Legislature puts $30 million towards college scholarships in bipartisan move

Lawmakers put $30 million towards college scholarships 

The House gave initial approval to a bipartisan measure to create a new merit scholarship fund for college students who are Colorado residents. HB 1384 is co-sponsored by Rep. Brittany Pettersen, D-Lakewood, and Rep. Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch.

As part of its effort to reduce the debt-load so many college grads are carrying, the bill also requires schools to work with students on loan repayment structures which work with their income.

Rep. Chris Holbert, R-Parker, came to the well in support of the bill saying that he’d been a firm no but that hearing testimony about the merit-based nature of the scholarships swayed him.

“As the Republican eye candy on this bill, I urge you to vote yes!” said McNulty.

The measure got hearty initial approval and will come up for a final vote later this week.


More doctors for employees injured on the job 


Right now Colorado’s workers’ compensation law requires employers to provide a hurt staff member at least two options as to who will treat them. If an employee starts with one doctor but realizes they’d like to make a switch, they can so long as it’s within 90 days. Rep. Angela Williams, D-Denver, heard feedback from constituents that two doctors wasn’t enough choice so she’s carrying HB 1383 to ramp that number up to four. In rural communities where there are limited number of doctors, employers who currently only have to offer one doctor to their injured employees will have to offer two.

“Research has shown that when employees feel as if they have more control over their health care they actually do better and get back on the job quicker. This is likely to save money rather than cost more,” said Rep. Su Ryden, D-Aurora, in support of the bill.

Rep. Polly Lawrence, R-Littleton, opposed the bill. She worried that the mandate to offer four doctor options would be tricky for employers, saying she has constituents in the Denver metro area who’ve struggled to find even two qualified physicians for their hurt staff to choose between. Williams responded that there are nearly 600 qualified occupational doctors in Colorado, which should be sufficient for the one percent of the workforce that ends up needing care through workers’ comp.

Ultimately the bill was given initial approval. It will likely come up for a final vote in the House this week.    


Stripped-down immunization bill passes senate 

After bitter debate in the House, a much-modified version of HB 1288 passed out of the Senate today on a near party-line vote. When it came out of the House the bill required parents who wish to send their children to school unvaccinated to take an online course about the benefits and risks of vaccination. That part of the bill has become optional instead of mandatory. The bill still requires schools to report rates of vaccination among their students.

Despite these modifications the measure still saw Republican opposition. Sen. Owen Hill, R-Colorado Springs, called it a “dangerous precedent” for policy that infringes a parent’s right to choose to vaccinate their child, or not.

Sen. Lois Tochtrop, D-Thornton, who contracted polio as a child said it was worth noting that vaccinations have virtually eradicated that disease in this country. She said that while she supported the bill, she wished it could be stronger.

Ultimately the measure, sponsored by Sen. Irene Aguilar, D-Denver, passed by a vote of 19-16. It now heads to the House for approval of amendments.



Keeping communities looped in on school closures

With 190 of Colorado’s public schools on a five-year clock to improve performance or lose their state accreditation, the state and many of its districts are faced with shutting neighborhood schools down entirely. Acknowledging the tremendous impact a school closing can have on a community, Rep. Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora, is carrying HB 1381, which requires districts to notify their community if a closure is coming up and to work with them on a timeline and student transfer plan.

There was a debate in the House about whether or not this is a needed thing. Rep. James Wilson, R-Salida, a former superintendent, said the bill infringed on local control. Rep. Jenise May, D-Aurora, disagreed. She said that schools and districts that are already struggling to stay afloat don’t always communicate with their communities as well as they probably should. She noted that in her own district her granddaughter’s school may be closed and her family hasn’t received any notification of that risk at all.

The House gave the bill initial approval today, it will likely come up for a final vote this week.