Don't forget to change your clocks this weekend; on Sunday, March 8 we move our clocks forward by one hour to save energy and make better use of daylight. Daylight Saving Time (DST) is now used in over 70 countries worldwide and affects over one billion people every year. In the fall we will move our clocks back by one hour to realign with Standard Time. If you don't like all of this clock changing then guess what, there have been several bills for that over the years. The idea of permanently implementing DST in Colorado began in 1988 and similar bills were introduced in 2011, 2013, 2015, 2017, and 2020, but all failed in committee. Conversely, bills proposing an exemption from DST failed in 2017 and 2019. Seven states have approved legislation to keep DST year-round, however all of these states need approval from the federal government before they can move forward in enacting the change. So for now, we all lose a hour of sleep this weekend.
The coronavirus continues to be on everyone's mind and that includes the leaders of the General Assembly. The executive committee of the Legislative Council, which is made up of the top six leaders of the House and Senate from both parties, met this week to discuss continuity of operations in the event of the Governor declaring a disaster emergency. Their plan addresses essential staffing, alternative work locations, and communications. The 120-day timeline for the legislative session is constitutionally mandated, but if the Governor declared a disaster emergency, lawmakers could change the calendar. They would still be limited to 120 days, but those days would no longer have to be consecutive. Technically, a disaster declaration is limited to 30 days, however the governor can extend it if necessary. The hearing was also attended by about two dozen opponents of the bill to increase Colorado's vaccination rate, but thankfully the executive committee does not allow public testimony.
This week, the much anticipated Pubic Option bill was introduced. House Bill 1349 is sponsored by Representatives Roberts and Kennedy and Senator Donovan. The bill would create a public-private partnership in which existing insurers issue the policy, while government would regulate the prices, and require hospitals to accept the coverage. The bill lays out a series of increasingly stiff penalties that hospitals could face if they don’t participate. In several places, the bill leaves it up to state regulators, especially the Commissioner of Insurance, to fill in the fine-print details of the plan. Finally, don't be surprised if you don't hear this bill referred to as the "Public Option" going forward. The bill is now called the Colorado Affordable Health Care Option, possibly in response to all of the opposition to the Public Option since the beginning of the session. There will be a stakeholder meeting for the bill on Monday and the bill has not yet been calendared for a committee hearing.
Another major bill may have received new life this week when Senator Moreno, the Vice-Chair of the Joint Budget Committee, signed on as a sponsor of the still yet to be introduced Paid Family Medical Leave bill. That bill could be introduced in the new few weeks and will likely be a version of a private mandate that has been considered recently. The proponents originally wanted a large state-run program funded through payroll taxes but that idea did not get the support of Governor Polis and led some of the proponents to abandon the bill this year in favor of pursuing a ballot proposal. That in turn led two of the original sponsors to take their name off the bill and put the bill's prospects in jeopardy. Senator Moreno's support breathes new life into the bill but it still faces an uphill climb before introduction and final passage.
Finally, today is officially the halfway point in the legislative session. Here is a brief overview of where things stand right now with all of bills so far. We are up to 541 total bills that have been introduced, 349 in the House and 192 in the Senate. Only 24 bills have already passed through both chambers and been signed by the Governor (and the majority of those bills are just supplemental spending bills), 96 bills have failed, also known as postponed indefinitely, and the remaining 422 bills are still pending. That's a lot of bills still pending and more continue to get introduced everyday. Plus, we still have a big revenue forecast coming and the budget to get though. We certainly have our work cut out for us in the second half of the legislative session.
Until next week…