Denver Women's Commission
Legislative Wrap-up - June 2003
June 10, 2003
Prepared by Chaer Robert
For Colorado Woman News
Year of the Axe
Kitty Armenta worked full time for many years. Then she was diagnosed with a degenerative bone disease that left her unable to work. Unable to work and lacking assets, she has received a monthly pension from the State's Aid to the Needy Disabled of $269. per month plus foodstamps. Health care is not covered. She is fortunate enough to live in subsidized housing. As of July, 2003, AND was cut to $100. per month. Plus the state will now charge public benefit recipients $1. each month to receive assistance. "How am I supposed to live on $99. per month?" she asked. She hopes that she will ultimately qualify for SSI-Supplemental Security Income-- a federal program for the severely disabled. Though it can take years, a majority of AND recipients ultimately qualify.
While Armenta felt the impact of state budget cuts immediately. We may assume state budget cuts will not affect our families. Many of us -- or our parents or our children-- are only one paycheck, car accident or diagnosis away from needing some service from the State. Unlike other states, we have Amendment 23 to protect us from broad-based cuts in K-12 schools. College students and their parents are feeling the impact of cuts, as the State reduces its support for state colleges. (For example, the University of Colorado now receives less than 10% of its funding from the State). Hundreds of State employees have lost their jobs. The Legislature eliminated legal immigrants from Medicaid-- that action is currently stayed under court review. Those with mental illness and their families lost on two fronts: the state cut services for the uninsured poor, while Basic plans for private health insurance for groups under 50 can now drop mental health coverage for employees. Families of children with disabilities face restricted access to services, and higher costs to the families.
Other Ground Lost
The State took two huge steps, expanding gun availability. Those who want to carry a hidden handgun must be issued a permit to do so, provided they meet basic criteria. Also, all local gun laws past and present are overturned, as the State has declared that only it can pass laws regulating guns.
Enrollment for the Child Health Plan for low-income children was capped, and enrollment in the prenatal care program for working class moms was frozen. However, the Governor plans to dedicate part of a one-time federal bonus to refunding these programs.
Teens seeking abortions will now have to notify their parents. Generally teens do tell their parents. The bill allows some tightly drawn exceptions, e.g. a teen can go to court to get an exception, or if her life is at risk a doctor is exempted. When "only" her health is at risk, it must be a serious risk of permanent harm to an essential bodily function. Advocates fear a desperate young woman could be driven to seek an illegal or self-induced abortion.
On the brighter side, we can consider proposals some legislators wanted, which did not make it into law. Lawmakers rejected lengthening the waiting period between separation and divorce from 90 days to one year. A proposal to add 20 pages of regulations for abortion providers was defeated. Landlords will still need a court order before evicting people. The State did not pre-empt local measures to promote affordable housing.
Hope for the Future
What is the purpose of government? Should it include providing a safety net? When funds are cut, what do the choice say about our priorities?
Not happy? Consider these actions:
1. Join organizations that organize your interests into political action. Organizations can make it easier for you to be an effective advocate without exhausting yourself, by letting you know who to contact when.
2. Support those legislators who fight for women's interests. Learn about how your legislator voted on issues of most concern to you.
3. Speak up. Call. Write. Vote. Participate. Write to policymakers. Write to newspapers. Attend "town meetings" hosted by legislators. No matter how passionately we feel, we cannot expect a lawmaker to vote our way if we do not communicate with them.
To find out who your elected representatives are contact your county clerk, or go online at www.vote-smart.org