September 19, 2012
MAJORITY CAUCUS CHAIR
200 E. Colfax Ave., Room 271
Denver, CO 80203
Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Energy
Legislative Legal Services
Hello! I hope you are doing well. A few updates on my end:
Our next townhall (Thurs. Sept. 20, 2012, 7:00 - 8:00PM) will be a public safety event to meet as a community in the wake of the July 20 movie theatre shootings. We will be honoring our 1st responders and have booths with public safety information from the following organizations:
- Aurora Fire Department
- Aurora Police Department School Resource Officers
- Aurora Public Schools
- Rural/Metro Ambulance
- Denver Regional Council of Governments and the Area Agency on Aging
- Children’s Hospital Colorado
- Safe Kids Metro Denver
- Aurora Mental Health Center
- Philips 66 Pipeline safety
Come find out more about the more common public safety challenges and what we can do about it. These organizations will have resources and information to help you and your family. Last year Forbes ranked Aurora the 9th safest city in the U.S. for a city of its size.
This will be held at the Community College of Aurora, 16000 E. Centretech Pkwy, Aurora in the Rotunda Room, Student Services Building.
This event is being hosted by myself, Rep. Su Ryden, Rep. Rhonda Fields and Rep. Nancy Todd. All are welcome. Please bring others. We hold these evening townhalls on the 3rd Thursday of every month unless it falls on a holiday.
Monday Coffee Oct. 1, 2012
7:15 - 8:30AM
Mimi's Cafe, 205 S. Abilene St, Aurora
All Welcome - Open Forum - Any Topic You Want to Discuss
*We hold these coffee events on the 1st Monday of every month unless it falls on a holiday.
There has been a lot of activity and confusion surrounding the status of voters. Please take a moment and make sure that you are properly registered (even if you think you are), that your address is current and correct and that you are properly signed up to receive a mail ballot. You can do this by visiting: http://www.govotecolorado.com.
SHAPING FUTURE LEGISLATION
Each legislator gets 5 bills per session unless granted special permission from leadership. We have a deadline of December 1 before the session to get those bill requests submitted. That means if you have an idea that you want to see pursued for legislation in the 2013 session, you should seek to have a legislative sponsor before December 1, 2012 or else you may have to wait until the 2014 session.
Anyone can make or change law in Colorado. All you need is 1 (of the 100) legislators to agree to be your sponsor and he or she can walk you through the process.
TAKE BACK YOUR GOVERNMENT: A CITIZEN'S GUIDE TO GRASSROOTS CHANGE
Because I feel like there is a lot information we can better share about how people can effectively participate in the legislative process, I wrote the book, "Take Back Your Government: A Citizen's Guide to Grassroots Change". I am pleased to report that it made a local best seller's list. If you have not yet received a copy but want to you can get one at Tattered Cover, Barnes & Noble, Amazon and most local independent booksellers.
June 07, 2012
TOWNHALLS & COMMUNITY MEETINGS
Please join us this Monday June 4, 2012, 7:15 AM - 8:30 AM for Coffee with Carroll, Ryden, Fields at Mimi's Cafet, 205 S. Abilene, Aurora, to review a legislative re-cap and for open topic to discuss the issues you want addressed. ALL welcome!
While not one of our usual townhalls, I also wanted to let you know about an Aurora Fracking townhall (Don't Frack Our Schools!) that will be hosted by Clean Water Action Tuesday June 5, 2012 at Vista Peak Prep School, 24500 E. 6th Ave, Aurora, CO, in the main gym (enter through the front entrance), 6:30pm – 8:00pm.
Thursday June 21, 2012, 7:00 - 8:30PM Meetings with Morgan, Su, Rhonda & Nancy, Community College of Aurora, 16000 E. Centreteck Pkwy, Aurora. TOPIC: Substance Abuse & Addiction -- What we should all know.
