From the Colorado Bar Association - Department of Legislative Relations
Keeping you apprised of what the General Assembly and your state Bar Association are up to under the Gold Dome.
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Recap of Week 1 at the Colorado General Assembly
By Aponte & Busam (Contract lobbying firm working with the Colorado Bar Association)
The legislature kicked off the 2010 Legislative Session on Wednesday, January 13. The day was marked by the traditional pomp and circumstance, ceremonial speeches and a general attitude of camaraderie amongst legislators. The main focus of the day, however, was on the state’s ailing budget and the nearly $1.3 billion hole that will need to be filled moving forward. Leaders of both parties offered their suggestions and a preview of their policy goals as related to the budget.
Senate President Brandon Shaffer:“Our budget will be lean and responsible. Declining state revenues require substantial cuts in the services the state provides; however we will craft a budget that keeps our communities safe, our classrooms open and our hospitals accessible.” Full text
Senate Minority Leader Josh Penry:The minority leader cited several of his party’s ideas for balancing the budget, including reducing spending and reforming government and protecting tax incentives and exemptions. “This debate is about a lot more than numbers on a spreadsheet. It is about people’s lives and people’s livelihoods. This money doesn’t come out of thin air. It comes out of the pockets of families, business owners, and workers – and frankly they don’t have a whole lot extra to spare these days.” Full text
Speaker of the House Terrance Carroll:“This session we will continue to make tough choices and tough cuts to balance an additional $1.2 billion shortfall for the upcoming year. It is imperative, however, that as we continue to cut, we also take a systematic approach to remaking government, so it is not only leaner, but smarter too.” Full text
House Minority Leader Mike May:“This year we have two imperfect choices: we can increase the burdens on citizens to pay for our existing level of programs, bureaucracy and services, or we can make deep budget cuts and live within our means. My vote, as I’m sure you could have guessed, will be for living within our means. The bottom line is that the money the state spends is taxpayer money.” Full text
State of the State Address – Governor Bill Ritter
By Aponte & Busam
On Thursday, January 14, Governor Ritter delivered his annual State of the State address to a joint meeting of the House and Senate. Also present were members of the state’s Congressional delegation, Lt. Governor Barbara O’Brien, Secretary of State Bernie Buescher, Treasurer Cary Kennedy, Denver Mayor and Gubernatorial Candidate John Hickenlooper and First Lady Jeanie Ritter, among other dignitaries. The Governor opened his speech by thanking the state’s elected officials, his family and the citizens of Colorado for allowing him the pleasure of serving as the chief executive of Colorado for the past 3 years.
In his final State of the State address, Ritter focused on accomplishments that his Administration has achieved during his tenure in office. He implored state Representatives and Senators to work together in a bipartisan manner, in order to solve our state’s budget crisis. Ritter spent the latter part of his speech discussing his legislative priorities for 2010, including balancing the budget, growing the new energy economy, creating jobs, modernizing teacher and student assessments and shoring up the state’s public employee pension program, among others.
The mood in the House Chamber was generally positive, as Ritter garnered applause from both sides of the aisle. However, Republicans were quick to issue their rebuttal to the Governor’s address and discuss their party’s legislative agenda.
•Full text of Ritter’s speech
Ten Bills of Interest:
5 House bills.
HB 1001 - Concerning incentives for the installation of new distributed renewable energy generation facilities in Colorado. By Rep. Tyler. Existing law creates a renewable energy portfolio standard (RPS) under which certain electric utilities are required to generate an increasing percentage of their electricity from renewable sources, in a series of increments from 3% in 2007 to 20% in 2020 and thereafter. The bill boosts these RPS percentages to achieve 30% renewable generation by 2020 and requires a portion of the RPS to be met through a subset of renewable generation, "distributed generation," which does not require additional transmission facilities to connect to the grid. Assigned to the Transportation and Energy Committee.
HB 1004 -Concerning standardization of health insurance information provided to consumers. By Rep. Massey and Sen. Foster. Health Care Task Force bill. The bill requires the commissioner of insurance to adopt rules establishing standard formats for policy forms and explanation of benefit forms provided by health insurance carriers to consumers. The bill obligates the commissioner to seek input from the health insurance industry, consumers, and other stakeholders prior to adopting the rules. The bill requires carriers to comply with the standard format requirements starting July 1, 2011. Assigned to the Health and Human Services Committee.
HB 1007 -Concerning an adjustment of fees charged by a county clerk and recorder for filing a document with the county. By Rep. Judd and Sen. Brophy. Currently, a county clerk and recorder charges $5 per page to file certain documents, with an additional fee for documents that require multiple entries in the grantor or grantee index. The bill would modify these fees by charging $10 for the first page of a document and $5 for each additional page and eliminating the additional fee for documents that require multiple entries in the grantor or grantee index. Assigned to the State, Veterans, & Military Affairs Committee. This bill has CBA Legislative Policy Committee (“LPC”) support by way of the Real Estate Section of the CBA.
