STAFF SUMMARY OF MEETING
ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY POVERTY REDUCTION TASK FORCE
|Time:||09:04 AM to 03:36 PM|
|This Meeting was called to order by|
|This Report was prepared by|
X = Present, E = Excused, A = Absent, * = Present after roll call
|Bills Addressed: ||Action Taken:|
Presentation by Governor's Office of Economic Development
Presentation by the Department of Corrections
Presentation by Interagency Homelessness Council
Presentation by the Department of Local Affairs
Presentation by the Department of Revenue
Consideration of Potential Legislation
|Witness Testimony and/or Committee Discussion Only|
Witness Testimony and/or Committee Discussion Only
Witness Testimony and/or Committee Discussion Only
Witness Testimony and/or Committee Discussion Only
Witness Testimony and/or Committee Discussion Only
Witness Testimony and/or Committee Discussion Only
Witness Testimony and/or Committee Discussion Only
Eight proposals approved for bill drafting
09:04 AM -- Opening Remarks
Representative Kefalas, Chair, made opening remarks regarding the meeting agenda and the work of the task force, including the task force's subcommittees. Representative Kefalas also thanked certain departments and stakeholders for their work in providing the task force with requested information, and explained how bill draft ideas will be approved by the task force. Representative Kefalas responded to questions regarding the process by which legislation ideas will be forwarded to the Office of Legislative Legal Services for drafting. Representative Kefalas then spoke to the charge of the task force, and work yet to be done by the task force.
09:14 AM -- Presentation by the Office of Economic Development and International Trade
Mr. Matt Cheroutes, representing the Governor's Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT), provided background on the office and briefed the task force on the programs administered by the office that serve to promote economic opportunity. Mr. Cheroutes also spoke to the mission of OEDIT. Mr. Cheroutes responded to questions regarding the estimated return on investment associated with certain of the office's economic development programs, and OEDIT's efforts in the area of job retention.
Mr. Cheroutes continued to discuss OEDIT's efforts to assist with job retention. Mr. Cheroutes responded to questions regarding the impact of its job creation and retention efforts on assisting the poor, and the definition of the term "primary job." Discussion ensued regarding the concept of primary and secondary jobs, and the ability of OEDIT to target its efforts toward assisting the poor to acquire and retain employment. Discussion followed regarding specific job training programs administered by the state, and how OEDIT and other state entities can add helping the poor to their respective missions.
Discussion continued regarding potential efforts on the part of certain state entities to assist in reducing poverty, and the need for continued discussion among state entities on the subject of poverty reduction. Mr. Cheroutes responded to questions regarding OEDIT's FY 2009-10 appropriation, potential cuts to the office as a result of the continued budget downturn, and the effect of these cuts. Discussion followed regarding the concept of economic development, and efforts on the part of the task force's Job Creation Subcommittee to explore this concept. Discussion returned to certain cuts to OEDIT's budget, and the impact of the cuts.
09:42 AM -- Presentation by the Department of Corrections
Ms. Joanie Shoemaker, Deputy Director of Prisons, Director of Clinical Services, and Mr. Carl Wotowis, Assistant Director of Offender Programs, Department of Corrections, briefed the task force on certain programs administered by the department that impact poverty and economic opportunity, including educational initiatives, substance abuse and mental health treatment efforts, offender reentry programs, and Correctional Industries. Mr. Wotowis explained the functions of the department's pre-release program, and how this program helps offenders to reintegrate with the community upon release. Discussion ensued regarding the success rate of the offender reentry program at its Cheyenne Mountain facility, and the department's efforts in the area of measuring the success rates of its reentry programs. Mr. Wotowis responded to questions regarding the department's most successful programs in combatting offender recidivism. Discussion followed regarding the importance of employment initiatives in offender success and recidivism reduction.
Mr. Wotowis continued to respond to questions regarding the department's efforts in helping offenders to gain employment upon release, and barriers to gaining employment for released offenders. Ms. Shoemaker responded to questions regarding its efforts to ensure that offenders have proper identification upon release, and certain fees associated with acquiring replacement identification. Mr. Wotowis responded to questions regarding the participation rate in the pre-release program. Ms. Shoemaker responded to questions regarding the participation rate in the department's GED program, and the status of the grant-funded biodiesel production plant associated with Correctional Industries. Ms. Shoemaker responded to further questions regarding the availability of recidivism data, and the ability of the department to respond to the marketplace in its offender training initiatives.