RECAP OF MORGAN'S BILLS IN THE 2012 SESSION
JOBS & ECONOMIC RECOVERY
SB 3 Employment Opportunity Act (M. Carroll - Fischer): 60% of employers are now using credit scores in hiring decisions. Workers who lost their job in the recent recession clearly have had negative impacts to their credit. This practice is making it harder for them to get back to work. The bill limits use of credit scoring in hiring and employment decision to when it is relevant to the job. 20 million Americans have material errors on their reports. Lose your job = bad credit. Bad credit = no job. For more information see recent report Discrediting America PASSED SENATE 3RD READING 20:15. KILLED GOP HOUSE LOCAL GOVERNMENT COMMITTEE 03/19/12.
SB 143 Local Business Database & App (M. Carroll - Pabon): Because buying from local businesses in our community returns three times impact to our local economy, this bill creates a database and smart phone app through the Office of Economic Development where customers can search by type of good or service or by location if they want to help support buying local. The project is funding by a $10 annual listing fee for businesses and will help increase customer traffic to local businesses, and create jobs for Colorado. PASSED SENATE 3RD READING 20:15; KILLED GOP HOUSE STATE AFFAIRS COMMITTEE 03/28/12.
FAMILY & CIVIL JUSTICE
SB 56 Judicial Appointments in Family Cases (M. Carroll - Holbert): Courts appoint a variety of people in cases involving children's best interests or child custody. This bill ensures that those appointees are independent, neutral and do not have conflicts of interest or existing relationships with any of the parties. PASSED 3RD READING SENATE 35-0; PASSED HOUSE JUDICIARY 62:0:3. SIGNED BY GOVERNOR.
HB 1233 Legal Separation Simplified Court Proceeding (Labuda - M. Carroll): This bill extends the option of parties completing a legal separation without the need for a court appearance if no children are involved and will save an estimated 1,000 hearings per year. It will also save time and money for parties involved. PASSED HOUSE 3RD READING; PASSED SENATE 3RD READING 33:2; SIGNED BY GOVERNOR.
SJR 34 Reverse Citizens United (M. Carroll - Jones): This resolution was introduced in order to draw attention to the new staggering influx of corporate spending on elections in the wake of Citizen's United and to call for the reversal of Citizens United and the doctrine of corporate personhood for the sake of preventing corruption of our elections. INTRODUCED; PASSED SENATE 3RD READING; KILLED GOP HOUSE ON THE CALENDAR.
SB 93 Hospital Disclosure of Services Refused on Religious Grounds (M. Carroll - Duran): This bill gives patients notice of any medical services refused on the basis of religious grounds by a hospital and notifies a patient of their right to get those services elsewhere. Hospital mergers are increasing and depending on who owns what hospital may decide what services or care will or won't be provided for end of life care, contraception, AIDs counseling, reproductive services, including tubal ligations or vasectomies. PASSED 3RD READING SENATE 20:14; KILLED GOP HOUSE STATE AFFAIRS COMMITTEE 03/21/12.
FRACKING: ENVIRONMENT & PROPERTY RIGHTS
SB 107 Water Rights Protection Act (M. Carroll - Wilson). This bill requires the COGCC to promultate rules addressing drilling around: (a) radioactive materials; (b) superfund sites; and (c) explosives and munitions. It also directs rule-making around best practices for pressure drops that indicate leaks. The bill requires before and after reporting of the quantity of water used and the where the water right was acquired. The bill prohibits injecting known carcinogens into the ground, requires environmental bonding around high-risk drilling operations. It also requires water quality testing before and after drilling to detect possible contamination by fracking fluids, diesel or gas. INTRODUCED; PASSED SENATE JUDICIARY 4:3; KILLED SENATE APPROPRIATIONS.
HB 1110 Appraisal Management Companies (A. Williams - M. Carroll). This bill regulates appraisal management companies consistent with the recommendations of the Dept of Regulatory Agencies given the role of appraisal problems in the housing crisis. INTRODUCED; PASSED HOUSE 3rd READING 35-29; SENATE 3RD READING 21-14; PENDING ACTION BY GOVERNOR.
