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Left Turn: CHI Releases Annual State Legislative Preview

After four years of mostly modest policy changes necessitated by compromise, 2019 could be a very active year for health policy in Colorado.

Voters turned out in historic numbers in November to sweep Democrats into unified control of the state government, and a new General Assembly stacked with Democratic leaders began work today.

To coincide with the start of the 72nd General Assembly, the Colorado Health Institute has released its 2019 legislative forecast report, "Left Turn: New Governor, Democratic Majority Promise Progressive Health Policies." The report details what health policy stakeholders need to know as this session kicks off.

While distractions and uncertainty will continue from the federal government and inside the state Capitol, Colorado Democrats will have the opportunity to enact sweeping policy reforms thanks to capturing the “trifecta” of the House, Senate, and governor’s mansion. Many of the incoming elected officials are more progressive — and younger — than those they are replacing.

Governor-elect Jared Polis exemplifies the change. Polis has an ambitious health policy agenda and has further signified his commitment to health and health care through his selection of former state Representative Dianne Primavera, a cancer survivor and former health committee chair, as his lieutenant governor.

While the window is open for policies such as a public option program, mandatory paid family leave, and stricter industry transparency requirements, the state budget could function as the main roadblock to enacting significant change. This is a good time for a reminder that marijuana tax revenue isn’t capable of backfilling funding shortages for schools, roads, or health care priorities in Colorado — despite what your out-of-state friends might think.

Legislators will work against a ticking clock to debate around 700 bills over the next four months, focusing on topics such as health care and insurance costs, transparency and accountability, behavioral health, e-cigarette regulations, affordable housing, and advance directive registries, to name a few. It’ll all be over by midnight on Friday, May 3.

Prepare yourself for a busy 120 days with "Left Turn."