Monthly Archives: February 2008


DENVER—Today the Senate gave initial approval to Senate Bill 82 by Senator Jennifer Veiga (D-Denver), which would allow liquor stores to open on Sundays.

“I think it’s time that Colorado makes its move,” said Veiga. “The vast majority of people agree that this is a bill whose time has come.”

Currently, 34 states permit Sunday sales of alcoholic beverages. Since 2002, 12 states have authorized Sunday liquor sales for the first time. Data compiled by the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States suggest that in 2006, with 31 percent of the stores open in those new states, sales of alcoholic beverages increased an average of 4.4 percent. Projected statewide increases in the 12 states at full Sunday operation would yield an increase of 9 percent in sales.

State law has banned liquor stores from opening on Sundays since Prohibition ended in 1933.

The bill will next be considered on third and final reading in the Senate.



Gov. Bill Ritter‘s Budget Office this week submitted several change requests to the legislature’s Joint Budget Committee, seeking funds from the FY07-08 and FY08-09 budgets for affordable housing, developmental-disability services, elections and witness protection.


Affordable Housing: This request is for $3 million over the FY07-08 and FY08-09 budget cycles to fund the Colorado Affordable Housing Construction Grants and Loans program. Funds will be distributed through grants by the State Housing Board to help address affordable housing needs in the areas of workforce, senior, and homeless housing. Potential projects include the 72-unit Arbor Vista Apartments in Grand Junction. Because of high demand for workforce rental housing, Mesa County is experiencing a record low vacancy rate of 3.5 percent. Another potential project: the 110-unit Fairweather Landings Senior Apartments complex in Parker.


Developmental Disabilities: This FY08-09 request is for $6.6 million to serve the developmentally disabled and help reduce a waiting list of approximately 7,000 people. Funds would pay for housing, comprehensive supportive-living care, family-support services, and other adult and child community programs. This would bring the total request for developmental disabilities funding in FY08-09 to $14.9 million.


Gov. Ritter praised the efforts of the legislature’s developmental disabilities interim committee, which included Sen. Moe Keller and Rep. Bob Gardner, for its work on this issue over the summer.


“One of the most basic obligations of government is to provide services to our most vulnerable residents,” Sen. Keller said. “With this additional funding, we will be able to serve almost 600 more Coloradans with developmental disabilities.”


“This has been one of our legislative priorities and I am pleased that our work to find additional funding for the developmentally disabled has been fruitful,” Rep. Gardner said. “We are making an important commitment to this community.”   


Elections: This request is for $3.5 million in FY07-08. Funds would be distributed to counties to help defray costs associated with updating election equipment and paying for other costs associated with a paper-ballot election, following the December decertification of electronic-voting equipment by the Secretary of State. 


Witness Protection: The Department of Public Safety is seeking an additional $100,000 to meet expected needs in Witness Protection. The fund covers costs of temporary hosing, food, travel and security for witnesses as requested by local or state prosecutors. The number of witnesses protected in 2007-08 is on track to exceed the number protected in FY 2006-07 by more than 35 percent. During calendar year 2007, the Board provided funds to protect a total of 73 witnesses, potential witnesses, family members or close associates. To date during FY07-08, the Board has provided funds to protect a total of 66 people.



Continued Funding Helps All Coloradans Stay Healthy Regardless of Race or Ethnicity

DENVER—This week the Joint Budget Committee gave initial approval to continue funding for the Health Disparities program within the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

The Office of Health Disparities is a state program of multi-cultural professionals dedicated to eliminating racial and ethnic health disparities in Colorado, by fostering systems change and capacity building through multi-sector collaboration.

“Communities of color suffer at a greater rate from medical afflictions,” remarked Morse. “We don’t completely understand why, but understanding and addressing why would drastically improve thousands of lives.”

Having been approved by the JBC, the funding will be incorporated into the state budget which will be considered by the legislature in April.



