Tipton.jpg

Scott TiptonScott TiptonSeptember 12, 20178min735

Over the month of August, my team and I traveled over 1,700 miles across the 3rd Congressional District and state of Colorado, making over 30 stops to discuss the most pressing issues facing our nation. I had the privilege of visiting with local economic development leaders, county commissioners, school boards, health care providers, veterans groups, substance abuse professionals and many others — including U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt. He visited the Gold King Mine site on the two-year anniversary of the toxic spill to reassure the community that the EPA is prioritizing cleanup of the site and will make those impacted by the spill whole.

There are a few themes that I heard throughout the month no matter where I was, and it is clear that jobs and the economy, health care, and the nation’s opioid abuse epidemic are top of mind for many Coloradans.

In Colorado, we have a tale of two economies. While resort towns and major metropolitan areas are thriving, there are many communities on the Western Slope, Front Range, and in the San Luis Valley where families are struggling. The legacy of heavy-handed federal regulations is still preventing the private sector in these communities from creating jobs and supporting economic security.

According to the Small Business Administration’s 2016 statistics, small businesses support 49 percent of Colorado’s workforce. Small businesses are truly the backbone of our state’s economy, and we must do everything we can to support entrepreneurs and job creators. Unfortunately, a 2014 study by the Brookings Institute showed an alarming trend: in recent years, the number of small businesses that have shut down exceeds the number that have opened their doors. Nowhere has this trend been felt more profoundly than in rural America, where small businesses are responsible for approximately two-thirds of all jobs.

As a former small business owner, my focus in Congress has been on advancing policies that will create an environment where we see more businesses opening than closing each year. When more businesses open, struggling families have more job opportunities and a better chance at achieving financial stability.

While it takes time to undo nearly a decade of harmful regulatory policies, we are making progress on this front in the 115th Congress. So far this year, Congress passed and the president has signed 14 congressional resolutions of disapproval that roll back unnecessary, overly burdensome federal regulations, and the House passed the REINS Act (H.R. 26), which would require Congressional approval of any regulation that would have an economic impact of $100 million or more. Although we still have a long way to go, I am confident that we are heading in the right direction to deliver more job opportunities and economic stability to families in the 3rd Congressional District.

The Colorado Division of Insurance recently announced that premiums in the state’s individual health insurance market will increase by 26.7 percent on average in 2018. This is on top of the 20 percent increase in 2017 and 24 percent increase in 2016. The trajectory is unsustainable and unacceptable. We must repeal and replace the so-called Affordable Act and bring affordable health insurance to the 3rd Congressional District.

In May, the House made important progress towards this goal by passing the American Health Care Act (AHCA). The bill would drive down the cost of health insurance and bring competition and choice to the market, while ensuring that individuals who have pre-existing conditions maintain access to affordable health insurance. In addition to the AHCA, the House also passed bills to begin medical tort reform — an issue that needs to be addressed in order to drive down health care costs — and allow small businesses and associations to provide insurance options for their employees or members across state lines, which will give individuals and families more choices when it comes to their insurance coverage. These bills were the Protecting Access to Care Act (H.R. 1215), Small Business Health Fairness Act of 2017 (H.R. 1101), and the Competitive Health Insurance Reform Act (H.R. 372).

The Senate has not yet passed the AHCA or a health care bill of its own that would allow both chambers to compromise on final legislation. It is beyond time for the Senate to act.

As I have traveled our district to speak with the men and women who work on the front lines of the opioid abuse epidemic, it has become clear to me that Colorado has some of the most dedicated doctors, nurses, counselors, and substance abuse professionals in the country. The president recently declared the opioid abuse epidemic a national emergency, and I have been committed to ensuring our communities have the resources they need to develop and sustain prevention, treatment, and recovery programs.

In 2016, the 21st Century Cures Act and Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) were both signed into law. These bills authorized programs to provide states with more resources to expand opioid abuse prevention and treatment efforts. As a result of these bills, Colorado received $7.8 million to support prevention, treatment, and recovery services, and the Department of Health and Human Services has made $75.9 million in competitive grants available to state mental health and substance abuse agencies.