Discussion ensued regarding the process by which inmates are assigned to the department's various programs.
10:13 AM -- Presentation by the Colorado Community and Interagency Council on Homelessness
Ms. B.J. Iacino, representing the Colorado Community and Interagency Council on Homelessness, briefed the task force on the council's work to date and its recommendations for reducing homelessness. Task force members received a report to Governor Ritter documenting the council's recommendations (Attachment A), and an update on these recommendations (Attachment B). Ms. Iacino referred to these documents in making her presentation.
Ms. Iacino continued to brief the task force on the recommendations for mitigating homelessness by the Interagency Council on Homelessness. Ms. Iacino responded to questions regarding the need to ensure that those in the custody of mental health institutions are not discharged directly into homeless situations. Ms. Iacino responded to further questions regarding the council's recommendations for increasing state spending on homelessness programs in light of the recent round of recommended budget cuts and the state's continued economic downturn. Discussion ensued regarding a recommendation by the council to ensure smooth transitions by youth into adult and other age-appropriate human service programs.
Discussion ensued regarding funding for upgrades to the Homeless Management Information System. Discussion returned to the subject of releasing persons in the custody of mental health institutions into homelessness, how current law addresses this issue, and a recommendation by the council that seeks to mitigate this problem. Ms. Iacino responded to questions regarding time values associated with the definition of homelessness. Ms. Iacino then discussed the council's work during the past six months. Senator Sandoval noted the subject parallels between the Interagency Council on Homelessness and the task force, and the relationship between poverty and homelessness. Ms. Iacino noted the resources contained in the footnotes contained in Attachment A, and the impact of recent budget cuts on emergency services for the homeless population.
10:49 AM -- Presentation by the Department of Local Affairs
Ms. Susan Kirkpatrick, Executive Director of the Department of Local Affairs, briefed the task force on the department's programs that operate in the areas of economic opportunity and poverty alleviation. Task force members received a briefing paper to accompany Ms. Kirkpatrick's presentation (Attachment C). Ms. Kirkpatrick addressed specific grant programs administered by the department, and the department's work in local and rural areas to improve water quality, housing, and wages.
Ms. Kirkpatrick continued to brief the task force on its programs that affect poverty and economic opportunity, discussing the department's efforts in the area of economic development, growth, and interagency collaboration. Ms. Kirkpatrick responded to questions regarding the department's grant funding for the upcoming fiscal year, cuts made to this grant funding by the legislature, and the impact of such budget cuts. Ms. Kirkpatrick then spoke to the merits of the Energy and Mineral Impact Program. Ms. Kirkpatrick responded to further questions regarding housing grant funding still available to the department after the budget cuts, and the status of the Emergency Shelter Grants Program.
11:09 AM -- Presentation by the Department of Revenue
Mr. Mark Couch, Legislative Liaison for the Department of Revenue, introduced himself and provided an overview of the department and its duties. He discussed the department's role in processing tax refunds. He addressed the department's concerns about the effects of budget cuts. Mr. Couch cited previous Legislative Council Staff studies related to the state tax burden and its relation to economic development. He discussed the Colorado Property Tax/Rent/Heat Rebate (PTC) program and summarized its eligibility requirements and participation statistics.
Representative Gagliardi asked Mr. Couch to provide further detail on the eligibility guidelines for the PTC rebate program. Discussion continued concerning the unavailability of county-by-county data and the department's outdated computer system. He indicated that the department's new computer system, called Colorado Integrated Tax Architecture, will be able to generate better information. Mr. Couch responded to additional questions from Representative Gagliardi.
Representative Kefalas asked Mr. Couch to discuss the Earned Income Tax Credit and its relation to Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) revenue surpluses and the state income tax rate. Mr. Couch indicated that he would forward information to the committee. The committee recessed briefly.
