Local legislators discuss their priorities for 2018

Nina O. Miranda, Special to Colorado Community Media
Posted 1/15/18

Beth Martinez Humenik: Healthcare, transportation top issues Republican Sen. Beth Martinez Humenik represents District 24, which covers Northglenn, Thornton, Westminster and parts of unincorporated …

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Local legislators discuss their priorities for 2018


Beth Martinez Humenik: Healthcare, transportation top issues

Republican Sen. Beth Martinez Humenik represents District 24, which covers Northglenn, Thornton, Westminster and parts of unincorporated Adams County. She was elected to the State Senate in 2014.

There are four topics of focus for the Legislature this session, according to Martinez Humenik. They are Healthcare, Transportation, PERA, and Education.

Regarding healthcare, Martinez Humenik said issues remain multidimensional and complex. Insurance premium costs are too high and continue to rise; Affordable plans have high deductibles and families struggle to or cannot pay them at all; Many affordable insurance plans do not cover chronic care medications or treatments, and Drug costs are too high and information regarding drug options is not provided, if available.

Martinez Humenik also noted that upfront treatment costs for patients are not readily transparent and available clinical trials are not covered by insurance, so potential life-saving trials cannot be accessed.

Regarding Colorado’s growing transportation issues, a focus on providing a viable funding source for roads and bridges is necessary, she said.

At the same time, she said that finding reasonable and well-thought-out options are important for dealing with the Colorado Public Employees’ Retirement Association, or PERA. That provides retirement and other benefits to the employees of more than 500 government agencies and public entities in the state.

She noted that there are ongoing funding issues in education that begin with daycare and preschool all the way through grade 12. Specifically, daycare and preschool funding issues are driven by factors such as low teacher pay, poor teacher retention, rising costs of care, availability and the need for preparing children so they are ready for kindergarten and to assist with future academic success.

Martinez Humenik said she will sponsor legislation that will address renter’s rights to documents and a concurrent resolution to remove language from the State Constitution allowing slavery.

For this year’s Legislature to be productive, ​​​collaboration is key. To be successful members in both chambers must ​put partisan politics aside and ​work together on good public policy.

“Our citizens expect us to do our job,” Martinez Humenik said. “They do not want to hear that political gaming is occurring that prevents the legislature from doing the work they are tasked to do. The legislature should strive for proactive, model legislation when it is needed, in an effort to assure Colorado will continue to thrive, well into the future.​”

Steve Lebsock: General fund reserves, marijuana taxes

Democratic State Rep. Steve Lebsock was elected to represent the District 34 in 2012.

The Thornton resident represents Federal Heights, Northglenn, Thornton and Westminster.

Lebsock cited a focus on transportation issues, such as RTD’s completion of commuter train tracks in the north to widening I-25 north of Thornton and south of Castle Rock, to affordable housing, as important issues for legislators in the upcoming weeks.

He said he will be advocating for three bills during this session: One concerning an increase in the amount of the general fund reserve, another concerning the sales tax imposed on sales of retail marijuana, and a third protecting Colorado citizens who are engaged in an act that is protected by the Colorado constitution from outside agencies.

Each year, he said, the General Assembly is tasked with balancing constitutional, statutory and federal requirements with a host of other considerations in order to create a budget. Those include policy priorities, caseload pressures and the health of the state’s economy.

The state’s operating budget is based on three primary funding sources: General Fund, cash funds, and federal funds. General-purpose revenue is deposited into the General Fund and used for the state’s core programs, such as education, healthcare, human services, corrections, and general government (i.e., the legislature and Governor’s office). Lebsock’s proposes an increase in allocations from 6.5 percent to 8 percent over the course of three years to the general fund better protect against a downturn economy or other significant catastrophic events.

Concerning the sales tax imposed on sales of retail marijuana, Lebsock is supporting a correction of an inadvertent change produced by Senate Bill 17-267 during the last session. In this bill, the general assembly exempted retail marijuana sales from the general state sales tax and increased the rate of the retail marijuana sales tax so that only one state sales tax would be levied on such sales. That inadvertently exempted marijuana sales from the taxes imposed by entities like RTD that had been authorized to levy sales taxes, potentially harming their ability to serve Colorado residents.

Finally, Lebsock is supporting a bill to prohibit state or local agencies from aiding or assisting a federal agency or agency of another state in either arresting a Colorado citizen for committing an act that is a right under the Colorado constitution.

Faith Winter: Student debt protection and sexual harassment

Democrat Faith Winter represents Colorado’s House District 35, which covers Westminster and parts of unincorporated Adams County. She was first elected to the seat in 2014 and re-elected in 2016.

Winter said the most important issue for the Legislature to tackle this session is to make the lives of everyday families better. This means making sure that as the economy of the state gets better, it results in better with benefits like good pay, paid family leave and a secure retirement. It also means we need to protect people’s quality of life by relieving congestion through transportation projects and protecting our environment.

Winter said she will be spearheading two bills designed to protect those target audiences this year.

The first bill would be designed to regulate student loan debt service providers and protect those with student loans. Colorado’s Uniform Consumer Protection Act protects consumers with mortgage debt, auto loan debt and payday loan debt but not student loan debt. Coloradans have over $24 billion in student loan debt, which is why Winter wants to make sure those consumers are protected.

The second bill would protect those that have experienced sexual assault or harassment on campuses and universities. The bill outlines efforts to change the culture to make campuses safe places for everyone.

All in all, Winter’s perspective on a successful session is based on finding bipartisan solutions that truly help all Colorado families get ahead.

Adrienne Benavidez: Healthcare

Rep. Adrienne Benavidez represents Colorado’s 32 district, which includes Arvada, Westminster and Commerce City as well as parts unincorporated Adams County.

The Democrat, who lives in unincorporated Adams County, was elected to her seat in 2016.

For Benavidez, one of the most important issues for this Legislature is to address healthcare. To date, $9 million in federal funding to continue the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, has not been resolved. CHIP is an insurance program that provides low-cost health coverage to children in families that earn too much money to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to buy private insurance.

On a related theme, the issue of whether the tax bill changes the ACA individual mandate could be significant. If the standard deduction rises, will that mean more contributions to donate to nonprofits is necessary so as to get a tax break?

Another issue will be the federal Department of Justice’s decision on how to enforce the law regarding marijuana. The question for Colorado is what impact Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ policies regarding prosecuting marijuana sales in states could have on a Colorado tax revenue stream that began at $67 million in 2014 and has grown to $224 million in 2017.

Benavidez feels the topic of whether federal lands will continue to be sold off for commercial development is a third item of concern. “What do we need to do to protect our state?” she said.

Benavidez will also be advocating for bills centered around three topics this session: bond reform, a “reminder” call center for pretrial defendants and a comprehensive tax study.

Overall, Benavidez is hopeful all three bills will pass. It is difficult to predict the outcomes especially in an election year; however, she hopes in the end, a balanced budget will pass.


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