatment, location where the mistreatment occurred, and the county that investigated. Any information submitted as evidence during a proceeding must de-identify the at-risk adult. Bill also requires anyone who is substantiated by DHS of mistreating an at-risk adult must provide all professional license, registration, or certificate numbers to DHS.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • This arose out of an audit of the CAPS program, which uncovered some holes in cross-agency and cross-branch reporting—we don’t want guardians or conservators who have mistreated at-risk adults, they are asking to be put in charge of at-risk adult’s lives. We also want regulators to know about license holders mistreating adults because it might be extremely important to their license. And regulators need enough information to do their own investigation

Arguments Against: n/a

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1123

HB21-1151 Indian Tribes To Certify Own Foster Homes (Coram (R)) [McLachlan (D), Catlin (R)]

SIGNED INTO LAW

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

  • Allow American Indian tribes to certify their own foster homes. Currently only counties and child placement agencies can do so

Description:

Child placement agencies of course must be certified and in good standing with the state.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • We recognize American Indian tribes as quasi-sovereign nations within our borders. They deserve at least as much power as counties and when it comes to deciding what homes can hold foster children, there are obvious unique cultural reasons for allowing these tribes to make their own decisions

Arguments Against: n/a

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1151

HB21-1166 Behavioral Health Crisis Response Training (Ginal (D)) [Young (D), Will (R)]

SIGNED INTO LAW

AMENDED: Minor

Appropriation: $67,680
Fiscal Impact: About $100,000 this year

Goal:

  • Create extensive care coordination training for professionals who work with people with intellectual or developmental disabilities who have a co-occurring behavioral health disorder. State is to contract with a third-party vendor to provide training
  • Before November 2021 March 2022 community-centered boards, mental health centers, and other program-approved service agencies in the state must nominate one provider in their geographic service area to receive training. State may select up to 20 providers total with preference given to providers in underserved areas. The state must then select another 10 providers from underserved areas of the state to get training

Description:

To be eligible for state-wide selection, vendors must have at least 10 years working in this area, including experience with rural issues, have demonstrated success in multiple states, utilize a comprehensive care coordination and treatment model that is evidence-based, maintain a national database of outcomes of training, and be able to use teleconferencing to provide training. Vender must be selected by August 2021 January 2022.

All selected providers are to be reimbursed at their current pay rate for time in training. Training must be completed by May 2022 April 2023 and providers must begin crisis coordination in their communities.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • People with intellectual or developmental disabilities who also have behavioral health issues require heightened levels of care but experience limited access to appropriate treatment, including crisis intervention, stabilization, and prevention. This is particularly acute in rural areas of the state. This bill aims to fill some of these gaps by training providers in providing this coordination of care, which can be of critical importance in a crisis.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • The biggest gaps we have in care, including in rural areas, are due to a lack of resources, not a lack of training. We don’t invest enough in behavioral health care in general in the state and this particular part of it is no different. So while this isn’t going to hurt anything (and won’t cost much money at all), it may not help as much as we would hope

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1166

HB21-1169 Prohibit Discrimination Organ Transplant Recipient (Pettersen (D), Danielson (D)) [Van Beber (R), Ortiz (D)]

SIGNED INTO LAW

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

  • Prohibit health care providers from discriminating against people with disabilities for receiving organ transplants. All applies to situations where the disability is not medically significant to the transplant itself and the individual has the necessary support system to comply with post-transplant requirements (if there is concern the individual cannot do so without help). Specifically providers cannot deny a transplant, deny medical services related to a transplant, refuse to refer an individual for a transplant, refuse to place someone on a waiting list for a transplant, or place someone on a waiting list at a lower position then they should be because of the disability.
  • Insurance carriers are also barred from denying or limiting coverage for transplants based on a person’s disability, if the health benefits are covered otherwise (it does not force transplant benefits to be added to insurance plans)

Description:

Providers must make reasonable modifications to policies, practices, and procedures to allow transplant services to disabled people as needed, unless the provider can demonstrate that these would fundamentally alter the nature of the services provided. They must also take reasonable steps to provide any auxiliary services that are required, again unless they can demonstrate this would fundamentally alter the medical services provided or if they can demonstrate it would create an undue burden on the provider. These are used to provide information to an individual with a disability in a manner so they can better understand the information.

Bill provides ability to sue over violations of this law. Courts must give priority to these cases and many grant injunctive relief, including requiring auxiliary services, requiring modification of a policy, practice, or procedure, or requiring facilities be made readily accessible and usable. No compensatory or punitive damages allowed.

Additional Information:

Specifically facilities cannot consider whether a disabled person has: individuals ready to support and assist, need for auxiliary aids or services, will need reasonable modifications to procedures, including communication with other people or entities to support the process.


Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • People with disabilities face frequent discrimination when it comes to organ transplants at every stage of the process
  • There are no valid medical reasons in many of these cases for denying the transplant
  • Multiple other states have passed similar laws because our current anti-discrimination laws are not up to the challenge and as a result people are dying who should not be

In Further Detail: National studies have found that many physicians decline to refer people with disabilities to organ transplant centers, that those centers refuse to take some people with disabilities or don’t place them in the proper place on the list, and people have died because of this. We have doctors who are basically refusing to even treat reported symptoms seriously (and therefore missing the need for a transplant at all). A three-year old in New Jersey died because a doctor categorically refused to perform the transplant (which was going to come from a family member), because she had a developmental disability (this prompted New Jersey to change it law to something similar to this bill). All based on discriminatory assumptions about either the quality of life of the disabled individual or that because of their disability, the transplant “won’t work” because post-transplant requirements won’t be met. In essence: people with disabilities’ lives are worth less. All of this despite federal laws expressively forbidding discrimination based on disability. So we need to join the other states who have already decided that this practice is wrong—because our current anti-discrimination laws are clearly not up to the challenge.

Arguments Against: n/a

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1169

HB21-1187 Long-term Services And Support Case Management Redesign (Winter (D), Rankin (R)) [Young (D), Pelton (R)]

SIGNED INTO LAW

AMENDED: Minor

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

  • Create a network of case management agencies throughout the state to enable individuals with functional limitations and chronic illness who need assistance to perform routine daily activities over the long-term access appropriate services and supports. These agencies can be public or private, for-profit or non-profit. The state must set defined geographic areas across the state and then select an agency to serve each area through a competitive bid process. These agencies are to provide services to Medicaid and CHIP programs (as well as other publicly funded long-term service and support programs) and may provide services to private payers on a fee-for-service basis
  • Case management agencies must create individualized plans based on the needs of the person receiving services and take their preferences into account (see Description). This should include different options for providers when available. Plans must be reviewed at least annually
  • Case management agencies are subject to audit by the state auditor and are subject to strict transparency requirements around meetings of their board of governors and disclosure of financial statements (see Description)
  • Require the state to allow people to request an evaluation from their area case management agency to determine if they have a developmental delay or an intellectual or developmental disability and are eligible for service under Medicaid or CHIP.

Description:

Except under very limited circumstances which require a federal waiver (see Additional Information), case management agencies must be what is called “conflict-free”, that is they must not also be providing home- and community-based services (so they cannot be in a position to refer themselves). This is also a federal requirement.

Individualized plans must: be based on the particular needs of the individual receiving service, describe the services necessary to avoid institutionalization, ensure the individual receives services in the setting of their choice, and identify the supports needed for the individual to achieve personally identified goals.

State must also develop a process to designate local or regional organizations as community-centered boards. These are to act as resources for people with intellectual or development disabilities or a developmental delay.

Case management system rules must be in place by July 2024. Requests for bids from agencies must be issued by the end of 2022. Rules for designating community-centered boards must be in place by July 2024.

All patient records at the case management agency are not eligible for state open records act requests and are considered privileged by law. They can only be released to the person receiving services or their authorized guardian, in communications between qualified professional personnel as needed for services, as needed to make claims for insurance or medical assistance, due to a court order, to state protection agencies to investigate a complaint when there is no legal guardian, and to the state has needed to do their duties. Deidentified information can be released for research purposes.

Any case management agency that receives 75% or more of its funding from government sources is subject to audit. Audit to be paid for by the state auditor and results presented to legislature.

County agencies, county nursing services, area agencies on aging, and multicounty agencies acting as a case management agency are exempt from all of the following requirements:

Board of governors of case management agencies must provide at least 14 days notice of any meeting of the board, except for emergency meetings which require 24 hours notice. The agenda for a regular meeting must be posted at least 7 days prior (24 hours again for emergency meetings). Meetings must allow for public comment. Any documentation the board is considering that is not confidential must be posted online. Board members must provide direct e-mail addresses on their website and answer their e-mail themselves without filter. Minutes of meetings must be posted online. The contract with the state must also be posted online.

Financial statements of case management agencies must be presented at each regularly scheduled meeting, if circumstances prevent this from being done monthly than it must be done at least quarterly. Any financial audits must be discussed at public meetings at least once a year. All completed financial audits must be posted online within 30 days. Agencies that do not do financial audits must post a detailed account of the agency’s assets, liabilities, revenue, losses and gains, expenses, investing activities, property and equipment, and any other relevant disclosures required by the state. Non-profits must their current IRS form 990 within 30 days of filing. For-profits must post the equivalent form that includes the total number of employees, all executive level salaries and compensation, and employee benefits.

Agencies also have five days to make the following information available upon request: annual budget, annual summary of all revenues and expenditures, or a description of the policies and procedures it uses to track, manage, and report its financial resources and transactions.

Additional Information:

Where applicable, the state can seek federal exemptions from conflict-free case management requirements for designated areas when the only willing and qualified entity to provide case management is also the only willing and qualified entity to provide home- and community-based services.

If it is determined that the long-term services and supports are no longer necessary, the person must be terminated from the program. Notification of termination must be given to the individual and any parents or legal guardians. Terminated individuals have the right to challenge the termination.

If an individual notifies the case management agency that they no longer want to receive services, they must be terminated from the program unless the individual does not have legal authority to make such a decision themselves.

Board of directors of case management agencies must provide incoming board members training on their responsibilities. This includes their fiduciary and financial responsibilities, the intellectual and developmental disability and long-term services and supports in the state, the overall business functions of the agency, and any other matters the agency feels will help the board member understand the agency’s role.


Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • Too often people who need long-term care services and their guardians must act as their own case managers, which can lead to gaps in service and lack of awareness of benefits
  • By creating a single point of contact, we not only make things easier on these individuals and their families, we increase the chances of improving their care and keeping them out of institutional facilities—which tend to lead to worse outcomes and greater strains on community resources
  • Since we need to cover the entire state, we will need to cast a wide net that may include for-profit companies. There is a competitive bidding process and robust oversight and disclosure to protect the public trust

In Further Detail: People who need long-term care services and their guardians must frequently jump through all sorts of different hoops in order to get all of the care they need through the programs they qualify for. Basically they are forced to be their own case managers too far too often. What this bill does is centralize a single point of contact for these people. Not only does this greatly simplify care, but it also ensures that everyone is getting all of the care they are entitled to. This is important because one of our prime goals with these programs is to keep people in a community setting and out of institutions. Obviously when that is not possible we have to do what we have to do. But when it can be avoided the outcomes are better for the individual and put less strain on community resources. We are going to need to cast a wide net across the state to make this work, so it will take some time, which the bill allows, and a willingness to look beyond non-profits. There is a competitive bidding process, so we’ll be able to make the best choice where we can but frankly there are going to places in the state where options are very limited. But the bill has extremely robust transparency and disclosure requirements, so it will be impossible for an agency to abuse the public trust without us knowing about it pretty quickly.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • The oversight and disclosure requirements may be a little too robust. Certainly we want to ensure no one abuses the public trust but we also want to make sure we providing services in every corner of the state. Perhaps we do not need to treat for-profit and non-profit agencies in the exact same way so as to lower the barrier to entry for non-profits who have to follow certain laws to retain their non-profit status anyway
  • The procedure for determining service areas is extremely vague and essentially just left to the state to figure out—a more detailed requirement for maximum allowable square mileage or population within a service area may prevent us getting a map that severely shortchanges certain parts of the state

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1187

HB21-1220 Colorado Child Support Commission Recommendations (Fields (D)) [Froelich (D)]

SIGNED INTO LAW

AMENDED: Technical

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

Make multiple changes recommended by the child support commission:

  • Reduces interest rate on late payments from 12% to 10% and allows debtor to request court to waive or alter interest owed. Court must consider if there was good cause to miss the payment, if making the payment would result in substantial and unreasonable hardship to the debtor, and if not making the payment would result in substantial and unreasonable hardship to the person to whom the money is owed
  • Removes limitation on amount of increase for orders filed by child support enforcement agency against someone for whom income information is not available (was 10% maximum increase)
  • More in Description

Description:

  • Requires life insurance settlements to be reported to the child support enforcement agency
  • Clarifies notice requirements for income assignments and requires an employer to report and withhold from lump sum payments (previously was only payments where taxes were withheld)
  • Clarifies that both the dependency and neglect court and the paternity and child support court have concurrent jurisdiction to address issues or parentage
  • Numerous technical changes, including some to bring us in compliance with federal law

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • We currently have the highest interest rates on payments in the nation—a key takeaway from this commission was that our previous structure was too punitive to low-income households, so lowering those rates helps us avoid debt spirals for parents who are struggling
  • Most of the rest is just common sense, including ensuring all income streams are known

In Further Detail: We made several larger changes to child support calculations two years ago based on recommendations from the child support commission, these are some smaller changes that come from the same committee of experts. First, we currently have the highest interest rates on child support in the nation (actually we are in a three way tie with Washington and Kentucky). The current rate is unnecessarily high and can lead to increased debt and debt spirals for parents who are already struggling with finances (one of the key takeaways from the commission has been that our previous structure was overly punitive toward low income households). Most of the rest of these changes are common sense, including ensuring all potential income streams are known.

Arguments Against: n/a

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1220

HB21-1217 Military Family Open Enrollment In Public Schools (Fields (D), Lundeen (R)) [Bockenfeld (R), Bacon (D)]

SIGNED INTO LAW

AMENDED: Moderate

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

  • Require allowing military families moving to Colorado to use open enrollment in public and charter schools whenever they arrive, as opposed to needing to be in the open enrollment period, use their base as a state address, and requires guaranteed acceptance if the military member is required to live on the military installation

Description:

Schools that accept military families in open enrollment must guarantee automatic matriculation to the child (move up to the next school level, like from elementary to middle school without going through open enrollment again) and priority preference to the younger siblings of the child in future years.

