Discussion of Bill Drafts and Proposed Amendments
ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY POVERTY REDUCTION TASK FORCE
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10:14 AM -- Discussion of Bill Drafts and Proposed Amendments
Representative Kefalas described the format for the discussion of bill drafts and proposed amendments. He noted that members of the public had signed up to participate in the discussion, and explained that no final action on the bills will be taken today. Responding to questions from Senator Boyd, Representative Kefalas provided additional clarification on the process for requesting amendments prior to next week's meeting.
Representative Kefalas described Bill Number 1 (Attachment B). The bill concerns making an Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) a first priority Taxpayer's Bill of Rights (TABOR) refund method. Representative Kefalas distributed a brochure concerning tax credits (Attachment C). He responded to questions from Representative Summers regarding the EITC, Referendum C, and TABOR. Ms. Kate Watkins, Legislative Council Staff, came to the table to provide additional detail related to the trigger for an income tax rate reduction.
10:23 AM -- Ms. Chaer Robert, representing the EITC Coalition, testified regarding Bill Number 1. She distributed a pamphlet of information on the EITC (Attachment D). She discussed the background of Colorado's EITC and expressed support for making the EITC the number one TABOR refund priority. Ms. Robert responded to questions from Senator White related to the funding source for the Piton Foundation, the publisher of the EITC pamphlet. Responding to questions from Representative Gagliardi concerning EITC data, Ms. Robert referred to information available in the pamphlet.
Representative Waller discussed Bill Number 2, which concerns employer liability related to hiring ex-offenders. He stated that a bill draft is not yet available, but will be available before next week's meeting.
Senator Boyd presented Bill Number 3, which concerns identification documents (Attachment E). She distributed a draft of a legislative declaration (Attachment F). Senator Boyd described how the bill would affect identification document fees for individuals who have a letter of referral from a county department. She also discussed a section of the bill related to name changes. Responding to questions from Representative Gagliardi, Mr. Jerry Barry, Office of Legislative Legal Services (OLLS), provided clarification on the language of the bill.
Representative Kefalas summarized the problem the bill tries to address and its methods for doing so. Mr. Barry explained the bill's language related to the court's discretion for allowing a convicted felon to request a name change. Representative Kagan and Senator Boyd discussed whether the bill would contain a safety clause. Senator Boyd asked for clarification regarding whether bill drafts will be changed between this meeting and next week's meeting. Mr. Barry responded that the chair may decide how to proceed.
Senator Boyd presented Bill Number 4 (Attachment G). The bill would authorize the Department of Human Services to use a portion of existing appropriations to conduct an independent evaluation of the Statewide Strategic Use Fund (SSUF). Senator White asked for a dollar estimate of the funds that would be used for the evaluation.
10:50 AM -- Mr. Bill Hanna, representing the Department of Human Services (DHS), testified in favor of the bill. Responding to Senator White's question, he stated that the bill would allow up to 2 percent of the moneys annually allocated to the SSUF to contract for the evaluation, and that the amount would total approximately $200,000. Mr. Hanna responded to additional questions from Representative Kefalas concerning the use of funds. Discussion continued concerning evaluative methods related to the use of SSUF moneys.
Representative Gagliardi expressed her concern that this kind of evaluation is already being done, or should already have been done. Mr. Hanna explained that the original bill creating the SSUF did not provide for an evaluative process. Representative Gagliardi asked if it was necessary to have legislation to carry out an evaluation. Mr. Hanna explained that the law currently only allows for specific uses of the SSUF moneys. Senator Sandoval described previous discussions with the departments related to how grants are evaluated.
Senator Hudak asked for clarification on the uses of the SSUF moneys. Senator Boyd commented on the use of an independent firm to conduct the evaluation. Senator Sandoval noted that the Colorado Works Program is evaluated by an independent firm.
Representative Summers presented Bill Number 5 (Attachment H). The bill concerns a state outreach plan related to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Brita Darling, OLLS, provided additional detail on the bill. Representative Kefalas distributed Amendment L.001 (Attachment I). He explained that the amendment extends the SNAP certification period to meet the maximum certification period allowable under federal law. He also described a conceptual amendment that concerns categorical eligibility and eliminates the asset test for food stamps; he indicated that this amendment would increase the gross income level for SNAP eligibility. Senator Hudak described how the bill relates to work being done by the Early Childhood Commission.
11:11 AM -- Mr. Hanna, DHS, returned to the table to address Bill Number 5. He introduced Ms. Pauline Burton, the SNAP supervisor for the DHS. Mr. Hanna addressed possible amendments to the bill and provided background information on the predicted benefits of the bill. Mr. Hanna also discussed the potential fiscal impact of the bill, and explained the department's position on the bill. Ms. Burton described the potential for recouping federal dollars based on the implementation of a SNAP outreach plan, and the department's roll-out of computer-based administration of the program. Mr. Hanna discussed the possibility of creating a SNAP outreach program without the passage of legislation, and the benefits of doing so.