Gov. Bill Ritter signed three pieces of legislation into law today: House Bills 1020, 1051 and 1070. Below is a spreadsheet listing the eight bills Gov. Ritter has signed thus far in the 2008 legislative session. The spreadsheet is posted on Gov. Ritter’s Website ( and will be updated regularly as bills are signed. Click here for a direct link.


Bill #

Short Title


Date Action



Costs In Civil Actions





Core Services For Families





FPPA Statewide Defined Benefits





CSAP Longitudinal Analysis Models





Authorize Loc Gov Marketing Activity





Voting Systems Certification For 2008





Foster Care Sibling Visits





Legislative Expenditures






Thursday, Feb. 21, 2008


7:30 a.m.                     Gov. Ritter will deliver remarks to the Chamber of the Americas monthly breakfast meeting. Location: CrownePlaza, 1450 Glenarm, Denver.


9:45 a.m.                     Gov. Ritter will sign a proclamation declaring March 3-9 “Colorado Nonprofit Week.” Dozens of children helped by nonprofits are expected to attend the signing ceremony. Location: Governor’s Office, State Capitol.


11:30 a.m.                   Gov. Ritter will deliver remarks to the Colorado Association of School Boards’ Winter Legislative Conference, highlighting the work of his P-20 Education Council and the proposed Colorado Achievement Plan for Kids. Location: Brown Palace Hotel, second-floor ballroom.





Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2008


9 to 9:30 a.m.             Gov. Ritter will address the Colorado Black Chamber of Commerce during the organization’s 2nd annual Business and Community Day at the Capitol. Location: Old Supreme Court Chambers, State Capitol.


1:30 to 2 p.m.             Gov. Ritter will be presented with a framed photograph of a Buffalo Soldier on horseback. The presentation will be made by uniformed members of Buffalo Soldiers of the American West, whose members educate the public about African-American soldiers who served in U.S. wars. Location: Governor’s Office, State Capitol.


2:30 to 3 p.m.             Gov. Ritter will deliver remarks during the opening session of the Rocky Mountain Asphalt Association’s three-day annual conference and equipment show. Location: Holiday Inn, DenverInternationalAirport, I-70 and
Chambers Road




Legislative Update February 15th, 2008

Karen Middleton Joins the House

Karen Middleton, former policy director of the House Democratic
Office, was sworn into office Wednesday after allegations of
misconduct spurred Michael Garcia’s resignation. She will represent
the people of House District 42, encompassing north central Aurora.
Rep. Middleton has big plans for her time in the Capitol, expecting to
contribute to a busy session where improving education and energizing
the economy will join healthcare reform at the top of the Democratic
agenda. “It’s an honor to serve my friends and neighbors in Aurora,”
said Rep-elect Middleton on Tuesday. “I am grateful for the
opportunity to continue my public service in this new role.”

Sunday Sales Proposal Keeps Sailing

Two liquor store bills were on the agenda this session. One of them,
the measure allowing grocery stores to sell beer and wine, was shot
down in committee. My bill, which would allow the sale of full-
strength beer, wine, and liquor on Sundays in licensed liquor stores,
passed through the Business, Labor and Technology Committee. We met
with little organized opposition to the bill, and I will look forward
to continue to fight for business’ rights to sell their products
without the interference of outdated practices.

Beating the Beetles

Anyone who has traveled to the mountains in the past decade will
probably have noticed an unsettling feature spreading every year:
brown, sickly trees where healthy green lodgepole pines should be.
This is the work of the bark beetle, an insect whose population
naturally explodes every 100 years or so. They are incredibly
difficult to eradicate, and able to withstand temperatures far below
zero for weeks, even months, before dying. That’s why Governor Ritter
has created the Colorado Forest Health Advisory Council – composed of
forest experts from state and federal agencies as well as from several
mountain communities – to develop strategies to combat the epidemic
and provide forest protection from infestation, wildfire, and
disease. “This council is not another study group,” Ritter said. “It
is an action group. It is not about managing a crisis. It is about
doing everything we can to get ahead of it.” The beetles have claimed
over a million acres of lodgepole pine forest. Studies are underway
to determine what to do with the infected trees. Proposals include
converting them into pellets to heat homes or selling their timber,
which has a unique ghostly blue hue.

