Colorado’s Citizen Legislature – June 2014
The 2014 General Assembly adjourned on May 7th this year. Today is the final column for this legislative session and readers learn just what happened to the legislation that appeared in Prime Time for Seniors – signed, vetoed, postponed indefinitely (killed) or became law without the Governor’s signature.
Senate Bill 14-014 was signed by Governor Hickenlooper on May 22nd, and makes changes to the Property Tax, Rent and Heat Rebate Program for individuals, married couples at least 65 years old (or surviving spouses 58 and over), and disabled claimants. The enacted bill resets income thresholds starting in tax year 2014, and provides for annual adjustment for inflation starting in tax year 2014, and provides for annual adjustment for inflation starting in tax year 2015. Other changes to current law include:
- individuals with income up to $6,639.00 and joint files with income up to $10,731.00 are eligible for a maximum of property tax and rent rebate of $700.00; and
- individuals with income up to $14,937.00 and joint filers with an income up to $20,163.00 are eligible for a newly established “flat rate” maximum of $300.00 ($227.00 property tax plus $73.00 heat rebate).
Senate Bill 14-044 was postponed indefinitely (killed) on January 30th. The bill would have allowed Colorado vehicle owners 65 years of age and older to pay a flat rate registration fee of $50.00 instead of their regular motor vehicle fees and taxes. The bill proved to be too expensive for legislators – $15,980,279.00 in 2014-15 and $31,96,557.00 in 2015-16.
Senate Bill 14-012 was also signed by the Governor on May 22nd. Colorado’s Aid to the Needy Disabled program provides assistance payments to low-income residents as an interim assistance program for qualified people waiting for their federal Supplemental Security Income benefits to begin. The program was established in 1953 and serves residents of Colorado age 18 to 59 who have been medically certified as disabled and are unable to work for a period of at least six months.
Senate Bill 14-098 was signed by the Governor on April 7th. The bill serves as “clarifying legislation” to Senate Bill 13-111 passed during the 2013 legislative session, the landmark bill that requires the reporting of abuse or exploitation of at-risk adults/at risk elders by public and mandatory reporters. This bill also adds to the definition of abuse set forth in Senate Bill 13-111 to include exploitation. “Other things of value” are added to the current items (money, assets or property) covered in the definition of exploitation of at-risk elders. SB 098 increases the penalty to a class 2 felony under the theft statute – previously the penalty was a class 1 petty offense.
Senate Bill 14-013 was postponed indefinitely (killed) on April 29th. Coloradans eligible to receive the Colorado Old Age Pension would have been able to exclude the first $300.00 per month received in the form of gifts, grants or donations when calculating income and resources for eligibility. Colorado’s Old Age Pension Fund is a constitutionally-created program to provide cash assistance to Coloradans over the age of 60 who meet income and other eligibility requirements, and is funded by sales, use and excise tax.
Senate Bill 14-118 improves protections for individuals with disabilities. The bill was also signed by Governor Hickenlooper on May 22nd, and conforms a number of existing definitions with the federal Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990. SB 118 also adds civil penalties when a service animal or service animal-in-training is harmed in a willful or wanton manner by a person or another animal, in the amount of treble the actual damages.
House Bill 14-1357 was signed by the Governor on May 22nd, and expands in-home support services (IHSS) provided in the Medicaid Program. IHSS include health maintenance household assistance and personal care service that allows persons to remain in their homes rather than nursing care and other type facilities. Among the other significant benefits of HB 1357 are that spouses are eligible to act as an attendant providing IHSS and it allows family members to be reimbursed for providing IHSS.
House Bill 1211 was also signed by the Governor on May 22nd, and assures that complex needs patients have support to stay in their home or community setting, prevents institutionalization and hospitalization, and costly secondary complications. HB 1211 requires that Complex Rehabilitation Technology (CRT) be recognized by the Department of Health Care Policy as a unique category of services under Medicaid. CRT is defined in the bill as “durable medical equipment that is individually configured for complex needs patients to meet their specific medical, physical and functional needs and capabilities for daily living.”
As this issue of Prime Time for Seniors goes to print, the other two bills written about this session – Senate Bills 14-130 and 14-151 – are on the Governor’s desk awaiting his action.
SB 14-130 (if the Governor signs it), increases the basic minimum personal needs allowance for residents of Medicaid nursing facilities from $50.00 to $75.00, the first increase in Colorado since 1999.
SB 151 (if the Governor signs it), means a significant increase in funding to improve the quality of life for nursing home residents. The bill renames the Nursing Facility Culture Change Accountability Board to the Nursing Home Innovations Grant Board which oversees the Nursing Home Penalty Cash Fund created by the legislature when House Bill 09-1196 was passed. The Board will be in charge of awarding grants for measures intended to foster innovation and directly improve the quality of life and care provided in nursing home facilities.
No word was available on the likely fate of SB 130 and 151.
That’s a wrap for Colorado’s Citizen Legislature. Hope to see you again next year.
Doris is a freelance journalist who writes from her home high in the Colorado Rocky Mountains on senior issues, politics, ethics and environmental issues. Visit her website www.dorisbeaver.com or e-mail her at email@example.com.