HB 1239 Special District Approval (Vaad - M. Carroll). This requires county approval before a water or sanitation district can expland their current boundaries and cannot expand into to property areas without the approval of the residents. PASSED HOUSE 3RD READING 65-0; PASSED SENATE 3RD READING 34-1; HOUSE CONCURRED; SIGNED BY GOVERNOR.
CRIMINAL JUSTICE ISSUES
HB 1085 Hearsay Exception Developmental Disabilities (Fields - M. Carroll). This bil creates a hearsay exception for victim's with developmental disabilities when they are victims of a crime. Prosecuting crimes against victims with developmental disabilities can be difficult because it is often one person's word against another and statements made pertaining to the crime are often made out of court. This mirrors the children's hearsay exception and still requires the declarant to be available for cross-examination in Court. PASSED HOUSE 3RD READING 56-8-1; PASSED SENATE 3RD READING 34-0-1; SIGNED BY GOVERNOR.
HB 1310 Omnibus Criminal Bill (B. Gardner - M. Carroll). This is series of changes throughout the code arrived at by consensus from both the district attorneys and defense attorneys. PASSED HOUSE 3RD READING 64-0; PASSED SENATE 3RD READING; PENDING ACTION BY GOVERNOR.
HB 1209 Uniform Electronic Legal Materials Act (B. Gardner - M. Carroll). This bill enacts UELMA which creates a systematic archiving system for tracking the increasing volume of electronic materials that are stored online to ensure we do not lose important historical legal archives. PASSED HOUSE 3RD READING 63-0; PASSED SENATE 3RD READING 32-0; SIGNED BY GOVERNOR.
SB 175 Update Court Deadlines (B. Gardner - M. Carroll). This bill makes conforming statutory changes to court deadlines after Supreme Court rules committee modified amendments to be multiples of 7 rather than 10. INTRODUCED; PASSED SENATE 3RD READING 34:0; ?PASSED HOUSE 3RD READING; PENDING ACTION BY GOVERNOR.
SOME OTHER KEY BILLS
SB 2 Civil Unions (Steadman - Ferrandino) - This bill was defeated twice on procedural maneuver's despite have enough votes to pass the Senate and the House and a commitment from Governor Hickenlooper that he would have signed the bill. KiLLED by House.
SB 48 Local Foods, Local Jobs (Schwartz): This bill eases impediments for local food growers and home-made food to get products to market. SIGNED By Governor.
HB 1127 Unemployment Insurance Rate Reduction (Jahn): This bill helps start up companies with lower rates of payment into the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund, freeing up funds for additional hiriing. SIGNED By Governor.
SB 157 Telecomm Reform (Scheffel / Tochtrop) - This bill would have ended a subsidy for rural landlines, removed a requirement to serve rural Colorado, reallocate the funding the of the "high cost fund" among different providers and removed some of PUC oversight. KiLLED by Senate.
February 15, 2010
Sen. Morgan Carroll, Rep. Su Ryden, & Rep. Karen Middleton
Thurs. Feb. 18, 2010
7:00 – 8:30 PM
Community College of Aurora, Rotunda
16000 E. Centreteck Pkwy
TOPIC: CRIMINAL & JUVENILE JUSTICE REFORM
STATUS ON MY BILLS
SB10-114 Taxpayer Transparency Act 2010. This bill ensures that we have appropriate transparency on state and government spending such that any entity that receives public funds for a public function is subject to Colorado's Open Records Act. It is critical in this budget climate that we can ensure we are getting the best bang for our buck and that the public has a right to know how their tax dollars are spent. Passed Senate Judiciary 6:1, Pending Senate 2nd Reading.