Cracking Down on DUIs

Driving under the influence will be all the riskier if a piece of
legislation I’ve co-sponsored is voted into law. Longer suspensions,
increased fees, and blow tests would face DUI offenders. First-time
offenders could opt to get their license back sooner if they agree to
use an ignition interlock device, which uses a blow test to analyze
blood alcohol levels before a car will start. “I think it’s the right
thing to do,” said Rep. Frank McNulty, who voted for the proposal.
“Hopefully, it will save lives.” The bill passed unanimously through
a House committee earlier this week.


 Gov. Bill Ritter today urged President Bush to take immediate action concerning the build up of contaminated water from the California Gulch Superfund site in the underground Leadville Mine Drainage Tunnel.


“Your immediate action is needed to assure that we have done all we can to avert a catastrophic event,” Gov. Ritter wrote in a letter to President Bush. The letter is attached.



Gov. Bill Ritter today announced a “Building Blocks for Health Care Reform” plan to contain costs, improve quality and expand the availability of care, with much of the focus on children’s health and system-wide efficiencies.


“Our health-care system is fundamentally broken, and the flaws touch every person and every business in Colorado,” Gov. Ritter said. “Costs are skyrocketing. The availability of quality care is limited. Too many people lack insurance, and our public and private health networks are too complicated for most people to navigate.


“We must find solutions that are uniquely Colorado, solutions that are ambitious and realistic, solutions we can afford,” Gov. Ritter said. “We started this work together in 2007. We continue it today by announcing our ‘Building Blocks to Health Care Reform’ plan.”


The plan calls for a $25 million investment in Gov. Ritter’s FY08-09 budget request for building-block strategies in several high-priority areas, including expanded children’s health coverage, creation of a new Center for Improving Value in Health Care, greater efficiencies in public and private health care, and better transparency to assist consumers.


“These building blocks to health care reform represent new ideas for Colorado,” Gov. Ritter said. “They represent a strengthening of existing efforts and they build on the work of the 208 Commission. They represent meaningful and significant progress. We know that reforming a broken health care system won’t be easy. We know it won’t happen with one bill or in one legislative session. But we must be persistent, we must aim for excellence and we must never be satisfied.


“My vision remains the same — that high-quality, affordable health care is available to every Coloradan. We can help make this vision a reality by working together, by working with broad coalitions that include public and private partners, and by working with bipartisan leadership that puts our future first.”


Highlights of Gov. Ritter’s “Building Blocks to Health Care Reform” package:

Expanded Children’s Health Care


Including gains made in 2007, the plan increases Child Health Plan Plus and Medicaid coverage to 55,000 more children over three years by:


·         Expanding eligibility in CHP+ to families earning 225% of the Federal Poverty Level (225% of the FPL is $48,000 per year for a family of four). The eligibility limit effective March 1 is 205%. Sen. Hagedorn and Rep. McGihon will sponsor this legislation.


·         Expanding public outreach and awareness efforts for CHP+ and Medicaid.


·         Eliminating bureaucratic hassles by centralizing eligibility determination for Medicaid and CHP+ and making the enrollment process easier for families. This will expand coverage to more families who are already eligible but not enrolled.


·         Ensuring the availability of doctors who will provide care to children in Medicaid by increasing reimbursement rates to 90 percent of Medicare for primary and preventive care and to 52 percent of commercial rates for dental care.


·         Improving mental health benefits for children in CHP+ program by providing the same benefits as those provided through Medicaid.


