Hospital, road bills on way to guv

Measures ease TABOR constraints, finance $2B in highway projects

DENVER — Despite many attempts to alter the deal on the second-to-last day of the 2017 session Tuesday, a measure to turn the state’s hospital provider fee program into a standalone government business and issue bonds to fund transportation projects is close to being on its way to Gov. John Hickenlooper.

The measure, SB267, was the product of weeks of on-again, off-again talks between Republicans who control the Senate and Democrats the House.

In the bill are ways to help free up money under revenue caps mandated by the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, and issue nearly $2 billion in certificates of participation, a kind of bond, to pay for needed road projects.

“This bill is entitled ‘Sustainability of Rural Colorado,’ and we certainly focused on rural hospitals and rural schools,” said House Majority Leader KC Becker, D-Boulder, one of the bill’s sponsors. “But Coloradans across this state will benefit.”

The deal was initially designed as an alternative to a now-dead measure to raise sales taxes to fund transportation projects. It lays to rest more than $250 million in planned cuts to hospitals from the fee program, used to pay for health care for the poor.

That program, paid for by hospitals themselves and matched with federal dollars that go back to those hospitals, has created a budget conundrum because it has caused the state’s revenues to reach the cap when it otherwise wouldn’t have.

As a result of taking it out from under the caps, as is allowed for under TABOR, those cuts won’t happen. Many rural hospitals feared they might be forced to close without the fee money.

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

The Colorado Senate sent a bill to the governor’s desk that would reserve some of the mandates on medical professionals to report domestic violence to law enforcement.

Under current law, doctors, nurses and other health care providers are required to report suspected domestic violence cases.

But domestic violence advocates have said that the law has had the opposite impact of helping victims because it has caused some not to seek medical aid when they are abused.

“Nearly three women are killed every day due to domestic violence,” said Sen. Kerry Donovan, D-Vail, who introduced HB1322 with Sen. Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud, and Reps. Lois Langraf, R-Fountain, and Daneya Esgar, D-Pueblo. “Based on discussions with survivors and advocates we have had, the current policy on the books actually puts survivors of domestic violence in danger.”

The bill allows victims to request that medical professionals not report their abuse. Advocates say some fear that will lead to more abuse, and has caused some victims not to seek help when they are abused.

The Senate approved the bill on a 34-1 vote. It cleared the House last week on a 58-7 vote.


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