I continue to receive feedback on how the federal government can better support Colorado’s efforts to fight the opioid abuse epidemic, and I’m committed to incorporating this feedback into policy decisions that are made in Washington.

Congress has a full agenda between now and the end of the year. If you have any questions about bills that are up for a vote or my work on your behalf, please do not hesitate to give my office in Washington, DC, a call at 202-225-4761. You can also write to me on my website, www.tipton.house.gov.



Peter MarcusPeter MarcusJune 29, 20176min450

A ceremony will take place Friday at an Eastern Plains hospital to celebrate funding for rural facilities after Gov. John Hickenlooper was criticized for not signing legislation there.

The Colorado Hospital Association organized an event at Lincoln Community Hospital in Hugo to celebrate passage of Senate Bill 267, an omnibus that provided money for roads, schools and hospitals.

The bipartisan group of lawmakers who sponsored the bill are expected to attend the event, including Rep. Jon Becker, R-Fort Morgan, and Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, who criticized Hickenlooper earlier this month for not signing the bill at the Hugo hospital.

The two Republicans said Hickenlooper was unwilling to work with them on a signing ceremony at Lincoln Community. They said his decision is going to make it difficult to work with the governor in the future.

“While we know the governor has the authority to sign bills wherever he wants, I am disappointed that it seems bill signings have become all about him. Legislators don’t have taxpayer funded airplanes and transportation to keep up with the governor’s whims,” Sonnenberg told Colorado Politics earlier this month.

“He had three weeks to work with us on this very important bill and he refused. If he considers that working together, I can’t wait to show him how that goes both ways next session,” Becker added.

Hickenlooper’s office said at the time that it was simply a matter of scheduling, and that the bill was still signed in a rural part of the state, east of Pueblo.

The governor is not on the list of expected attendees for Friday’s event, which is scheduled for 2 p.m. His office said it did not receive an official invite through its online system.

Also on the list of expected attendees is House Democratic Leader KC Becker of Boulder and Senate Democratic Leader Lucia Guzman of Denver, who were also sponsors of Senate Bill 267.

The driving force behind the bill, which creates a 20-year funding program to direct $1.8 billion towards critical infrastructure, had to do with the potential for rural hospitals to close because of a lack of funding.

Senate Bill 267 reversed a proposed budget move that would have reduced the Hospital Provider Fee by $264 million in an effort to balance the budget. The fee is assessed on hospital bed stays to force a match of larger federal health care dollars. With the federal match, hospitals in Colorado would have lost about $528 million.

The Republican sponsors of the bill were particularly upset that the governor didn’t sign the measure at a rural hospital because it took a leap of faith for them to push the bill through the split legislature. The issue of restructuring the Hospital Provider Fee was a nonstarter for years for most Republicans.

But some GOP members found themselves evolving on the issue because of the rural component. It was still thorny, however, as several Republican lawmakers believe the move violates the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights by moving revenue out from under its constitutionally mandated spending cap.

Hickenlooper chose to sign Senate Bill 267 at Fowler High School. While it is in a rural area, in a town of about 1,200 people, and the legislation also benefits schools, the two Republican sponsors of the bill thought the governor should have signed the bill at a hospital in an area such as Hugo in Lincoln County, which was repeatedly highlighted during the Hospital Provider Fee debate.

When the governor signed the bill on May 30, several other lawmakers showed up to the event, including House Democratic Leader Becker, Republican Senate President Kevin Grantham of Canon City, and Sen. Larry Crowder, a Republican from Alamosa, who was one of the first Republicans to rally around the bill, stating his support in previous years.

When it comes to signing ceremonies, the governor’s office is often overwhelmed by requests from lawmakers who want legislation signed at specific locations. It can be difficult to accommodate schedules.

“I’m sorry they feel slighted on this one, but there was no slight intended from the governor’s office,” Kurt Morrison, Hickenlooper’s director of legislative affairs, responded to concerns earlier this month “It was scheduled around as many schedules as there could be and unfortunately with every bill signing ceremony, we’re hardly ever able to accommodate the wishes of all sponsors and the governor’s schedule.”

