Aurora’s state lawmakers eye health, education as top legislative priorities for 2016

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AURORA | Aurora’s lawmakers are looking toward the 2016 legislative session with the same worry they had in 2015: That party-line divisions in the state Senate and House may cause partisan skirmishes that hold back some bills.

State Sen. Nancy Todd“My hope is that we can come back and concentrate on the things the majority of the public is concerned with and address that rather than getting distracted with how deep can we dig our heels in to just have a lot of rhetoric going on,” said State Sen. Nancy Todd, D-Aurora.

Todd said in 2016, she will be working on various health, education and transportation measures.

One bill Todd said she is working on would allow Medicaid clients with chronic medical conditions to use mail-order pharmacies. Todd said she is working with state Rep. Beth Martinez Humenik, R-Thornton, on the measure. Another measure Todd plans to work on would identify and register home inspectors in Colorado.

Todd, a longtime educator, will also be focusing on education via two bills to support rural and small district teacher recruitment and retainment in the state.

She said she will again be the Senate sponsor for a bill that failed to pass last year that would give the Colorado State Patrol more power in regulating when motorists need snow tires or chains. The state already requires motorists to have chains and snow tires when there is a snow emergency.

Todd said she is also working on a measure that would give State Patrol units the ability to write e-citations.

State Rep. Janet Buckner, D-Aurora.Aurora Rep. Janet Buckner, D-Aurora, who took over her late husband’s seat after his death in May, said she will reintroduce a measure her late husband sponsored last year that would allow parents to take unpaid time off for their children’s academic activities.   

“It’s a shame that we’re the only industrialized nation out there that doesn’t guarantee paid family and medical leave to every working parent, but this is a small, common sense step in the right direction and I hope the business community doesn’t work to kill it like they did last year,” she said.

Buckner said she is also working on legislation that would provide a retirement plan for Coloradoans who don’t receive pensions and other retirement benefits through their work.

Buckner said she is also working on a measure with Rep. Jessie Danielson, D-Wheat Ridge, that would ensure state contractors are paying employees equally regardless of race or gender.

as.Ryden-USE.6.18.15Rep. Su Ryden, D-Aurora, said she will continue to work on veterans issues in the 2016 session that include improving veterans’ access to jobs and health care.    

“I plan to continue laying the groundwork for completing the Fitzsimons State Veterans Community Living Center campus to include a full continuum of care from assisted living to transitional housing to the nursing home,” she said.

A new bill Ryden said she is working on for next year would also make voting more accessible by providing county clerks flexibility in creating new access points for voters, and allowing for free return postage on ballots.

“We’ve taken away the neighborhood polling place and have not replaced it with a fully accessible alternative. We have actually erected barriers to voting, especially for people with disabilities and those who are unable to get out to buy stamps or drive to a vote center,”  she said. 

Democratic state Sen. Morgan Carroll announced Tuesday that she plans to challenge Congressman Mike Coffman, R-Aurora, for his House seat in the 2016 election — setting up another marquee match-up in Denver's eastern suburbs.State Sen. Morgan Carroll stepped down as the Democratic minority leader this year to focus on her campaign against Republican incumbent Mike Coffman for Aurora’s competitive Sixth Congressional District seat, but she still has plans for the coming session.

Carroll said in 2016 she plans to focus on college affordability.

One measure she said she is working on would require private loan providers to disclose more information to students and provide information on how their loans compare to federal loans, which often have lower interest rates. 

Carroll said she is also working on legislation to reform state contracts and provide transparency for when businesses hire local workers versus outside workers.

“This bill is going to add data about local hiring to the state’s contractors database so we can understand how we’re doing,”  she said.

Carroll, who is term-limited in 2016, said she will also be working on legislation to protect homeowners who file complaints against their HOAs.

“We’ve added dozens of rights for homeowners, but sometimes when people exercise them, they face retaliation,” she said.

as.LindaNewell.122415Sen. Linda Newell, D-Littleton,  said a mental health focus for her in 2016 is suicide prevention. One piece of legislation she is proposing is a system-wide commitment to preventing suicide in health and behavioral health systems.

“Basically, it’s an ‘all-hands-on-deck’ approach in the health care system,” she said. “Each client is assessed for suicide risk, engaged in care, and receives effective, evidenced-based treatment with the aim of preventing clients from falling through the cracks in the health system.”

Newell said she will also be working on a suicide prevention bill specifically for emergency responders.

“First responders are often the people who come into contact with suicidal individuals and respond to suicide deaths within their day-to-day work. Additionally, research has shown that first responders may be at higher risk for suicide. This bill would allow our brave first responders to get the care they need by enabling them to claim PTSD under worker’s compensation,”  she said.

State Rep. Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora, is chief sponsor of a bill seeking to criminalize cyber-bullying and harassment, including so-called revenge-porn postings. File photo by Marla Keown/Aurora Sentinel.Aurora Rep. Rhonda Fields said she will be sponsoring a job readiness bill in the 2016 session. She said the bill would take a digital merit badge program that already exists in Aurora Public Schools and apply it statewide.

“It’s similar to how a girl or boy scout gets badges,” she said of the program.  Students can earn badges for critical thinking, information literacy, invention and self-direction, and the badges are displayed online in a student profile.

Fields said she is also working on two bills next year related to sexual assault in the state. The first would address the statute of limitations Colorado places on rape cases. Fields said her bill would remove the limitation, but still give the district attorney discretion in proceeding with a case. She is also working on a bill that would look to standardize how sexual assault cases are managed on college campuses.

“We have uneven practices in our public institutions as it relates to sexual assault on campus,” she said. “As a state, we should know what these campuses and colleges are doing when it comes to sexual assault.”