SB10-076 Insurance Bad Faith Bonuses. While insurance profits rose 59% last year, coverage for consumers declined and rates continued to rise. This bill prohibits the practice of paying bonuses or any financial incentive to delay or deny claims or to cancel or rescind coverage. This practice is widely understood to be insurance bad faith, but it is not expressly prohibited in our unfair claims practices act. Passed Senate Health & Human Services 4:3, Pending Senate 2nd Reading.
SB10-124 Michael Skolnik Medical Transparency Act. This bill extends the original Skolnik Medical Transparency Act for MDs to other critical health care professionals. It gives more information about the education, credentials, training, disciplinary or malpractice history to help health care consumers make informed choices about their health care needs. Passed Senate Health & Human Services 4:2, Pending Senate Appropriations.
SB10-126 Pharmaceutical Transparency. This bill brings pharmaceutical transparency to Colorado help us better identify, track our health care dollars and money spent to influence the decisions of those with prescribing authority. Pending Senate Health & Human Services Thurs. Feb. 18, 2010.
SB10-039 Job Retraining Scholarships. This bill uses interest earned on student loans to provide job retraining scholarships to anyone who lost their job on or after 2008 to help people who may need new or different skills to become employed in this job market or help to start a new business. Pending Senate Education Committee Feb. 25, 2010.
HB10-1008 Ending Gender Discrimination in Health Insurance. This bill prohibits gender discrimination in the individual health insurance market. Currently women pay as much as 40% more than men for the same coverage. A healthy, non-smoking female will often still pay more than a smoking, obese male. Passed House Health & Human Services 8:2, Pending House 2nd Reading Feb. 17.
HB10-1107 Blighting Ag Lands for Urban Renewal. This bill tightens up the definition of "blight" for purposes of urban renewal. Abuses of this practice have led to "over-blighting" perfectly good land for purposes of giving money to developers. Most significantly, this practice triggers a backfill of state funds, costing the State of Colorado at least $50 million per year. Passed House 55:8:2. Pending Senate.
OTHER ITEMS IN THE NEWS
Colorado has already closed a $2 billion budget shortfall and has another $1 billion revenue shortfall to close to balance the budget. The state has made 4 rounds of budget cuts, cut every department, placed hiring freezes, used furlough days, closed mental health beds, closed the Women's Correctional Facility, can't staff the new CSP II Maximum Security prison, deferred capital construction, cut Medicaid provider reimbursement rates, reduced financial aid, cut K-12, and completed an all-agency efficiency audit to find any and all other possible savings through increased efficiencies.
Colorado's sales tax is 2.9% but not everyone is paying their fair share because of over 100 tax exemptions carved out to give some groups favored tax status. 5% of our budget balancing package includes closing a few of these special tax exemptions so some of these groups will be treated the same as everyone else. None of the budget balancing measures are popular but they are necessary to balance our budget.
Calendars – Updated Daily
Download Bills, Fiscal Notes
Find Contact Information for Legislators
Download Status Sheet for All Bills Introduced
Thank you for your interest and participation!
November 10, 2009
MEETINGS WITH MORGAN & SU
TOPIC: VETERANS – TRIBUTE & UPDATES
Thursday November 19, 2009 7:00 – 8:30 PM
Community College of Aurora
16000 E. Centretech Pkwy
Lt Col Tim "Conk" Conklin – Buckley Air Force Base
Bill Holen – Congressman Ed Perlmutter's staff
William Conroy – Colorado Division of Veterans Affairs
Marvin Meyers – United Veterans Committee of Colorado
Col. Andrew Meverden – Colorado National Guard
COFFEE WITH CARROLL & RYDEN
Monday December 7, 2009 7:00 – 8:30 AM
360 S. Chambers Rd, Aurora
NO DECEMBER EVENING TOWNHALL DUE TO HOLIDAYS
RESOURCES FOR VETERANS
Find out if you are eligible for the Colorado Military Family Relief Fund. http://www.dmva.state.co.us/page/mfr
Learn about many Colorado Veterans benefits like housing program, financial assistance, employment and education benefits and more. http://www.military.com/benefits/veteran-benefits/colorado-state-veterans-benefits
The American Legion provides community service and support to veterans. http://www.legion.org/veterans
Are you a disabled veteran? The Disabled American Veterans is a nonprofit organization dedicated to building better lives for America's disabled veterans. http://www.dav.org/
Veterans Green Jobs is an organization focused on empowering veterans to restore our environment, economy, and communities. http://veteransgreenjobs.org/
Volunteers of America provides temporary housing for women veterans who are experiencing domestic abuse, facing homelessness, or suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder or military sexual trauma.