In addition to KC Becker, Crowder is also expected to attend the ceremony in Hugo on Friday. Sen. Irene Aguilar, D-Denver, a physician, and representatives of the hospital community are also expected to attend. Grantham was invited, though he is not confirmed to attend, as was Rep. Kimmi Lewis, R-Las Animas.

“This event… is an opportunity to highlight the incredible impact this bill will have on Colorado hospitals as well as a chance to thank the sponsors,” read an advisory from the Colorado Hospital Association.



Peter MarcusMay 9, 20174min331

Pegged as one of the most important bills of the legislative session, a last-ditch effort to fund transportation, schools and hospitals appears poised to cross the finish line.

After hours of debate on Monday, which continued into early Tuesday morning, the House backed an effort to create a 20-year bond program to direct $1.8 billion towards critical infrastructure.

A host of amendments were offered during the hours-long debate, as attempts were made to find existing funding. Democrats, who control the House, shot down those amendments, suggesting that the $26.8 billion proposed budget is already stretched.

“We made a very tight state budget more responsive to the needs of our state and its people without taking any Coloradans for granted or leaving any Coloradans behind,” House Speaker Crisanta Duran, D-Denver, said in a statement. “This is not the long-term solution to our structural budget problems, but it buys us some time.”

Senate Bill 267 still faces a final vote in the legislature on Wednesday – the last day of the legislative session – before it can go to Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, for his signature.

The bill would reverse a budget move this year that reduced the Hospital Provider Fee by $264 million in an effort to balance the budget. The fee is assessed on hospitals to force a match of larger federal health care dollars. With the federal match, hospitals in Colorado stand to lose about $528 million. Some rural hospitals said they would close.

It would reclassify the fee on hospital-bed occupancy as an enterprise fund to get out from under the state spending cap, while also lowering the spending cap base by $200 million to protect taxpayer rebates.

Senate Bill 267 would require that at least 25 percent of the money from bonding go toward projects in rural Colorado, with county populations of 50,000 or less.

The legislation is the result of the legislature’s failure to advance more significant transportation funding. One measure would have raised the state sales tax in an effort to address a $9 billion shortfall in transportation funding. Another measure would have used existing taxes and a $3.5 billion bond program to pay for roads and highways.

With lawmakers ready to cross the finish line on Senate Bill 267, legislative leaders can point to an example of compromise that took a leap of faith for both Republicans and Democrats.

In a sign of the bill’s urgency, the measure passed the Senate Monday morning and two House committees Monday afternoon before receiving initial approval from the House on Tuesday.

Republicans have been skeptical of restructuring the Hospital Provider Fee for years, arguing that the issue should have gone to voters. But by lowering the state spending cap to protect taxpayer rebates and by addressing Medicaid reform by increasing co-pays for Medicaid patients, enough GOP lawmakers were able to come around.

The measure also would address schools, with $30 million allocated to rural districts over three years. Lawmakers have proposed paying for the school funding by raising marijuana taxes from 13 percent to 15 percent.

It also would aim at avoiding a cut to the Senior Homestead Exemption, while also including a credit for businesses paying taxes on business equipment. Marijuana money would also help with that.

“This bill is entitled ‘Sustainability of Rural Colorado,’ and we certainly focused on rural hospitals and rural schools,” Majority Leader KC Becker, D-Boulder, told the House. “But Coloradans across this state will benefit.”


1Style Matters.2.17.12.jpg

Peter MarcusMay 8, 20174min349

State lawmakers say they have a deal that can mitigate some of the failures from not advancing a full transportation funding measure this year in the legislature.

The proposal would create a 20-year bond program to direct $1.8 billion towards critical infrastructure, including roads and highways.

Senate Bill 267 comes after a centerpiece transportation funding bill – a multi-billion dollar effort that would have raised the state sales tax for roads and highways – failed last month.

A separate effort, Senate Bill 303, would use existing taxes and a $3.5 billion bond program to pay for roads and highways. But the bill faces an uphill battle in a divided legislature and legislative leaders aren’t holding out much hope.