Schools must permit military families to use the school liaison office address for the military installation to which the inbound family will be assigned for the purposes of state residency. Schools and charter districts are banned from requiring additional documentation of a child’s Colorado address. Military members are not required to have permanent change of station orders or a command letter in lieu of simple orders if such an order would not otherwise be required for enrollment or open enrollment.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • Military members are forced to move often and at various times during the year, so it is only fair to keep open enrollment open for them at all times
  • Members who must live on military bases cannot choose their place of residence (and therefore their school) so it also makes sense to grant them automatic acceptance of their choice of school
  • All of this is just a small repayment for the sacrifices these families make to protect us and our freedoms

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • Guaranteed enrollment could make things dicey for the better schools located near military bases, in particular in El Paso County. We have 34,460 active duty military in the state (roughly), the 11th highest share of military population in the country. Many of them have to live on-base. What is a school supposed to do if it literally cannot accommodate all of these open enrollment students?

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1217

HB21-1222 Regulation Of Family Child Care Homes (Smallwood (R), Winter (D)) [A. Valdez (D), Van Winkle (R)]

SIGNED INTO LAW

AMENDED: Minor

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

  • Require all family child care home be classified as residences for purposes of licensure and local regulations, including zoning, land use rules, fire and life safety, and building codes. Local jurisdictions are forbidden from adding any additional regulations to these homes that are not applied to other residential properties, except that they can restrict two family care homes from being next to each other and manage the flow of traffic and parking for large family child care homes

Description:

Right now it is up to local jurisdictions on how to classify family child care homes, some of them are classified as businesses and so receive commercial regulations.

Bill also requires the state, when it reviews its licensing rules for child care agencies and facilities to consult with the department of public safety on adequate fire protection standards.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • We have a shortage of child care facilities across the state and in some places, no licensed child care centers at all. Family child care homes are therefore an essential part of our strategy to provide licensed, safe child care for every parent who wants it
  • Child care is great for the child (research has shown early childhood education can be beneficial for later life success) and it is a boon to working parents
  • Out patchwork of local zoning and regulations make it extremely difficult to open a family child care home in some parts of the state, where more onerous commercial regulations are applied or the homes are flat out not permitted
  • The requirements to hold a state license are enough to ensure a facility is safe and meets all of the requirements for fire, health, and sanitation

In Further Detail: We have a shortage of child care facilities across the state, in some places severely so where there are literally no licensed child care centers, leaving family child care homes the only option. Many parents also prefer the small home atmosphere for their children. Research has shown that early childhood education can be very beneficial for later life success. It also is a boon to working parents who need some form of safe childcare during working (and non-public school) hours. It is also critical for most childhood development problems to catch them early, the earlier the more likely they can mitigated. But our patchwork of zoning and local regulations can make it extremely difficult for these homes. Some places zoning requirements can be onerous, involving multiple hoops to jump through or flat out restricting the number of family child cares allowed in certain areas. When areas declare these are businesses rather than a residence, a whole host of additional regulations come into play, most of which are completely unnecessary because in order to hold a state license the family child care must already meet vigorous health and safety standards which includes fire prevention. My Village, a for-profit group that recruits and supports family child care providers reports that half their applicants cannot get their homes completely licensed (which includes adhering to all local zoning codes and restrictions) and walk away. We need to pull away these barriers so we can get more child care options all over the state.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • This infringes on the ability of local communities to control themselves through their own elected officials
  • Local regulations can be very intentional to address health and safety issues that arise in a particular locality that are not always obvious
  • some communities do not want a bunch of businesses (which is what these facilities are) where they live for reasons that go beyond just the safety of the home

In Further Detail: This deeply infringes on the ability of local communities to control themselves through their own elected officials. If these communities are unhappy with their local regulations, they can change their officials. Local regulations can be very intentional to address health and safety issues that arise in a particular locality that are not always obvious. The better route would be through education and encouragement rather than blanket adoption. We also shouldn’t be dancing around the fact that these family child care homes are businesses. People are paying for a service. So the extent to which a local community can control how many there are in a particular area is part of being responsive to a potential desire to not have a bunch of businesses mixed into where you live. This goes beyond if the home itself is safe or not, we all trust the state licensing regime to make the homes safe. It is about noise, traffic, and extra kids being in these neighborhoods.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1222

HB21-1227 Medicaid Nursing Facilities Demonstration Of Need (Fields (D), Kirkmeyer (R)) [Lontine (D), Soper (R)]

SIGNED INTO LAW

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

For future certification of nursing home facilities for Medicaid, require the state to come up with a process to determine need and viability of the requesting provider. The bill directs the state to do a stakeholder process with key stakeholders prior to writing rules. The bill also allows facilities with 5 or fewer Medicaid beds to be exempt from certification and reimbursement rules and just be reimbursed at the state average rate.

Description:

Requires the state to require a demonstration of need to determine viability and required need for each new nursing home facility provider in the state requesting certification. State must consider: State data demonstrating present or impending need in the facility’s geographic area, quality and performance data of the facility, business continuity and solvency information of the facility, input from various state agencies and any local governments, and measurable innovative practices of the requesting facility.

In creating the rules to execute this bill, state must consult with: disability advocacy organizations, urban and rural nursing facilities, aging and older adult advocacy organizations, and nursing facility trade organizations.

Bill exempts facilities with five or fewer Medicaid beds from the state’s reimbursement formula and full enrollment as a Medicaid facility and instead reimburse them at the average state rate. Currently facilities can house Medicaid patients for up to 100 days and then must transfer them.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • We will continue to have an aging population in the state that will increasingly need nursing home care. But right now we don’t have any set consistent criteria for certifying new nursing facilities to ensure we are growing in the right way in the right places. That is not the way to bless facilities with a Medicaid designation. Rather than dictate a bunch of requirements to the state, the bill requires a collaborative process with key stakeholders to determine the best way for the state to certify future nursing facilities. Exempting places with 5 or fewer beds allows for much greater flexibility for facilities to house Medicaid patients for complete recovery without having to transfer them to a Medicaid facility

Arguments Against: n/a

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1227

HB21-1228 Domestic Violence Training Court Personnel (Smallwood (R), Winter (D)) [Froelich (D)]

PASSED

AMENDED: Minor

Appropriation: $86,680
Fiscal Impact: $100,000 a year

Goal:

  • Require training in domestic violence and child abuse for legal representatives of children (appointed by the court), child and family investigators (also appointed by the court), and any mental and behavioral health evaluators appointed by the court. Bars the testimony of any witness as an expert if they have not completed the training (see Description for training details)
  • Requires courts, when considering parenting time, to consider any findings of domestic violence when making their determination

Description:

The training the bill requires in all three cases is the same, a minimum of: six initial hours of training on domestic violence and its traumatic effects on children, adults, and families and six initial hours of training on child abuse on its traumatic effects. Then every two years, four hours of subsequent training in both subjects. Training must be from recognized sources with subject matter expertise. Courts may not select anyone who does not have this training for these duties.

Bill also requires investigators and evaluators to engage in culturally informed and nondiscriminatory practices, and requires evaluators to strive to avoid conflicts of interest or multiple relationships in fulfilling their duties. Bill directs anyone wishing to file a complaint for either an investigator or evaluator to do so by the directives of that particular court.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • The link between domestic abuse, domestic disputes, and the death of children is very well established. Roughly 40% of child fatality cases reviewed between 2014 and 2019 found domestic abuse as a stressor
  • Domestic abuse and child abuse are often linked but even in cases where the child is not yet being abused they are being psychologically abused, which leaves life-long damage
  • So domestic abuse absolutely must be considered in these cases and we absolutely must ensure that court appointed representatives, investigators, and experts are properly trained

In Further Detail: At least 735 children have been murdered since 2008 by a parent involved in some sort of family dispute, often after access to the child was granted by courts over the objections of the other parent. Roughly 40% of child fatality cases reviewed between 2014 and 2019 found domestic abuse as a stressor. Domestic abuse and child abuse are often linked but even in cases where the child is not yet directly being abused (and in many cases, the key word there is “yet”), they are being abused psychologically. Witness abuse leaves life-long scars and can lead to children repeating the patterns they have learned in childhood in their adult relationships, whether that be as the abuser or the abused. This of course is not an absolute link and nothing is predetermined, but we all know children model the behavior of the adults they are exposed to. This is also critically important for the child’s safety. Risk of abuse of a previously unabused child rises after domestic partner separation. So we absolutely must consider domestic abuse in these cases. And if we are going to have experts appointed by the court to either represent the interests of the child or to provide investigation or expert opinion, they absolutely must be properly trained in this area. Lives are at stake.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • Family disputes can be fraught and false claims of abuse can happen. This could be used as a weapon in child custody cases

In Further Detail: While we must protect children who are truly in danger, we also know that family disputes over child custody can get overheated and a false accusation of domestic abuse could be used to keep a child away from a parent.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1228

HB21-1231 United States Space Force (Fields (D), Bridges (D))[Ortiz (D), Lynch (R)]

SIGNED INTO LAW

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

  • Add Space Force and the Space National Guard to state laws that mention the armed forces or the Army National Guard or Air National Guard

Description: Nothing to add

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • This would allow the Air National Guard space units to transition to the Space National Guard, which does not exist yet but is expected to be created by the federal government shortly. And of course for any members of the Space Force or Space National Guard to be treated like all other members of our armed forces. Like the idea or not, the Biden administration has made it clear it plans to keep the Space Force

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • Let’s wait until the Space National Guard actually exists. Wouldn’t be the first time the government changed their mind about something

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1231

HB21-1248 Colorado Children's Trust Fund Act (Story (D), Hisey (R)) [Amabile (D)]

PASSED

AMENDED: Minor

Appropriation: $890
Fiscal Impact: Negligible each year

Goal:

To expand the mission of the Colorado Children’s Trust Fund Act by increasing its activities to focus even more on prevention of maltreatment of children through expanding its grant program and giving it more explicit instructions to make recommendations to the state for changes in our approach via an expanded managing board. Also extends the board for another five years.

Description:

Reorients the Colorado Children’s Trust Fund Act more toward prevention of child abuse and neglect (although that was an already existing goal of the act) by renaming the act the Colorado Child Abuse Prevention Trust Fund Act (and its associated board). The board’s mission is greatly expanded in terms of detail, with broad former definitions like running the grant program expanded into specific areas for grant funding, which include programs to: prevent child sexual abuse, reduce occurrence of prenatal substance exposure, reduce occurrence of other adverse childhood experiences, reduce poverty or help families get out of poverty, and create housing stability. Board is also tasked with promoting academic research on efficacy and cost-effectiveness of child maltreatment prevention programs, with developing strategies and monitor efforts to achieve increases in child well-being and achievement, increases in caregiver well-being and achievement, increases in consistent high-quality caregiving, increases in safe, supportive neighborhoods, and decreases in child maltreatment and fatalities. Board is also given new responsibility to identify opportunities to align standards, rules, policies and procedures across programs and agencies that support families and look for barriers to that alignment. It must give recommendations to the governor, executive agencies, and the legislature.

There is one duty removed from the board, including creation, promotion, and maintenance of an evidence-based or research-based child sexual abuse prevention training model.

The size of the board is also increased from 9 to 17 members by adding legislative members, some people from state agencies, people from county agencies, and people with lived experience (see Additional Information).

Board is extended from July 2022 to July 2027. It continues to be funded by $15 of court docket fees in civil actions.

Additional Information:

The governor’s expert appointments to the board are reduced from 6 to 4 2 and the knowledge areas these appointments should cover is expanded to include how reducing poverty can help families gain economic stability, connection between housing instability and trauma, and research and program evaluation. The requirement that one appointee be a representative of a parent organization is removed. The executive directors of the departments of health care policy and financing and local affairs are added, as is the child protection ombudsman. Two Four new appointees must represent county leadership, either county commissioners or directors of public health or human or social services, three of these must have experience in human services or child welfare practice. Three new appointees by the director of human services must be community members with either experience of adverse childhood experiences or experience participating in prevention, parenting, or family strengthening programs. One of the appointees must be a parent. Finally, two legislative members are added, one from each chamber appointed by the chamber leader (House speaker and Senate president).


Auto-Repeal: July 2027

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • 1 in 8 children in this country experience maltreatment with enormous repercussions for their entire lives: significantly higher risks of developmental delays, substance abuse, mental health challenges, low academic achievement, and involvement with the criminal justice system. All of that has enormous costs to society as well, it is estimated that on average a maltreated child costs $830,928 in additional costs over their lifetime (medical care, special education, welfare programs, criminal justice system costs) which means $563 billion every year
  • Federal law recently changed to allow us to spend federal funds on prevention and nearly all studies on prevention agree: they are extremely cost-effective, ranging from $1.79 to $20 in savings per $1 spent. Not to mention the most important part: saving a child from trauma, pain, fear, and potentially a lifetime of psychological damage
  • Poverty and housing are linked to maltreatment. Inadequate housing is responsible for up to 10% of foster care cases and homelessness is associated with pretty much all the same negative consequences as maltreatment, because of course homelessness is a form of maltreatment itself. Studies have also found higher rates of maltreatment when welfare payments are cut and higher rates of infant-4 year deaths in higher poverty counties

