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Clock Ticks on Budgets, Ballots and Bills

Everybody was on a deadline this week at the Capitol.

Members of the Joint Budget Committee pushed to complete its work on the 2016-17 budget. They succeeded Thursday afternoon. The hefty bill will be printed this weekend and introduced in the House on Monday.

Return next week to this blog for a comprehensive look at what the budget means for health policy.

This afternoon is the deadline to file a ballot initiative. Expect to see lots of proposals filed for the November ballot. If history is any guide, they will flood in just before the Legislative Council office closes at 5 p.m. Filing is just the first step in a long process to get initiatives on the ballot, but several influential groups have been talking about running initiatives, and we could be headed for a crowded ballot this fall.

Meanwhile, the House worked to clear its calendar so it can devote next week to the budget. Here’s a look at action on legislation this past week in both chambers.

House floor votes

  • HB 1160 was sent by the House to the Appropriations Committee. It would continue the requirement that surgical technicians and assistants register with the Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA). A surgical tech at a Denver-area hospital might have exposed patients to disease by stealing pain medications and substituting dirty needles. That prompted a House committee to strengthen the bill last week by adding criminal background checks. If the bill passes Appropriations, it will return to the House floor for a vote.
  • HB 1101 would let doctors make medical decisions for incapacitated patients if no other family member or close friend could be found. The House amended the bill to say only a doctor who is not the patient’s attending physician could act as the patient’s decision-maker. The amended bill passed a second reading vote in the House on Thursday, and it needs a final vote in the House before going to the Senate.
  • HB 1164, which would put the state health department in control of reviewing student immunization exemption requests, continues to be delayed. It’s now on the calendar for April 25, and it seems increasingly likely that it may not come up for a vote on the House floor this session.

Senate floor vote

  • HB 1103 would clarify rules about licensing for mental health professionals. It passed its final reading in the Senate on Thursday and has earned a trip to Governor Hickenlooper for a signature.

Committee hearings

  • The House Public Health Care and Human Services Committee approved HB 1326 with bipartisan support. The bill would improve patient access to physical rehabilitation services by preventing insurers from imposing inconsistent standards or unreasonable delays for rehab appointments. After a 10-3 vote, HB 1326 goes next to the House floor.
  • SB 147 would make Colorado the first state to implement an ambitious national suicide prevention model. The ultimate goal would be to lower the state’s suicide rate – which continues to be among the nation’s highest – until it reaches zero. The Senate Health and Human Services Committee passed it 5-0 and sent it to the full Senate.
  • HB 1320 would give the Department of Regulatory Agencies greater power to regulate and discipline massage therapists. The House Judiciary Committee listened to testimony but delayed a vote until a later date.
  • HB 1047 would create a multi-state agreement to hasten and ease the licensure process for doctors from other states. The House Finance Committee voted 11-0 to send the bill to the Appropriations Committee.
  • HB 1379 would clarify how credit is awarded for licensed psychologists’ professional development. The House Health, Insurance and Environment Committee approved it on a 9-3 vote, sending it to the full House.
  • Western Slope legislators notched a small victory Thursday with HB 1336, which would direct the Division of Insurance to study replacing the state’s geographical ratings area with one statewide area. Making this change would result in lower insurance premiums for some Coloradans and higher premiums for others. The House Health, Insurance and Environment Committee approved the bill on a 12-1 vote and sent it to the full House.

The General Assembly is not in session today, March 25, in observance of Good Friday.

Upcoming Votes

The Senate Health and Human Services Committee is scheduled to hear two bills next week. HB 1063 would allow mental health professionals to disclose concerns about a client who has made threats against a school. SB 158 would clarify the tasks that a physician’s assistant is allowed to perform with oversight from a supervising doctor, such as issuing immunization certificates and writing most prescriptions without an accompanying signature from a physician.

The Senate Business, Labor and Technology Committee will consider SB 161, which would reinstate DORA’s lapsed ability to oversee athletic trainers.

In the House, HB 1110, the “Parent’s Bill of Rights” that seeks to prohibit government involvement in any parental decisions that lack a “compelling governmental interest,” will be heard in the State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee. The House has mostly cleared its calendar next week to make time for extensive discussion on the budget.

New bills to watch:

  • HB 1390 is a revised version of an earlier bill (SB 42) that failed. It would prevent people who report an emergency drug or alcohol overdose from being arrested, as well as from being prosecuted. In addition, the bill would expand immunity protections for people who overdose. While similar to SB 42, HB 1390 simplifies the proposed changes.
  • HB 1398 would direct the Department of Human Services to find a suitable contractor to implement the recommendations of the Respite Care Task Force, which was established by HB 15-1233. The task force detailed its recommendations to the legislature earlier this year.
  • HB 1401 aims to increase local food service inspections by increasing the licensing fees for retail food establishments. A similar idea was floated last year, but the bill was converted into a stakeholder group.
  • SB 169 would add clarity and flexibility to the list of places that can house people experiencing a mental health crisis. Under the bill, that list would include jails and other law enforcement facilities, but only if there is no space available in hospitals or other designated places.
  • SB 170 would direct the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing to ask for a federal waiver to allow Medicaid recipients to purchase private insurance through Connect for Health Colorado if they prefer a private plan. The Republican-backed bill includes Sen. Ellen Roberts (R), the Chair of the Legislative Exchange Oversight Committee, as a co-sponsor.

 Senior Communications Expert Joe Hanel contributed to this post.