2016 Legislative Session

Date Posted: January 8, 2016


In our 30-year history, the Colorado Children’s Campaign has worked with lawmakers from every corner of the state and every political perspective to improve the well-being of Colorado’s kids. As the leading voice for kids at the state Capitol and in communities throughout the Colorado, we realize that children’s issues aren’t partisan and that we can develop innovative solutions to address the needs of children when we work together.

In preparation for the 2016 session of the Colorado General Assembly, we prepared the best available data and research on child well-being. We hope that advocates and policymakers will use this info to advance – and protect – policies and investments we know will provide the greatest benefits to kids. We’ve established several priorities for the 2016 legislative session. We’ve also identified a number of legislative impacts.

2016 Priorities

Child & Family Health Priorities

  • Maintaining health insurance coverage options and ensuring kids and families have quality, affordable insurance that provides access to physical, behavioral, and oral health care services.
  • Ensuring that all women have access to the most reliable and effective birth control methods so that they can finish their education and chart their own futures, giving their children the best possible chance for success.
  • Advancing initiatives that ensure every child gets a healthy start in life, including affordable and accessible immunizations, ample amounts of nutritious foods, and access to healthy and safe places to live, learn and play.

Youth Success Priorities

  • Advocating for education financing that is equitable, sufficient and meets the needs of all students, especially children living in poverty, learning English or struggling to read.
  • Protecting and advancing the implementation of the Colorado Academic Standards, meaningful assessments that provide a full picture of student growth and needs, evaluations that improve and empower teachers and school leaders, school and district accountability systems that give parents and educators information they need to improve schools, and policies that ensure every student in Colorado has access to a high-quality public school option.
  • Balancing the need for reliable information on student performance with the need for appropriate privacy protections to ensure policymakers and parents can understand how our children and schools are doing.

Early Childhood Priorities

  • Promoting access to quality, affordable child care for teen parents, domestic violence survivors and children facing family hardships by removing barriers to the Colorado Child Care Assistance Program (CCCAP) and supporting early childhood care providers.
  • Expanding access to services that mitigate the “cliff effect” that families face in maintaining access to quality child care
  • Expanding access to mental and behavioral health services for young children and addressing expulsion and suspension of children in preschool and early elementary grades.

Budget Priorities

  • Protecting the health, education and safety services that benefit all Colorado children by developing innovative, bipartisan solutions to Colorado’s current budget challenges.

2016 Impacts

New Progress

  • Child Care for Teen Parents & Domestic Violence Survivors: HB 16-1227 (Kagan & DelGrosso/Hill & Crowder) lowers the barriers for teen parents and domestic violence survivors to access child care by removing the requirement that a parent pursue child support before accessing child care assistance.
  • Reducing Child Care Cliff Effect: SB 16-022 (Martinez Humenik/Pettersen) expands the child care “cliff effect” pilot project. The cliff effect occurs when even a small increase in income causes a parent to lose all child care assistance.
  • Continuous Child Care Eligibility: SB 16-212 (Crowder/Buckner) ensures that families don’t have disruptions in eligibility due to small changes in income for child care subsidies during a 12-month period.
  • Early Childhood Mental Health: HB 16-1242 (Hamner/Lambert) doubled the number of early childhood mental health specialists and bolstered the infrastructure for access.
  • Health Insurance Study: HB 16-1336 (Hamner & Rankin/Donovan) sets up a study of premium rates for individual health insurance based on geography.
  • Rural Teacher Support:  SB 16-104 (Todd & Sonnenberg/Becker J.) gives stipends to teachers in rural areas and establishes a program to support rural high school students interested in teaching.
  • School Finance Act (including charter school provisions): HB 16-1422 (Hamner/ Lambert) includes provisions to increase operational efficiency of charter schools, raise standards for districts with exclusive chartering authority, and enhance charters’ access to vacant or underutilized land and facilities.
  • Student Data Privacy: HB 16-1423 (Lundeen and Garnett/Hill) bolsters existing laws on student data security.
  • Budget Wins: 1) An increase of $2.5 million for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s family planning program to support comprehensive contraceptive services, including hormonal implants and IUDs, for those who may not be able to access them otherwise. 2) Increase of $2 million to support child care access for working families and ensuring providers at the highest quality ratings receive a larger reimbursement for the quality care they provide. 3) Increase in child care licensing specialists to ensure that providers receive an average of one visit per year, an essential element of oversight to ensure the basic health and safety of child care in Colorado. 4) Sustaining recent investments in child care quality, including Colorado Shines (our child care quality rating and improvement system) and our new credentialing system to support the early childhood workforce. 5) Expansion of support for early intervention services for infants and toddlers who may have developmental delays. 6) Support for the Office of State Planning and Budget to develop and implement Pay for Success projects in Colorado, an initiative possible due to the passage of a Colorado Children’s Campaign policy agenda item during the 2015 Legislative Session. 7) A significant expansion in voluntary home-based nurse mentoring for new parents. 8) An increase of $157 million in additional K-12 financing, including a requirement that the “negative factor” be held constant at $831 million next year. 9) An additional $3 million for the state’s Charter Capital Construction Fund, raising the overall amount of money in this program from just $7 million two years ago to $25 million heading into next year.