HB 1008-Concerning a prohibition against consideration of gender in setting rates for individual health insurance policies. By Rep. Schafer and Sen. Carroll. Health Care Task Force bill. The bill prohibits carriers from using gender as a basis for varying premium rates for individual health insurance policies and declares premium rates based on gender to be unfairly discriminatory. Assigned to the Health and Human Services Committee.
HB 1010 -Concerning authorization for agencies of the state to enter into public-private initiative agreements with nonprofit entities. By Rep. Farrandino and Sen. Morse. Long-term Fiscal Stability Commission bill. Using the existing public-private initiative program for the department of transportation as a model, the bill authorizes state agencies to enter into public-private initiative agreements with nonprofit entities; and specifies evaluative criteria to be used by and procedures to be followed by the agencies in considering, evaluating, and accepting or rejecting unsolicited proposals for public-private initiatives. The bill also provides an incentive for an agency to enter into public-private initiatives by amending an existing statutory definition of "cost savings" in order to allow an agency to retain a portion of any cost savings realized from a personal services contract entered into pursuant to a public-private initiative agreement. Assigned to the State, Veterans, & Military Affairs Committee.
5 Senate bills.
SB 2 -Concerning the denial of benefits by health coverage plans . . . By Sen. Steadman and Rep. Looper. Interim Committee on the Developmental Disability Waiting List bill. Among other things, the bill requires a health insurance company to notify any known covered person's designated representative of any denial of a benefit and of the right to appeal the denial. The designated representative could exercise certain rights during the appeal processes. Directs the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing to provide recipients of public medical benefits with information concerning the recipient's right to appeal denials of benefits by third parties. Assigned to the Health and Human Services Committee.
SB 4 -Concerning the repeal of the increased penalties for late vehicle registration enacted by senate bill 09-108. By Sen. White. The bill repeals the mandatory late vehicle registration fee of $25 per month up to a maximum of $100 enacted by Senate Bill 09-108 and reinstates the waivable fee of up to $10 that was in effect prior to the enactment of Senate Bill 09-108. Would be effective on July 1, 2010. The bill repeals the supplemental unregistered vehicle fine of $25 per month up to a maximum of $100 enacted by Senate Bill 09-108 that is imposed on a person who is convicted of a misdemeanor for knowingly failing to register a vehicle within 90 days of becoming a Colorado resident. Assigned to the State, Veterans, & Military Affairs Committee. Editors Note: At the time of this writing there are two other bills that address this issue.
Three bills from the Interim Committee to study issues related to Pinnacol Assurance:
SB 11 -Concerning measures to reduce conflicts of interest in workers' compensation cases. By Sen. Carroll and Rep. Miklosi. Among other things, the bill requires a physician who has been proposed by the division of workers' compensation in the department of labor and employment to perform an independent medical examination (IME) of an injured worker to disclose any business, self-insured employer if a party requests the information. The bill gives a party to the IME process the right to obtain and review the information regarding any physicians proposed to conduct the IME prior to making a determination to eliminate one of the proposed physicians as an examiner.
The bill directs the director of the division to adopt rules as necessary to implement the disclosure requirements. The bill prohibits the payment of a financial incentive by an insurer, self-insured employer, or health care provider to deny or delay a workers' compensation claim, or to deny or delay medical care or payment for medical treatment for any such claim. The bill declares that a violation of its provisions constitutes bad faith and an unfair or deceptive practice in the business of insurance and subjects the person committing the violation to penalties under the unfair or deceptive insurance practices statutes, which may be up to $3,000 per violation, not to exceed an aggregate penalty of $30,000, or, in the case of knowing violations, up to $30,000 per violation, not to exceed an aggregate penalty of $750,000 annually. The bill also subjects persons violating its provisions to penalties under the "Workers' Compensation Act of Colorado." Assigned to the Judiciary Committee.
SB 12 - Concerning increased penalties for violations of the workers' compensation laws. By Sen. Tochtrop and Rep. Pace. Increases the penalty for violating the workers' compensation laws from up to $500 to up to $1,000. Changes the mental state from "willfully" to "knowingly" in the statute that penalizes denying workers' compensation medical benefits, delaying payment of medical benefits for more than 30 days, or stopping payments. Allows the director of the division of workers' compensation or an administrative law judge to apportion the penalties, in whole or part, among the aggrieved party, the medical services provider, and the workers' compensation cash fund. Assigned to the Judiciary Committee.
SB 13 - Concerning accountability for workers' compensation insurers. By Sen. Hodge and Rep. Ryden. Requires workers' compensation insurers to survey a limited number of injured workers at the close of each claim. Requires the insurers to report the results of the surveys to Division of Labor and Employment, and requires the division to post the survey results on the division's web site. The bill prohibits an employer or insurer from taking disciplinary action or otherwise retaliating against an injured worker or his or her dependents for completing a survey. The bill also requires the chief executive officer of Pinnacol Assurance to submit an annual report to the governor and committees of the general assembly reporting on the business operations, resources, and liabilities of the Pinnacol Assurance fund. Finally, the bill requires the division to post on the division's web site the procedure for an injured worker to follow to file a complaint with the division regarding any issue over which the director or his or her designee has authority to pursue, settle, or enforce.