Every legislative session is an adrenaline rush under the dome, but this year came with an added bonus: I got to be a part of expanding the scope of CCMU’s legislative interests to include a greater emphasis on social determinants of health. While we’ve dabbled in the past, including tracking of last year’s HB 1017 on affordable housing, 11 of the 29 bills we discussed this year aimed to address issues of income, education, and underserved populations. Our health is affected by much more than the health care we receive, so it makes sense to broaden our public policy interests, too.
Recent hype around our rapidly aging population, or the “senior surge,” was reflected in a sizeable bill package put forth this year. Lucky for us, these senior-focused bills happened to align perfectly with our goals—one in particular regarding a state plan on aging (PDF)—which we outlined in our Action for Equity series. Similarly, we followed bills that affect other underserved populations. One such bill would’ve increased legal protections for homeless Coloradans (PDF), but it did not pass.
This session, legislators also introduced a hefty package of bills related to workforce development called the “Colorado Ready to Work Program.” Many of these bills focused on providing alternative career pathways for students not pursuing a standard four-year bachelor’s degree in an effort to find innovative ways to strengthen our state’s workforce. One of these bills encourages enrollment in apprenticeships and internships (PDF); another supports organizations that offer skilled worker training programs (PDF).
Another focus of bills this session was economic development. It’s no surprise that when we have a strong statewide economy, families have more means to access the health care system and improve their overall health. While Colorado has seen recent success in driving down unemployment and improving the economy, certain parts of our state, primarily rural areas, are still struggling to fully recover from the recession. The 2015 legislature introduced a few bills to remedy this, as well as some key measures to boost the incomes of low-income workers in our state. These bills ranged from creating a family and medical leave insurance program (PDF) and allowing local control of minimum wage (PDF) to creating economic development working groups (PDF) and grant programs (PDF) for rural and other distressed areas of the state. While these bills did not pass, we look forward to more discussion about this important issue.
Our Health Policy Committee worked overtime this year thoughtfully discussing the merits of any bill related to CCMU’s public policy priorities: health coverage, health care access, and health equity. While the last of these priorities has historically been a smaller part of our focus, that wasn’t the case this year, and the new conversations that resulted from expanding our policy interests have been incredibly valuable. As we pursue some post-session reflection, we hope to gain insight into the ways we were successful in activating on this type of legislation, as well as how we can more strategically and meaningfully do so in sessions to come.
In the meantime, check out our Action for Equity Policy Priorities, which helped guide our engagement on health equity legislation, as well as our 2015 Legislative Summary for a more comprehensive picture of bills we tracked that succeeded this session. I’m already looking forward to next January!