I cannot believe that we have already made it through the 2015 legislative session! This year I was honored to serve as a member of the bipartisan Joint Budget Committee, which writes the budget for the State of Colorado, and as Chair of the House Appropriations Committee. I have worked hard with my colleagues across the aisle at the State Capitol to fight for economic opportunity for all, to create a more business friendly environment in the state, and to ensure that our communities are safe for our loved ones. I will continue to fight for legislation that moves Colorado forward and benefits our community.
Below are some of the bills that I was proud to have carried this session.
State Budget Bill “The Long Bill” (SB 234)- Reps. Young & Hamner
Every year the legislature is required to pass a balanced budget. This year that process was made more difficult by the Taxpayers Bill of Rights, which required $245 million dollars in set-asides for taxpayer refunds over the next two years. Despite the fiscal thicket, the JBC, which is made up of three members of each party, worked in a bipartisan fashion to boost funding in key areas like K-12 and higher education, transportation, senior services and policies to help Colorado’s middle class.
The budget includes:
- $209 million in increased funding for K-12 education, including $25 million to buy down the “negative factor”
- $105 million in increased funding for higher education to reduce tuition increases
- An increase of more than $100 million in transportation funding, the first increase in 6 years
- $126 million for senior homestead property tax exemptions
- $184 million for Medicaid caseload increases
- $613 million for Colorado’s “rainy day” reserve
- A 1.7 percent rate increase for social services providers to help expand the provider network and improve access to quality care
- $7 million for a long overdue increase in the number of child welfare workers
- $7.6 million increase to the Senior Citizen and Disabled Veteran Property Tax Exemption
Oversight & Funding Child & Family Investigators (HB 1153) – Rep. Young
House Bill 15-1153 merges oversight of all court-appointed Child and Family Investigators (CFIs) under the State Court Administrator’s Office (SCAO). Previously, CFIs had been overseen by two different entities, either the SCAO or the Office of the Child’s Representative depending on their status as attorneys or non-attorneys. This bill streamlines oversight of these professionals as recommended by the departments in question. It aims to facilitate a more effective and efficient government, particularly for Coloradans involved in domestic relations litigation.
Services For Children With Autism (HB 1186) – Rep. Young
This bill increases funding for and strengthens the Autism waiver program for children. It furthers Colorado’s commitment to end the waiting lists for eligible children who need these services, which is currently over 300 children. The legislation removes the yearly cap on services and removes prioritization barriers to reduce the wait list for Colorado’s children who are in critical need. It also increases the eligibility age limit from 6 to 8 years old, in order to allow more valuable time for services for children who may have had to wait before they were deemed eligible.
Agricultural Market Development Grants (HB 1320) Rep. Young
A comprehensive tool for agricultural development in Colorado, HB 1320 establishes an avenue through which private businesses will receive resources to help agricultural development expand and thrive. By providing study and business grants and well as reimbursement of market development and promotion expenses, HB 1320 will give companies throughout rural Colorado the tools they need to succeed.
Implementing Student Learning Objectives Processes (HB 1324)- Reps. Danielson & Young
HB 1324 will create student learning objectives processes by which an education sets goals for student learning that are tied to specific subject areas. This bill will help Colorado students by creating instructional periods for providing measures of student academic growth by which to evaluate educator effectiveness.
Middle Class College Savings Act (HB 1347)- Reps. Young & Pettersen
This bill incentivizes middle class families to invest in college savings accounts by giving them tax deductions on their investments. Ultimately this will create more opportunities for Colorado students to attend institutions of higher education and will help to better prepare Colorado students to be competitive in an ever-changing job market by making college more affordable.
Mandatory Abuse Report For Adult With A Disability (SB 109)- Rep. Young
Senate Bill 15-109 increases protections of Coloradans with disabilities by requiring any abuse or exploitation of them be reported to law enforcement. The bill builds upon current law, which requires the reporting of abuse or exploitation of certain vulnerable Coloradans by adding persons over the age of 18 with a disability to these protections. Mandatory reporters of such abuse and exploitation will include professions like doctors, service professionals, clergy members, and social workers. This bill fortifies the state’s no-tolerance approach of abuse of Colorado’s most vulnerable or at-risk citizens.
Certify Authorizers of Multi-district On-line Schools (SB 201)- Rep. Young
This piece of legislation facilitates a more efficient approval process for online schools authorized by a school district or multi-school district body. This proposal, recommended by the Colorado K-12 Online Task Force, allows for school districts and multi-district organizations to have more involvement in the authorization process of an online school. Senate Bill 15-201 still maintains strong standards and accountability for any online school and their overseeing districts, while allowing under-served and rural school districts more input by giving them the authority to initially certify an online school. The Colorado Department of Education can then authorize the district or multi-district body to proceed upon certification.
Child Welfare Staff Funding Allocation (SB 242)- Rep. Young
This bill creates a new allocation for distributing funds to counties to hire additional child welfare staff. The new allocation is meant to supplement, not supplant, existing county child welfare staff hired using the current block grant funding provided to counties. The Child Welfare Allocations Committee is required to develop a formula for distributing this funding to counties. This is critical to ensure that child welfare employees are able to do their best to help young Coloradans.
Prohibit Closure of Beds for Developmental Disability Waiver (SB 243)- Rep. Young
Senate Bill 243 prohibits the Department of Human Services (DHS) from closing or selling state-operated regional center beds for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities prior to May 16, 2016. Creating services and protections for people with disabilities is critical to ensuring that all Coloradans have an equal shot at prosperity.
Joint Budget Committee Technical Bills
SB15-098, SB15-170, SB15-187, SB15-239, SB15-240, SB15-241, SB15-242, SB15-243, SB15-245, SB15-247, HB15-1261, and HB15-1280 are all bills that I sponsored that the we as the JBC had identified as necessary technical changes to statutes in order to promote further fiscal responsibility and transparency. They have all been subsequently signed into law. Click on any of them to learn more.