In Further Detail: It is estimated that 1 in 8 children will experience maltreatment, which creates enormous costs at every level to our society. For the children, significantly higher risks of developmental delays, substance abuse, mental health challenges, low academic achievement, and involvement with the criminal justice system. One study found 80% of 21 year-olds who reported childhood abuse met the criteria for at least one psychological disorder. So there is an obvious moral imperative to try to prevent abuse before it happens. But the cost to society should be considered as well. Not only do we run a higher risk of losing some of the good these people could have contributed, we also pay enormous financial costs in medical care, special education, welfare programs, and the criminal justice system. The estimate is that child maltreatment costs $830,928 over a lifetime. Given the frequency of such maltreatment, that means $563 billion per year. So we have an obvious financial imperative to try to prevent abuse before it happens. And so this shift is happening, all over the country, to try to put more resources into prevention. The federal Families First Prevention Services Act allows spending of federal money on preventative services. And the returns on these prevention programs are extremely positive, with anywhere from $1.79 to more than $20 in savings per $1 spent. And it makes sense, if you even spent $20,000 on just one child to prevent that child from being abused or neglected, you would have saved over $800,000 over that child’s lifetime, not to mention the much more significant achievement: we helped a child escape trauma, pain, fear, and potentially a lifetime of psychological damage. And yes, this includes attacking poverty and housing stability. Inadequate housing is responsible for up to 10% of foster care cases in the US. One study found that 1 in 6 families needed housing support when they first came to child protection agency’s attention and 40% of families needed support after their child was removed. Homelessness is in and of itself, a form of maltreatment. It leads to developmental delays in young children, poor education outcomes, short and long-term health problems, and of course, flat out danger. As for poverty, studies have found linkages here too. One study found that states that cut their welfare benefits saw rises in child maltreatment—sometimes not at the hands of a parent themselves but because the parent or parents have to work and leave care of their child to someone else, not of course a licensed and expensive child care facility, or not at all and the child is simply home alone. Remember that neglect is a form of maltreatment that leaves scars of its own. And the worst-case scenario happens more often in conjunction with poverty too: newborn to 4 year-old fatalities were about 3 times higher in the highest poverty counties in our country than the lowest, in data from 1999-2014. The “why” behind this is more conjectural, but the constant toxic stress of poverty, potential neglect that could lead to higher rates of SIDS for infants, and again, unvetted caregivers could all be part of it. Taking all of this into account, the question is not why shift toward spending more money on prevention, it’s how much can we spend.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • We also have a crisis in behavioral care treatment for kids who have suffered maltreatment and in our foster care system, where we need more resources. This is basic triage, we have to address the acute and immediate needs first. Once those are under control then we can address longer-term and more systemic prevention issues

Bottom Line:

  • Housing and poverty are two of the biggest societal problems we have in this state and it is not fair or appropriate to ask this program to try to tackle them as part of its mission. It will take tens of millions of dollars of investment to do so and it is much better suited for programs whose primary mission and structure is to do this. Let this program continue to focus on child abuse prevention in other ways (they are plenty of them) rather than distract it with problems too large for it to take on

Bottom Line:

  • We should be pouring money into this, but it looks like this board only has tens of thousands of dollars to spend each year, which is nowhere near enough. That means its funding stream is inadequate, woefully so, and needs changing. We could do one-time large general fund money and try to keep the account full or come up with some other ongoing fund, perhaps an enterprise program funded on fees on hospitals (who would benefit from the program through fewer emergency care cases with people without insurance)

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1248

HB21-1257 Recognition Of Veterans In Capitol Complex Parks (Garcia (D)) [Garnett (D), Neville (R)]

PASSED

AMENDED: Significant

Appropriation: $10,000
Fiscal Impact: None beyond appropriation

Goal:

Install a sculpture honoring Major General Maurice Rose in Rename the area of state capitol grounds currently known as Lincoln park or Liberty park, and rename the park Colorado Lincoln veterans’ memorial park. The sculpture is a permanent gift to the state and already has a commissioned artist.

Description:

Requires the installation of a sculpture honoring Major General Maurice Rose on the south portion of the state capitol grounds and Renames that park, which contains other veterans’ monuments, from Lincoln park or Liberty park to Colorado veterans’ park.

This sculpture is ten feet tall, modeled in clay and cast in bronze, and is to be mounted on an eight feet tall piece of solid granite. It must include ample space for a plaque on the granite to honor Rose. George Lundeen is the commissioned sculptor. It is a permanent gift to the state.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • That statute of Major General Rose is still going to go into the park, it just turns out that a legislative bill is not the correct way to do this. We'll still discuss Major General Rose here because it is a story worth knowing. Major General Rose grew up in Denver and was the highest ranking and most decorated Jewish American solider in American history. He was awarded the distinguished service cross, distinguished service medal, silver star with two oak leaf clusters, legion of merit with oak leaf cluster, bronze star with oak leaf cluster, purple heart with oak leaf cluster, French legion of honor, French croix de guerre with palm, and the Belgian croix de guerre with palm. He lied about his age in 1916 to enlist in the army, was discharged when this was discovered only to re-enlist in 1917. He again lied about his age to meet the minimum requirement for officer candidate school. He was wounded at St. Mihiel in World War I, and then left the hospital against medical advice to return to his unit. He stayed in the army between wars, rising to the rank of lieutenant colonel by 1941. By 1942 he was a brigadier general and in 1944 he was promoted to major general and command of the 3rd armored division. He led his unit with distinction, including a remarkable advance of over 100 miles in a single day. He led the first tank unit to enter Germany in World War II and was killed in action in Germany in 1945. Rose is not very well known, in part because he died and in part because he shunned the spotlight and was not only not openly religious, he lied about his religion in the army. Beyond the obvious honor Major General Rose deserves, this is an opportunity to honor a great Coloradan and an ethnic group that has not previously been acknowledged with such a monument.

Arguments Against: n/a

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1257

HB21-1270 Appropriation To Department Of Human Services For Supplemental Assistance Nutrition Program (Fields (D)) [Exum (D), Caraveo (D)]

*State stimulus bill, less than 1% of total stimulus funds spent in this bill*

PASSED

AMENDED: Technical

Appropriation: $3 million
Fiscal Impact: None beyond appropriation

Goal:

Spend $3 million in state money to get a matching $3 million in federal money to put toward the state’s employment first program located inside the supplemental nutrition assistance program (SNAP or commonly known as food stamps) to spend on employment support, job retention services, and work-based learning opportunities for those in the program.

Description:

Appropriates $3 million to the state’s supplemental nutrition assistance program (SNAP or commonly known as food stamps, though it does much more than that as you’ll see), which triggers a matching $3 million from the federal government. State is to direct counties and third-party providers (who administer the program) to prioritize this money on employment support and job retention services and to support work-based learning opportunities in the existing Colorado Employment First program. Up to 10% of money can be used for administrative costs and any remaining money is to be spent on initiating or enhancing current or additional third-party partnerships.

The employment first program promotes long-term self-sufficiency and independence by preparing participants for meaningful employment through work-related education and training activities. Since you have to be a SNAP participant, all of the eligibility rules for SNAP apply.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • The point of the employment first program is to help people get to the point where they don’t need the SNAP program anymore, so it is one of our best tools at fighting extreme poverty. And of course the pandemic has hit the most vulnerable in our population the hardest, increasing the need for the SNAP program, so it is completely appropriate to spend stimulus money on it. In fact, this type of spending is one of the most effective stimulus programs we have because it does two things: it puts money into the system that will be immediately spent and it helps people who are in extreme need. Both of those things help stop the downward spirals that unemployment can cause, where one person’s difficulties spread throughout the system as that individual has less money to spend in the economy. And best of all, this is a matching federal program, so we get to double our money. The basics of the SNAP program are already covered in the budgeting process (the food-buying assistance) so we don’t need to boost spending there to meet increased demand

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • Not everyone who lost their job qualifies for this program, we should not be advantaging some people in society over others simply because their life is or was worse to begin with

Bottom Line:

  • Since we are in effect doubling our money here, why not spend a little more to get even more out of the federal government? If this is one of our best tools to lift people out of extreme poverty let’s use it

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1270

HB21-1272 Supporting The Child Protection Ombudsman (Danielson (D)) [Cutter (D), Bradfield (R)]

PASSED

AMENDED: Minor

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

Prevent the child protection ombudsman or someone acting on their behalf from being forced to testify in court or have their records seized by court order. Also give the ombudsman access to state records and reports in cases the ombudsman is investigating as part of their already existing duties.

Description:

Prevent compelling the child protection ombudsman or any person acting on their behalf from testifying in any court proceeding unless they are an actual party to the proceeding. Similar protection given to their records from court orders.

Requires the state to notify the ombudsman of any investigation of a critical incident the ombudsman has received a complaint about and give the ombudsman access to all information, records, and documents relating to the case as they are created or received. It must provide non-identifying case review findings and recommendations upon request. State must provide ombudsman with the final confidential, case-specific review report for any investigation related to a fatality or near-fatality, or egregious abuse or neglect (that term is already defined in law).

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • This is pretty simple: for the ombudsman to do this part of their job (providing a form of oversight over state child welfare actions), they both need access to relevant information and need to be treated like someone in a doctor-patient relationship when it comes to the court system

Arguments Against: n/a

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1272

HB21-1277 Eligible Recipients For Final Disposition Expenses (Liston (R), Pettersen (D)) [D. Valdez (D), Will (R)]

PASSED

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

Make it so you have to actually be enrolled in a medical assistance or public assistance program with the state to be eligible for final disposition benefits and define exactly what medical and public assistance programs qualify.

Description:

Under current law someone who was receiving or had applied for public assistance or medical assistance from the state at the time of their death is eligible for reimbursement for funeral or burial or cremation expenses. The bill changes eligibility to require the person actually be receiving the benefits prior to death. It also defines medical assistance (Medicaid) and public assistance (old age pensions, state welfare, aid to needy disabled, aid to the blind, and home care allowance program).

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • This is fairly straightforward. First, people should actually be enrolled in these programs to receive this disposition of remains benefit. And second, we need to define terms precisely so that there is no confusion

Arguments Against: n/a

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1277

HB21-1313 Child Protection Ombudsman and Immigrant Children [Benavidez (D, Gonzales (D)), Gonzales-Gutierrez (D)]

PASSED

AMENDED: Technical

Appropriation: $90,600
Fiscal Impact: About $100,000 a year

Goal:

Allow the state’s child protection ombudsman to investigate safety and well-being of unaccompanied minors being held in state licensed residential care facilities in the custody of the federal government. For on-site visits the ombudsman is to coordinate with the department of human services. Bill requires these facilities to notify the state within three days after the arrival of an unaccompanied minor.

Description:

Allows the state’s child protection ombudsman to self-initiate independent investigations of safety and well-being of unaccompanied minors being held in state licensed residential care facilities in the custody of the federal government. This includes authority to review documents at no cost and make referrals to other agencies. Ombudsman is to coordinate site visits with the department of human services. Bill requires these facilities to notify the ombudsman and the department of human services within three days after the arrival of an unaccompanied minor. Ombudsman also has right to create and distribute outreach materials to facilities and individuals who may have regular contact with an unaccompanied minor.

Unaccompanied minors are children with no lawful legal status in the United States with no parent or legal guardian present in the country.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • Taking care of these unaccompanied minors is going to be problem that never really goes away, regardless of the leniency of our federal immigration laws or how the federal government treats undocumented immigrants. We’ve seen lots of unaccompanied minors come to the country under Democratic presidents with more lenient stances on immigration and lots come to the country under Republican presidents with more strict stances. So it is important to ensure that these children are well-cared for while they are in the custody of our government. These are children who are away from their families and support systems, frequently do not speak English, and may have little understanding of what is happening. In 2019 Colorado opened its first shelter this bill is addressing, where these children are kept in the custody of the federal department of health and human services until they can be reunified with a family member in the United States while their case is pending (if they cannot be connected with a family member they frequently end up in the foster care system). This bill is not necessarily about singling out any one actor or one facility with a bad history (the Colorado facility has no reports of mistreatment or poor conditions to this point). It is about safeguarding the system, utilizing the person in our government who is tasked solely with child protection and welfare. Because these residential facilities do have a troubled recent history with incidents with children in their care with behavioral health problems and the parent company of the one facility in Colorado had a major sexual abuse problem in Pennsylvania. So even though this is a bit of a different setting with less potential for trouble, we have to make sure that children placed in the care of a state licensed facility are being appropriately taken care of

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • These facilities are already inspected as part of their licensure, not to mention the requirements they must meet for their federal government contract. We don’t need to add another, uncoordinated, layer onto this (spending more money every year to boot). Yes, the site visits are supposed to be coordinated but we could see overlapping investigations taking place by the ombudsman and other parts of the state and the federal government. And Arguments For hints at this: we don’t have any reported problems at the moment. It is important to remember that these are not the ICE facilities or Customs facilities so much media coverage has focused on. We may have problems in other areas of these residential facilities but it doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the unaccompanied minors. Status quo is fine

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1314

SB21-014 Allocation Formula Colorado Child Care Program (Kirkmeyer (R))

KILLED BY SENATE COMMITTEE

AMENDED: Significant

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: Negligible at state level, unknown at county level

Goal:

  • Allow counties that meet or exceed what is expected for minimum number of kids eligible for the state’s child care assistance program to change their eligibility standards. The state standard is 185% of the federal poverty level
  • [amend may use utilization factor]Requires the state to consider the average of the previous three years of payments to families in counties when determining each county’s amount of funding. State may use past utilization of funds to determine future allocations to counties. The state receives these funds from the federal government

Description:

Bill also adds "financial" to the criteria for selecting the number of kids eligible for the program and explicity states the eligibilty criteria of 185% of poverty line (currenlty is just says kids who are eligible for the program). This program provides financial assistance for child care to eligible families who are working, searching for employment or are in training, as well as families in the state’s welfare program.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • This is about balancing our state funds to direct them where our counties feel would be most appropriate and letting local officials make those decisions. Right now we have some counties not spending their full allocation each year
  • The current allocation formula just looks at total children eligible to participate and can lead to inequities by not properly defining the universe of eligible children—which is supposed by those financially eligible at 185% of the federal poverty line
  • Some counties need to go higher than 185% of the federal poverty level to reach children in need because their cost of living is so high, and this is how the system worked until just a few years ago

In Further Detail: The system right now takes into account more than just financial eligibility for this service, and that causes some funding inequities. Right now we have some counties that don’t spend their full allocation each year and some counties that could certainly use more. The bill fixes this by setting eligibility as financial and allowing the state to consider the past three years of utilization so chronic underspenders don’t keep getting more than they need past utilization. For the poverty line, some counties need to go higher than 185% simply because the cost of living in their county is much higher than others, so people can be earning over 185% of the poverty line but still desperately need child care help in order to work. That is actually how the system used to work until a few years ago. Now counties need state permission to raise their levels. Raising that poverty line won’t affect the allocation at all, that would still be based on 185%, but it would allow counties to use this program more broadly (they can pull funds from some other sources at their discretion).

