Roberts: What we got done at the Capitol
Last week, the 2021 legislative session came to a close at the Capitol in Denver — it was unique, challenging, rewarding and, most importantly, productive. After a busy four-and-a-half months, there is a lot to recap and a lot of exciting developments for Eagle County and Colorado to report.
This year, my colleagues and I set out to help Colorado build back stronger, and with the passage of many bipartisan bills, we did just that. For businesses, education, environment, employment, agriculture, and much, much more — we allocated $800 million in economic stimulus to jumpstart our economy and ensure the recovery was equitable.
The state stimulus efforts ensured that the most vulnerable avoided eviction, that new workforces could be trained, that unemployment was mitigated, that our infrastructure was updated, that our schools saw improved funding, that our businesses retained employees, and that Colorado stayed strong.
My own bills, SB21-291 and HB21-1263, which will support small businesses and the event and tourism industry, respectively, were a part of the economic stimulus. SB21-291 allocates $50 million in grants for businesses and $10 million to businesses that open in rural Colorado and will provide additional state dollars for every new employee hired by those rural businesses.
HB21-1263 will help reinvigorate our tourism economy by providing rebates to events and venues that generate at least 25 paid overnight stays for festivals, conferences, weddings, and more. Both bills will help businesses in our community bounce back fast as Colorado recovers from the broad economic effects of the pandemic.
Restaurants were one of the hardest hit industry sectors during the pandemic, and one COVID-era rule change worked incredibly well to help restaurants generate additional revenue to keep employees hired and, for some, keep their doors open. That’s why I’m proud to report that my bill, HB21-1027, was passed. It will allow restaurants to continue selling to-go and delivery alcohol as an extra and crucial source of revenue for at least four more years. I also was proud to support a bill that will allow restaurants and retail stores to retain sales tax collections as a means of helping them recover from the downturn.
Along with economic recovery, I focused my efforts this year on the health of Coloradans, and am excited that two bills of mine to that effect passed.
Most notable was the Colorado Option, which I’ve been working on with Sen. Kerry Donovan for several years. The passage of the Colorado Option means that finally, every county in the state will have more than one choice for health insurance on the individual and small group markets at an affordable price.
The bill creates a standardized plan offered by existing insurance carriers in every county that will be 15% less expensive than current prices by 2025. Eagle County consistently experiences some of the highest insurance rates in the state, largely because there is only one carrier on the individual market and a monopoly on prices — the Colorado Option will change that.
Prescription drug costs also continue to be a huge burden for Coloradans. I introduced an insulin affordability bill to assist those without insurance or who are under-insured. Insulin costs are out of control in this country and for those who have diabetes, insulin is like oxygen, you cannot live without it.
A drug so life-saving and one that has been around for over 100 years should not be unaffordable but for too many, it is. HB21-1307 creates the insulin affordability program in the division of insurance to supply individuals who are uninsured or underinsured with their insulin for no more than $50 a month for 12 months. I also supported a bill that will establish the Colorado Prescription Drug Affordability Board — a body that will work to reduce the prices of the most-used and most-expensive prescription drugs.
Things are looking good for Colorado. We passed a balanced budget this year that completely restored and expanded investment to vital state resources like public education, affordable housing, behavioral health, water, agriculture and much more.
As we end this historic chapter at the Colorado state Legislature, I am proud to report that we accomplished many of the goals we set out to achieve, but also that there is more work to do.
In the interim, I look forward to speaking with you, my constituents, and turning our sights to the future needs of our communities. As always, I invite you to contact me anytime on my cell at 970-846-3054 or via email at Dylan.Roberts.House@state.co.us.
Representative Dylan Roberts represents Colorado House District 26, encompassing Eagle and Routt counties.