Legislative Scorecard, May 2000

Denver Women's Commission
Legislative Scorecard, May 2000

May 10, 2000

Prepared for Colorado Woman News
By Chaer Robert

Legislative Scorecard

The state legislature has adjourned for the year. Voters limited the annual session to a maximum of 120 days. Has it changed your life? It might. Over 700 bills were considered. The Governor has until June 2, 2000 to sign them. I will limit this review to those issues I have highlighted in this column over the last seven months. So how did all turn out?

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE (October 1999) The two proposals developed by the Colorado Coalition Against Domestic Violence passed both houses. Prosecutors can charge someone as a habitual offender if they had been three times previously convicted of domestic violence. Rep. Jennifer Viega’s HB 1158 would assure that if the cycle of violence continues, a perpetrator would serve time, not just be sentenced to counseling repeatedly.

HB 1263 by Representative Steve Tool would require counselors of batterers to be licensed in accordance with state standards. This gives the victim some assurance of a level of competence, when her partner undergoes counseling.

CIGARETTE MONEY (November 1999) Colorado expects the tobacco settlement to net up to $100 million per year. Under Senator Norma Anderson’s SB 71, the allocations worked out like this:
 Read-to-Achieve literacy program – 19%
 Tobacco Education, Prevention and Cessation- 15%
 Tobacco Related Research –8%
 Child Health Plan for low income kids – 10 million (10%)
 Community Primary Care Grants Program ( Health Care for the Uninsured)—6%
 Nurse Home Visitor Program –3% growing 2% each year to 19%
 State Veteran’s Fund-1%
 Trust Fund – 38%, dropping to 22% and all unspent money

Treasurer Mike Coffman’s proposal (HB 1454 by Representative Doug Dean) to sell off future rights to settlement money was defeated. Health care advocates were concerned the proposal would result in far less money.

PAY EQUITY (February 2000) Rep. Sue Windels sponsored HB 1376, which contained a number of provisions to help close the pay gap. It included requiring employers to pay equivalent jobs equally when one job class is currently and historically filled with women and equivalent job classes are filled with men. It also made it illegal to fire employees for revealing their pay to other employees. Without that information, even equal pay cases are impossible to document. This bill failed in a tie vote in House Judiciary. The Equal Pay Coalition held a press conference May 11, 2000. “Equal Pay Day” marks the date in 2000, which, when added to all of 1999, is the date women, on average, have earned what the average man earned in 1999.

Look for this bill again next year, in whole or in parts.

SEXUAL ORIENTATION (March 2000) Advocating on these issues requires stamina and a long term perspective. The safe schools bill required schools to discourage taunting; SB 105 by Senator Dorothy Rupert was killed in the first committee. So was SB 111 by Senator Pat Pascoe. It gave probate rights to domestic partners.

Rep. Penfield Tate’s proposal (HB 1168) to add sexual orientation, age and disability to hate crimes law passed the House, but was killed in the first Senate committee. Rep. Gloria Leyba’s bill (HB 1331) to add sexual orientation to all existing Colorado Civil Rights laws failed on the House floor.

On the other side, SB 1249 by Rep.Mark Paschall blocks recognition of same-sex marriages of other states. It passed and was sent to the governor.

WORKING POOR, WELFARE, AND HOMELESSNESS (January and April 2000) Like most years, successes are few and modest when our legislature addresses poverty. Tax refunds or tax cuts were required by the TABOR amendment, which also blocks increased spending on needed programs. The largest tax cut was another permanent cut in the income tax rate, similar to last year’s. Over 100,000 Coloradans make too little to owe income tax, so they get no benefit from this. They can, however, benefit from the modest sales tax reduction. Over 200,000 low income working Coloradans will benefit from the increase in the State Earned Income Tax Credit, HB 1049 by Rep. Gary McPherson. Although the Women’s Lobby fought to make it a permanent tax credit to complement the income tax cut, the Senate changed the bill to have the EITC remain temporary.

HB 1221 by Rep. Bob Bacon failed. It would have covered medical expenses for destitute disabled Coloradans who have applied for the Federal SSI (Supplemental Security Income) program. Temporary tax credits to developers building affordable housing (HB 1302 by Rep. Bill Kaufman) did pass. This is likely to help the lower middle class more than the poor, but housing of any kind is desperately needed.

This was not a good year for welfare. Rep. Gloria Leyba’s modest proposal—HB 10