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • We only have so much money to go around and changing the allocation in this manner will results in some counties getting more and some other counties getting less
  • Counties that lack child care facilities could be punished under this new allocation scheme because if you can’t put a child into a child care center then you can’t count the child as utilizing days paid
  • Changing the allocation formula in this manner may violate federal guidelines which require taking into consideration equal access across the state
  • Counties can still move their poverty level line, it just requires state permission now to ensure that equal access

In Further Detail: This is changing around a fixed pot of money so there will be winners and there will be losers. A straight consideration of days paid could cause problems in areas that lack child care because they cannot show payment to a child care center, since that center doesn’t really exist. This consideration of purely financial factors and utilization could also violate federal guidelines around equal access. As for the poverty line issue, counties can move their poverty lines right now, it just requires approval from the state. The reason gets back to the same equity consideration: equal access across the state. Once we allow counties to determine what the threshold is we may end up with different conceptions of just what poverty is, going beyond the concept of different standards of living in different parts of the state. That would be unequal access across the state and again a potential violation of federal guidelines. That is precisely why the state is in charge, not to punish counties with higher standards of living, but to ensure living standards are applied equally across the board.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-014

SB21-015 Veterans Service Organization Stipend For Funeral Services (Cooke (R), Garcia (D)) [Ortiz (D), Lynch (R)]

SIGNED INTO LAW

Appropriation: $50,930
Fiscal Impact: Negligible in future years

Goal:

  • Pay local veterans service organizations up to $75 stipend for performing military services for an honorably discharged veteran.

Description:

Requires the state to pay local veterans service organizations up to $75 for performing a basic military funeral honors ceremony or other funeral related services and personnel for an honorably discharged veteran. $75 is the amount that must be paid for the first such service performed in a single day, the state has discretion on how much less than $75 should be paid for subsequent services at the same location. State is to take actual expenses into account. If the organization uses a student to play taps, it can pay the student all or some of the money.

Service organization must request the money. State must setup a process for doing so by January 15, 2022. Requests must be made within 15 days of the funeral, provide the name of the veteran and the services performed. For second and subsequent same-day requests, organization must submit actual expenses, including mileage and transportation costs and meals.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • These organizations provide valuable services for free to honor our veterans as we pay our last respects. Anyone who has attended a military funeral can attest to the power of these ceremonies. This is the least we can do to assist these organizations.

Arguments Against: n/a

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-015

SB21-018 Continutation Of Necessary Document Program (Moreno (D)) [Esgar (D)]

PASSED

AMENDED: Minor

Appropriation: $250,000
Fiscal Impact: $300,000 annually

Goal:

  • Continue indefinitely the state’s necessary document program, which provides grant money to assist organizations who help Coloradans who lack certain necessary documentation (like social security cards or driver’s licenses) and may struggle to obtain and pay for them. Program is set to expire this September.

Description:

Necessary documentation includes social security cards, driver’s licenses, and state ID cards. The original bill was passed in 2016 and the organization the state works with is called the Colorado ID project. They assist those who are victims of domestic violence, impacted by a natural disaster, low-income, disabled, homeless, or elderly by helping them navigate the forms required and paying any associated fees. The program is given $300,000 a year from the general fund. State must report to the legislature on the program every five years, incuding recommended changes, beginning in 2032.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • Identification is almost essential to modern life, with a whole range of activities such as opening a bank account or securing a credit card requiring one, so it benefits the state to help those who need it obtain one

In Further Detail: The list of things you cannot do with a valid government issued ID is long. You cannot open a bank account. You cannot obtain a credit card. There are many jobs you could not obtain without one. You cannot rent an apartment. It is literally essential to living in the United States in 2021. Yet many people do not have an ID and it is actually pretty hard to get one if you are missing some key documents, like a birth certificate. Many forms of ID require some other form of ID to acquire, and so people are left with a difficult web to untangle, not to mention numerous fees. The Colorado ID project helps around 5,000 Coloradans a year navigate this process. It is well worth our resources to help people get the identification they need to be full participants in our economy. As for sunset review, that is not necessary in this case. This is an ongoing need where we know the basic circumstances. If that for some reason changes, we can always change the law in the future.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • Programs like this should be subject to sunset review, which would ensure that a full effort is undertaken to understand if the program is working and what changes, if any, need to be made

In Further Detail: Sunset review is perfect for programs like this and should be applied here. Circumstances change, and an automatic review requires the state to really examine if a program tailored to one particular company like this is still working and even still necessary. The program should not be extended indefinitely.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-018

SB21-024 Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day (Jaquez Lewis (D), Rankin (R)) [Sullivan (D)]

SIGNED INTO LAW

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

  • Declare March 30th “Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day” and directs appropriate observances may be held by the public and all public schools in the state in tribute to Vietnam veterans

Description: Nothing further

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • The Vietnam War was incredibly divisive, but unfortunately in a way that rebounded onto the troops themselves as they returned home not to the grateful thanks we offer now, even when we disagree entirely with the war itself, but to vitriol and outright hostility in some cases
  • This war saw more than 2.7 million American serve in active duty, with more than 58,000 losing their lives and more than 300,000 wounded. It is entirely appropriate for us to set aside a day, the day that the last troops left Vietnam in 1973, for remembrance of those who served. The war was not their fault and in fact remembering their sacrifices will make it more likely that we also remember the numerous mistakes we made as a country in this time period—mistakes we will hopefully avoid in the future

Arguments Against: n/a

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-024

SB21-027 Emergency Supplies For Colorado Babies And Families (Pettersen (D), Danielson (D)) [Gonzales-Gutierrez (D), Tipper (D)]

PASSED

AMENDED: Moderate

Appropriation: $7 million, of which $5 million is federal stimulus money
Fiscal Impact: Negligible beyond appropriation

Goal:

  • Provide diapers, wipes, and creams to families in need through non-profit organizations that run distribution centers across the state. Bill provides funding of $2 million for of the next two years year in perpetuity this year. State is to report after each of those years every year on the program to the legislature.
  • The bill also appropriates $5 million in federal stimulus money to the existing state food pantry assistance grant program

Description:

The state has 45 30 days after the law becomes effective to pick the non-profits, which must be selected so as to ensure coverage of the entire state. The selection process is not subject to standard state procurement procedures, but the state must use standard procurement procedures within one year and no center is to operate after that point without having been selected through the normal process. The non-profits have 60 30 days after selection to have the distribution centers running. Eligibility for the program is to be determined by the distribution centers themselves. Report to the legislature must include total number of distribution centers and their locations and the total number of people that received diapers and associated products.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • Diaper necessities (which includes wipes and creams, not just the diapers themselves) cannot be obtained through public assistance programs. Reusing disposable diapers or using plastic bags or toilet paper can lead to diaper rash and health complications
  • Even before COVID hit, one in three families reporting struggling to obtain basic diaper necessities. This worked out to an estimated over 67,000 Colorado children experiencing negative effects of diaper necessity shortages—that’s with our existing network of diaper banks and private assistance
  • COVID has wreaked havoc on demand, the state needs to step in, even if just temporarily, to aid these families and children—which will reduce stress, improve health and eliminate medical expenses associated with poor diapering, and provide some income assistance to those who need it most right now

In Further Detail: It costs at least $80 a month to properly diaper a child. With no public assistance programs providing these supplies, parents who simply do not have the money are forced to make difficult choices that often end with adverse health effects for the affected children. And this was before COVID. Now, with diaper banks reporting 300% surges in part of the country, including here in Colorado where the report is four times the pre-COVID need for diaper essentials, the state needs to step in. The bill auto-repeals after two years, so if we find that the crisis has passed, this program does not need to necessarily be renewed. If we find, on the other hand, that this program provides critical assistance to families in the form of tangible and intangible benefits that help lift people out of poverty, then it is well worth the investment. As to how the bill is written, sometimes it is best to step back and realize that you are not the expert here. We could write a five page complicated system based on statistics and paperwork requirements that would likely not do as well as getting out of the way and letting the pros handle it. We don't have the time or overhead to create costly procedures to verify incomes. We don’t have time to waste. As for cloth diapers, many laundry mats do not accept them and they can be just as expensive as disposable diapers.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • The program does not have enough specificity. How is the state supposed to divvy up the $2 million around the state? And most crucially, just who qualifies for getting free diapers? The bill leaves that up to the distribution centers, which will almost certainly lead to different standards in different parts of the state Apparently anyone does, which means some people who definitely don't need help are going to get free diapers
  • We have existing diaper banks (they were relied on for some of the data of the Arguments For section). We can continue to rely on and support the private sector to fill this need
  • There are alternatives to expensive disposable diapers. Cloth diapers may not be fun to clean but they work and can be cleaned at any income level

In Further Detail: This lacks a lot of specificity. What does it mean that everyone in Colorado must have access to a distribution center? How exactly are we going to divvy up the supplies across the state to ensure equity? And most importantly, just who can and cannot get free supplies from these centers? Leaving that crucial question up to the centers themselves virtually assures that we will have different standards in different parts of the state, with perhaps some centers just giving out supplies to whoever shows up and some requiring silly amounts of proof of need. With no standards anyone can show up and apparently will get diapers supplies no questions asked. Also, while disposable diapers are super convenient and less messy, reusable cloth diapers are a thing that exists. They aren’t fun to clean but they work and you don’t need a certain amount of income to be able to clean one.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-027

SB21-032 Mobile Veterans-support Unit Grant Program (Donovan (D)) [Ortiz (D)]

PASSED

AMENDED: Moderate

Appropriation: $229,070
Fiscal Impact: Negligible costs next year

Goal:

  • Provide a grant to a non-profit to set up a mobile veteran support unit to help veterans who either live in rural Colorado or are experiencing homelessness. The unit is to transport veterans who do not have access to transportationand work with the state to provide business and job opportunities to veterans

Description:

Creates the Mobile Veteran Support Unit Grant program to provide aid to a veteran-owned and focused organization that serves veterans in establishing mobile veteran support units to help the health and well-being of veterans who either live in more remote locations or are experiencing homelessness. Grant money must cover two-years of work, salaries of two staff members, and funds to purchase a vehicle. The organization must have experience serving veterans experiencing homelessness to be eligible. Grantee must report to state but there is no state report to the legislature. No money appropriated.

Additional Information:

State must adopt rules for the program by September 15, 2021. By December 2021 it must start accepting grant applications. By January 21, 2022 it must start distributing grant money. By March 21, 2024 it must submit a request to the legislature if it wants to continue the program. State can seek gifts, grants, or donations for this program. Discharge status does not matter for the veterans. Getting a grant from this program does not disqualify non-profits from receiving a grant from the Veterans Assistance Grant Program.


Auto-Repeal: January 2025

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • We owe our veterans more than we can ever fully repay them and yet veterans are over-represented in our homeless population, with an estimated 9% of those experiencing homelessness coming from the armed forces. These are difficult populations to provide service to, with rural parts of the state having their own unique challenges. Mobile units provide an opportunity to bring services to the veterans and to hopefully help get some of them jobs.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • We already have a grant program to do these precise services, including the Veterans Assistance Grant Program. If we want to add a mobile component, it should be folded into that existing program rather than creating a new one. Having multiple programs creates the potential for confusion and for competition in terms of funding.

Bottom Line:

  • This program is unfunded, so it will left either to the mercies of the budgeting process or the mercy of the private sector to get any grants at all.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-032

SB21-075 Supported Decision-making Agreement (Gardner (R), Ginal (D)) [Tipper (D), Young (D)]

SIGNED INTO LAW

AMENDED: Minor

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

  • Create supported decision-making agreements for adults with disabilities to help them make their own life decisions with the help of a trusted adult

Description:

Creates a framework for adults with disabilities to enter into supported decision-making agreements with another adult who can then assist with making certain life decisions. The exact scope of decisions must be in the agreement, but can include any life decisions, including health, safety, and finances. The supporting adult is directed to help the adult with a disability understand the issues and choices, answer questions, provide explanations where necessary, facilitate getting whatever information the adult with a disability might need (such as access to records), and communicate decisions to others when necessary (and only with consent). The agreement cannot be used as evidence of incapacity. The agreement can be terminated at any time with no notice required. It is automatically terminated if adult protective services finds the adult with a disability is being mistreated or if the assisting adult is substantiated to have mistreated any at-risk individual, convicted of a crime against an at-risk individual, or convicted of a financial crime.

Additional Information:

Agreements must be signed voluntarily, with no coercion, in the presence of two or more adult witnesses or a notary. The agreement must contain the following:

  • Name of the adult with a disability
  • Name and contact information of the assisting adult
  • List of decisions the assisting adult may offer advice with and a description of the assisting adults duties, including at a minimum that they must provide unbiased advice in the best interest of the adult with a disability, they respect any decision the adult with a disability makes and not try to coerce any decisions, and provide the most up-to-date and relevant information to help make decisions
  • Notice that anyone relying on this document must report any suspected mistreatment to the state

The assistor must treat any protected or confidential information, like health records, as privileged and confidential.


Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • This provides a good legal middle-ground between leaving adults with disabilities to fend for themselves and full guardianship—many adults with a disability can make decisions for themselves, they just need a little help sometimes

In Further Detail: We need to have some middle legal ground between leaving adults with disabilities to fend for themselves and full guardianship. The presumption should be that an adult with a disability can make decisions for themselves, and if that is ineffective, that they can do it with some help. This allows us to not just jump straight to guardianship, but encourage adults with disabilities to be masters of their own lives by providing structured support that is clear and legally based. This will help prevent these adults from being taken advantage of, but also help them learn decision-making skills. We are deliberately keeping this below the court level: courts are for adults who cannot make decisions on their own. They also bring in added costs and potentially legal fees. Of course we must be vigilant for abuse and the bill takes care to note that any third party given this document must report any suspected abuse.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • Courts should be involved in these sorts of arrangements, as they are with guardianships, in order to protect the adult with a disability

In Further Detail: By not involving the court at all, we are sadly inviting potential abuse here. It is all well and good to say that coercion and manipulation are not allowed, but it is more difficult for an adult with a disability to distinguish between helpful advice and outright manipulation. Since no court must approve these agreements, all we are left with is the good-will and intentions of two witnesses and/or a notary who is not trained in these matters and who does not know any of the parties at all. The agreement doesn’t even have to be registered with the state in any manner, so it is impossible for the state to even know they exist.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-075

SB21-095 Sunset Employment First Advisory Partnership (Danielson (D)) [Ricks (D)]

PASSED

AMENDED: Very Significant (category change)

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

  • Continue the Employment First Advisory Partnership indefinitely by removing its sunset review date. It was scheduled to repeal in September
  • Create a pilot program in the department of labor and unemployment for hires within its own department. For positions that don't use a numeric rubric, people with disabilities who apply must be added to the interview list (so long as they meet minimum requirements for the position). For positions that do use a numeric rubic, people with disabilites must have 5 points added to their score. Disability must be proved in some way to the department (it is determine how). This program is not to be used for anyone currently employed by the state seeking a promotion. Other departments in the government may use the same pilot program but no one can use it after the pilot ceases in 2028

Description:

This is a collaboration between the Colorado Department of Education, the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing, the Colorado Department of Higher Education, Colorado Department of Human Services and the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, and representatives with disabilities seeking supported employment, representatives of families of people with disabilities, representatives of those advocating for people with intellectual disabilities as well as others focused on cross-disability interests. It is designed to keep the state aligned with federal law around employment for people with disabilities and advance employment opportunities for people with significant disabilities.