Protecting Progress

  • Ensuring Access to Primary Care Services in Medicaid: HB 16-1408 (Rankin/Steadman) helped avoid a 30 percent rate cut to Medicaid primary care providers.
  • Protecting Medicaid Payments: SB 16-162 (Tate/Melton & Sias) would have allowed medical providers who are not enrolled in the Medicaid program to charge Medicaid clients for services, potentially reducing Medicaid clients’ access to affordable health care and creating significant financial risks for Medicaid clients. The bill was defeated.
  • Maintaining Innovations in Education: SB 16-005 would have eliminated ninth grade assessments and academic growth information. HB 16-1099, HB 16-1121, and SB 16-105 all sought to roll back other key provisions of our educator evaluation system such as “mutual consent” for placing educators in schools, and the inclusion of objective student achievement data in evaluations. The bills were defeated.

Missed Opportunities

  • Reducing Unintended Pregnancies: HB 16-1322 (Pettersen & Coram/Donovan) would have required health plans to dispense additional months of contraceptives when a woman fills a prescription, which without sufficient support, can lead to financial stress for families.
  • Fixing a Budget Glitch: There were several attempts to turn the Hospital Provider Fee into an enterprise fund, which would remove the fee from the state’s revenue limitation calculation, protecting health coverage expansions and ensuring that legislators are able to make decisions about how to prioritize state resources to meet critical needs, including support for education and other priorities that benefit children
  • Savings Accounts: HB 16-1196 (Pettersen & Rankin/Johnston) would have piloted access to Child Savings Accounts for at-risk preschool-aged children, an initiative that has promoted college savings in other states.
  • Parent-School Connections: HB 16-1002 (Buckner/Kerr) would have allowed parents to take unpaid time off from work to attend children’s academic activities.
  • Full-day Kindergarten: The School Finance Act continues to fund full-day kindergarteners at just over half their full-time equivalent. Despite bills to address this shortfall, Colorado’s budget did not have the flexibility to respond to the growing demand for quality, full-day kindergarten.
  • Charter School Financing: SB 16-188 (Hill/Williams & Sias) would have required school districts in Colorado to distribute the revenue received from local mill levies equitably to district charter schools, bringing the issue of charter public school equity front and center and laying the groundwork for future legislative debates on the subject.
  • Bilingual Testing: HB 16-1446 (Hamner/Marble) would have clarified the intent of the Reading to Ensure Academic Development (READ) Act to specify that K-3 students in bilingual or dual language programs may take the reading assessments in either English or Spanish rather than the current policy, which promotes the double-testing of students.
  • Bilingual Certification: HB 16-1365 (Moreno & Wilson) would have established requirements for graduating high school students who wish to obtain a biliteracy endorsement on their diploma and authorized education providers to grant the endorsement to students meeting the requirements in English and at least one other language.