Gov. Ritter’s plan also provides all children in Medicaid and CHP+ a Medical Home to ensure access to primary and preventive care to keep them healthy, strong and out of expensive emergency rooms. In FY08-09, this will expand Medical Home coverage to 170,000 more kids.


Establishment of the Center for Improving Value in Health Care


The “Building Blocks to Health Care Reform” plan establishes an inter-disciplinary, multi-stakeholder center to identify and pursue strategies for quality improvement and cost containment. The center will be led by Joan Henneberry, executive director of the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing. It will bring consumers, businesses, health care providers, insurance companies and state agencies together to develop long-term strategies for ensuring a better value for the $30 billion spent on health care in Colorado every year. 


Improved Efficiencies in Private Health Insurance & Public Programs


The plan includes building blocks to improve efficiency in private and public health plans by:


·         Standardizing health plan ID cards and require the use of magnetic strips on all cards to allow for electronic data exchange. This will make it easier for consumers and providers to interact with insurers. Sen. Mitchell and Rep. Gagliardi will sponsor this bill.


“Too much of our health care dollar goes to administration and paper work,” Sen. Mitchell said. “Standardizing health plan ID cards should make things faster and easier for patients and doctors and help bring down costs.”


·         Investing in health information technology through the Colorado Regional Health Information Organization. This will improve the quality of care and address cost issues.


·         Implementing disease management programs to deliver better health outcomes and to better control health care costs.


·         Reducing fraud and abuse in Medicaid.


Increased Transparency


Gov. Ritter’s plan calls for increased transparency by:


·         Creating a web-based, consumer-friendly Report Card on Health Insurance Companies, with information about insurance companies so businesses and individuals shopping for health insurance can make informed decisions. Rep. Primavera will sponsor this bill.


·         Helping consumers make better informed decisions about health insurance purchases by requiring brokers to disclose to consumers their compensation structure. Similar disclosure requirements are in place for real estate brokers and other sales professionals.


Expanded Access to Cost Effective, Quality Care


The Governor’s reform plan calls for finding new strategies to expand care in rural and underserved communities by expanding the range of services nurses and dental hygienists can provide. An advisory committee of nurses, doctors, dentists and dental hygienists, to be chaired by Colorado Chief Medical Officer Dr. Ned Calonge, will be appointed to guide the study.


Other Health Care Building Block Initiatives Already Underway


·         Support LiveWell Colorado, the major anti-obesity initiative at the Colo. Department of Public Health and Environment launched this fall with a $16 million grant from Kaiser.


·         Support school-based health centers that provide primary care services to children throughout Colorado(Department of Public Health and Environment Initiative).


·         Continue support for community mental health services through a $3 million investment increase (Gov. Ritter’s FY08-09 budget request).


·         Provide services to people with developmental disabilities through an increase of $8.3 million (FY08-09 budget request).


·         Fully fund the Colorado Immunization Information System. (FY08-09 budget request).


·         Ensure health care consumers are compensated by insurance companies if the insurance company wrongfully denied a claim. (House Bill 1228, Green).


·         Support families of children with birth defects by funding Colorado Responds to Children with Special Needs. (HB 1100, Gagliardi/Keller).


·         Expand access to dental care for low-income seniors. (HB 1116, Gallegos/ Shaffer).


·         Provide the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing with the budgeting flexibility to serve more children through CHP+. (Senate Bill 22, Sandoval/Ferrandino).



12:45 to 1:15 p.m.      Gov. Bill Ritter will announce a “Building Blocks to Health Care Reform” package at a news conference on Wednesday. The plan includes strategies to address health care cost, quality and access issues through administrative actions and legislation. Location: Denver Health MedicalCenter, Pavilion for Women and Children, 
790 Delaware St



6:30 to 7:15 p.m.        Gov. Ritter will  deliver remarks during ColoradoBiz magazine’s annual “CEO of the Year” awards reception and dinner. Location: Walker Fine Art Gallery: 
300 W. 11th Ave., Denver