Are you a veteran looking for a job? Don't miss the job fair hosted by Hire Vets First. It will be held on December 9, 2009 from 10am to 2:30pm at the Police Protective Assocation at 2105 Decatur Street in Denver. The event and parking are free, the location is RTD accessible, and there will be more than 46 employers present.
SUPPORT OUR TROOPS
Donate, support, and connect with veterans. http://www.supportourtroops.org/
Send a care package to a soldier, veteran, or a family member of a fallen soldier. http://www.skipcares.org/carepackages/
Do you knit or crochet? Warmth for Warriors is a volunteer organization that provides handmade hats and other comfort items. http://warmthforwarriors.com/
Say thank you. Write letters to our dedicated servicemen and women. Make sure every soldier's name is heard at mail call. http://tellthemthanks.com/
VETERANS ASSISTANCE BILLS PASSED THIS YEAR
Senate Bill 62 provides financial incentives for our troops to become teachers, strengthening our economy and our education system. It puts prospective teachers into the classroom, especially in rural and high-needs areas.
House Bill 1039 makes higher education more affordable by expanding the opportunities for active-duty military members, their families and honorably discharged veterans to be eligible for in-state tuition.
House Bill 1205 will make it easier for overseas military members to participate in elections and have their votes counted.
House Bill 1280 will allow Colorado to participate in the National Guard's Youth Challenge program, a mentoring program for high school dropouts between the ages of 16 and 18.
House Bill 1291 will create a clearinghouse so that veterans and their families can get information about support services and other valuable assistance they are eligible to receive.
House Bill 1329 allows more money to be spent annually from the Colorado State Veterans Trust Fund to support Colorado's veteran nursing homes, veteran cemeteries, and programs run by veterans' organizations.
Our first round of bill titles are due December 1, then December 10. The first day of the 2010 legislative session will be on Wed. January 13, 2010.
I am very excited to report that I have been appointed as Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee. I will also be serving as a member of Health and Human Services, Legislative Audit Committee and Legal Services Committee. Other Senate assignments are below:
Agriculture, Livestock & Natural Resource
Chair: Senator Mary Hodge
Vice-Chair: Senator Bruce Whitehead
Members: Senators Dan Gibbs and Gail Schwartz
Chair: Senator Abel Tapia
Vice-Chair: Senator Chris Romer
Members: Senators Bob Bacon, Rollie Heath, Mary Hodge, Moe Keller
Business, Labor and Technology
Chair: Senator Lois Tochtrop
Vice-Chair: Senator Suzanne Williams
Members: Senators Joyce Foster, Mike Johnston
Chair: Senator Bob Bacon
Vice-Chair: Senator Evie Hudak
Members: Senators Mike Johnston, Rollie Heath, Pat Steadman
Chair: Senator Paula Sandoval
Vice-Chair: Senator Mike Johnston
Members: Senators Evie Hudak, Pat Steadman
Health and Human Services
Chair: Senator Betty Boyd
Vice-Chair: Senator Linda Newell
Members: Senators Morgan Carroll, Paula Sandoval
Chair: Senator Morgan Carroll
Vice-Chair: Senator Pat Steadman
Members: Senators Linda Newell, Evie Hudak
Local Government & Energy
Chair: Senator Gail Schwartz
Vice-Chair: Senator Joyce Foster
Members: Senators Mary Hodge, Linda Newell
Chair: Senator Rollie Heath
Vice-Chair: Senator Bob Bacon
Member: Senator Betty Boyd
Chair: Senator Dan Gibbs
Vice-Chair: Senator Suzanne Williams
Members: Senators Bruce Whitehead, Lois Tochtrop
Joint Budget Committee
Vice-Chair: Senator Moe Keller
Members: Senator Abel Tapia
Executive Committee of Legislative Council:
Chair: President Brandon Shaffer
Members: Senator John Morse
Chair: Senator John Morse
Vice-Chair: Senator Gail Schwartz
Members: Senator Morgan Carroll
Hope you are well!
