House Speaker Julie McCluskie and Senate President Steve Fenberg introduced the first 10 bills of the 2023 legislative session Monday afternoon, outlining the Democratic Party’s priorities for the year.
The bills center on education investments, health care affordability, mental health programs, workforce development, affordable housing, language accessibility, and energy and water efficiency.
“Colorado Democrats have governed responsibly for the people of Colorado – and we’re ready to continue to build upon that great progress,” McCluskie, D-Dillon, said. “Our first five bills are just the beginning, and we’re excited to get to work building a Colorado where everyone can thrive.”
The first five bills in the House are as follows:
• House Bill 1001 expands the eligibility for existing financial assistance and loan forgiveness programs for educators, seeking to address Colorado’s teacher shortage. The bill is sponsored by Democratic Reps. Cathy Kipp of Fort Collins and Barbara McLachlan of Durango, and Sen. Rachel Zenzinger of Arvada.
• House Bill 1002 aims to create an affordability program for EpiPens, providing them at low costs to Coloradans who have a prescription and are not enrolled in health care coverage. If passed, the bill would require insurance carriers that provide coverage for EpiPens to cap out-of-pocket costs to $60 for a pack of two. The bill is sponsored by Rep. Javier Mabrey, D-Denver, and Sen. Dylan Roberts, D-Avon.
• House Bill 1003 creates a mental health assessment program for Colorado middle and high school students, allowing schools to opt-in to provide services to identify student mental health concerns and refer students to support programs. The bill is sponsored by Rep. Dafna Michaelson Jenet, D-Aurora, and Sen. Lisa Cutter, D-Littleton.
• House Bill 1004 seeks to allow Coloradans the option to select their preferred language for auto, home and renters insurance documents. The bill would require the documents to be translated by a professional and require insurance providers to offer the policy, policy application and related documents in the same language they use in advertisements. The bill is sponsored by Rep. Elizabeth Velasco, D-Glenwood Springs, and Sen. Julie Gonzales, D-Denver.
• House Bill 1005 seeks to improve Colorado’s water and energy efficiency in commercial properties by enabling certain property owners to more effectively invest in water efficiency and resiliency upgrades through the C-PACE financing program. The bill is sponsored by Democratic Reps. Jenny Willford of Northglenn, Brianna Titone of Arvada and Sen. Sonya Jaquez Lewis of Longmont.
In the Senate:
• Senate Bill 1 provides $13 million to the Public-Private Partnership Office to fund the development of affordable workforce housing on state-owned land. The bill is sponsored by Sen. Dylan Roberts, D-Avon; Sen. Rachel Zenzinger, D-Arvada; Rep. Shannon Bird, D-Westminster; and, Rep. Meghan Lukens, D-Steamboat Springs.
• Senate Bill 2 authorizes the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing to seek federal authorization to provide Medicaid reimbursement for community health worker services. The bill is sponsored by Sen. Kyle Mullica, D-Federal Heights; Sen. Cleave Simpson, R-Alamosa; Speaker Julie McCluskie, D-Dillon; and, Rep. Mary Bradfield, R-Colorado Springs.
• Senate Bill 3 seeks to create the Colorado Adult High School Program, which would create a pathway for Coloradans 21 years and older without a high school diploma to attend high school and earn a diploma for free. Students could also earn industry certificates or college credits at no cost. Transportation support and free, onsite child care would be provided. The bill is sponsored by Sen. Janet Buckner, D-Aurora; Sen. Bob Gardner, R-Colorado Springs; and, Rep. Mike Weissman, D-Aurora.
• Senate Bill 4 aims to allow schools to employ certain mental health professionals who are not licensed by the Department of Education but hold a Colorado license for their profession. The bill is sponsored by Sen. Janice Marchman, D-Loveland; Sen. Sonya Jaquez Lewis, D-Longmont; and, Rep. Dafna Michaelson-Jenet, D-Aurora.
• Senate Bill 5 seeks to bolster Colorado’s forestry workforce by directing the Colorado State Forest Service to develop educational materials on career opportunities, creating a workforce development program in the State Forest Service, expanding forestry programs and creating a new forestry program at Colorado Mountain College. The bill is sponsored by Sen. Sonya Jaquez Lewis, D-Longmont; Sen. Lisa Cutter, D-Jefferson County; Rep. Tammy Story, D-Conifer; Rep. Marc Snyder, D-Manitou Springs; and, House Minority Leader Mike Lynch, R-Wellington.
“Colorado has made a lot of progress over the past few years, but despite the progress we’ve made, too many of our neighbors continue to struggle,” Fenberg, D-Boulder, said. “That’s why this session Democrats are focused on passing legislation that will provide real, substantive solutions to the challenges our communities are facing.”
The bills received committee assignments Monday and will be voted on in the House and Senate in the coming weeks.