The 2021 legislative session has officially entered its fifth week. There have been over 450 bills introduced with another 200-300 likely to be introduced before session ends this summer. Governor Polis and legislative leadership released the Colorado Recovery Plan, a $700 million package of stimulus funding for roads and bridges, small business support, revitalizing main streets, workforce development, broadband infrastructure, community supports, wildfire recovery and more. Key provisions include $5-$10 million for childcare capacity expansion, $8-$9 million for mental health screenings in schools, and $1-$2 million for the mental health hotline.
LEGISLATION OF INTEREST
We have identified a list of child-focused policies that are of interest to the Kempe Foundation and are being considered by the Colorado Legislature this session. Below is an update on the status of these policy priorities:
HB 1099: Policies and Procedures to Identify Domestic Abuse. Each year, approximately fifteen million children nationwide are exposed to domestic abuse and child abuse, which are often linked. In Colorado, nearly forty percent of child fatality cases reviewed by the child welfare fatality review team between 2014 and 2019 found domestic abuse to be a stressor. Due to the episodic nature of domestic abuse behaviors, it is challenging for child welfare caseworkers and others to connect domestic abuse to the harmful emotional and developmental impact on a child. Under current law, child welfare caseworkers do not have established training policies or assessment procedures to identify and assess situations when a child’s parent, legal guardian, or custodian exposes a child to their perpetration of domestic abuse. HB 1099 requires the department of human services to promulgate rules to implement assessment policies, procedures, and training for child welfare caseworkers to recognize and assess situations when a child’s parent, legal guardian, or custodian exposes a child to their perpetration of domestic abuse. The bill passed the House Public and Behavioral Health and Human Services Committee and is waiting to be heard in the House Appropriations Committee.
HB 1097: Establish Behavioral Health Administration (BHA) addresses multiple recommendations from the Colorado Behavioral Health Task Force (Task Force), created in 2019, related to the creation of a Behavioral Health Administration (BHA). The findings and recommendations of the Task Force indicate it is imperative to develop and implement an improved behavioral health system in Colorado. The BHA would be a single state agency to lead, promote, and administer the state’s behavioral health priorities. The bill requires the Department of Human Services (Department) to submit a plan for the creation and establishment of the BHA on or before November 1, 2021 to the Joint Budget Committee, and on or before January 30, 2022 to the Department’s committees of reference. The BHA under HB 1097 would prioritize all aspects of health, including wellness, and early interventions and supports that help people stay successfully and meaningfully connected to the community where they live, work, and play. There have been a handful of amendments clarifying the roles and responsibilities of the Department of Healthcare Policy and Financing and how they will navigate Medicaid and early diagnostic treatment for children. The bill passed the House Floor and is waiting to be heard in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.
Marijuana. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment released a report in July 2020 that found a connection between high potency THC products and negative mental health outcomes. The developing brain is more vulnerable to the effects of THC, increasing the risk of addiction and other harm. As an organization dedicated to the safety and health of children, Kempe supports policies that address the growing risk of high potency THC products. Use of high potency products is also correlated with negative mental health outcomes such as anxiety, depression, and increased instances of psychosis and marijuana is the #1 substance found in youths age 15-19 who died by suicide. In response to these findings, Smart Colorado and Blue Rising are collaborating on a comprehensive bill to put in place stricter limitations on both the medical and recreational marijuana industry. The bill by Representative Caraveo and Senator Lundeen has not been introduced yet, but Kempe does support bringing it forward. The proponents and industry have been engaged in negotiations convened by Speaker Garnett to see if a path forward can be found on the forthcoming legislation.
FY 2021-2022 Budget. The Kempe Foundation successfully secured restoration of the $300,000 cut for the CARENetwork compensation that occurred last year. The JBC also approved the full request for the Child Welfare Training System ($6,797,102 Total Funds) with the Division of Child Welfare and the full funding for SafeCare in the Office of Early Childhood.
GOING FORWARD/NEED TO KNOW INFO AND EVENTS:
The Joint Budget Committee has finished its initial figure setting and on March 19th received the March Revenue Forecast from Legislative Council Staff (LCS) and the Governor’s Office of State Planning and Budgeting (OSPB). Bottom line is the state revenues are in a much better place than this time last year. Both forecasts revised their General Fund revenue projections upward. OSPB increased their revenue projections for FY2020-21 up $425 million and up $390.6 million for FY201-22 compared to the December forecast meaning if the General Assembly held all appropriations constant to FY2020-21 levels, the legislature would have $5.29 billion more to spend or save in FY2021-22. The JBC is finalized the budget and plans to introduce the budget on April 5th.
The Kempe Foundation is committed to advancing child-focused policies. We will continue to provide important policy updates throughout the 2021 Legislative Session. To receive Kempe Advocacy Updates via email, please sign up here.