Candidates in the pilot program may use the veterans' hiring preference (already exists) or the pilot's disabilities' hiring preference but not both. State must report to legislature by November 2027 on the program, including number of applicants who participated, number of people with disabilites hired, and any other factors that may be important to considering permanent adoption of this program.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: January 2028 for pilot program

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • The Department of Regulatory Agencies’ sunset review report recommended continuing this partnership
  • Challenges of helping people with disabilities obtain meaningful work will continue far into the future. There is no need to waste state resources with further sunset reviews
  • The role of this partnership is quite literally to help people with disabilities get employment so a pilot program to see if we could do more in state government hiring fits. Like with any pilot, this starts small to see how it works in practice. The hiring preference here is basically identical to the existing veterans' hiring preference in concept, right down to the 5 points

In Further Detail: From the sunset review report: “EFAP has made strides but has not reached a point where success can be measured by increased integrated employment of individuals with disabilities, including those with severe disabilities. Nonetheless, EFAP has created the necessary groundwork upon which improvement may occur. As the refocused systems evolve, new issues will arise that require collaboration among the partners, employers, and other interests. EFAP suits those purposes well because it has the expertise and experience to determine what issues need to be addressed in the short-term while keeping focus on the long-term goals.” The long-term goals are going to be with us for some time, so there is no need to continue using state resources on sunset review processes. Since the role of this parternship is to help people with disabilites get employment, a need we've already acknowledged still exists, it makes sense to see if the state can do more in its own hiring practices. Rather than jumping in and creating a full-blown preference across all state government, it makes sense to pilot the concept first. This pilot is modeled on the existing veteran's preference and is basically identical, right down to the 5 point boost (disabled veterans get a 10 point boost already). No need to have a separate bill to deal with this, part of the point of sunset review is to change things within the purview of the office or law being reviewed.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • While we may never reach perfection, it is conceivable to reach a point where this partnership’s work is done. We use sunset review to ensure we don’t have programs that don’t do anything. That too consumes state resources. Continue the partnership, but not indefinitely
  • It is inappropriate to place this new pilot program in this sunset review bill. The pilot is not under the purview of the parternship and so need to be its own separate bill

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-095

SB21-099 Sunset License Plate Disability Support Act (Danielson (D)) [Young (D), Van Beber (R)]

SIGNED INTO LAW

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

  • Continue the Laura Hershey Disability Support Act through September 2026

Description:

This act continues the state’s disability funding committee, which is responsible for auctioning off desirable vehicle registration numbers and for providing grants to non-profit entities that provide new and innovative or benefit assistance services to the disabled community.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: September 2026 with sunset review

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • This was the recommendation of the department of regulatory agencies’ sunset review report
  • Recent changes to the committee should be given a chance to work before we junk it. Five years is an appropriate extension

In Further Detail: From the report: “The Committee has the potential to provide great benefits to the disabled community through auctions and providing grants to the community. As such, the General Assembly should continue the Committee for five years, until 2026. The five-year continuation is justified because of the marginal performance of the Committee, and the opportunity for improvement that the IA presents.”

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • The review also says this committee has only been marginally effective and it is clearly banking on transferring its duties to the lieutenant governor’s office last year to fix issues with poorly attended meetings and low auction revenue. This just may be one of those things that doesn’t work well in practice

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-099

SB21-104 Sunset Special Education Fiscal Advisory Committee (Zenzinger (D)) [Kipp (D), Boesenecker (D)]

SIGNED INTO LAW

AMENDED: Moderate

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

  • Continue the Special Education Fiscal Advisory Committee indefinitely through 2031 by removing and remove its sunset review date. It was scheduled to repeal in September

Description:

This committee is required to evaluate annual applications and distribute funds relating to the state’s high-cost reimbursement grant fund for special education.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • The Department of Regulatory Agencies’ sunset review report recommended continuing this committee
  • Special education costs continue to rise and there appears to be no point in the future where this committee will not be needed. If the grant program itself is repealed, that would almost certainly trigger the people writing that repeal bill to look at if the committee needs to continue, so Further sunset review is not necessary and wastes the state’s resources.

SB21-107 Honoring Carrie Ann Lucas (Danielson (D)) [Young (D), McLachlan (D)]

TECHNICAL BILL

SIGNED INTO LAW

Description:

Renames the law that deals with family preservation safeguards for families that include a parent with disabilities the “Carrie Ann Lucas Parental Rights for People with Disabilities Act”.

SB21-115 Annual Funding For Talking Book Library Services (Zenzinger (D), Lundeen (R)) [Titone (D), Larson (R)]

SIGNED INTO LAW

AMENDED: Technical

Appropriation: $250,000 of telephone user fund
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

  • Require funding for the talking book library program every year, rather than having it be optional.

Description:

This money comes from the telephone users with disabilities fund (which supports use of relay services to allow those with hearing or speech disabilities to place and receive phone calls for free). The talking book program was established in 1932 and is a free library services for people who are blind or disabled. It partners with the Library of Congress. The telephone users with disabilities fund was first allowed to fund talking book in the 2019-20 fiscal year. It also receives general fund money.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal:

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • The library received $250,000 in 2019-20 and $200,000 in 2020-21. We definitely proved that the telephone users with disabilities fund can support this extra funding requirement (it made a miniscule fee adjustment of less than a nickel a year to support the change) and there is no reason not to make it permanent. The fund is already designed to service people with disabilities, it remains a natural extension to help fund the talking book library

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • If we want to fund this library, it should have its own source, not piggy-back onto a fund specifically designed for phone services, not for book services.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-115

SB21-117 Foster Care Student Services Coordination (Moreno (D)) [Michaelson Jenet (D)]

SIGNED INTO LAW

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

  • Requires state and local agencies to use standardized forms and invoices approved by both the department of education and department of human services to bill for transportation services provided to students in out-of-home placements.
  • Authorizes schools establishing transportation plans with counties (as required by law) to do them by region or through a board of cooperative services (can still do it by individual entity as well).

Description:

Also aligns definition of “student in out-of-home placement” in this section of law with the definition for students in custody of county departments of human or social services.

When students are placed out-of-home, current law (unchanged by this bill) requires that the student still be able to attend their original school, with the schools and counties arranging the transportation.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • This is about better aligning our systems to deal with the (good!) requirement that students stay in the same school if they are placed out-of-home. Currently there is no standardized billing form, which can cause confusion, and schools have to do this on an individualized basis, which can be more cumbersome. This bill standardizes the billing form and allows schools to work regionally (boards of cooperative services cover several different districts).

Arguments Against: n/a

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-117

SB21-118 Alternative Response Mistreatment At-risk Adults (Ginal (D), Gardner (R)) [Pelton (R), Snyder (D)]

PASSED

AMENDED: Technical

Appropriation: $173,531
Fiscal Impact: $190,000 a year

Goal:

  • Create a pilot program to test out if counties can treat low risk reports of mistreatment or self-neglect of at-risk adults differently than other cases. For these low-risk reports, the county would not make a finding and would not be required to conduct unannounced initial in-person interviews. If the county subsequently determines that either the risk level is higher or that it cannot properly assess the situation, it then proceeds to normal procedures. Pilot expires in law in July 2027

Description:

Maximum of 15 counties in the pilot program and the state is strongly encouraged, but not required, to have a mix of counties: urban, suburban, rural, and frontier. State must provide initial training and on-going technical assistance to counties. State must contract with a third-party evaluator to look at the pilot’s effectiveness over a two-year time frame. Counties must submit a report to the state to help. State must report to the legislature in 2025 and 2026 on the program. This includes any specific problems the program is facing and recommendations to fix them, as well as recommendations for if the pilot should continue, expand, or be discontinued.

The state already does an initial evaluation of risk in these cases.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: July 2027

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • This brings a more collaborative approach to low-risk cases. We can achieve safety and better outcomes with less heavy handed approaches—they would still be investigated but if all that is required is support, education, and services than that is what should be provided
  • This is a similar approach to what counties do right now with children—what is called differential response in the child welfare system
  • Because this is a large potential change and a different cultural approach, the bill appropriately starts with a pilot program

In Further Detail: This bill brings a more collaborative approach to low-risk cases for at-risk adults. We can achieve safety and better outcomes with less heavy handed approaches in these low-risk cases. We don’t always have to bring down the hammer to solve a situation. These low-risk cases would still be investigated and if all that is required is support, education, and services than that is what can be provided without making a finding of abuse in our system. For example, if an adult with developing dementia surprises a family by wandering off because they didn’t realize the dementia had gotten that bad, this is not a case where we need to make a finding of mistreatment. This is a similar approach to what counties do right now with cases for children, which is called differential response. We’ve been successfully doing child welfare this way for over ten years. Because this is a large potential change and a different cultural approach, the bill starts this process with a pilot program.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • The unannounced visit is a key element to seeing things as they really are, without giving people time to prepare a Potemkin village for the county officials to see. Removing it may make it harder for these officials to truly understand if the at-risk adult is in danger and needs the full-blown investigation or not

SB2-120 Open Caption Requirement For Movie Theaters (Ginal (D), Danielson (D)) [Ortiz (D), Froelich (D)]

KILLED BY BILL SPONSORS

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

  • Requires any company that operates movie theaters in two or more locations in the state to provide open captioning during at least two screenings per week of each movie that offers the option. Open captioning is when the dialog and sounds are part of the film itself, so they are visible on the screen to anyone watching it without the use of any other devices.

Description:

Applies to indoor and outdoor movie showings as well as the trailers.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • Open captioning is far superior to closed captioning at movie theaters, which involves bulky devices that are difficult to position properly and take up space
  • Over a million Coloradans suffer from hearing loss and many others would also benefit from this, which also is a paltry number of screenings and will not overly affect theaters

In Further Detail: Open captioning services are far superior to closed captioning at movie theaters. For closed captioning, you are given a device that attaches to your seat and then must be maneuvered to a position close enough to the screen so you can see it and see the screen at the same time. This obviously is difficult to get adjusted correctly and easy to bump out of alignment. It also is less sanitary and takes up space that could otherwise be used for a drink. The less common glasses option is uncomfortable and difficult for people with prescription glasses. Open captioning works just like closed captioning does on all of our televisions at home: the words are automatically there on the screen. So really if we want to provide those with hearing impairments the true ability to experience a film in theaters, open captioning is the way we must go. Two screenings a week is a paltry amount and will not overly affect theaters. What it will do is help the over 1 million Coloradans with some form of hearing loss and many others who would benefit. Note that the bill leaves the theaters free to use whichever screenings it wants to.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • This will make two showings of every movie each week unattractive to a larger swath of the viewing public
  • Theaters already offer an accommodation that may not be ideal but does work for the hearing impaired

In Further Detail: This in essence requires a movie theater to make two showings of nearly every movie they offer only attractive to the hearing impaired. Movie theaters are already required to provide closed captioning services and while that may not be the best way for someone who is hearing impaired, it does work. This is similar to providing an accommodation for those who cannot walk at a building: you have to provide a way into the building but it does not have to be the best possible way and you don’t have to provide an accommodation at every entrance.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-120

SB21-128 Modification To Administration Of The Nursing Home Penalty Cash Fund (Kolker (D)) [Lontine (D)]

PASSED

AMENDED: Minor

Appropriation: Moving money around, but no new appropriation
Fiscal Impact: Actually a net positive since we won’t lose millions of dollars to federal government

Goal:

  • Transfer the nursing home innovations grant board and associated cash fund from the department of health care policy and financing to the department of public health and environment
  • Remove restriction on government agencies applying for grants and adds projects that compliment statewide quality and safety goals as a consideration for grant projects

Description:

Also removes the $10,000 spending limit raises the allowance for spending to administer the fund to 5% 10% of grant appropriation and board and allows board members to be reimbursed for expenses. Lengthens the period of time for the state to provide notice of a violation to a nursing facility from 5 days to 10 days after an inspection.

Despite moving the board, the two agencies must collaborate on an annual budget to administer the fund and board and the department of health care policy and financing is responsible for covering any emergency spending.

This grant program is designed to improve quality of life at nursing facilities and is funded by fines on facilities that do not meet federal requirements.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • This helps us better align with federal health and human services laws and regulations (these are federal fines we are collecting). We have over $8 million sitting in this fund right now that needs to be administered out in grants or we may lose the money. Moving these programs will make it much easier to get these grants out, as the department of public health and environment is better equipped to do it. Lifting the administrative cap will let the department put a full-time employee on it and get these grants out of the door

Arguments Against: n/a

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-128

SB21-129 Veteran Suicide Prevention Pilot Program (Garcia (D)) [Ortiz (D)]

PASSED

AMENDED: Significant

Appropriation: $1,660,000
Fiscal Impact: About $3 million a year while pilot is active

Goal:

  • Establish a pilot program to provide free behavioral health treatment for military veterans who served in active duty post 9/11. The program is to be in El Paso County with a maximum of 700 veterans served, but the state may expand it at any time without further legislation if it has sufficient funds. Pilot is to provide treatment for conditions including: post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, military sexual trauma, substance use disorder, and symptoms of traumatic brain injury. Each veteran must get a individualized treatment plan

Description:

State may enter into agreements with service providers to provide treatment and may enter into an agreement with a non-profit to administer the program. Non-profit must have at least 7 years’ experience providing similar services to veterans and must currently provide those services in at least five states (not including Colorado).

State must provide a single contact phone number or offer electronic means of contacting the program on the pilot program’s website.