Fields said she is also working on a measure that would help teachers receive training in how to identify students with behavioral problems.

“Right now for (teacher) certification in Colorado, there is no training for them to learn how to detect suicidal behaviors or mental health disorders,” she said.

Rep. JoAnn Windholz, R-Reunion, did not respond to repeated requests for comment about bills she will be working on next year.

Aurora  Rep. Jovan Melton also did not respond to requests regarding his 2016 legislative plans.

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Joe Hardhat
Joe Hardhat
6 years ago

I applaud State Senator Nancy Todd for working on a measure to identify and register home inspectors.

Retiree
Retiree
6 years ago
Reply to  Joe Hardhat

Do you really think there are that many emergency responders in Colorado that their claims could overburden the workers’ comp system? I don’t.

Joe Hardhat
Joe Hardhat
6 years ago
Reply to  Retiree

Slippery slope via subjective diagnosis and other trades wanting in on the action such as ambulance drivers, human resource managers, mental health professionals, etc etc. Check out California’s workers comp fiasco and near bankruptcy. A lot of folks looking for early retirement.

Retiree
Retiree
6 years ago
Reply to  Joe Hardhat

Note that this is a bill for emergency workers. Maybe you should take a ride along with them sometime. Sounds like you think these people are all fakers.

Joe Hardhat
Joe Hardhat
6 years ago
Reply to  Retiree

Many are exaggerating or faking, as any mental health nurse or technician.

ryecatcher
ryecatcher
6 years ago
Reply to  Joe Hardhat

So your daughter observed “some fakers and many exaggerators”. interesting! How many of these so called “fakers” (your words not mine) were emergency workers fire, paramedic and police personnel faking it as are implying. Is it your opinion emergency personnel are not worthy and are “faking it” to freeload.

Joe Hardhat
Joe Hardhat
6 years ago
Reply to  ryecatcher

How sweet, sticking up for Retiree. My oh my. One time she observed a guy carry his crutches once he got to the hospital parking lot. No trouble walking when he thought he wasn’t being observed.

ryecatcher
ryecatcher
6 years ago
Reply to  Joe Hardhat

Thought you’d enjoy that. You’re rather sweet yourself at times.

More anecdotal “my oh my” commentary! Why am I not surprised. Your daughter see’s this see’s that and you suck it up. Oh well.

goo man is no doubt out there carrying his usual “crutch” while attempting to walk and chew gum at the same time.

Toodle ooh big guy.

Retiree
Retiree
6 years ago
Reply to  Joe Hardhat

Without hard data, I can’t take your unsubstantiated assertions seriously. I worked for several years reviewing police and firefighter applications for disability pensions. I was personally involved with several hundred cases. Both departments had their own internal affairs divisions who reviewed each application, and even surveilled applicants if they thought any were suspect. My department sent applications to multiple physicians and other specialists related to each particular case. Applications usually took 1-2 years to process, sometimes longer. Each application went to the pension board with staff recommendations based on the data gathered. If, once pensioned, a member became no longer disabled, they were reviewed and either ordered back to duty or allowed to switch over to a normal pension.

You seem to think that the only fraud is among workers. I’ve seen it with providers, and that’s where you see a lot of these articles you refer to. I went to worker’s comp for carpal tunnel treatment and what I experienced were people on the care end who wanted me to keep coming long after I was better so that they could continue to suck away employer dollars to support their business. I’m sure I was only one of many. Most probably went along with it because they did it on the employer’s dime and it got them away from work. If the provider had been honest, they wouldn’t have been able to keep skipping out. As for me, I finally quit going. My work was important to me and the time spent away from it was affecting my performance. And, as I said, I was fixed. The problem never returned. So provider fraud was the kind of WC fraud that I personally experienced.

Was your daughter an MD? Or did she refer claimants to qualified medical personnel? If she saw fakers, shouldn’t she have notified someone? And did it occur to you that the very fact that there are so many articles about WC fraud is because it is indeed exposed???

As for me, I worked in one of those many systems where fraud rarely, if ever, happens.

Joe Hardhat
Joe Hardhat
6 years ago
Reply to  Retiree

In the 1980s investigative reporters discovered police and firefighters in Colorado, especially Denver, were abusing disability rules. The majority of police and firefighters were receiving disability retirements, mostly for age-related issues such as hearing loss being blamed on sirens and target practice at the shooting range. Panels made up of insiders along with cooperative doctors were rubber-stamping disability claims allowing retired officers a tax-free retirement benefit. When the IRS was questioned about what they were going to do about it all that came out was a big ho-hum. Eventually they were compelled to reform the abuses at the edges.

To a lesser extent this kind of disability abuse is still going on today.

Retiree
Retiree
6 years ago
Reply to  Joe Hardhat

And your proof?

Joe Hardhat
Joe Hardhat
6 years ago
Reply to  Retiree

https://pfaustin.blogspot.com/2008/01/denver-police-chief.html

Excerpt from Article:
“If he really believed that stress contributed to the problem then why continue in the same job? Or maybe that is part of his long term strategy. There has been a pattern among Denver Police commanders to work for years and then at retirement to claim an on the job injury, from many years before, and as a result they get a tax free disability pension. Before the IRS cracked down on this practice in 1992, 70% of Denver police and firefighters retired with disability pensions. During one period six out of seven retiring Denver Police chiefs did so.”

Retiree, end of discussion. I’m convinced you’re unpersuadable.

Retiree
Retiree
6 years ago
Reply to  Joe Hardhat

Yup, we’re done. When all you do when asked for proof is to substitute your opinions and assertions for someone else’s opinions and assertions, that’s when I know you don’t have anything to stand on. See you around.