9 Opportunity Takeaways | The Bell Policy Center

9 Opportunity Takeaways

Date: May 10, 2017

The legislative session wraps up today and we wanted to help you understand how 9 key issues critical to economic opportunity fared under the golden dome this year. We highlighted many of these issues in our 2017 Opportunity Handbook. Check it out here.

Our 9 Opportunity Takeaways:

1. The bill that will have the most profound effect on spending in Colorado is SB 17-267. Get the scoop on how this measure frees up critical cash in the short term, but locks Colorado into artificial spending caps that will cause problems down the road.

2. The Secure Savings Plan, HB 17-1290 would have created low-fee workplace retirement plans for the 753,000 Colorado workers who don’t have any way to save at work. This idea moved further this session than ever before when it passed the House before dying on a party-line vote in the Senate. This common-sense idea would provide Coloradans in the plan with auto-IRAs, the best way to save for retirement. By helping people save and invest more of their money, Colorado lawmakers would ensure that more people are prepared to support themselves in retirement. Opponents acknowledged that we have a problem and the Denver Post published a strong editorial supporting the idea.  We also showed how the fees on this plan would be significantly lower than those currently charged in plan in the market.  We will continue to pursue this issue and will work with others to get it enacted. Read more.

3. Colorado moved to the forefront of states that protect consumers from abuses by debt buyers when the legislature passed an extension of the Colorado Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, SB 17-216.  Consumers will be protected from harassment for debts that are not theirs, have been contested or paid off.  Consumer activists negotiated language with the industry that worked for all involved and received broad bipartisan support in the Senate and House. Read more.

4. Colorado took a major leap forward in the fight for paid leave when the House passed HB17-1307, the Family and Medical Leave Insurance program (FAMLI). Unfortunately, the Senate ended this year’s momentum. A FAMLI program, which is now operating in four states and Washington, D.C., would provide employee-funded paid leave for those who need to take time off from work to care for loved ones or recover from an illness. When employees have to take unpaid leave, it can negatively impact their finances, their careers, their health and their employers’ bottom line. FAMLI is the kind of program that just makes sense for the modern workplace – expect to see this idea return in future sessions. Read more.

5. Higher education received an additional $20.6 million in General Fund appropriations (a 2.5 percent increase), including about $16.7 million more for the operation of Colorado public institutions and about $3.9 million more for need-based student financial aid. While this increase in funding is certainly welcome, it unfortunately offsets only a portion of the rising costs that public institutions will experience during the coming year. As a result, student tuition will continue to rise, further straining lower- and middle-income student and family budgets and reducing college affordability for many Coloradans at a time when postsecondary credentials are increasingly necessary for full participation in the 21st century workforce. To learn more about how the Bell is working to boost transparency on student debt issues, click here.

6. Low- to moderate-income Coloradans will continue to receive tax credits for child care expenses under HB 17-1002, a bill that extends the tax credit for another three years.  It continues the fix passed in 2014 that allows Coloradans with incomes of $25,000 or less to receive a tax credit available to those with higher incomes. This measure provided 34,337 taxpayers with an average tax credit of $158 in fiscal year 2015-16.

7. Tenants will get more notice about rent increases or termination of month-to-month leases under SB 17-245.  They must receive 21 days-notice, up from the 7 days required under current law.

8. Efforts to create a permanent and dedicated trust fund to support the development of affordable housing by levying small documentary fees on real estate transactions, SB 17-085 and HB 17-1309, were defeated on straight party line votes in the Senate.

9. Many health bills met their fate in the Senate kill committee this year, including two promising bills that we strongly supported. HB17-1236 sought to increase transparency around hospital costs, and had the potential to give policymakers more insight into the hospital debt burden assessed on Colorado consumers. HB17-1235 would have given temporary financial relief to middle-class Coloradans who are facing skyrocketing health insurance costs in rural and mountain parts of the state. In these Colorado communities, the cost of living and increased health costs are far outpacing peoples’ incomes. We are disappointed to see this bill fail.