11:30 AM -- Public Testimony
The committee reconvened for public testimony. The following individuals testified before the committee:
11:30 AM -- Mr. Randle Loeb, representing himself, discussed his experience on various councils and committees concerned with homelessness and expressed his concern that the committee was still not focusing on the most important issues affecting homeless individuals. He shared a handout with the members of the committee titled Denver's Ten-Year Plan to End Homelessness (Attachment D). He stated that government cannot solve homelessness, and indicated the significance of collaboration across the community. Mr. Loeb addressed recent reports indicating that the homeless rate has risen and distributed an executive summary of one such report (Attachment E). Mr. Loeb responded to questions from Representative Gagliardi concerning the agencies that he had discussed.
11:38 AM -- Ms. B.J. Iacino, representing the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, distributed a fact sheet on the Aid to the Needy Disabled (AND) program, prepared by the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless (Attachment F). She discussed the AND program and the possible effects of budget cuts on the program. She suggested that some of the potential solutions that have been proposed will not work, and explained that other safety net programs will be limited in their ability to help individuals who will be affected by the budget cuts. Ms. Iacino stated that the Low-income Energy Assistance program will not help such individuals either since it is a federal program and only operates for part of the year. She encouraged the members of the committee to question the position of state officials who provide information on what will mitigate the impact of AND cuts, as some of the proposed solutions may not truly be viable. She suggested that an economic analysis be conducted concerning the cuts to the AND program.
Representative Kagan asked for additional information concerning the AND program and its eligibility guidelines. Ms. Iacino discussed the different populations addressed by federal and state guidelines. Representative Gagliardi asked for information about the wait time to qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and the issues involved with Colorado Benefits Management System (CBMS) expenditures. Ms. Iacino indicated that she was not able to address issues related to CBMS. She provided information concerning reasons for the wait time to qualify for SSI, such as staffing issues and the effects of the budget cuts. She recommended that the system be improved before cutting benefits for individuals, and suggested that cuts would cost taxpayers more overall.
Representative Kefalas discussed budget cuts and Governor Ritter's indications that the process to apply for SSI will be expedited. He asked the Interagency Council on Homelessness and other advocates to advise how to speed up the process and think of other ways to make up for the budget downturn. Senator Boyd made additional comments concerning the federal reimbursement rate for state expenditures. Discussion continued.
11:52 AM -- Ms. Sheryle Hutter, representing the Equal Justice Foundation and the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition, stated that she would write the committee with questions and suggestions that had been prompted by the day's presentation. She indicated that it was important to discuss consumer impacts. Representative Kefalas noted that the task force is only in its first year and there will be additional opportunities to address concerns.
11:54 AM -- Mr. Jared Kohn, representing himself, discussed his experience as a laid-off worker. He stated that he used to work for an oil and gas company and that he thought his job had been secure. He said that he has been unemployed for eight months. Mr. Kohn described his employment history and his experience applying for a new job. He indicated that some jobs offered a good rate of pay but no benefits or time off, and he explained that he had lost his unemployment benefits because he had taken a job that did not provide benefits. He stated that he is currently exploring ways to return to school and to get retrained. He discussed his experience exploring the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) program, and he described his struggles trying to navigate the system. Mr. Kohn said that he is now exploring ways in which he could use his skills as an entrepreneur and he would appreciate government efforts that provide training or assistance to small businesses. Representative Kefalas expressed his desire to discuss Mr. Kohn's options further after the meeting. Representative Waller indicated that he would also like to speak to Mr. Kohn after the meeting.
12:02 PM -- Mr. Rich Jones, representing the Bell Policy Center, described his organization and discussed recommendations that the Bell Policy Center has made in the past related to micro-enterprises.
12:05 PM -- Ms. Corrine Fowler, representing the Economic Justice Campaign within the Colorado Progressive Coalition, offered comments on poverty reduction. She stated that Colorado residents deserve access to short-term, low-interest loans, but Colorado law does not limit interest rates charged by payday lending companies. She described the costs incurred by low-income individuals who use payday lending companies and discussed past legislation related to interest rates. She urged the task force to address interest rate limits.
12:09 PM -- Mr. Richard Eidlin, representing the Progress Group, discussed a project called "The Greater Good." Committee members received a briefing sheet on the project (Attachment G). He described the concept of a "triple bottom line." He discussed the engagement of private investment for community-based projects. Mr. Eidlin described the planned launch of the new project.
