Two-Gen Bills: What Did & Did Not Pass During 2018 Legislative Session

Colorado is recognized nationally as a leader in applying two-generation approaches to help families move out of poverty and promote economic mobility. To better see how these ideas are translated into policy, we identified 18 two-gen bills considered by the General Assembly during the 2018 legislative session that focus on serving both parents and children.  

Lawmakers passed 12 of the 18 two-gen bills we highlighted, and Governor Hickenlooper has already signed five into law. Bills emphasizing early childhood education, child care, and strategies to boost children’s outcomes were more successful than those primarily focusing on parents.  

Passed Two-Gen Bills Promote High-Quality Child Care, Early Childhood Education  

High-quality child care is a critical part of a two-generation strategy because of the role it plays in helping low-income students develop the skills to help them succeed later in life, while also making it possible for their parents to work or participate in skills training.   

The Bell, Colorado Children’s Campaign, and Executives Partnering to Invest in Children (EPIC) jointly recommended lawmakers invest the additional revenues identified in the March forecast in child care and early childhood education. We commend them for listening. 

Lawmakers passed bills to increase the amount of state tax credits parents receive when they claim the federal child care expenses tax credit (HB18-1208) and extend the tax credit (HB18-1004) for those who contribute funds to promote child care in Colorado. Both are intended to make child care more affordable for families, something we know is a top issue for Coloradans. 

They also passed a bill (HB18-1335) to redesign and restructure parts of the Colorado Child Care Assistance Program (CCCAP), raising the statewide initial eligibility limit and directing a higher statewide overall eligibility limit be set by rule. Lawmakers also added $13 million in funding for CCCAP. Combined with the program changes, this should bring CCCAP to more families. These changes should also address the cliff effect in the program, something we believe is imperative to move families ahead economically.  

Funding was included in the School Finance Bill (HB18-1379) to add 1,000 more slots in the early childhood at-risk enhancement (ECARE) program, which can be used to help at-risk students gain access to high-quality preschool or full-day kindergarten through the Colorado Preschool Program (CPP). Lawmakers also directed (HB18-1134) students enrolled in full-day kindergarten programs under the ECARE program must meet at least one of the eligibility requirements of CPP, ensuring the program better serves at-risk kids.  

Lawmakers extended eligibility (SB18-013) for free school lunch to students through eighth grade for student who qualify for reduced-price lunches. Currently, only students in kindergarten through fifth grade qualify. The legislature also acted to better align the administration of programs (SB18-099) to improve school readiness.  

Two bills with broader and more long-term effects failed this session. One (HB18-1088) would’ve fully funded full-day kindergarten students in all school districts throughout Colorado by fiscal year 2023-2024. Currently, full-day kindergarten students are funded at .58 of a full-day student, and parents or school districts must make up the difference. Another (HB18-1232) would’ve created a new school finance formula that would go into effect only if voters approve increased school funding. Developed and supported by most of Colorado’s school superintendents, it would have better focused funding on closing achievement gaps and providing universal preschool for all 4- and 5-year-old students.  

Two-Gen Bills Aimed at Helping Parents Met with Mixed Outcomes 

Children’s well-being is dependent on the economic stability and well-being of their parents. A proven strategy for helping adults facing barriers in finding work is to underwrite their initial wages until they can prove themselves. Lawmakers extended (HB18-1334) a successful program to provide transitional jobs for noncustodial parents, veterans, and displaced workers aged 50 and over for another five years.  

Lawmakers established (HB18-1104) procedural safeguards for parents with disabilities when dealing with child welfare, foster care, family law, guardianship, and adoption proceedings. Basically, the parent’s disability cannot be used against them in these proceedings unless a detrimental impact on the child can be shown. Plus, the burden of proof is shifted to the party claiming the disability has a negative effect.  

The cost of housing in Colorado has been growing much faster than incomes, so lawmakers authorizing (SB18-007) an additional $150 million in tax credits for five years to underwrite the costs of affordable housing construction is a big win. This is a successful approach to encouraging developers to build these units. Affordable housing has a powerful impact on how well children do in school and how they fare later in life.  

The legislature also extended in-state tuition (SB18-087) to refugees and special immigrants admitted to the United States, such as translators for U.S. Armed Forces in Iraq or Afghanistan. Obtaining postsecondary education and training is key to earning a family-supporting job. Also, employers can now receive a temporary state tax credit (HB18-1217) for contributions they make to employees’ 529 plans. These contributions could be used to help the employee or a child afford a college education. 

Legislation (HB18-1001) to create a family and medical leave insurance program failed in the Senate. Paid family and medical leave would help parents care for themselves, their children, or other family members. This is an important aspect of helping multiple generations advance economically.  

Other efforts to expand worker protections that would help better support both workers and families also failed in the Senate. Legislation (HB18 1298) to study how to best address Colorado’s retirement crisis once again failed to advance. Making it easier for workers to save for retirement during their prime working years will help Coloradans meet expenses in retirement, as well as accumulate assets that can be passed on to future generations.  

Sometimes the only thing stopping hardworking Coloradans from keeping a job, staying in school, or a training program is a dead car battery. A bill (HB18-1310) to set up a pilot program to help low-income workers cover emergency expenses failed in the Senate. A bill (SB18-057) aimed at removing some of the barriers Coloradans with criminal records face when renting housing also failed.   

While lawmakers advanced several bills to implement two-generation approaches to help families advance economically, there is more to be done. Hopefully, we can learn from this session’s failures and move forward in the coming years. 

Check out our list of two-gen bills to keep up with the final actions on them.  

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