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The 2020 legislative session was unlike any other session before it. From an unprecedented global health emergency and the dire budget consequences we faced, to the chaotic flashpoint of a centuries-long struggle for justice taking place outside of the Capitol, we’ve had everything but business as usual at the General Assembly this year.
My colleagues and I rose to the occasion and worked to pass responsible laws to protect the health and safety of hardworking Coloradans and get our state back on its feet.
I’m proud to have sponsored and co-sponsored the following bills that continue to move our state forward on issues that are important to Coloradans, such as reducing the cost of health care, improving air quality, creating a robust retirement savings system and increasing access to higher education. We worked to protect renters and increase access to affordable housing, protect the senior homestead property tax exemption amidst the budget shortfall, and advance bills to help more hardworking Coloradans access the critical services they need.
HB20-1100 Pass-through Child Support Payments* This bill strengthens one of Colorado’s core anti-poverty programs, the Colorado Works Program, which has become even more essential during the economic downturn brought on by COVID-19. It ensures child support payments from non-custodial parents are more likely to be directly passed on to and actually benefit the child they are paid on behalf of by increasing the frequency of a full pass-through of child support payments to families.
SB20-129 Protect Individuals Subject To A Fiduciary* This bill puts in place additional layers of protection for the elderly, people with disabilities, and other vulnerable populations with diminished capacities who have been subject to a court-ordered emergency guardianship. Under this law, the court system will appoint individuals to help them understand their rights and gather relevant information about their support network.
HB19-1156 Strengthen Municipal Elections* The COVID-19 pandemic has made it clear that Colorado’s mail-in voting system is one of the most accessible in the country. This bill further strengthens our elections by amending several provisions of the Colorado Municipal Election Code of 1965. It removes burdensome and duplicative verification methods and makes other technical changes to ensure Colorado’s municipal elections are up-to-date and efficient, particularly for military and overseas voters.
COVID-19 RELIEF PACKAGE
HB20-1413 and SB20-222 Small Business Recovery Loans and Grant Program* House Democrats made supporting small businesses a cornerstone of our COVID-19 response because we know they are the backbone of our economy, and many are struggling to make ends meet during this public health crisis. The first bill establishes a small business recovery loan fund that consists of $250 million of state and private dollars for first loss capital on loans to small businesses over the next two years. The second bill creates a grant program of $20 million in federal CARES Act funding to small businesses across the state, including $5 million for tourism businesses which have been particularly hard hit, supporting recovery and resiliency.
HB20-1410 Coronavirus Relief Funds for Housing Assistance* During the COVID pandemic, many Coloradans have struggled to keep up with rent or mortgage payments and fear that they could be at risk of losing their homes. This bill provides $20 million in direct rental and mortgage assistance to Coloradans experiencing a financial need during these turbulent times, including $350,000 for legal aid for renters at risk of eviction.
HB20-1412 Coronavirus Relief Funds for Utility Assistance* While most utilities have suspended utility disconnections due to the pandemic, households facing economic hardship will still have to catch up on their utility bills once the disconnection moratoria are lifted, or else will likely have their utilities shut off. The bill allocates $4.8 million to the Energy Outreach Colorado Low-Income Energy Assistance Fund, which helps Coloradans who are at risk of having their service shut off catch up on their utility payments.
HB20-1411 Coronavirus Relief Funds for Mental Health and Substance Abuse Programs* The need for behavioral health services is greater than ever due to the challenges associated with COVID-19 and the more than half a million individuals who have filed for unemployment in Colorado. Young people have been especially impacted–teachers are reporting an increased need for mental health support for students struggling with schooling at home. This bill dedicates $15 million to critical mental health programs and substance abuse treatment.
SB20-205 Earned Sick Leave for Employees* Over 40% of Colorado’s workforce did not have the opportunity to earn paid sick days, creating a “work while sick” culture that increases the deadly transmission of illnesses such as COVID-19. This bill guarantees paid sick time for Colorado workers, allowing those who are ill to protect their coworkers, customers, and loved ones by staying home, without fear of losing income.
SB20-207 and SB20-170 Expand Unemployment Insurance* During a time of unprecedented unemployment, these bills expand eligibility for unemployment insurance (UI) benefits and increase the benefits workers can receive. Some of these increased benefits include the amount a worker can earn while remaining eligible for UI, an easier process for survivors of domestic violence, and an expanded definition of “good cause” for a worker to quit and still receive benefits, including lack of childcare as a result of school closures.
HB20-1414 Protections Against Price Gouging* During times of emergency, unscrupulous individuals sometimes take advantage of scarcity to raise prices on necessary goods to exorbitant levels. This bill expands the authority of the Attorney General or District Attorneys to crack down on these unfair and outrageous practices.
SB20-212 Telehealth Services Expansion* This bill protects patients’ ability to continue to receive care via telehealth. Telehealth has kept patients and providers safe while allowing patients to continue their care plan, but this expanded access was set to end until the legislature acted to extend it.
SB20-213 Extend Restaurant Takeout & Delivery of Alcoholic Beverages* Selling alcohol to-go has been a crucial tool to help restaurants weather the economic downtown caused by COVID-19. This bill formalizes and extends their ability to generate additional revenue with alcohol to-go for two years beyond the Governor’s Executive Order.
