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Legislative Update: Contraception Bill Passes First Test, Tax Credits Considered

Legislative Update: Contraception Bill Passes First Test, Tax Credits Considered

A measure of bipartisan support emerged this week for Gov. Hickenlooper’s request to fund a program that provides contraceptives to low-income women and teenagers.

House Bill 1194 passed the House Public Health Care and Human Services Committee on an 8-5 vote Tuesday, with all of the Democrats as well as Republican Rep. Lois Landgraf voting yes. The bill provides $5 million in state money to pay for a program to provide long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs) to low-income women.

The program, which has been funded by grants since 2009, is credited by public health experts with a 29 percent drop in the teen fertility rate in the counties that participated.

Rep. Don Coram (R) is sponsoring the bill with Rep. K.C. Becker (D). The bipartisan co-sponsorship and Tuesday’s vote mean the bill has good prospects for getting through the House. The true test will come in the Senate, where no Republican has voiced support.

Coram said the bill is both humane and a fiscally smart method to cut teen pregnancy rates.

“It’s a great cost to society,” Coram said, referring to teen pregnancy. “In general, it’s a sentence to poverty. It’s very difficult to work your way out of that. It’s sad that this is something we don’t want to address.”

He predicted the LARC program could help Colorado avoid 4,300 abortions annually.

Every dollar spent on teen pregnancy prevention saves $5.85 in the state’s Medicaid budget, according to the Joint Budget Committee’s staff (see page 27 of this document).

But some opponents equate certain types of contraception with abortion if fertilized eggs are prevented from coming to term.

Opposition witnesses focused on more than just the abortion debate. They also talked about their dislike of sex education that goes beyond abstinence promotion. Some witnesses said making birth control available leads to more sex among teens.

But Colorado has seen falling teen birth rates and more use of contraception in recent years, said Dr. Larry Wolk, executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. According to the 2015 Colorado Health Report Card, the state ranked first in the nation for teens who abstain from sex.

The bill now goes to the House Appropriations Committee.

Looking ahead to this afternoon:

The Senate Health and Human Services Committee will hear Senate Bill 14, which focuses on regulating medical marijuana. The bill sets stricter rules for caregivers, who are people authorized to provide medical marijuana to patients outside of the retail setting.

The same committee also will hear House Bill 1067, regarding professional development requirements for psychologists.

The House Health, Insurance and Environment Committee will hear Senate Bill 52, which requires legislative approval for bonuses given to employees of Connect for Health Colorado. The bill has already passed the Senate with support from all Republicans and six Democrats, so today is opponents’ best chance to block it in the closely divided House.

And finally, the same House committee will hear House Bill 1143, which would provide tax credits to people who upgrade their houses so they can age at home rather than moving to a nursing facility. The bill carries a hefty price tag – $14 million this fiscal year and more than $29 million in the 2015-16 fiscal year.