12:12 PM -- Mr. Alan Duran, representing himself, indicated that he was representing homeless individuals who must camp out. He discussed reasons why homeless individuals may camp out rather than staying in shelters. He described problems for individuals who camp out, such as the need to carry around their belongings and running the risk of being kicked off of a campground. He expressed his belief that the city should not confiscate the belongings of homeless individuals. Mr. Duran stated that individuals who camp out are unable to shower, which creates issues for homeless individuals who try to find jobs. Mr. Duran responded to questions from Senator Boyd regarding sites available for showering. Representative Kefalas discussed the Denver Road Home program and its concern with access to housing. He asked if there are barriers that prevent Mr. Duran from getting off the street. Mr. Duran responded that it is frustrating to look for resources for an extended amount of time, and it is sometimes easier to just give up and camp out. Representative Kefalas asked if it would help to have a case worker or mentor to help individuals navigate the system, and Mr. Duran indicated that such a program would be helpful, especially if the case worker had experienced homelessness before. Mr. Duran explained frustrations that he experiences as a homeless man and as a veteran.
The committee recessed for lunch.
01:16 PM -- Consideration of Potential Legislation
The task force returned to order. Representative Kefalas explained the process by which the task force would approve ideas for drafting of legislation, and later on forward bills to the Legislative Council for approval. Each of the task force's subcommittees made bill draft recommendations one at a time, starting with the Job Creation Subcommittee chaired by Representative Waller. Representative Waller provided background on the work performed by the subcommittee in conceiving of their bill draft ideas. Committee members received a handout detailing the subcommittee's legislative ideas (Attachment H). Committee members also received an issue brief on employment-related programs administered by Colorado's prison system, prepared by the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition (Attachment I). Representative Waller first explained a legislation proposal concerning moving the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) to first position on the TABOR refund mechanism priority list. Discussion ensued regarding the constitutionality of making the change. Mr. Ed DeCecco, Legislative Legal Services, provided clarity on this point. Representative Waller provided further clarification on the effect of the legislation idea. Discussion ensued regarding the most recent year for which the state budget allowed for a TABOR refund.
Discussion ensued regarding the importance and impact of the EITC. Discussion followed regarding the process by which the task force will decide on eight legislation proposals to forward to Legislative Council.
The task force informally approved by a majority of seven members a request that Legislative Legal Services draft a bill concerning the EITC issue. Representative Waller next explained a legislative idea concerning prohibiting employers from asking about a person's criminal background on a job application. Discussion ensued regarding the specific changes that would be made to state law under the proposal, and the potential for exempting certain industries from the employer liability waiver under the proposal. Discussion followed regarding the potential impact of the proposal on employers.
Discussion continued regarding the potential impact to employers of forbidding them from inquiring about a person's criminal history during the hiring process. Several members of the task force expressed their reservations with the idea. Representative Waller clarified that, under the proposal, employers could inquire regarding an individual's criminal history during the hiring process, but not on the job application form itself. Discussion followed regarding ways in which a person's criminal history could be discovered under the proposal. Ms. Carol Peeples, representing the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition, provided background on the issue of the difficulty of ex-offenders finding employment, and efforts in jurisdictions in other parts of the country to remove criminal history questions from job applications.
Discussion ensued regarding the potential for creating a title that is inclusive of other concepts, such as blanket hiring. Representative Waller then discussed a legislative idea that would remove employer liability when hiring ex-offenders. Mr. Tony Gagliardi, representing the National Federation of Independent Business, provided further information on the need for the employer liability legislation, and the impact of federal law and other requirements on the proposal. Mr. Gagliardi suggested not going forward with the job application restriction issue without further study. Discussion followed regarding the potential impact of removing employer liability on the hiring process and the economy. Representative Kagan expressed his support for banning inquiries regarding criminal history on a job application, and explained his reasons for doing so.
Mr. Gagliardi discussed the potential impact of a "ban the box" law on employer liability. Discussion ensued regarding the potential burdens placed on employers by such a law. The legislation proposal failed to receive enough support to merit a bill draft. The employer liability issue did receive enough support to merit a bill draft.
