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Highlights of the Week

Thursday, March 9, marked the 60th legislative day, or the halfway point in the 2023 legislative session. It was a notable half way mark as the House Republican caucus filibustered two Democratic bills on Thursday afternoon, continuing through the night, until just before 7 am on Friday morning. Both HB23-1219 Waiting Period To Deliver A Firearm, concerning establishing a minimum three-day waiting period prior to the delivery of a purchased firearm, and HB23-1202 Overdose Prevention Center Authorization, which specifies that a city may authorize the operation of an overdose prevention center within the city’s jurisdiction passed second reading. Given that a bill cannot be voted on second reading and third reading in the same day, the House did not reconvene for floor work on Friday during the day but met instead on Saturday with both bills passing third reading after significant debate and will be introduced in the Senate on Monday.

The Senate wasn’t without a slowdown of their own when Senate Republicans filibustered three Democrat priority gun safety bills on Friday evening, resulting in all three bills successfully clearing second reading just before midnight: SB23-170 Extreme Risk Protection Order Petitions, SB23-169 Increasing Minimum Age To Purchase Firearms, and SB23-168 Gun Violence Victims’ Access To Judicial System.  

On Thursday, Democratic leaders held a press conference announcing the introduction of bills to expand protections and increase access to reproductive and gender affirming health care. The Colorado Sun published a breakdown of the introduction of: SB23-188 Protections For Accessing Reproductive Health Care, SB23-189 Increasing Access To Reproductive Health Care, and SB23-190 Deceptive Trade Practice Pregnancy-related Service. 

Healthcare legislation remained at the forefront under the dome this week with HB23-1225 Extend & Modify Rx Drug Affordability Board and HB23-1224 Standardized Health Benefit Plan both clearing committee on Friday afternoon on party line votes. HB23-1225 modifies the affordability review process, allowing the board to establish upper payment limits for an unlimited number of prescription drugs, authorizing an individual to request an independent external review of a denial of a request for benefits for a prescription drug that has been withdrawn from sale or distribution in the state, and extending the repeal date of the board.  HB23-1224 makes changes to the “Colorado Standardized Health Benefit Plan Act” commonly called the Colorado Option or state health insurance for purchase on the individual market and small employers. HB23-1215 Limits On Hospital Facility Fees, which prohibits a health-care provider affiliated with or owned by a hospital or health system from charging a facility fee for health-care services for outpatient services provided at an off-campus location and for certain outpatient services that may otherwise be provided in non-hospital settings, will be heard next Friday, March 17.

While there have been 433 bills introduced so far this session, we expect the trickle of newly introduced bills to continue. The Governor’s Office held a briefing on two soon to be introduced workforce and credentialing bills. Zero-Cost Credentials in Strategic Workforce Shortage Areas will invest $45 million in one-time dollars to address critical workforce shortage areas including elementary and early childhood education, nursing, construction trades, fire fighting, law enforcement, and forest management. The second proposal will establish a universal scholarship program through the Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT), providing eligible students with $1,500 in scholarship funding to incentivize students to access a wide range of education and training opportunities aligned to Colorado’s high-demand career pathways.

Another housing proposal, HB23-1190 Affordable Housing Right Of First Refusal, which creates a right of first refusal of a local government to match an acceptable offer for the sale of a residential or mixed-use multifamily property for the use of long-term affordable housing cleared the House this week. The bill has been introduced in the Senate and assigned to the Local Government & Housing Committee.

HB23-1011 Consumer Right To Repair Agricultural Equipment, concerning a requirement that an agricultural equipment manufacturer facilitate the repair of its equipment by providing certain other persons with the resources needed to repair the manufacturer’s agricultural equipment, passed the Senate Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee on Thursday and will move to the Senate floor next week. 

After moving through the process quite smoothly, HB23-1101 Ozone Season Transit Grant Program Flexibility has received negative backlash in the media and pushback from rural transportation leaders over an amendment adopted in the Senate. The bill which addresses a state grant program for free transit rides during high ozone months adopted an amendment in the Senate committee of reference to change how transportation projects are funded across the state.

The Joint Budget Committee had their final week of department figure setting hearings this week. The JBC has delayed many final decisions, including higher education funding, to be revisited after the upcoming Quarterly Revenue Forecast, scheduled on March 16, when the committee will see the latest state projections. This week, the Joint Budget Committee met with the Capitol Development Committee and JBC members challenged the CDC prioritization recommendations, aiming to move controlled maintenance to the top of the list. Next week’s schedule will include comebacks to actions the JBC has delayed, a meeting with the Joint Technology Committee, the Revenue Forecast and the Staff Overview of Actions to Date. The committee is still on track to introduce the budget on March 27.  

The Joint Select Committee on Rising Utility Rates held its inaugural meeting on Tuesday. The select committee heard presentations from the Public Utilities Commission, the Office of the Utility Consumer Advocate, Energy Outreach Colorado, and the Colorado Energy Office on the background of regulatory utility monopolies, sources of increased energy rates in Colorado, energy transition plans, and ratepayer impacts. The committee will meet again on Tuesday, March 14.