State must report to the legislature each year on this program and whether any changes should be made. Its final report must include a recommendation on if the pilot should be continued. Pilot ends in July 2025.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: July 2025

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • Veteran suicide is an enormous problem in the country but it is even more acute in Colorado and El Paso County, as the home to the most veterans in the state, is the epicenter—every week a veteran in El Paso county dies by suicide. And this problem is getting worse, not better
  • Survey data indicates that concerns about cost is a major driver of veterans avoiding behavioral health care and it is estimated that less than 50% of returning veterans are receiving the mental health care they need
  • This bill runs a pilot program to see if we can offer free behavioral health care to these veterans to get them the help they need before it is too late

In Further Detail: Veterans and active-duty service members account for 20% of all suicides in Colorado as of 2020 and their suicide rate is more than twice those of non-veteran adults. Nationwide, 22 veterans die by suicide every day. El Paso County, the home of this pilot program and the most veterans in the state, loses a veteran every week to suicide. And the rate is growing worse and Colorado has a worse rate than the national average: 52 per 100,000 as compared to 30 per 100,000. Survey information shows that worries about cost loom large in the mind of veterans for not seeking treatment. In 2013, nearly 80% reported concern about cost as a reason they did not seek mental health treatment and about 50% reported they didn’t think their health insurance would cover it. Right now the estimate is that less than 50% of returning veterans receive the behavioral health care they need. So we need to figure out a solution and we need one quickly. El Paso County is ideal to test this program, since it has the most veterans, and one of the clear problems is obviously cost—so providing these services for free should bring a lot more veterans who need care into treatment.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • Any attempt to tackle this area should integrate with the VA, where the federal government is already moving fast
  • A program like this needs more detail in its conception so as to be executed properly

In Further Detail: The federal government is moving in this area, and moving rapidly. Two major bills were signed into law last year addressing veteran’s mental health, including one that provides free care to veterans in crisis. All of this of course runs through the VA, which brings up the prime issue with the bill: most veterans get their care through the federally-run VA. Any attempt to tackle this problem should be looking to coordinate with the VA. The bill is also vague on treatment providers, which will be the crux to any sort of solution to this problem. Do treatment providers apply to be part of this program? How are they vetted? Because veteran behavioral health care is a definite specialty and not just anyone can do it. Free care means the state will pay of course, but the bill goes into no further specifics on how this would work in practice. Negotiate separately with each provider? Fixed fee that providers can either take or leave? And the program has no dedicated funding or funding stream. About 35,000 eligible veterans live in El Paso County—what happens if there isn’t enough money to pay for all of this behavioral health treatment? What happens if the program over-extends itself and runs out of money and can no longer afford to pay for on-going treatment that is in process?

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-129

SB21-140 Child Abuse Reporting Information Concerning Child (Sonnenberg (R)) [Holtorf (R)]

KILLED BY SENATE COMMITTEE

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: Not yet released

Goal:

  • Prior to a public school official or employee making a report of suspected child abuse or neglect, require the school to convene a meeting that includes the child’s primary teacher or special services provider at the school (if applicable). Anyone attending the meeting can make a report of suspected abuse or neglect afterward

Description:

The meeting must done immediately. If a school official does report suspected abuse or neglect, the school is encouraged to put that information in the child’s Individual Education Plan (if applicable). The state is required to set criteria for including some indication in the report or inquiry that the child has been identified as neuroatypical on a child where suspected abuse or neglect has been reported and the person reporting the suspected abuse or neglect is required to say whether or not the child has an IEP.

IEPs are put in place for children with special education requirements (they are required by federal law). The idea is to ensure a child with an identified disability receives the specialized attention they need to succeed.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • All educators are mandatory reporters but there is evidence of abuse of the system to strike back at parents who have disputes with schools or individual teaches, especially since reporting is anonymous which makes it basically impossible to enforce false reporting laws
  • Statistics indicate that Black children in particular are disproportionately likely to have abuse/neglect reporting (in general)
  • The bill still requires swift action, specifically excludes cases of imminent peril, and muzzles no one: anyone who attends that meeting can make a report to the state

In Further Detail: There are numerous reports from all over the country of parents locked into battles with their school over their child suddenly being on the receiving end of a string of abuse or neglect claims. And even if it is not malicious, the mandatory reporting laws make some people act in a “better safe than sorry” manner that severely increases the number of false reports. Some studies have estimated that as many as 8 out of 10 reports nationwide are officially designated as unfounded. The fact that these reports are anonymous means that it is almost impossible to enforce the state’s laws against deliberate false reporting. And there is a racial component here as well. Data from the federal government suggests that Black are the only racial sub-group to be disproportionately identified to child protective services as victims (nationwide). Every other racial sub-group is either within less than a percentage point of their overall population percentage, or much lower (white and Asian children). The bill specifically excludes cases of imminent danger to the child and requires swift action. And no one is muzzled: anyone who attends that meeting, including the person who originally suspected the abuse or neglect, can make a report to the state afterward. What we want to ensure is that any abuse or neglect claim made is a real and valid concern.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • Multiple studies and just our plain common sense show that the vast majority of child abuse and neglect is not reported
  • It is certainly a good idea for schools to ensure everyone knows about suspected abuse or neglect in these cases, but it should not be some sort of hurdle to clear in order to make a report
  • Many of the reporting around false reports that seem to indicate a vendetta are highly anecdotal and spread throughout the country

In Further Detail: The United States has one of the worst records among industrialized nations when it comes to child abuse—we lose between 4 and 7 children every day to abuse and neglect. And the survivors are frequently scarred for life. One study found 80% of 21 year-olds who reported childhood abuse met the criteria for at least one psychological disorder. Numerous studies over the years have demonstrated that far from a crisis of false claims, we have a crisis of unreported abuse in this country. It is believed that somewhere between 70 and 88% of child sexual abuse cases are not reported. Some researchers believe that when you bring in other forms of abuse, around 90% of cases are not reported. And this matches with what we know from surviving adults, so it’s very much a case where anecdotes match the data. So while it is a good idea in these cases to make sure the school is aware of what is happening and in particular the teacher or services provider for the child, we should not be setting up some sort of additional hurdle to clear to make a report. The idea that such a meeting will not stop an individual who truly believes a child is in danger may not survive the realities of what happens if a boss is skeptical. Many of the organizations advocated for changes in mandatory reporting laws pass around stories of vendettas from schools against families, but not only is this anecdotal, they are scattered examples from the across the country and across years of time. Making a false claim is a class 3 misdemeanor in Colorado and you are liable for proximate damages as well. If we have an issue with enforcement of this law, that can be improved.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-140

SB21-188 Ballot Access For Voters With Disabilities (Danielson (D)) [Duran (D), Ortiz (D)]

SIGNED INTO LAW

AMENDED: Moderate

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

  • Require the state to allow a voter with a disability who is blind or cannot read or mark a ballot in the same way as a person without a disability to return a ballot electronically if printing the ballot is not feasible.

Description:

State must already establish procedures for voters with a disability to use an electronic voting device that uses nonvisual access, low-vision access, or other assistive technology. Right now that ballot must be printed and returned.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • The requirement to print and return the ballot adds a hurdle that some disabled voters may struggle to overcome. This is a small group and we have an existing emergency ballot platform to do this, so there won’t even be any fiscal impact from the bill to create a new system

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • There’s a reason that despite advances in technology, no one in this country votes via electronic transmission. It is way too insecure a voting method. In fact, nearly every election system in this country requires election machines and tabulation machines to be completely disconnected from the Internet for security reasons, including here in Colorado. We don’t have enough guarantees that the emergency platform will be secure enough.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-188

SB21-201 Stricter Transparency & Enforcement In Child Care (Danielson (D), Pettersen (D)) [Young (D), Boesenecker (D)]

SIGNED INTO LAW

AMENDED: Moderate

Appropriation: None (federal funds)
Fiscal Impact: None (federal funds)

Goal:

This bill is trying to make it easier for the state to take action against unlicensed child care facilities (which are allowed by law but must adhere to strict rules about the number of children in the facility) who ignore cease and desist orders. It also wants to make more information about these legal orders and complaints available on the state website for parents.

Description:

Allow the state to get injunctions against unlicensed child care facilities that have received cease and desist orders. The injunction lasts until the facility fixes its license violations or the defects cited in the cease and desist order (for unlicensed facilities). If the facility defies the injunction, the court is to try and punish them for contempt of court. The facility doing this is declared an unlicensed and illegal child care facility Adds violating cease and desist orders to the existing penalty for hindering an investigation, but downgrades the punishment from misdemeanor to petty offense while adding potential jail sentence of 10 days.

Requires the state to post the current status of cease and desist orders on its website (right now it just posts if someone has received such an order), any complaints against unlicensed facilities and the current status of the complaints, and the names of child care providers who have an injunction filed against them and the status of the case.

Bill also changes the fine structure for violating the state’s child care laws by removing the current maximum of $100 per day and instead making the fine $250 a day for the first offense day, $500 a day for the second offense day, and $1,000 a day for third or subsequent offenses days. It keeps the maximum of $10,000 (so ten9 days of a third or subsequent offense would reach the maximum).

Child care facilities can operate without a license in the state but there are some rules: no more than 4 children who are not related to each other and no more than 2 of them can be under age 2.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • The tragic story of 3 month-old Elle Matthews, who died in an unlicensed facility that had repeatedly defied cease and desist orders and regularly had more than quadruple the number of allowed children in the home, brings home the need for this bill
  • By providing legal avenues to deal with unlicensed facilities that simply refuse to pay attention to cease and desist orders, we may be able to prevent such tragedies in the future
  • Giving a fuller picture online of these facilities and any actions or complaints against them will help parents avoid the bad apples. We desperately need unlicensed facilities in the state: even with them we have critical shortages of child care in many places in the state

In Further Detail: This bill is named Elle Matthews law because Elle died at the age of three months after an unlicensed child care facility that had received three cease and desist orders over the span of three years beginning in 2014, all ignored, and another order just six months before Elle died in 2020 telling the facility to stop caring for more than 4 children or get a license. There were 17 kids in the home the day Elle died, including 8 under the age of 2 and 3 infants. Elle died while sleeping on an adult bed, it is likely she smothered herself in the bedding. The facility was not chagrined by this one bit, and continued operating after Elle’s death even after it was again told to stop. The woman running the facility was arrested on October 12th and was providing care to unrelated children on that day. This appalling story laid bare some severe weaknesses in our unlicensed child care system, namely what do you do with someone who is happy to ignore the law? This bill adds more options for our legal system to put a stop to such activity and punish someone for ignoring the law. It furthermore adds public reporting requirements for the state so that people looking up these facilities online are aware of the full picture. Given our urgent need for child care and the onerous requirements of licensing, unlicensed facilities remain a critical part of our state’s ability to provide options for parents needing care. We just have to make sure we can properly wield the legal system against wrongdoers.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • Part of Elle Matthews’ story is that her parents had no idea what the rules for unlicensed facilities were and no idea so many kids were being watched in that home. It would therefore make sense to put some additional requirements on these facilities: disclosure to parents what the rules are and how many kids are in the facility each day. Of course people can still lie and it seems likely that the woman running this facility would have. But putting these requirements online and getting this disclosure out there will help get the word out in parenting communities. Because there are undoubtedly many unlicensed facilities caring for more than 4 children

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-201

SB21-210 Remote Supports For Elderly, Blind, And Disabled Waiver (Hansen (D)) [Ransom (R)]

Note: This bill is part of the overall budget package

From the Joint Budget Committee

SIGNED INTO LAW

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

For home and community-based services for the elderly, blind, and disabled, expands the definition of electronic monitoring services to include other remote supports.

Description:

For home and community-based services for the elderly, blind, and disabled, expands the definition of electronic monitoring services to include other remote supports.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • This arose out of COVID experiments with alternative ways to deliver services to these folks. The bill allows these remote supports to be used in these programs going forward

Arguments Against: n/a

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-210

SB21-216 Auxiliary Services Rural Areas (Rankin (R)) [Herod (D)]

Note: This bill is part of the overall budget package

From the Joint Budget Committee

SIGNED INTO LAW

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

This takes a program that currently exists in the commission for the deaf, hard of hearing, and deafblind and puts it into law. The program provides auxiliary services for the deaf, hard of hearing, and deafblind in rural areas of the state. Along with codifying existing practices, the bill also provides a permanent funding stream by requiring the public utilities commission to develop a surcharge on telephone services to fund the program.

Description:

Make the existing Rural Auxiliary Services pilot program for providing auxiliary services in rural areas of the state to the deaf, hard of hearing, and deafblind into law. Requires the state commission for the deaf, hard of hearing, and deafblind to arrange for the provision of auxiliary services in rural areas of the state by:

  • Coordinating day-to-day scheduling of services across the state
  • Creating and managing an intake and request fulfillment process for these services in rural areas, including matching providers with requests
  • Create and manage processes where providers can submit documentation of services provided and get reimbursed
  • Resolve issues that occur with providing services in rural areas
  • Provide training opportunities for potential providers willing to work in rural areas
  • Award scholarships for potential providers’ education, internships, and certification testing for qualified programs
  • Conduct outreach to rural Coloradans in need of services and to service providers
  • Establish a list on the state website of providers willing to work in rural areas who are qualified
  • Create an advisory council to make recommendations about provisions of services in rural areas
  • Develop and implement other strategies to increase capacity for services in rural areas

Must report to the legislature each year on these efforts. Gives $700,000 to the program from the Telephone Users with Disabilities fund, broken down as follows: $444,000 for ASL and English interpreting services in locations outside the front range, $200,000 for initial and advanced interpreter training in rural communities, and $60,000 for outreach. This spending continues existing spending (which would have expired). Requires the public utilities commission to implement a cost recovery mechanism (surcharge on everyone’s phone bill) to support future work.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • These services are essential for this community but extremely hard to come by in rural areas of the state. In addition, local governments are required by law to provide these services but again, can struggle to do so in rural parts of the state. So in 2018 we created this program in the commission and it has been successful since. Putting it into law protects it from future executive branch changes and also provides it with a secure long-term funding stream

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • People are free in this country to live wherever they would like. If some folks choose to live in rural communities that is their choice but the rest of us should not be asked to subsidize their lifestyle by being forced to send our money their way in order to make it easier to live in rural areas

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-216

SB21-231 Energy Office Weatherization Assistance Grants (Story (D), Hisey (R)) [Hooton (D), Weissman (D)]

*State stimulus bill, less than 1% of stimulus funds spent in bill*

SIGNED INTO LAW

AMENDED: Minor

Appropriation: $3 million
Fiscal Impact: None beyond appropriation

Goal:

Spend $3 million on grants to help low-income Coloradans get energy efficiency upgrades in their homes through an existing program.