Senator Boyd presented the bill draft proposals of the Access to and Coordination of Benefits and Services Subcommittee. Committee members received a compilation of the proposals for reference (Attachment J). Senator Boyd responded to questions regarding the potential for fitting the subcommittee's various identification-related proposals under a single bill title. Discussion ensued regarding the impact on the identification proposals of a state law that restricts access to public benefits to legal residents. Discussion followed regarding the potential fiscal impact of the subcommittee's proposals. The identification issues proposal received sufficient support to merit a bill draft.
Senator Boyd discussed a bill draft proposal concerning changing the uses of Strategic Use Fund moneys. Discussion ensued regarding evaluation processes already in place for certain programs, for which the Strategic Use Fund moneys are intended under the proposals. Mr. Bill Hanna, representing the Department of Human Services, provided clarification pertaining to the proposal. The Strategic Use Fund proposal received enough support to merit a bill draft. Senator Boyd next explained a bill draft proposal pertaining to food assistance programs. Senator Boyd responded to questions regarding current certification periods for food assistance program eligibility. Discussion ensued regarding implementing a state outreach plan to target those eligible for food assistance programs that are currently not receiving the benefits.
Discussion ensued regarding the economic impact of increasing participation in food stamp programs. The food assistance issues proposal received sufficient support to merit a bill draft. Senator Boyd discussed a subcommittee proposal to require department policy initiatives to address how the initiatives will impact poverty reduction and economic development. Senator Hudak suggested that the idea could be integrated in a more targeted fashion within specific departmental legislation. The proposal was withdrawn. Finally, Senator Boyd explained a bill draft proposal concerning pursuing federal Medicaid moneys for development disability programs. In response to questions, Ms. Pat Ratliff, representing Colorado Counties, Incorporated, provided clarification regarding the proposal. Ms. Ratliff responded to questions regarding the potential fiscal impact of the proposal. This bill draft proposal received sufficient support to merit a bill draft.
Senator Hudak explained a bill draft proposal from the Poverty and Education Subcommittee focused toward comprehensive community education support. Task force members received a handout explaining the proposal (Attachment K).
Senator Hudak continued to discuss the education-related bill draft proposal from the Poverty and Education Subcommittee. Discussion ensued regarding the fiscal and political feasibility of going forward with certain of the subcommittee's recommendations. Senator Hudak provided clarification regarding the subcommittee's proposals that target specific language in current law, including recommendations pertaining to family resource centers. Senator Sandoval suggested including certain portions of the subcommittee's recommendations in the task force's January 2009 report to the General Assembly. The subcommittee's recommendations did not receive enough support to merit a bill draft.
Senator Sandoval explained the proposals of the Scope of Problem and Metrics Subcommittee. Committee members received a handout providing background on the subcommittee's proposals (Attachment L). Discussion ensued regarding the practical effect of the subcommittee's recommendations, and the potential for supplementing state law that created the task force to reflect a poverty metric and evaluation component. The evaluation proposal received enough support to merit a bill draft. Representative Kefalas clarified the contact persons for the approved bill drafts.
Representative Gagliardi explained the bill draft proposals forwarded by the Housing and Utilities Subcommittee. Task force members received a list of bill draft ideas generated by the subcommittee (Attachment M). Representative Gagliardi first explained a proposal to alter real property law to require that properties designated for use as low-income housing retain the designation when changing hands. Ms. Ratliff provided clarification regarding this proposal, including examples for which such a law would be effective. Representative Kagan provided examples of how the proposal would affect the development and transfer of housing projects, and explained how certain affordable housing agreements are not currently being honored. Ms. Ratliff responded to questions regarding the specific legislative language required to create the contemplated law.
Senator White expressed reservations regarding whether the real property transaction proposal fit within the scope of the task force's work. Ms. Ratliff responded to questions regarding the genesis and purpose of the bill draft proposal. Representative Kagan responded to questions regarding the nexus between the proposal and inclusionary zoning. The bill draft proposal received sufficient support to merit a bill draft. Representative Kagan explained a bill draft proposal for creating tax increment financing districts to fund affordable housing. The proposal did not receive sufficient support to merit a bill draft. Finally, Representative Gagliardi explained a bill draft proposal to establish a threshold for the amount owing that accrues which thus triggers a utility shutoff notice. Representative Kagan responded to questions regarding the current process by which utilities warn customers of their outstanding debts. The bill draft proposal did not receive enough support to merit a bill draft.
The task force adjourned.