October 28, 2009
I wanted to give you an update on some policy issues that have a significant impact on our state. You are an important part of the policy conversations we need to have and I want to thank you for taking an active interest in state policy.
PRISON SPENDING & WAR ON DRUGS
I have added a running "clock" which tracks the total of how much we are spending on the "War on Drugs" on the front page of my website. You can find it at www.senmorgancarroll.com
. As of the time of writing this we have spent over $16 Billion federally ($16,555,231,190) and $25 Billion at the state level ($25,412,302,688) on the War on Drugs. I say this because we as a society need to fundamentally decide whether we want a medical model or criminal model for how we approach addiction. I think the answer to this should be informed by the empirical research on what WORKS and what gives taxpayers the best "bang for their buck".
I had the privilege in participating recently in an event in Grand Junction hosted by the Independence Institute, Club 20 and the Pew Foundation. We were joined by DOC Director Ari Zavares, Dept Public Safety Director Pete Weir, DA Pete Hautzinger, Mesa County Sheriff Stan Hilkey, and Community Corrections Board Member Steve Reynolds.
Here's a recap of what we have discussed:
- 1 in 100 people nationally are now behind bars and 1 in 29 people in Colorado are under some form of correctional control.
- Colorado is incarcerating people at a rate higher than national average and the U.S. is incarcerating people at a much higher rate than the rest of the world.
- Colorado arbitrarily doubled prison sentences in 1985 and the growth rate is jeopardizing all other public programs in Colorado.
- Public Safety is the number #1 priority and our corrections policies and priorities should be based on what works and gets results.
- We are spending significant sums of money in ways that do not increase public safety.
- Colorado has a 50% recidivism rate. By focusing on data-based policies that work, we can reduce recidivism, reduce crimes, reduce future victims and save money.
- The Department of Corrections is the largest mental health care provider in the State of Colorado. 21% of people in CO prison have been diagnosed with a serious mental illness and nearly half of some kind of mental illness.
- 85% of women sent to CO prison last year were convicted of a non-violent offense and the US imprisons 10 times more women that Western European countries combined. 80% of these women have children.
- We appropriated $708 million in state funds to the Department of Corrections last year, making DOC the largest general-fund agency in Colorado.
- DOC appropriations is twice what it costs to fund the entire Judicial Department (an entire branch of government!) and twenty times what it costs to fund the entire Legislative Department (an entire branch of government!)
- DOC has grown from 2% to almost 10% of the state budget and because it has grown faster than the 6% allocation limit it has forced disproportionate cuts in other areas.
- Colorado is a Balanced Budget state so our state constitution requires that we balance our budget every year. As a result every $1 we spend on corrections is a $1 we cannot spend elsewhere.
- It costs $30,386 per inmate per year in operating expenses in DOC and $150,773 per inmate per year on prison construction costs — making the true cost per incarcerated individual $181,159 per inmate per year.
- Cost of 1 Inmate = Health Insurance for 15 Families of 4 for a Year;
- Cost of 1 Inmate = Medicaid Coverage for 40 People for a Year;
- Cost of 1 Inmate = Cost of Educating 23 K-12 Students per Year;
- Cost of 1 Inmate = Tuition for 50 Students in Higher Education;
- Cost of 1 Inmate = Lost Tourism Revenues of $1,086,954 ($1 invested in tourism = $6 dollars return)
As we have sentenced people in record volumes to Colorado prisons we have generated a prison population faster than we can build them (or afford them). Current estimates project the need for building 1 new prison per year to keep pace with the population.
