Senate approves reporting threats to targeted locations; House settles wrangle over rental car repair costs

House puts up guardrails on insurance payments for wrecked rental cars 

deer punchThe way Rep. Spencer Swalm tells it,  HB 1187 came out of a little fender-bender in Durango. A woman in a rental car had a minor collision with a deer which caused $300 of damage to the car. The rental company and the driver’s insurance company got into a tiff about who should pay for the damages and how much they really were. That tiff took them all the way to the Colorado Supreme Court and cost some $300,000 in attorneys’ fees. Still, he resulting case law wasn’t all that clear about who pays when your rental gets wrecked.

At issue is not just how much it costs to fix the damage to a car, but how much money the rental car company loses while waiting for the car to come out of the shop. That means the bulk of the battle over the legislation hinges on how many hours a day a repair shop can or does work on a car.

The insurance companies argue that if a car needs 12 billable hours of repair work, those fixes can be made within two eight-hour days. The rental companies vehemently disagree, saying that in practice most shops only put in about four hours of billable work into a car each day, which means that a damaged vehicle needing 12 hours of repair would be off the market for three days rather than two. That means one less day the car is available to rent.

It sounds it-picky, but the two sides were so unable to reach a compromise that Rep. Bob Gardner of Colorado Springs, who heard the bill in the Business, Labor, Economic, & Workforce Development Committee, proposed a ‘nuclear option’ amendment that would have penalized both parties a great deal. The committee went into a 15 minute recess, then the insurance industry and rental companies agreed that six hours was a reasonable compromise.

“I particularly appreciate what Representative Gardner did in committee in bringing a big amendment to this bill in order to get people to start talking. As a result, we came out with a bill that everyone agreed on,” said Rep. Joe Salazar of Thornton, noting that the Business Committee passed the six-hour compromise unanimously.

“I urge a yes vote on this bill and I’d love to get it out of my hair as well,” concluded Swalm, from Centennial.

The House gave initial approval the six-hour compromise and the measure likely will come up for a final vote later this week.


Senate approves safe-to-tell bill in wake of movie theater massacre 

After the Aurora theater shooting in 2012, just about everyone asked what could have been done to prevent the tragedy. Today, the Senate gave initial approval to HB 1271, which would allow mental health professionals to notify law enforcers and managers of specific buildings or spaces if a threat is location-based. This expands current statue which only lets mental health professionals notify law enforcement and threatened people on a specific individual basis.

Some legislators worried that the bill might increase the use of 72-hour psychiatric holds, which many legislators see as an over-used breach of an individual’s rights.

Sen. Linda Newell of Littleton, the bill’s sponsor, emphasized that the legislation’s language is extremely narrow and simply empowers providers to report site-specific threats if they are of a violent and imminent nature.

The measure will likely come up for a final vote in the Senate this week.


Senate passes caps on open records fee with equal treatment amendment

The Senate gave near unanimous passage today to HB 1193, a bill to cap Colorado open records fees at $30 an hour and insure that a governmental agency’s fees are published online. The bill was amended at the last minute by the sponsor, Sen. John Kefalas of Fort Collins, after Sen. Kevin Lundberg of Berthoud suggested in a previous, broader amendment that the measure should be refined to make sure everyone requesting open records is treated equally.

“There was testimony in committee that there was anecdotal evidence that a county was charging, for very same information, different parties different fees because they liked one of the parties but didn’t like the other party,” said Sen. Ted Harvey of Douglas County, who heard the bill in the State Affairs Committee.

“I think we can all imagine how a frustrated government employee might do that, but it’s totally and completely inappropriate,” he concluded. The amendment to require agencies to asses the same fee for the same information, no matter who is requesting it, passed without any opposition.

The bill itself passed with just two no votes — Sen.Vicki Marbel of Fort Collins and Sen. David Balmer of Centennial. It now heads back to the House for approval of the amendment before the Governor’s desk.


House goes bi-partisan on foreclosure deferment

Today the House approved a measure to extend Colorado’s 90-day foreclosure deferment program for another year. Passed by a by a vote of 46-19 vote, HB 1312 extends the 2009 legislation that established the program in an effort to curtail a boom of recession-era foreclosures that had Colorado ranking in the top ten nationally for home losses. As the current legislation’s sponsor noted, foreclosures still haunt Coloradans.

“We’re not out of the woods yet. There’s still about 800 foreclosures [currently] being filed in the state,” said Denver Rep. Angela Williams.

Rep. Amy Stephens of Monument came out in support of the bill, acknowledging that the first time the legislation came around she was not in favor of it, but that talking with constituents over the life of the program has changed her mind.

“I spoke to a woman from my district whose husband passed away very suddenly. She had two children and was out of her mind, not just in grief, but in trying to stay in her home. This program had been very helpful to her,” said Stephens, adding that she didn’t see the deferment as a hand-out so much as a tool to help Coloradans stay on their feet.

The measure now heads to the Senate.