Colorado 2024 Legislative Session Preview

Colorado State Capitol

The Colorado General Assembly convened its 2024 legislative session on January 10 and is scheduled to run until May 8. Over the next four months, the state’s 65 representatives and 35 senators will address a wide range of issues. The agenda will be largely dictated by the state’s Democratic leadership, including Governor Jared Polis, Speaker of the House Julie McCluskie, and President of the Senate Steve Fenberg. Some of the key legislative topics leadership has identified include affordable housing, transportation, healthcare, climate, and education.

Workplace Violence in Healthcare Settings

HB 24-1066, which contains both the “Violence Prevention in Healthcare Settings Act” and the “Violence Prevention in Behavioral Health Settings Act,” would require healthcare and behavioral health facilities to develop and implement a workplace violence prevention plan, conduct training, submit biannual incident reports, and provide post-incident support to staff.

Behavioral Health Enhancements

The first introduced bill of the legislative session, Senate Bill 24-001, focuses on making the youth mental health services program I Matter a permanent fixture. This program, which began in 2021, offers free therapy sessions for young people. The bill also establishes an annual review process for the program, replacing the current biannual review. The I Matter program will expire on June 30 if this bill is not passed this year. 

Budget Priorities

Governor Polis has proposed a $38 billion budget for fiscal year 2024, highlighting investments in education, housing, Medicaid, direct care workers’ wages, pediatric behavioral health, and public safety. Highlights include: 

  • A 1% increase in reimbursement to providers who serve Medicaid patients, with larger increases for providers who need an extra boost. 
  • A $53.8 million increase for pay raises for direct care workers.
  • About $26 million more for pediatric behavioral health and autism care. Part of this money would pay for autism care for families in the low-cost Child Health Plan Plus program.
  • $11 million for a social health information exchange, to enable healthcare providers to understand patients’ non-medical needs and make referrals for social services.
  • $8.5 million for school-based behavioral health, including funding to continue I Matter
  • $564 million for K-12 funding in order to fully fund K-12 education and eliminate the budget stabilization factor, using $141 million of the funding. 
  • About $137 million for housing to go toward additional places to live near transit, affordable housing tax credits, development of accessory dwelling units, and repurposing old infrastructure.
  • Nearly $40 million for public safety in the state, along with other proposed spending initiatives.

Health Insurers and Primary Care Providers

Also introduced on January 10 is HB 24-1005, which would require starting on January 1, 2027, health insurers must include primary care providers in their plan networks, given certain qualifications (e.g., licensure, accreditation, approval by Medicaid). By the end of 2025, the insurance commissioner would establish payment rules for these providers, ensuring fair compensation – matching at least what Colorado’s standardized health benefit plan pays – and encouraging them to offer behavioral health services and coordinated care.

Education Initiatives

House Majority Leader Monica Duran has expressed concern over Colorado’s relatively low public education funding. The state introduced a Budget Stabilization Factor in FY 2009-2010 to manage budget deficits, reducing school district funding. Senate Majority Leader Robert Rodriguez suggests that this deficit is on track to be eliminated, promising increased funding for districts. Education remains a top priority, with early session hearings focusing on higher education departments and commissions.

Cost of Living

Governor Polis and both political parties agree on the need to prioritize housing and living costs during this session. Following unsuccessful housing initiatives in 2023, bipartisan efforts now include consultations with industry experts, voters, and municipalities, focusing on land use, renters’ rights, transit access, and more.

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