The 2019 session: Service, safety, constituent security

State Rep. Tony Exum, D-Colorado Springs, watches as Gov. Jared Polis signs into law a bill Exum sponsored extending the life of the childcare income tax credit. [Express photo/Regan Foster]

The 2019 legislative session wrapped in early May, and proved to be an exceptionally busy one for Southeast Colorado Springs’ lawmakers.

As State Rep. Tony Exum, D-Colorado Springs, noted in an op-ed for the Express, the state’s 100 lawmakers introduced 598 potential new laws, and passed 447 of them. Gov. Jared Polis has been busily approving them ever sense, and in fact passed two that have a direct impact on Southeast Colorado Springs during a May 14 ceremony held at Centennial Elementary School.

Exum and Sen. Pete Lee, D-Colorado Springs, spoke proudly to a standing-room-only crowd comprised of community leaders, educators, fellow lawmakers and captivated kindergartners about the importance of their bills – an extension of the income tax credit for low-income families to help cover the cost of child care, and a three-year extension of the Transforming Safety program, respectively. With each flourish of his pen, Polis announced, “and now it’s the law of Colorado” to cheers and applause.

Exum and Lee had many victories this legislative season: This is a look at their major wins and how you may expect them to impact your lives.

** Related content: Looking back on a productive session **

State Rep. Tony Exum

Bill name: Child care expenses tax credit for low-income families
Bill no: HB19-1013
Lead sponsors: Exum and Sen. Brittany Pattersen
What it does: Single parents or caregivers who earn $25,000 or less in annual adjusted gross income may deduct up to $500 per child, per year from their state income taxes. That deduction is good for children under 13 years old, and caps the amount of the deduction at $1,000. The deduction had been set to expire in 2021; however, Exum’s and Pattersen’s bill pushed back the sunset to 2029.

Bill name: Grants for Property Tax Rent and Heat
Bill no: HB19-1085
Lead sponsors: Exum and Sen. Rachel Zenzinger
What it does: Low-income seniors and individuals with a disability have historically qualified for two types of state assistance grants: A grant for property taxes or rent paid and a grant for heating or fuel expenses. Under the new law, rent grants no longer have to be paid to the landlord who pays the property taxes, and the maximum grant amounts also got a boost. Thanks to the new legislation, qualified individuals may now receive up to $850 in tax and rent assistance (an increase from the previous $700 max), and as much as $250 in heating assistance (previously capped at $192). The bill also allows the grants to increase with the rate of inflation.

Bill name: School Employment Background Check Clarification
Bill No: HB19-1186
Lead sponsors: Exum, Rep. Barbara McLachlan, and Sens. Jeff Bridges and John Cooke
What it does: The bill addresses a backlog in third-party pre-employment fingerprint-based background checks for school employees, by loosening the reins on who may conduct those checks. Under prior law, a pair of third-party vendors were selected by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation to conduct the criminal background checks; however, because of the limited number, many qualified staff were delayed in completing the checks because they were forced to travel. The vendors mandate eventually softened to include local law enforcement agencies, but many departments opted out and the demand remained unmet. Under the newest version of the law, schools may request that local law-enforcement that has equipment that meets FBI image-quality standards conduct the checks, if a qualified third-party vendor is not located with in 20 miles of the institution. It also gives district employees permission to conduct the checks themselves, if necessary.

Bill name: Protect Public Health Firefighter Safety Regulation PFAS Polyfluoroalkyl Substances
Bill no: HB19-1279
Lead sponsors: Exum, Rep. Lois Landgraf, Sens. Lee and Dennis Hisey
What it does: The bill prohibits the use of class B firefighting foam that contains intentionally added perfluoroalkyl and ployfluoroalkyl substances, more commonly known as PFAS foam, for training purposes. It also creates a civil penalty for those organizations that do use the chemicals. In addition, the bill: prohibits the sale of PFAS foam in certain circumstances; requires manufacture of PFAS foam to tell sellers about the law; requires manufactures to disclose whether personal protective equipment they make contains PFAS substances; allows for the Department of Public Health and Environment to request a certificate of compliance from makers of firefighting foam or personal safety equipment to ensure compliance with manufacturing limitations; and requires the department to conduct a survey to determine the amount of PFAS foam currently held, used and disposed of by fire departments.
This bill was approved by both houses and as of May 31 was awaiting the governor’s signature. 

 

State Sen. Pete Lee

Bill name: State Court Administrator Reminder Program
Bill no: SB19-036
Lead Sponsors: Lee, Sen. John Cooke, and Reps. Adrienne Benavidez and Terri Carver
What it does: The bill establishes a court reminder program to remind criminal defendants and juveniles who are alleged to have committed a delinquent act to appear at their scheduled hearings, and to provide them with reminders about unplanned court disclosures. The goal is to reduce the number of defendants who are jailed simply as a result of failure to appear in court. Under the law, reminders may be provided via text, and a phone number collected for the express purpose of administering the program must be kept separate from other identifying information and only be used for the purposes of sending reminders.
This bill was approved by both houses and as of May 31 was awaiting the governor’s signature.

Bill Name: Retain Criminal Justice Programs Funding
Bill no: 
SB19-064
Primary sponsors: Lee and Rep. Mike Weissman
What it does: Under prior law, funds appropriated but unspent for a community-based re-entry grant program, the crime victims grant program, the Justice Reinvestment Crime Prevention grant program and the Justice Reinvestment Crime Prevention small business program (together known as Transforming Safety) was returned to the state general fund at the end of the fiscal year. This bill creates a cash fund for the programs so the money is available for future use. It also extended until Sept. 1, 2023, the sunset of the Transforming Safety program. It had been set to expire in 2020.

** Related content: A transformative program **

Bill name: Individuals at Risk of Institutionalization
Bill no:
SB19-222
Primary sponsors: Lee and Sen. Tammy Story and Rep. Lois Landgraf
What it does: The bill creates a mental health safety net geared at increasing treatment, rather than incarceration. It does so by requiring the State Department of Health Care Policy and Financing to partner with managed-care entities to create incentives for behavioral health providers to accept Medicaid patients who have severe behavioral health disorders. It also requires the state Department of Human Services: to define what constitutes high-intensity behavior health treatment and what an adequate network of such treatment includes; develop an implementation plan to increase the number of treatment programs in the state; and identify an advisory board to help the department strengthen and expand the safety net system. The system must be in place by July 1, 2024.

Colorado State Sen. Pete Lee (left) and Lt. Gov. Dianne Primavera watch as Gov. Jared Polis signs a bill extending the Transforming Safety program by three years. [Express photo/Regan Foster]

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