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It’s been a while since we gave you an update on one of the priority pieces of legislation this session, one that was meant to create a public option for health insurance.
This week, the Colorado Senate passed HB21-1232, but stripped more out of the controversial bill that in its current state creates a public-private health insurance plan.
The revamped bill, which has to go back to the House before it can move to Gov. Jared Polis, will require insurance companies to work with health care providers on creating a new health care plan that’s available on the individual and small-group marketplaces. The new goal is to reduce premiums by 15%, not 18% as previously approved by the House.
Sponsors also removed a provision to fine doctors who don’t accept the plan, but if complaints start to roll in about not enough providers accepting the plan, the state Division of Insurance could step in and force doctors to participate.
Despite the significant changes to the bill, which some health care advocates have argued watered it down, sponsor Sen. Kerry Donovan, a Vail Democrat, said she believes the plan in its current state will ensure there’s a more affordable, quality health care option for people who need it.
“This is big,” Donovan said, adding that the bill will send a message across the country that changing the health care system is possible. Only one other state, Washington, has passed a public option law.
Health care lobbyists have spent a record amount of money to oppose the bill, and Republicans have been against it from the beginning, too.
Arvada Sen. Rachel Zenzinger was the lone Democratic no vote in the Senate, saying there might be unintended consequences.
“The public option bill was filed with good intent, but it was structured in a way that it was likely to fail the very people it was designed to help,” Zenzinger said in a statement to The Post. “We were headed toward a situation in which people were destined to lose critical services. Despite efforts by the sponsors to address concerns, no amendment could override the remaining fact that the ‘public option’ was no longer public or an option.”
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Dig into the specifics of the giant bill meant to overhaul Colorado’s roads, million by million.
Capitol Diary • By Alex Burness
Strength through compromise
It’s common at the Statehouse for a set of lawmakers to propose a big idea and then compromise in order to get it passed. This is what happened to a slate of tenant rights legislation, a sweeping jail depopulation bill and the proposal to cap THC products at 15%. All those bills will almost definitely pass this year, but are far from their original forms.
What seems righteous to one group of Democrats is frequently too much too soon for their colleagues. Gov. Jared Polis, in particular, is a frequent voice of moderation and so if you notice a big idea getting watered down, there’s a decent chance he was involved.
But it’s rare — in fact, I’ve only seen it a few times — for a bill to grow stronger during the process. This week, it happened with HB21-1162, a bill to ban single-use plastic bags and polystyrene in most retail settings.
When the bill debuted, it included a provision that would reverse an existing state law that keeps cities and counties from installing their own bans above and beyond the state’s (though Fort Collins voted to do just that in April, arguably in violation of state law). Big-box retailers really didn’t want that because they argued it would create a confusing patchwork of regulations around the state.
So, a couple months ago, that part of the bill was stripped. But in a dark-of-night Senate committee room this week, the preemption clause was put back into the bill. Sponsors say it’s something the governor — a big local-control guy — really wants.
If HB21-1162 passes in its current form, we are likely to see some local governments tighten their regulation of environmentally ruinous, single-use products. That’s a big “if” though, since the bill needs to go back to the House, the chamber that stripped the preemption clause in the first place, for final approval.
More Colorado political news
- A new bill proposes to let you hang whatever sign or flag you want in your yard.
- Colorado’s Supreme Court made big news this week on the school finance front.
- Did you know that Colorado has a law on the books declaring formal support for Israel and opposition to the Boycott, Divest and Sanction movement?
- The state no longer has an SAT/ACT requirement for college applicants.
Federal Politics • By Justin Wingerter
Congress, Colorado and computer chips
Congress looks poised to send $52 billion in taxpayer-funded subsidies to the nation’s semiconductor industry, which employs 2,100 highly paid manufacturing workers in Colorado and used to be the state’s most valuable export (before slipping to third).
Semiconductors — the microchips that run everything from vehicles and cellphones to medical devices and military machinery — are increasingly made in East Asia, where governments subsidize the manufacturing. The U.S. National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence warned in March that the U.S. “is almost entirely reliant on foreign sources” for semiconductors.
Congress is responding by spending money. The Senate could vote this week on a 1,500-page bill that, among other things, creates a $52 billion grant program for semiconductor manufacturers looking to expand or build new plants, known as “fabs” in industry lingo. Some liberals call it corporate welfare but it’s likely to pass. Colorado’s senators support the grants.
A recent study of the semiconductor industry estimated that $50 billion in subsidies would lead to 19 new fabs by 2030. Erik Pederson, director of government affairs at the trade group Semiconductor Industry Association, said the money will “strengthen America’s semiconductor supply chains by unleashing innovation and new chip production in states like Colorado.”
Broadcom operates a fab in Fort Collins and Microchip runs one in Colorado Springs. Intel and Sanmina once manufactured semiconductors here but closed up shop. (Intel’s fab in Colorado Springs became a Bitcoin mining operation that filed for bankruptcy in December). Whether those companies will receive the money and use it to open, reopen or expand fabs here remains to be seen.
Microchip — the top manufacturer of semiconductors used by the military — is looking to move some work from Massachusetts to Colorado Springs, said John Costello, Microchip’s head of government affairs. The average national wage for a semiconductor manufacturer was $166,400 in 2019.
Broadcom declined to comment. Intel and Sanmina did not respond to requests for comment.
More federal politics news
- Since becoming an anti-Big Tech crusader, U.S. Rep. Ken Buck has received donations from tech giants’ top foes, Politico reports.
- U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert has sent cease-and-desist letters to a liberal group trying to sell her restaurant’s logo as a non-fungible token, the Durango Herald reports.
- U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn is trying again to end federal financing for public TV and radio, Colorado Politics reports.
Mile High Politics • By Conrad Swanson
Trash times are going to change
About 70% of Denver residents will have different trash, recycling and compost pickup days starting Aug. 2.
The change in the routes — the first of its kind in about 20 years — is meant to save money and streamline the process, according to a news release from the Denver Department of Transportation and Infrastructure officials.
City crews also won’t typically pick up waste on Fridays anymore, because the new routes — which the department has divided into nine collection zones — will have people out only Monday through Thursday, the release said. Waste might be picked up Fridays if there is a city holiday. The changes will not affect this year’s extra trash collection weeks and schedules, the release said.
What do you need to do? Nothing other than getting your waste ready for collection on a different day and be on the lookout for a mailer with your new schedule in late June and early July.
You can also double check your pickup schedule online at denvergov.org/trashandrecycling.
More Denver and suburban political news
- Denver Public School officials announced Alex Marrero as the next superintendent. Marrero is currently an interim superintendent outside of New York City and the school board will vote to approve his new position June 3.
- The city will see even more turnover when the head of Denver’s Department of Transportation and Infrastructure, Eulois Cleckley, leaves this summer for a similar position in Miami.
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