Eye on the Legislature


June 19, 2017

Today’s column covers the final bills signed by Governor Hickenlooper that were written about in Eye on the Legislature for the 2017 General Assembly.

Senate Bill 019, signed by the Governor on June 6th, will increase medication consistency for persons with mental illness in the criminal and juvenile justice systems.

SB 019 will implement “recommendations from the task force concerning the treatment of persons with mental illness in the criminal and juvenile justice systems and the medication consistency work group of the behavioral transformation council to promote increased medication consistency for persons with mental illness in the criminal juvenile justice system.”

SB 019 was recommended by the Legislative Oversight Committee on the Treatment of Persons with Mental Illness in the Criminal and Juvenile Justice Systems. The General Assembly’s legislative declaration was most persuasive stating, “The lack of medication consistency for individuals with mental illness who are involved in the criminal and juvenile justice systems creates additional, often serious problems for these individuals.”

Senate Bill 17-021, signed by the Governor on June 2nd, established two programs for persons with mental illness transitioning from incarceration:

  1. a housing assistance program in the Department of Local Affairs to provide vouchers to persons newly released from the Department of Corrections or county jail; and
  2. a re-entry program for incarcerated persons with mental illness in the Division of Behavioral Health in the Department of Human Services. 

      Typical reentry program services may include assistance concerning housing vouchers, supportive employment services, Medicaid enrollment, mental health treatment, case management services, medication monitoring, peer specialist support, and positive recreational activities – indescribably overwhelming needs for the newly released person with mental illness transitioning from incarceration.

Presently, DHS does not currently operate a reentry program, but the Department of Corrections (DOC) currently offers such services. In the DOC program, offenders participating in pre-release programs while in prison receive education concerning employment readiness, housing, money management, education options and family, relationship and support systems.

Senate Bill 105, signed by the Governor on May 22nd,  provides for greater clarity in customers’ monthly bills. When investor-owned electric utility companies file for a rate schedule with the Public Utilities Commission, a comprehensive billing format for its monthly billing of customers must also be filed effective January 1, 2018.

Among the line-item representation of all monthly charges and credit applied to the customer, will include indication of whether the charges have increased from the prior month as a result of increased fuel costs and for each source of electricity used to provide the customer’s electricity for the month, the renewable energy sources, natural gas, and coal, and a determination of the percentage of the monthly charges that apply to electricity derived from that source. In months where tiered rates are applied, a breakdown of the tiered rates must be shown and the amount of usage to which each rate was applied for the month. Bills will include a great deal more detail and will give customers a real in-depth look at what goes into their electric bill.

Senate Bill 17-202, signed by the Governor on June 2nd,

“appropriates $1.5 million from the Species Conservation Trust Fund for programs submitted by the Director of the Department of Natural Resources that are designed to conserve native species that have been listed as threatened or endangered under state or federal law, or are likely to become candidate species as determined by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. Funds appropriated in this fund remain available for the designated purposes until they are fully expended.”

Senate Bill 17-267, signed by the Governor on May 30th, was one of those with a somewhat overly broad title, “Concerning the Sustainability of Rural Colorado,” and had a plethora of targets:

  1. repeals the existing Hospital Provider Fee, creates the Colorado Healthcare Affordability and Sustainability Enterprise (enterprise) to administer a similar new fee, and makes an adjustment to reduce the state TABOR limit (Referendum cap) (Note: Fee revenue collected by the enterprise is not subject to the state’s TABOR limit);
  2. beginning in Fiscal Year 2018-19 authorizes the state to execute lease-purchase agreements on existing facilities and credits the proceeds of such agreements to fund transportation, capital construction and controlled maintenance projects; (Note:  proceeds are exempt from the TABOR limit as a property sale, and leases must be renewed by annual appropriation so as not to constitute multi-year debt requiring voter approval under subsection (4) of TABOR; interest earned by participants in agreements are exempt from the state income tax).
  3. repeals the current General Fund transfers to the Highway Users Tax Fund (HUTF) under Senate Bill 17-262 and instead transfers this money to the State Public School Fund for allocation to rural and small rural school districts;
  4. requires executive departments to submit Fiscal Year 2018-19 budget requests to the Office of State Planning and Budgeting (OSPB) that are 2 percent lower than the amounts they receive for Fiscal Year 2017-18;
  5. allows health care providers that are not enrolled in Medicaid to bill Medicaid patients for health care services, provided that the provider and patient enter into a written contract; and
  6. conditional on enactment of the federal Advancing Care for Exceptional Kids Act (ACE Kids Act), requires the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing (HCPF) to seek federal waivers necessary to fund an enhanced pediatric health home for children with complex medical conditions.

   House Bill 17-121 was finally deemed lost along the way this session. It would have greatly expanded the licensing and certification procedures for various medical professionals, no doubt with the intended goal of screening of persons who have been terminated from prior employers for criminal acts such as stealing drugs and unlawful sexual behavior.

Senate Bill 17-107 was “deemed lost with amendments,” and would have required that beginning in the 2017-18 academic year, the Colorado Department of Education to consider access to courses or educational programs in the arts as a performance indicator. SB 107 was titled “Measures to Reward Public Education Entities that Provide Student Access to Arts Education Programs.”

 HEADS UP – Today’s column also brings a “wrap” to the 2017 Eye on the Legislature. Hope you’ll return next January for the 2018 General Assembly coverage.  

The reader's comments or questions are always welcome. E-mail me at doris@dorisbeaver.com.