Description:

Appropriates $3 million to the energy fund administered by the state’s energy office to use on grants for the state’s weatherization assistance program. Money must be spent by July 2022 and office must report to assembly on grants awarded. Maximum of 8% spent on adminstrative costs. This program offers a variety of cost-effective energy efficient services to low-income Coloradans.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • On average, low-income households pay over four times as much of their household income on energy costs and are sometimes forced to cut back on healthcare, childcare, groceries, and other expenses just to keep the bills paid. Weatherization can significantly alleviate these costs, as well as improve the lives and well-being of residents. Furthermore, because it lowers energy demand, it helps us in our fight against climate change. We have $700 million (now $800 million) of excess funds from last year’s budget thanks to better than expected tax revenues (some already spent) so there is plenty of money. This is also somewhat stimulative, as it provides work to area businesses, as well as helping low-income households, who were the hardest hit by the pandemic and will be the slowest to recover to even pre-pandemic levels

Arguments Against: n/a

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-231

SB21-242 Housing Development Grants Hotels Tenancy Support Program (Gonzales (D), Pettersen (D)) [Gonzales-Gutierrez (D), Woodrow (D)]

*State stimulus bill, 2% of total stimulus funds spent in this bill*

PASSED

AMENDED: Minor

Appropriation: $60 million, of which $30 million is federal stimulus money
Fiscal Impact: Negligible this year beyond appropriation

Goal:

Spend $15 $45 million, of which $30 million is federal stimulus money, to allow local governments and non-profits to rent or acquire underutilized hotels, motels, and other properties to provide shelter or affordable housing to people experiencing homelessness. Also transfers $15 million in general funds to the existing housing development grant fund to help people experiencing financial need who are not eligible for unemployment, food stamps, or federal stimulus payments.

Description:

Appropriates $15 $45 million, of which $30 million is federal stimulus money, to allow the state to give grants to local governments and non-profit organizations for the rental, acquisition, or renovation of underutilized hotels, motels, and other properties to provide shelter or affordable housing to people experiencing homelessness. State must report to the legislature in 2022 and 2023 on the outcome of this program. The bill does not define underutilized but directs the state to determine its own definition by rule. Obviously any purchase or rental would be voluntary on the part of the private company or individual who owns the building. Local governments are encouraged to purchase or rent or renovate properties that are minority owned or women owned, that have under $5 million in annual revenue, or that qualify as disadvantaged business enterprises under federal law.

$15 million additional state funds appropriated to the existing housing development grant fund to help people experiencing financial need who are not eligible for unemployment, food stamps, or federal stimulus payments. State may spend up to 3% of the money for its administrative costs.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • The pandemic has demonstrated that using hotels as stable housing for people experiencing homelessness is really effective, and so many cities around the country are exploring continuing it and Oregon and California are making massive investments similar to this bill
  • Preliminary studies show increased well-being for people in the hotels and most importantly, higher exit rates into permanent housing. Hotels have multiple advantages over shelters: privacy, individual bathrooms, etc. that help make this possible
  • All of this makes sense because everything we know about homelessness indicates it is much easier to overcome given stable sources of shelter and food
  • Very few people are going to want to live in a hotel room for the rest of their life, so worries about long-term dependency are misplaced (just like with welfare programs, living in total poverty is not fun and most people want to avoid it)

In Further Detail: California and Oregon have similar programs in place that have flowed from a single data point that emerged from the pandemic: hotels are actually a great place to house people experiencing homelessness. People get their own rooms and bathrooms, families can be put together, and pets can be accommodated. Of course, this occurred because hotels had no guests and needed a way to try to stay afloat but this concept actually is not new, even though it gained national attention last year. Agencies have used hotel vouchers for years during cold weather or natural disasters. In Colorado, Denver has already spent nearly $17 million with another $10 million approved through June on hotel rooms (the city is not interested in outright buying hotels with its own money). The advantages to outright owning or leasing the facility is that the hotel can be converted into a facility to support people with services like counseling, job training, health care, and addiction treatment right on site. People are still studying the effects of hotel-based housing during the pandemic, but the preliminary data looks really good. A study in Seattle found improved physical and mental health and better ability to focus on long-term goals like employment and housing. The study found the one thing we are looking for in these  situations as well: higher exit rates to permanent housing than traditional shelters. This matches everything we already know about homelessness: it is extremely hard to overcome without stable housing and meals. Given that stability, people are better able to get themselves to a place where they can get back on their feet. Because this is a situation extremely similar to welfare supports for low-income families: the notion that people want to live in a hotel room for their entire lives instead of a place of their own is silly, just like the notion that people want to subsist in poverty instead of improving their life. People who argue to the contrary tend to have this viewpoint that if we just close our eyes poverty and homelessness will disappear (and that’s the generous view of the argument). Guess what, it doesn’t. Now, will 100% of the people act this way? Of course not, that’s silly too, and that’s why you have rules around the housing, just like we do with other shelters. It’s also important to remember that this is an entirely voluntary act: no one will be forced to sell their hotel.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • This creates the potential for situations where communities get what amounts to homeless shelters in their community without any say in the matter. And it is all well and good to say these facilities will have rules, etc. but there will undoubtedly be some folks who break these rules, whether that involves drug use or noise or other illegal activity. Just having the facility can also lead to increased people out on the streets in the area, again without the community’s voice in the matter. One minute you’ve got a hotel that perhaps doesn’t see much traffic and the next you’ve got a full-blown homeless shelter. Some communities might not care but we shouldn’t be doing this without their input

Bottom Line:

  • Arguments For has it right, this is like the welfare system but in a completely different way than Arguments For wants to have it. Just like welfare, when you give people stuff instead of making them earn it, you create dependency. If someone can get a roof over their heads and three meals a day without work, it can create less of a desire to actually do something about their lives. So just like we need to end welfare, we need to forget about putting up people experiencing homelessness in hotel rooms

Bottom Line:

  • This actually isn’t enough money. Now California is a much bigger state (with a bigger homelessness problem) but it is spending $836 million on its program. Just one purchase of 81 units in LA, with conversion costs, is going to be $11.8 million. OK, that’s California. But Oregon is actually smaller than Colorado and it is spending $65 million on its program. So we need to actually be spending probably at least triple what this bill does to really make an impact instead of nibble around the edges. Look at Denver, which isn’t interested in buying hotels on its own and has already spent $27 million. And guess what? Now is the time to do it, we have $800 million in state stimulus funds and can easily bump this up without hurting other areas because we also have more than $1 billion in federal stimulus money to spend too. It may sound strange, but $15 even $45 million is just not a serious investment at this time given our resources. Furthermore, we should be spending money on long-term solutions here and the bill does not provide any guardrails against a city, like Denver, just using the money for its short-term leasing deals and in one year we’ll have spent all of it and have no better permanent solutions. First priority should be given to communities that will buy the properties outright

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-242

SB21-267 Office Of Public Guardianship Extension (Hansen (D)) [Herod (D)]

From the Joint Budget Committee

TECHNICAL BILL

PASSED

Description:

Corrects some dates on expirations related to the office of public guardianship that should have been extended when the office itself was extended back in 2019.

SB21-269 Licensing Of Respite Child Care Centers (Winter (D), Smallwood (R)) [Michaelson Jenet (D), Von Beber (R)]

PASSED

Appropriation: $14,092
Fiscal Impact: Negligible just this year

Goal:

Ensure all respite care centers for kids are required to be licensed in the state if they have three or more kids. Respite care is temporary group care to children who are in foster homes or other similar facilities, literally a respite from care needs for the foster parents.

Description:

Adds respite child care centers to licensing requirements for child care facilities. These are defined as a facility providing temporary 24 hour group care to three or more children who are placed in foster homes or approved non-kinship homes and kids with open cases through a regional accountable entity. Not a treatment facility, its primary purpose is providing recreational activities, peer engagement, and skill development to kids age 5-21. Care may only be offered for part of the day. This would allow kids in foster care to be placed in respite centers, right now this is not possible.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • Because these centers are left out of current licensing requirements, there are no standardized license requirements for these facilities like there are with other child care facilities, respite care for foster kids is basically left out entirely and therefore foster families cannot use respite care (the state won't pay for it). Things like summer camps can also qualify as respite care, even though we don't traditionally think of them that way (just ask a parent though!) The bill would allow these foster kids to go to camps, frequently their level of trauma doesn't permit them to attend a traditional summer camp

Arguments Against: n/a

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-269

SB21-275 Child Find Responsibilities (Moreno (D), Rankin (R)) [McCluskie (D)]

From the Joint Budget Committee

PASSED

Appropriation: $8.3 million
Fiscal Impact: Beyond appropriation, $7.8 million next year

Goal:

Moves the responsibility for finding, identifying, locating, evaluating, and serving children with disabilities, as required by federal law, from the department of education to the department of human services from birth to age 2 (after age 2 responsibility remains with department of education).

Description:

Moves the responsibility for finding, identifying, locating, evaluating, and serving children with disabilities, as required by federal law, from the department of education to the department of human services from birth to age 2 (after age 2 responsibility remains with department of education).

Requires the two departments to create an interagency operating agreement to handle the transition in responsibility that occurs after age 2. Agreement must include definition of child who is potentially eligible for 3-21 year-old services, process for parents to opt-out of notifications, required notification for a child potentially eligible, process for resolving disputes between agencies, development and delivery of standardized communication materials for parents, development and delivery of standardized training, process for transferring assessments between departments, timely notification between departments of eligibility, process for including early intervention services provider in the child’s plan if requested by parent, and a process for timely transfer of data.

Appropriates $8.3 million to implement the bill.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • The department of human services is much better equipped to help these kids than the department of education, which doesn’t have nearly the amount of potential interaction until they are older (at which point it makes perfect sense to house the responsibility with them, as it is right now). The point of compliance with this law is not to do it in the way that is the easiest for the state government to administer, it is to do it in the way that results in the best outcomes for kids. That is likely with this change

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • You can see in the interagency agreement requirements the potential problem with starting with one agency in charge of this and then switching to another. And it is not just about making things easier for state employees, we have the potential for things to get lost in the transition

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-275

SB21-276 Childrens Habilitation Residential Program Enrollment (Moreno (D)) [Herod (D), Ransom (R)]

PASSED

Appropriation: $1,162,912
Fiscal Impact: About $1.2 million a year, but unknown potential savings from getting more kids in CHRP, should save counties money

Goal:

Expand the state’s program for kids with intellectual or developmental disabilities who need to be placed in out-of-home settings by allowing the state to contract with multiple providers, requiring anyone placed in the program to be screened for eligibility for the children’s habilitation residential program waiver (a Medicaid program that brings mostly federal dollars for payment), and appropriating $1.2 million to allow the state to double the size of the program.

Description:

Allows the state to contract with multiple providers for its program for kids with intellectual or developmental disabilities placed in out-of-home settings by counties (right now the state can only contract with one provider). Requires counties to apply for the children’s habilitation residential program (CHRP) waiver (part of Medicaid and so draws Medicaid funds but kids are placed in same program) before placing a child in the state’s program. Requires that any child who is eligible for CHRP and referred to the state program by a non-county be enrolled in CHRP (counties have to first try for CHRP themselves). Cuts the county out of reimbursement for the state program and has the state reimburse providers directly. Allows providers of case management services to apply for placement for kids in the state program. Loosens the language a bit around who is responsible for payment when a family voluntarily applies for placement. Right now the law says the family is responsible for the costs, the bill would change this to they must work with the provider to determine who is responsible.

The state right now has 10 beds in its program. If a county cannot place a kid in the state program they have to be placed out-of-state. The bill appropriates $1.2 million, which should allow the state to double the number of beds to 20.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • Obviously one of the worst outcomes in these cases is that we need to send a kid out-of-state to get the treatment they need. It takes them out of their communities and away from their families. Expanding capacity is about more than just money, although the bill deals with that in part through simple additional appropriation and in part for making sure we maximize our chances at federal money. It is also about providers, so the bill expands the provider pool by allowing the state to contract with more than just one. Much of the rest is simple common sense, a state program should route through the state in terms of payment. There is no need for a county middleman to push the money through to the provider

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • The counties may lose out on some reimbursement here. Current law requires the state to reimburse counties 100% of the costs associated with the approved placement, which of course can include some of the county’s administrative costs

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-276

SB21-277 Child Welfare Services Allocation Formula (Moreno (D)) [Herod (D)]

PASSED

Appropriation: $250,000
Fiscal Impact: $250,000 this year, roughly similar numbers in future years where study and outside contractors are required

Goal:

Redo the state’s funding model for child welfare (this is federal money the state passes on to the counties), by using both an outside entity to thoroughly examine our current needs and a evaluation group. These two together will design the new model, which must meet all state and federal law requirements as well as include incentives for counties and performance-aligned components. State must revisit the model every three years while annually tracking its implementation.

Description:

Requires the state to create a new funding model for child welfare, adoption, relative guardianship, and independent living services (the state passes federal money on to the counties, the model determines who gets what) which will go into effect in fiscal year 2024-25. To come up with the new model, first the state must contract with an outside entity to conduct a workload study across the state. This study must be complete by January 15, 2023 with the results delivered to the legislature and the executive branch. Study must consider: county population, child welfare staff by county, county budgets, number of time-study participants per county, key tasks performed by child welfare workers, detailed results for time spent per case on individual tasks, percentage of hours recorded and paid by each county, and development of a method to create workload, caseload, and staffing models. All federal and state laws must be complied with in the model. The model must include factors that address county workload, including employees required, demographic data with an emphasis on building capacity (must include both poverty and other economic drivers), estimated caseload for each county, performance-aligned components that support implementation of practices defined by federal law as promising or supported or well-supported, be driven by stability and well-being of kids receiving services, and include incentives for delivery of services that are based on the recommendations of the existing child welfare services task force. These can include successful adoptions, successfully sustained child placements, high school graduations, family reunifications, no abuse or neglect referrals, and timely medical checks.

The state must also enter into an agreement with an outside entity regarding the funding model for 2022-23 through 2024-25 (can be the same entity). This must be done in accordance with the recommendations of the existing child welfare allocations committee.

That committee is to create an evaluation group of 7 members experienced in child welfare funding and policy. Evaluation group is to evaluate the funding model to ensure compliance with law and that it meets the requirements of this bill. This group is to help the committee consult with the outside entity when the model is updated.

Then the state must enter into another three year agreement with an outside entity (again, can be the same one but must be a new agreement) to do all of the same annual adjustments to the model. A new agreement is required every three years (so the model gets adjusted potentially every three years).

In 2024 and then every three years after (so again in 2027, etc.) the state must contract with an outside entity (again, can be the same one!) to do a comprehensive evaluation of the implementation of the funding model to ensure data was correctly updated each year, and what counties did in response to the model.

State must report to the legislature each year on the funding model, including overall costs, modifications, incentives used in the model, and any other issues identified by the child welfare allocations committee.

Additional Information:

If a county does not participate in the outside study, the outside entity is to use proxy data.