INVESTING IN OUR SCHOOLS
SB20-175 and HB20-1407 Test Scores on Transcripts and for College Admissions* For high school seniors, the COVID-19 pandemic caused serious disruption for their plans for higher education when testing sites for the SAT and ACT closed down. The legislature acted to allow institutions of higher education to not require a standardized test score as part of their admissions process. As colleges and universities strive to remove barriers for students to obtain a degree by moving away from using standardized tests as a means of screening applicants, students will now be able to decide if they want to include their test scores on their transcript.
SB20-023 Working Together to Keep Our Schools Safe* Our school hallways should be the safest place for our children, which is why the legislature has prioritized school safety measures in light of recent school shootings. This bill will help better align the various departments and stakeholders that are involved in school safety to improve collaboration and put forward recommendations to improve school safety for Colorado students.
HB20-1336 Holocaust & Genocide Studies in Public Schools* In the absence of education, history will repeat itself. This bill asks school districts to incorporate a Holocaust and genocide studies component into an existing course that is required for graduation and creates a publicly available resource bank with sample academic content and lesson plans developed with expert input.
RESTORING JUSTICE FOR OUR COMMUNITIES
SB20-217 Enhance Law Enforcement Integrity* For far too long, police brutality has continued an American legacy of systemic racism that has wreaked havoc on Black communities. This bill increases the transparency, integrity, and accountability of Colorado’s law enforcement, and finally makes justice possible for victims of police misconduct. It reins in the use of deadly force and requires officers to wear body cameras, promptly release footage of misconduct to the public, and track and report demographic data. It also eliminates the doctrine of qualified immunity, outlaws the chokehold, prevents the rehiring of officers who are decertified or convicted of misconduct, creates a duty to intervene for officers who witness misconduct, and restricts the use of tear gas and rubber bullets during protests.
SECURING ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY FOR ALL
SB20-200 Colorado Secure Savings Program Over 40% of Colorado’s workforce does not have access to a retirement plan through their job, and the modern economy has made it more important than ever for workers to have flexible retirement savings. This bill establishes a statewide auto-enrollment IRA plan to encourage workers to save by expanding access to inexpensive and portable retirement accounts.
HB20-1153 Collective Bargaining for Public Sector Employees The ability to collectively bargain empowers workers to fight for a better life for themselves, their families and their communities. This bill allows state employees to collectively bargain on matters of pay, benefits, and terms of employment and fosters new partnerships between frontline workers and the state that will lead to innovation and improved state services.
INCREASING HEALTH CARE AFFORDABILITY & ACCESS
SB20-033 Allow Medicaid Buy-In After Age 65* Health insurance affordability is an acute challenge for older Coloradans with disabilities. This bill will allow them to participate in the existing Medicaid buy-in program, helping working adults with disabilities stay in their homes after age 65.
HB20-1158 Insurance Coverage for Infertility Diagnosis and Treatment* One in eight people struggle with infertility. This bill requires health insurance plans to cover infertility diagnosis and treatment, as well as fertility preservation services such as IVF.
SB20-014 Excused Mental Health Absences in Public Schools* The state of youth mental health tells us behavioral health concerns can be just as serious as physical health concerns. This bill seeks to remove stigma by allowing schools to include excused absences for behavioral health concerns in their attendance policies.
GROWING AFFORDABLE HOUSING
HB20-1201, HB20-1196 Rights, Opportunity to Purchase for Mobile Home Residents* Over 100,000 Coloradans live in mobile homes, the state’s largest unsubsidized source of affordable housing. The first bill creates a pathway for mobile home residents to join together to purchase the land under their communities. If a park is for sale, owners are required to give residents 90 days notice and enter into good faith negotiations if they’re interested in purchase. The second bill further strengthens tenants’ rights by preventing park owners from retaliating against residents for filing a complaint, and prohibits them from removing residents from their homes over minor violations. It requires transparency in utility billing and secures a right to tenant privacy by requiring owners to give notice and obtain consent before entering.
HB20-1009 Fairness in Eviction Court Records* Right now, having an eviction filing on one’s record--even if that filing is eventually dismissed-- makes it difficult to find housing without facing discrimination. This bill automatically suppresses court records while eviction proceedings are ongoing, keeping these records private until they are final, and removes a court record from public view if the filing is dismissed.
PRESERVING OUR AIR, WATER, AND PUBLIC LANDS
SB20-204 Additional Resources To Protect Air Quality* High levels of air pollutants are a threat to public health. This bill brings the state closer into compliance with federal ozone standards, mitigating the health risks associated with poor air quality that puts Coloradans at greater risk for respiratory illnesses like COVID-19 and asthma.
HB20-1143 Increasing Air and Water Environmental Protection Enforcement* This bill holds polluters accountable by raising the daily state fines for air and water violations and gives the Attorney General and local District Attorneys the authority to enforce violations.
HB20-1265 Increase Public Protection from Toxic Chemical Emissions* Families who live nearby to refineries have been exposed to hazardous air toxins, often without being made aware by the polluting facilities. This bill requires the facilities to use an emergency notification service to inform the local communities when emission incidents occur.
I am proud of this session's victories and look forward to fighting for more.
* indicates that the bill passed with bipartisan support