That leaves Senate Bill 267, a dramatic example of compromise that appears poised to cross the finish line.

“It’s fair to both sides. It helps rural Colorado. There’s some things that cause the Democrats to cringe to vote ‘yes’ and there’s things in there that are going to cause Republicans to cringe to vote ‘yes.’ But I think it’s the right thing to do,” said Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, who has been leading talks for Republicans.

The bill received a final 25-10 vote in the Senate on Monday. It now heads to the House for consideration. With three days left in the session, time is critical.

The sticking point in the conversation had been over Medicaid reform. Republicans said the deal that was reached with Democrats included a requirement that co-pays for Medicaid patients be set at the maximum level set by the federal government. Democrats, however, said that was never part of the deal.

A compromise was reached to increase co-pays for Medicaid patients but not up to the federal maximum for outpatient services.

The bill would reverse a budget move this year that reduced the Hospital Provider Fee by $264 million in an effort to balance the budget. The fee is assessed on hospitals to force a match of larger federal health care dollars. With the federal match, hospitals in Colorado stand to lose about $528 million.

It would reclassify the fee on hospital-bed occupancy as an enterprise fund to get out from under the state spending cap, while also lowering the spending cap base by $200 million to protect taxpayer rebates.

Senate Bill 267 would require that at least 25 percent of the money from bonding go toward projects in rural Colorado, with county populations of 50,000 or less.

The measure also would address schools, with $30 million allocated to rural districts over three years. Lawmakers have proposed paying for the school funding by raising marijuana taxes.

It also would aim at avoiding a cut to the Senior Homestead Exemption, while also including a credit for businesses paying taxes on business equipment. Marijuana money would also help with that.

Legislative leaders had made transportation funding a priority this session. It appears they won’t come up with the $9 billion needed to cover the shortfall in transportation funding that the state faces, but legislative leaders believe they will take a large step by the end of Wednesday.

“It does enough for now,” said Senate President Kevin Grantham, R-Canon City. “We’ll still probably see measures on the ballot, even if 267 gets to the finish line.”


OP-Linda-GormanW.jpg

Linda GormanLinda GormanApril 17, 20178min401

Senate Bill 17-267 was recently approved by the Senate Finance Committee on a 4-1 vote. That’s potentially bad news for taxpayers, and sick people. The bill would make Colorado’s state budget less transparent, reduce legislative and taxpayer control over state spending, create two new slush funds outside of legislative control, increase state indebtedness, and use a financial trick to raise the amount of tax money the state can keep without voter approval.



Peter MarcusApril 11, 20179min277
A Senate committee on Tuesday advanced bipartisan legislation that would finally pump money into ailing roads, schools and hospitals by restructuring the thorny Hospital Provider Fee. A conversation years in the making, Senate Bill 267 passed the Republican-controlled Senate Finance Committee 4-1. The bill now heads to appropriations for consideration, where it continues to face […]

This content is only available to subscribers.

Login or Subscribe


JeffWeist.jpg

Jeff WeistJeff WeistApril 5, 20176min488

When it comes to broadband access, Colorado has a mountainous challenge — literally. The vast majority of Coloradans live in areas well served by multiple, private-sector, high-speed internet providers. Cable providers alone have invested over $8 billion of their own capital to upgrade their network. Most cable customers in Colorado will have access to affordable, 1-gigabit-per-second connections this year without the expenditure of a penny of public funds. That is a remarkable story.


Denver-Carroll-Jones-Mauck-T.jpg

Ernest LuningErnest LuningFebruary 17, 201710min802

Three of the four candidates for chair of the Colorado Democratic Party sounded the alarm and raised the roof campaigning for the post at Denver County’s reorganization meeting on Saturday. Former Senate President Morgan Carroll, Colorado Democratic Party 2nd vice chair Barbara Jones and Clear Creek County Commissioner Tim Mauck made their pitches to the hundreds of Denver Democrats assembled at South High School, invoking Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders and rural Democrats who want practical solutions to real-world problems.