Roberts: Update on legislative session and looking toward budgeting cycle (column)
The 2018 Colorado Legislative Session began Wednesday, Jan. 10, and it was a privilege to be there that day and every day as the representative for House District 26: Eagle and Routt counties.
On that opening day, Speaker of the House Crisanta Duran implored all of us to work together to preserve and enhance our Colorado way of life. We have until Wednesday, May 9, to pass a balanced budget and craft legislation. I write today to provide an update on what has happened in the first month, what I am working on for you and what to expect in the month ahead.
A lot has happened in the month since the session began. We have already sent a law to the governor’s desk that will allow nurses to practice across state lines and fixed a tax code that will benefit our local special districts that provide public transportation, fire protection and other services.
By the time you read this, a bill sponsored by Eagle County Sen. Kerry Donovan increasing the funding for rural broadband services could be law, and a step toward alleviating our state’s nursing shortage by allowing community colleges to offer four-year bachelor of nursing degrees could be passed. These efforts prove that despite the partisan rancor and dysfunction in Washington, your state government is committed to working across partisan divides to solve problems.
Further, I am optimistic about the legislation that I am personally bringing forward. I have dedicated myself to bills that will have a meaningful and positive impact for you, my constituents and our region. Knowing that health care costs are an acute problem for those of us in the mountains, I have introduced two pieces of legislation to help alleviate that problem.
First, House Bill 18-1205 would provide relief to individuals and families who have to purchase health insurance on the continually rising-in-price individual market. The bill would grant a subsidy for the purchase of health insurance if you do not qualify for the federal subsidy, paying 20 percent or more of your monthly income on health insurance.
In our communities where the cost of living is so high, having such a large amount of your monthly income go to health insurance can be financially ruinous. My bill is not the answer to the underlying problem but would provide some immediate relief that too many need. I am proud that Republicans and Democrats in both the House and the Senate have signed on to co-sponsor this bill.
Second, prescription drug costs can be a crushing burden for people with chronic diseases, while the companies that produce these drugs are experiencing record profits and little competition. One of the most egregious examples of this is in the insulin market. If you are a Type 1 diabetic (an unpreventable autoimmune disease, unlike Type 2 diabetes), you need daily doses of insulin to simply survive. If you do not have insulin every day, you die. Insulin has changed very little in its physical makeup over the past 20 years but its price has increased more than 1,200 percent in those 20 years.
That means that diabetics with limited or no insurance are paying up to $250 per vial for the same product that used to cost only $21. That is like paying the price of an iPhone X for a Nokia brick cellphone from the late ’90s. My bill, the Insulin Price Transparency Act, is a first step in simply asking these companies “why?” It is a first step at what could hopefully be the beginning of lower drug prices for Coloradans.
I will also be presenting a bill to promote the hiring of talented attorneys to become Deputy District Attorneys in our rural Colorado offices (including the Eagle County DA’s office) and one that will protect our precious clean water by ensuring that hard-rock mining operations are backed by the proper financial assurances to handle water quality monitoring and cleanup.
On a broader level, I look forward to being your advocate during the all-important budget process, when the entire general assembly will debate how to allocate your tax dollars and balance our budget. We will need to make some bold decisions about adequately funding our public education system, investing in our transportation infrastructure and finding a long-term solution to our state’s pension system, among other priorities.
As always, I invite you to contact me to share your thoughts on legislation or if you need help navigating our state government.
Rep. Dylan Roberts is the representative for Colorado House District 26, encompassing Eagle and Routt counties. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 970-846-3054.