Evaluation group must include at least one member of the state department with child welfare funding expertise, one member that is a county financial officer from a county that is among the group that serves 80% of the state’s cases and one county financial officer from a county that is not in that group. Members are not compensated but can be reimbursed for their expenses.


Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • It is clear that our current system needs some changes. Right now we have some counties that do not spend their full allocation each year and some counties that can certainly use more. The poverty line is an official federal delineation but the same amount of money can mean different things in different parts of the state. But this is an extremely complicated issue with a lot of different laws to consider, including federal requirements for equal access across the state which we have to stay in compliance with or lose the money. It’s also a moving target, so rather than continually revisit this through legislation, the bill sets up a process where we can continually examine the program to ensure we are doing right by our counties and by our kids in need

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • This is a whole lot of on-going contracting and study. We’re spending $250,000 this year, so that’s probably a good barometer of where we’ll be every few years to make this bill happen, in perpetuity. If we reach a situation like now, where there is a clear need for change and upset counties, then something like this bill may be necessary. But we don’t need to spend $250,000 in three years just to pat ourselves on the back. There needs to be some way to only trigger this entire process when it is necessary

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-277

SB21-286 Distribution Federal Funds Home- and Community-based Services (Moreno (D), Rankin (R)) [Herod (D), McCluskie (D)]

*Technically a state stimulus bill*

PASSED

Appropriation: $281 million
Fiscal Impact: None beyond appropriation, arguably net positive with federal funds considered

Goal:

Take advantage of a one-year 10% increase in matching funds Medicaid will pay for home and community-based services for older adults and people with disabilities by appropriating $281 million in state funds to potentially receive $715 million in federal funds ($996 million total). The bill directs the state to come up with a plan to spend this money that meets federal requirements and lays out all of the potential spending areas. Plan must be approved by the legislature’s joint budget committee.

Description:

The entire setting to this bill is the federal stimulus bill passed earlier this year, so it is important to understand that first. The federal bill increased the amount of matching funds Medicaid will pay for just this year by 10% for home and community-based services for older adults and people with disabilities. There are specific limits on what qualifies for the increased matching funds and it only lasts for one year (ends next April).

The bill appropriates $281 million to a special cash fund created by the bill to draw the enhanced matching federal funds ($715 million is estimated maximum federal match, so a total of $996 million. Of this $261 million from the general fund and $20 million from the health care affordability and sustainability fund. The bill then directs the state to come up with a spending plan for this money, which must be approved by the joint budget committee in the legislature (this would be out of regular session, but the joint budget committee meets basically year-round. The committee must introduce a supplemental spending bill in the 2022 session to put the exact plan into the budget (the state does supplemental budgets for the entire government at the beginning of every session, generally they involve moving small amounts of money around or dealing with unexpected higher or lower revenues than forecast). The plan must be designed to maximize federal money and the state must seek feedback from Medicaid recipients, advocates, and providers.

There is a long list of things that money may be spent on (this is based on federal government guidance). These include:

  • Response and recovery efforts from COVID, which can include one-time provider rate increases for organizations directly impacted, one-time payments to support infection control, and grants to Native American tribes to increase access to and use of home and community-based programs on tribal lands
  • Advancement and acceleration of system reform efforts which can include support for local organizations and stakeholders to plan and prepare for case management redesign, analysis and development to stabilize rural providers and expand access in rural communities, new models of care for investment and innovation, pay for performance programs, improvement of certification oversight for providers, developing acuity tools for long-term health, training tools to align with 988 mobile dispatch, analysis and development of recommendations for implementing peer supports for day services for people experiencing homelessness, transition support service development for people with complex behavioral needs, provider capacity-building to serve high-intensity cases, development of cultural and disability competence training, and home and community-based services through the community first choice option in federal law
  • Investment in infrastructure and technology innovation that has long-term benefits. This can include integration with other states. Investments can include: comprehensive training for case managers and providers, enhancements for streamlined eligibility processes, member and family material related to case management and care coordination, expanding recipient access to technology and technology literacy training, capital funding for IT infrastructure purchases to support implementation of care and case management tools, and telemedicine and telehealth one-time payments to support equipment for service delivery
  • Development and stabilization of the workforce. This can include: analysis of nationwide efforts, development of a strategic plan, consideration of wage sustainability, development of training programs focusing on career pathways, and creation of a structure around recruitment, retention, and public awareness

The state must report to the legislature every quarter beginning November 1st on the status of money spent from this fund.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: July 2025

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • It would be foolish to pass up this opportunity to use $281 million to unlock $715 million in federal money. We have the $281 million of state funds to spend (thanks in large part to the federal stimulus). It is also important to understand that service in this area is a growing concern in Colorado as our population ages—we will need a lot more capacity and infrastructure
  • Because we want to maximize our matching money we have to be careful to follow federal rules, which the bill requires and tries to lay out according to guidelines released by the federal government
  • Because it is one-time money that can’t be saved up and won’t be available in future years we have to spend it on infrastructure, program development, and one-time items that don’t put us on the hook for future bills we cannot afford
  • The money can only be grabbed and spent this year, so we have to move fast. But the bill still keeps ultimate authority over plan approval with the legislature

In Further Detail: We would be foolish to pass up this opportunity. In essence what we are doing is spending some of the billions of dollars (yes billions with a B) we received from this same federal stimulus bill in order to leverage even more money out of the federal government to spend on typically cash-strapped care of adults and those with disabilities in these programs. Now this bill actually spends state money, but that is due to switching out state money for federal money in the massive transportation bill (SB260). So the whole thing is made possible by the federal stimulus and our ability to throw $260 million of it into transportation, freeing up $260 million of our state stimulus funds for this bill. Because we want to maximize our federal matching dollars, we have to ensure we are spending the money in the right way but this is quite literally a use or lose it proposition so there is no time for in-depth study and no ability to sock the money away for long-term payout. We also have to understand that these are one-time funds, so we cannot create any structures that we cannot support once all of this money is gone. That means spending on infrastructure and development, not on permanent rate increases we won’t be able to handle in two years. Which is not going to be a problem in this area (just because we cannot spend on wages and reimbursement doesn’t mean we will be wasting money), the state’s population is aging and we need a lot more infrastructure to handle our future needs in this area. The bill also does not cede ultimate control from the legislature. To be frank, the joint budget committee creates the budget every year. To be sure other lawmakers will fiddle around the edges and the governor submits a recommended budget, but this is the committee that really sets the spending for the entire state (it is why it is considered the most powerful committee in the legislature). So joint budget approval of nearly $1 billion in spending is equivalent to legislative approval and of course the entire legislature will have its say on the supplemental bill next year. Bottom line: we are spending $281 million of state funds in order to access more than double that in federal money. Nearly $1 billion in total that are contributing $281 million to ourselves, which we have due to our state stimulus money. Again, a no-brainer.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • This money is not free, it comes out of the federal government and increases the size of the national debt, which continues to skyrocket ever higher without any sign of either party really caring (really caring means setting aside your own priorities, whether that is tax cuts or social spending programs, to pay down the debt). So we can in fact reject the idea of contributing to that debt as a state and not see how fast we can spend $1 billion

Bottom Line:

  • By next year this will be a fait accompli for the entire legislature to rubber-stamp, not have any real say in. If we are going to spend $1 billion then let’s have the entire legislature approve the plan, not just the six that sit on the joint budget committee. A special session in the Fall gives the state enough time to come up with a plan for approval. We might need one anyway to spend some of the federal stimulus money

Bottom Line:

  • You can see the awkward fit here with all of the rules on spending and the basic concept that the biggest problem in this sector, wages and reimbursement for services, cannot be addressed with one-time money. Since we have billions of dollars of transportation needs we actually can very easily spend $261 million on, what we should do is keep the $261 in SB260 (or whatever vehicle) and then add the federal stimulus money on top of it. In effect double what we are spending on our roads rather than try to make round pegs fit in square holes

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-286

SB21-290 Security For Colorado Seniors (Danielson (D), Buckner (D)) [Young (D), Bradfield (R)]

PASSED

Appropriation: $15 million
Fiscal Impact: None beyond appropriation

Goal:

Create a grant program for projects that support the health, well-being, and security of older Coloradans, including: community services, infrastructure improvements, health promotion, congregate meals, socialization activities, transportation services, home modification programs, and implementation of evidence-based fall prevention and chronic disease management programs. $15 million appropriated to the program, which expires at the end of 2022.

Description:

Creates the Area Agency on Aging grant program, which is to fund grants to already existing area agency on aging programs across the state (these are identified non-profits or government agencies designated by the state office on aging within a planning and service area). Grants are for projects that support the health, well-being, and security of older Coloradans, including: community services, infrastructure improvements, health promotion, congregate meals, socialization activities, transportation services, home modification programs, and implementation of evidence-based fall prevention and chronic disease management programs. $15 million appropriated to the program, which is designed to pump that money out and then repeal at the end of 2022.

State is to create policies and procedures for the program in conjunction with area agency on aging programs, including application procedures. Must start accepting applications by next year. Can spend up to 3% of appropriated money on administrative costs

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: January 2023

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • We have the second-fastest aging population in the entire country and people over 60 will outnumber those 18 and under by 2023
  • We also already have these defined area agencies on aging, so there is an easy match for the grants
  • This program can help keep seniors in their homes and healthy, as opposed to in assisted living facilities or the hospital

In Further Detail: Colorado has the second-fastest aging population in the entire country. We already have more than 1.25 million residents over the age of 60 and those folks will outnumber those 18 and younger by 2023. We also already have these defined area agencies on aging (since passage of Medicare in 1965) so it is an easy match for the grants. In particular home modifications and transportation services can have long-term impacts for helping keeping seniors in their homes, and fall prevention programs can prevent damaging injuries that force seniors into assisted living or the hospital. The grant program is short and using our surplus resources for this year, then it goes away. As for the concern about the nearly $1 billion already being spent, that is Medicare-based funding and so there are very specific things we can and cannot spend money on in that program. If you read through the description (SB286 on this page), you will not find the areas that this grant program is spending on. So there is no overlap.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • No one disputes the need, but we are already spending nearly $1 billion (of which $260 million is state money) on home and community-based services in part for seniors (it is also for people with disabilities). While it is true that there isn’t overlap with that program in what grants under this bill can be spent on, the bottom line is we are already spending a massive amount of state money on this population this session and have enormous needs elsewhere (like behavioral health capacity building)

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-290

SB21-292 Federal COVID Funding For Victim's Services (Winter (D), Rankin (R)) [Duran (D), Carver (R)]

PASSED

AMENDED: Minor

Appropriation: $15 million of federal stimulus funds
Fiscal Impact: None beyond appropriation

Goal:

Spend $15 million of federal stimulus money on victim aid programs, including $6.5 million on the existing victims and witness assistance and law enforcement fund, $5 million on the existing domestic abuse program, $3 million for a new program for telehealth for forensic examinations of crime victims, and $500,000 for the existing address confidentiality program.

Description:

Creates a program for forensic nurse examiners, sexual assault nurse examiners, and other health-care providers to collaborate via telehealth with emergency room medical personnel for forensic examinations of possible crime victims. Appropriates $3 million in federal stimulus money to the program. State may use up to 5% of money appropriated for administrative costs for the program.

Appropriates $6.5 million of federal stimulus money to the existing victims and witness assistance and law enforcement fund. This program funds victim and witness services, including crisis intervention, referrals, victim assistance programs, and counseling. District attorneys may use up to 10% of money appropriated for administrative costs for programs directly funded by the appropriation.

Appropriates $500,000 of federal stimulus money to the existing address confidentiality program. This provides survivors of stalking, sexual assault, and domestic violence with a legal substitute address and mail forwarding. State may use up to 5% of money appropriated for administrative costs for programs directly funded by the appropriation.

Appropriates $5 million of federal stimulus money to the existing domestic abuse program. This supports local domestic violence programs and services, including: 24 hour crisis lines, emergency housing, support groups, counseling, advocacy, safety planning and information and referrals, community education and prevention, and children’s programming and advocacy. State may use up to 5% of money appropriated for administrative costs for programs directly funded by the appropriation.

For all of these programs, the bill directs that spending must conform with allowable purposes under the federal American recovery act (where the money comes from).

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • The pandemic had devasting impacts on domestic violence and the victim support funds this bill is putting money into. Domestic violence increased by over 8% during the pandemic and survivors were four times as likely to experience material hardships in the last year than the average American
  • Many of the programs that support crime victims are funded by court fees, so the pandemic had terrible impacts there as well, with 40% decreases in collections leading to drastic decreases in spending
  • We are also still in the pandemic, even the light at the end of the tunnel is visible, so telehealth remains important and the sort of specialized knowledge required for forensic examinations of crime victims is not necessarily widespread throughout the state
  • In all, the importance and efficacy of all of these programs are not in doubt and the fact that the pandemic had an impact on them should also not be in doubt. These are some of the most vulnerable members of our society and need our help

In Further Detail: The first thing to get out of the way is that yes, this is a direct response to the effects of the pandemic (which is required to spend the money in this manner). Domestic violence increased by more than 8% in the last year, and abuse survivors also can suffer devasting economic impacts. They were on average four times more likely to have experienced material hardships in the last year than the average American. A survey of survivors found that in the past year they experienced escalating violence, fewer financial resources, theft of COVID-related financial assistance, and slowed court proceedings. Many of the programs to support crime victims in general, and domestic violence victims too, were devastated by the pandemic. This is due in large part to the fact that they are funded through court fees. Some local victim and witness assistance programs reported 40% decreases in collections, resulting in drastic cuts to spending. One judicial district even had to cut spending in their program entirely, down to $0. The efficacy and need for these programs are beyond dispute and they actually had already been struggling with funding prior to the pandemic. As for the new telehealth program, forensic examinations require training and a degree of specialization. Creating a program to fund the ability to do them via telehealth increases the access to competent examinations and care for crime victims. We are still in the pandemic, even though we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. That means remote health care remains a necessity. So again, yes, all of this is an allowed use of our federal stimulus money and also a perfect use for a portion of the money. Victims of crimes are some of the most vulnerable members of our society and need our protection.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • This could end up being a bit of a stretch for some of these programs, because part of the funding problem has nothing to do with the pandemic and more to do with long-term declines in revenues and dwindling federal funding

Bottom Line:

  • The telehealth program in the bill is extremely vague, with no real guidance on how $3 million is supposed to be spent in the program, what qualifies and what does not, and all of the things you’d expect from a government program spending our money

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-292