In part one of a two-part interview with state Rep. Tim Dore, he reflected on the 2015 legislative session. In part two, he outlines his expectations and priorities for the 2016 session, which begins Jan. 13, and explains some of the political dynamics of the Legislature in an election year.
“It’s a political year, so you always have to put on those goggles when you look at a legislative session,” said Dore, R-Elizabeth. “There’s going to be a lot of taking chances to get those gotcha moments for those who are in a vulnerable seat, so you’ll see some gun legislation, and the death penalty has been talked about from both sides.”
Since the 2016 Legislature has the same composition as 2015 — with Republicans in control of the Senate and Democrats the House — Dore does not expect much of the politically motivated legislation to get very far. He believes the overarching issue facing lawmakers will be the hospital provider fee as it pertains to TABOR.
“The legislative body has to decide what to do with the hospital provider fee,” said Dore, who represents House District 64. “Do we consider it a tax and push it to the people for them to decide, maybe as part of a larger package that could include infrastructure questions... and provide an increased opportunity for dialogue around how we handle some of the infrastructure concerns that we are going to face here in Colorado, especially in the years to come.”
Established in 2009 by the Colorado Healthcare Affordability Act, the hospital provider fee assesses hospitals up to $76.10 per patient for each day of managed care.
According the Colorado Hospital Association, “The resulting revenue is then used to draw a dollar-for-dollar federal match that is used to cover the uninsured by expanding eligibility for Medicaid and CHP+.”
In 2015, two bills were introduced into the Legislature addressing the fees. In January, House Republicans attempted to remove a ban that restricts hospitals from disclosing the amount of the hospital provider fee on patient billing statements and to require hospitals to disclose the fees. HB 15-1141 was “Postponed Indefinitely” by the House Committee on Health, Insurance, & Environment.
The second bill was offered by House Democrats to create a health care affordability enterprise, essentially a government owned business exempt from TABOR to collect hospital provider fees. House Bill 15-1389 passed the House on a party-line vote (33 to 31) and was “Postponed Indefinitely” in the Senate Committee on State, Veterans, & Military Affairs.
According to Dore, the issue is being debated among the governor’s office and the legislative leadership.
“If they come up with a compromise, it may curtail some of the drama around the issue, but it looks like we’re going to face a fairly significant debate, and it’s multifaceted,” Dore said.
Dore also expects robust debates over transportation, education, government spending, higher education and the governor’s water plan.
“Issues that come up are going to be partisan. Republicans are going to be focused on liberty and the right to the Second Amendment. Democrats have a different interpretation of that,” he said.
Dore expects the debate over health care to be contentious, especially regarding the single-payer ballot initiative set for November.
“[It] will have a huge debate and have an incredible fiscal note attached to it, a 25 billion dollar tax increase,” he said. “Those debates are going to be very partisan.”
During the 2016 session, Dore is planning to sponsor several pieces of legislation. The first is a proposal to use overflow from the Gaming Impact Fund to pay down $15 million of the nearly $900 million owed against the education “negative factor.”
In 2000, Colorado voters approved Amendment 23, which required the state Legislature to increase K-12 per-pupil funding at the rate of inflation plus 1 percent through 2011, and increase it at the rate of inflation in the years after.
According to GreatEducation Colorado, “Since 2009, the Legislature has balanced the budget in a different way, reinterpreting the constitutional provision in a way that allows cuts to per-pupil funding while claiming compliance.”
“I’m not going to be able to pay it back in one bill, so we’re going to look at legislation that will allow some monies to be used, our excess funding Gaming Impact Fund,” Dore explained. “There is a required amount of money that goes into the fund. Anything else, in excess, overflows and goes into the general fund for standard use. I want to take that overflow money and put it to the negative factor.”
Dore’s second goal for 2016 is to increase government transparency by extending the State of Colorado’s requirement to post budgets to the state’s website for all 65 counties in Colorado.
“It allows the people of Colorado, the taxpayers of Colorado, to access what their local government is doing with regards to spending their tax money. It’s part of an overall increase in good government, transparent government, which we need to have in all four corners of the state,” he said.
Dore is also hoping to introduce legislation requiring that any new rules imposed on Colorado by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also include an economic impact on business and the state.
“We do that at the state level, at the legislative level… so any bill I run, we have an estimated cost so we can compare the budget in years to come. I want to take that sort of idea and put it with an EPA issue.” Dore said. “It goes along with good government transparency that I know people desire.”
Though Dore expects the partisan attitude in the Legislature to continue in the 2016 session, he hopes to see a Republican majority in the House following the elections in November.
“Because it’s a presidential year, there are a lot more dynamics from outside the state of Colorado. That influences elections top down. It’s tight,” he said.
Dore said his goals are aimed at increasing opportunity in Colorado, to make the state a place people want to come and move their businesses to.
“This has always been my theme, and I’ll continue to do that. If we keep our focus, the people of Colorado know that they can be happy and confident that this is a place they will want to live, and for generations, will still want to live in,” Dore said. “That is my goal, and I hope it is most of the Legislature’s goal.”