How Many Bills is Too Many? Buckle up for This Week's Bill Update

Trivia time: How many bills were introduced in Colorado’s General Assembly in 2015?

A) 323

B) 517

C) 682

If you chose option C, you’re right. Some Capitol watchers believe that number is excessive, and there are legislators who would prefer to curtail the amount of bills (or even the length of time the legislature meets each year).

Whatever your thoughts on the issue, you can agree that there’s no shortage of legislation to watch, regardless of your area of interest. We’re well on our way to a similar total for 2016. In the health sphere, CHI is now tracking more than 40 bills.

Two of those bills, House Bill 1054 and Senate Bill 25, were heard last week. The identical proposals would enact the Colorado End-of-life Options Act, which would allow terminally ill adults to acquire life-ending medication, and as expected they drew considerable media attention. If you missed our blog on those hearings, you can find it here. SB 25 failed, while HB 1054 is scheduled for its first vote on the House floor this month.

There’s so much going on that we can’t cover everything here, but we’ll do our best.

Developments since last week’s blog:

The House Health, Insurance and Environment Committee advanced a couple of bills we’re watching. HB 1095, which would enable patients who need eye drops to refill their prescriptions more frequently, passed 11-2. The bill then went to the House floor and passed easily, with final approval coming on February 9. The committee unanimously passed HB 1047, which would create an interstate agreement to expedite licensure for doctors. The bill is up today in House Finance. Lastly, the panel considered HB 1137, which would require warning labels on all products containing nicotine — including e-cigarettes — but did not conclude its discussion or vote on the bill.

The House Public Health Care and Human Services Committee heard HB 1103, which would clarify rules about licensing for mental health professionals, including social workers. It passed unanimously. The committee is also scheduled to consider SB 39, which would include mental health professionals in collaborative services teams. That bill coasted through the Senate. The committee also will hear HB 1079, which would create a state-approved label for marijuana grown without pesticides.

Many other committees voted on bills we’re tracking. Let’s reach into the grab bag:

  • The House State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee considered HB 1015, a “zombie bill” (returning from the year before) that would have repealed state health insurance laws if the ACA were repealed at the federal level. The panel postponed it indefinitely by a vote of 5-4.
  • The House Transportation and Energy Committee heard HB 1097, which would create a new carrier category for those who provide nonemergency transportation for Medicaid clients. It passed unanimously and is on to House Appropriations, which will focus on the bill’s plan to authorize the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing (HCPF) to use Medicaid funds to help pay for drivers’ permits.
  • The Senate Health and Human Services Committee passed two bills. SB 27, which would allow Medicaid enrollees to receive prescription drugs by mail, was approved 5-0 and goes now to Senate Appropriations. The committee also took action on SB 6, which would refer all new Connect for Health Colorado customers to brokers. Although the bill had failed to advance in its previous hearing in the committee, the members had not officially killed it. As the result of amendments, Sen. Larry Crowder (R) changed his vote last week and the bill passed 3-2. It then breezed through the Senate and is moving on to the House.
  • The Senate Finance Committee gave the thumbs up to SB 69 by a margin of 4-1. The bill proposes to regulate community paramedics. It’s heading to Appropriations, its third Senate committee.
  • And SB 15 was approved by the full Senate as part of the consent calendar for non-controversial bills. It deals with pesticides allowed in marijuana cultivation. It’s now in the House, where it is scheduled to be heard today (February 10) in House Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources. 

Hearings that we’ll be watching over the next few days:

  • The House State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee will consider HB 1148, which would give the Exchange Oversight Committee greater authority over policies proposed by Connect for Health Colorado, such as contract awards, broker regulation and navigator compensation.
  • The House Business Affairs Committee will hear HB 1007, which seeks to categorize fetuses as people when they are crime victims and allow prosecutors to file charges if a fetus is killed or injured.
  • The House Health, Insurance and Environment Committee will hear HB 1113, which would make it a Class 1 felony — punishable by life in prison or possibly the death sentence — for a doctor to perform an abortion.
  • The House Judiciary Committee will listen to HB 1063, which aims to allow mental health professionals to disclose concerns about a client if that client makes a direct threat against a school or behaves in a concerning way that threatens student or staff safety. 
  • The Senate Health and Human Services Committee will hear SB 94, which gives rural counties more flexibility to decide who will be the treasurer of their district public health agencies.

And a handful of notable new health-related bills we’ll be tracking:

  • HB 1195 has bipartisan backing. It would expand the availability of qualified home modification services by clarifying that they are allowed for people with disabilities, not solely physical impairments as is currently stated.
  • HB 1212 comes from Colorado Springs Rep. Kit Roupe (R). It would create a temporary tax credit (available in the years 2016-2018) for Medicaid providers to compensate them for some of their unreimbursed costs. The bill has been assigned to the House State, Veterans and Military Affairs committee.
  • HB 1221 is a Republican attempt to boost Medicaid provider rates using money that is already available in the budget. This bill would require the state government to cut its costs for lobbying and membership in professional organizations. The savings would be used to boost Medicaid provider rates.
  • SB 118 would direct the Department of Public Health and Environment to adopt a screening questionnaire for prenatal substance use, which would be used by the juvenile justice system, child welfare system, early childhood providers, schools and others.
  • SB 120 would require HCPF to develop an explanation of benefits and accompanying educational materials for Medicaid enrollees, in the hopes that this would make it easier to find and report administrative errors and fraudulent claims.

Is your head spinning? We know how it feels. There are many bills in progress and we have another three months of action ahead.