Discussion ensued regarding the burdens placed on SNAP recipients in gaining reinstatement into the program when they are dropped from it, and the role that the Colorado Benefits Management System plays in creating these burdens. Discussion followed regarding the time frames for which SNAP recipients are certified to receive benefits. Discussion turned to the change in eligibility contemplated by Amendment L.001. Ms. Burton responded to questions regarding access points for applying for SNAP, and how these might be increased as a result of the bill.
Ms. Burton responded to questions regarding the need for legislation to create a SNAP outreach plan. Senator Hudak discussed connections between the work of the Early Childhood Commission and the SNAP eligibility period and discussed the importance of aligning eligibility periods. Discussion continued. Mr. Hanna responded to questions from Senator Boyd related to coinciding eligibility criteria across programs. He described a bill related to streamlining the Colorado Works Program.
Senator Sandoval asked for clarification regarding the SNAP application and review process. Mr. Burton stated that federal law mandates certain aspects of the review process. Representative Kefalas made additional comments.
11:41 AM -- Ms. Tara Trujillo, representing the Colorado Children's Campaign, addressed SNAP's eligibility guidelines. She stated that the asset test is problematic for families because it discourages them from saving. She discussed economic activity created through spending on SNAP.
11:45 AM -- Ms. Kathy Underhill, representing the Colorado Coalition to End Hunger, testified in support of Bill Number 5. Ms. Underhill said that Colorado is currently leaving millions of federal dollars on the table and overloading its counties with work; she indicated that the bill would help ease those problems. She provided statistics related to food stamp use. She described the success of outreach plans in other states. Ms. Underhill stated that longer certification periods would ensure that people do not fall through the cracks. She noted that the recession has increased the number of families needing to apply for support services, and stressed the importance of a simplified application process. She discussed data related to the return on investment in food stamp programs. She remarked that every issue the task force is concerned with is related to hunger.
Senator Sandoval presented Bill Number 6 (Attachment J). The bill gives the task force permission to develop poverty metrics to measure progress towards the task force's ultimate goal of reducing poverty by at least 50 percent by 2019.
Representative Kagan presented Bill Number 7 (Attachment K). The bill would authorize certain public entities to enter into voluntary agreements affecting rent on private residential property. Representative Kagan summarized current law relating to rent control agreements. He said the statute will continue to prohibit rent control except in voluntary agreements between developers and certain entities. Responding to questions from Representative Kefalas, Mr. Bob Lackner, OLLS, came to the table to clarify state law concerning rent control agreements.
Representative Summers asked for clarification regarding the transfer of the agreement to subsequent purchasers of the property. Representative Kagan stated that the bill gives the developers and entities the option to specify whether the agreement will apply to subsequent owners, but does not require the agreement to carry over. Representative Waller asked why a developer would ever want to enter into a voluntary agreement with an entity at a less than optimal price range. Representative Kagan discussed certain situations in which such an agreement might arise. Discussion continued. Mr. Lackner agreed with the scenarios that Representative Kagan had raised as possible applications of the bill and noted that mountain communities may have a use for such agreements. Representative Kefalas provided clarification on the definition of low-income workers within mountain communities and spoke about the effects that more available housing might have on I-70 traffic.
Representative Kagan addressed Representative Waller's concerns that the bill would provide a way around the rent control statute. He described the very specific circumstances in which the bill would apply to an individual development. He said that the bill does not allow a municipality to suddenly control rent.
Senator Hudak presented Bill Number 8 (Attachment L). She stated that the bill allows certain agencies and entities to participate in a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to provide multi-agency services. Senator Hudak noted that the bill does not mandate that any new members be added to collaboratives. She said that the bill expands the purview of the collaboratives to a P-20 scope. Senator Hudak discussed existing restrictions on the rights of certain members of a collaborative. She said that the bill would encourage collaboratives to broaden their scope to include a focus on poverty. Senator Boyd asked for information concerning departments and entities that have already entered into MOUs, and shared additional comments on the bill.
Representative Kagan asked for clarification concerning how membership on collaboratives is decided. Senator Hudak said that the collaborative decides its membership as a group. Senator Boyd remarked that the county would probably be the primary gatekeeper, since the county is the entity that enters into an MOU with the other group.
12:22 PM -- Mr. Mark Kling, representing the Family Resource Center Association, testified in support of efforts to provide wrap-around services for low-income families and children. He stated that efforts such as Bill Number 8 would be a good way to bring more parties to the table. He noted that the bill is permissive and does not make MOUs mandatory.