Traditionally, the first few bills introduced to the Colorado House and Senate set the tone for the priorities lawmakers, or at least the majority, plan to pursue in any legislative session.
Normally, they’re considered high priorities, but Senate Democrats are going further than normal.
There, four of the first six bills had major sponsors from both parties, including a measure that gained federal power to allow community health workers to receive Medicaid reimbursement.
Other measures involve affordable housing, job training, more mental health workers in schools, better response to wildfires and helping improve economic opportunity in rural areas of the state.
“These bills will help make housing and health care more affordable in Colorado, provide critical resources for our students and schools, and mitigate and prevent catastrophic wildfires,” said Senate President Stephen Fenberg. ) Say.
Three of the bills were introduced in part by West Slope lawmakers.
Housing and Healthcare Senate Bill 1, sponsored in part by West Slope lawmakers Sen. Dylan Roberts, D-Avon, and freshman Rep. Meghan Lukens, D-Steamboat Springs, would provide $13 million in grants for public-private projects to build Housing on state-owned land with affordable labor.
It’s similar to a bill passed by House Speaker Julie McCluskie (D-Dillion) through the Legislature in 2021 that provides $40 million in matching grants to local governments to implement affordable housing projects.
Senate Bill 2, sponsored in part by McCluskie and Sen. Cleave Simpson, an Alamosa Republican whose newly redrawn district includes part of Montrose County, would seek a federal exemption to allow community health care Workers bill Medicaid clients.
These workers, sometimes called health educators or case managers, help patients and their families learn about and access a variety of community services, including behavioral and mental health programs, which Mesa County is grappling with.
Another Senate measure, SB4, doesn’t have bipartisan or Western slope support, at least not yet, but it could help the county in its efforts to find mental health professionals. Under current law, such professionals working in schools must be licensed not only by the state, but also by the Colorado Department of Education.
The bill would allow school districts, charter schools or cooperative educational service boards to hire them even if they are not licensed by the Department of Education.
A sixth bill introduced in the Senate also has bipartisan support, with four West Slope lawmakers including Roberts and Sen. Janice Rich, R-Grand Junction, and Reps. Marc Catlin, R-Montrose and Barbara McLachlin, D- Durango presented.
The measure, known as SB6, will extend the life of the Office of Rural Opportunity, which was first created in 2019 under the Office of Economic Development and International Trade.
Over the years of its existence, the office has been at the heart of rural economic development, in part to help communities trying to transition from a coal-based economy, its promoters said.
“The Office of Rural Opportunity has served thousands of rural businesses and stakeholders since 2019, and under this bill, will continue to serve as an important resource in developing economic opportunity for rural Colorado for years to come,” Rich said .
“By creating a one-stop shop for our small town … we will be able to provide expertise to meet the unique needs of our rural economy,” Roberts added. “[It will]help communities take advantage of state, federal and nonprofit opportunities to promote, diversify and expand economic opportunity.”
While none of the first five bills in the Colorado House have Republican support, several have the support of West Slope lawmakers.
House Bill 1001, introduced in part by McLachlin, addresses the teacher shortage by providing financial assistance or loan forgiveness to those who qualify for teacher certification.
Other measures in the House focus on health care, mental health, insurance protections and improving water and energy efficiency in commercial real estate.
“While we’ve made great progress, Coloradons continue to struggle with our state’s high cost of living,” said newly appointed House Majority Leader Monica Duran, D-Wheat Ridge. “Our legislative priorities for this year continue our efforts to prioritize students and teachers, save Coloradons on everything from housing to health care, fund crime victim services and reduce gun violence.”
One of the top five House Democrats’ bills, HB1004, is sponsored in part by one of West Slope’s newest lawmakers, Rep. Elizabeth Velasco (D-Glenwood Springs).
The bill aims to ensure that people whose first language is not English are assured that the translations of the policies they sign are accurate and above board.
Meanwhile, Roberts is the Senate sponsor of House Bill 1002, which would limit what prescription drug companies can charge for epinephrine auto-injectors, also known as EpiPens. The average price for the syringe, which is used to treat severe allergic reactions, is between $350 and $750. Roberts’ bill would limit an individual’s insurance co-pay for a 2-pack of EpiPens to no more than $60.
House Bill 1043 While not in the top five, another House bill that has Westpoe and bipartisan support is the House Bill.
The measure was proposed by two Democrats and two Republicans, including Rich and Rep. Rose Pugliese of Colorado Springs.
It is designed to make it easier for relatives or relatives to adopt children in emergency or non-emergency situations.
However, it comes with important guardrails, such as background checks to see if adopters have been convicted of serious crimes, including child abuse.
Here are some other considerations introduced so far:
■ HB1050: The bill to extend the state’s so-called Make My Day Law to enterprise.
Like that law, the bill would provide a defense for using force, including deadly force, against a trespasser.
■ HB1051: This bill, sponsored in part by Lukens and Roberts, would continue funding certain rural telecommunications providers who are expanding broadband across the state.
■ SB17: While the state’s Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance program only began taking payments from workers and their employees earlier this year for medical or family emergencies, the bill wants to expand that use to include care due to severe weather. or other unforeseen events that close a family member’s school or care facility, or attend a funeral or deal with a family member’s financial or legal issues.
■ SB21: Instead of listing candidates on ballot papers, first based on their performance at party rallies and then petitions, the measure would require selection by lot.
■ SB25: Rep. Matt Soper, R-Delta, is involved in this bipartisan bill to create a new “In God We Trust” vehicle license plate and charge the Department of Transportation and Motor Vehicle Services.