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Preparing bills for the upcoming session

October is here and students are solidly back in school. The leaves have changed and the temperatures are dropping.

What else happens at this time of year?

If you’re a state legislator in Colorado, you begin to determine what your bills will be to introduce in the next legislative session.

We are allowed five bills of our own and can carry bills that stem from committee work that we were a part of during the interim.

I’ve been working on several bill ideas stemming from the hospice and palliative care interim committee that I’ve been on this summer. We’ve finished five of our six meetings that were intended to identify barriers to hospice and palliative care in Colorado.

A couple of the bill proposals that I presented to the interim committee have to do with streamlining the advance medical directives in Colorado. We heard much testimony from healthcare providers about the complex web of documents in our state where the patient indicates his or her preferences for future medical treatment. We received recommendations from many on how to improve the documents and I hope we’ll take the advice received.

I’ve also proposed that we consider the idea of increasing the time period for hospice eligibility from six months to nine months which could expand access to hospice services for Medicaid patients who choose such care. We’ll be discussing these bill proposals and others at our final meeting in October to decide what bills will be included as the work of the interim committee.

Other bill ideas have been provided to me by constituent contact over the summer such as the possible inclusion of business owners in the favorable tax treatment that home owners get for installing solar panels, making procedural changes to Colorado’s home rule laws and possible career ladder options for certified nurse assistants.

Also, based on a local request, I’m working on a bill that would allow voluntary contributions on state income tax returns to support call centers for 211 services statewide. This area of the state is alone in not having access to services provided by calling the phone number 211 for streamlined and current information to help those struggling to find food, shelter or other services.

These call centers also can help take pressure off the 911 emergency services call number, which is intended for emergencies more immediate in nature. There are a number of other bill ideas out there and it’s too early to tell what my final list will look like, but this gives you an idea of some of the possible bills.

As was the case last year, I need to evaluate each bill proposal with an eye to what, if any, costs will be associated with the proposal. If there are costs, then it’s very unlikely that I will carry the bill after all. We’re headed into even worse economic times at the state level this next year and cost reductions and economic recovery will necessarily be the top priorities.

In addition to working on the bill preparation, I’ve been dealing with the many constituent contacts and requests for assistance. I’ve also had the chance to visit a number of places in the district to get a better sense of the work being done around our area. I really like getting to make these site tours as I get to know the issues and people in my area better and the experiences help to shape my votes in the next session.

Last week, I put over 800 miles on my car attending a committee meeting in Denver as well as meetings and events around the district. The good news is that, in addition to learning lots of new things, the roads were clear, the weather was gorgeous and the fall colors were beautiful!