This has increased Colorado reliance on the private prison industry to house our inmates. Prison for profit has driven perverse incentives that have nearly bankrupted the state. CCAs profits doubled between 2003 – 2008. CCA is also being sued in a national class action for not paying wages owed to build their profits.
All said, we could make an enormous dent in solving this problem by:
- restructuring drug sentences
- differentiating between technical v. substanstive probation / parole violations
- restoring discretion to judges in sentencing
and using the savings to invest reducing waitlists and expanded access in:
- juvenile intervention & diversion programs
- substance abuse and addition programs
- anger management programs
- pre-incarceration mental health treatment
- community corrections
HEALTH CARE SURVEY
Thank you to all of you who have completed my online health care survey. If you haven't completed it and would like to share your input, please visit: http://www.senmorgancarroll.com/healthcaresurvey.
If you would like to see the results of the survey, visit click here.
PINNACOL COMMITTEE RECOMMENDATIONS
The interim committee on the state compensation workers comp carrier of last resort in Colorado has concluded its oversight hearings and made its final recommendations. We have a responsibility for oversight of all governmental and non-governmental entities. The hearings and all efforts for oversight were marked by deep resistance by Pinnacol and even characterized as a "witch hunt". It is highly unusual, to say the least, for a quasi-governmental entity to spend large sums of money on PR and lobbying to oppose oversight.
Pinnacol Assurance was keeping 1,224% of Risk Based Capital which is both higher than other state comp funds ($555 Million, 929%) and higher than other workers compensation carriers in the state ($402 Million, 673%) and posting aggressive and record surplus growth, despite dividends issued.
Colorado's non-profit state compensation insurance fund (Pinnacol) has amassed over $2 billion in assets, $1.2 billion in reserves, $773 million in surpluses and the surplus is growing at a rate of about $100 million per year. Our state workers compensation fund, Pinnacol, insures 57% of the market, 55,000 businesses and covers 1.5 million employees in the State of Colorado.
The extraordinary level of surpluses have raised questions about whether policyholders are being overcharged or whether injured workers are receiving the benefits they should.
The State of Colorado has oversight responsibility for all government and quasi-governmental entities in Colorado. Pinnacol is no different.
The committee heard testimony about several things that Pinnacol does well. Their employees generally find it a good place to work, their safety and injury prevention programs have earned the accolades of many, and their volunteer and foundation programs have left many grateful recipients. Likewise their "association marketing fees" and dividends are well-liked by those who receive the funds.
The input from injured workers, their advocates, from employers and from Pinnacol was not to privatize nor to return to a full state agency but to leave Pinnacol in its current structure as a quasi-governmental agency. Many employers were satisfied with having this public option for workers' comp insurance. The committee listened and will not seek to change the structure of Pinnacol.
There are problems, however, that came to our attention, which would be irresponsible to ignore.
*Extravagent and Wasteful Spending, Perks, Junkets. (hundreds of thousands of dollars in Pinnacol expenses on golf outings, retreats at luxury hotels, trips and lavish meals that included a $2,500 dinner with $144- per-plate lobster and $115 bottles of wine, paying for CEO's wife for retreats where CEO wasn't present for business). (See Receipts).
*Executive compensation packages that are far in excess of those typical for state compensation insurance funds (2002 avg = $268,000, Pinnacol = $419,000), far exceeding the state's usual pay scale and not in compliance with the 2003 audit. . The current CEO pay at Pinnacol is at $448,812.64. (See Pinnacol Annual Financial Statement and 2003 Audit Report).
*Inflated Premiums by NCCI: The rating entity by the insurance industry NCCI is regularly setting rates higher than those recommended by independent actuaries (by about 10%!). (2006 NCCI +5.9%, Independent Actuary -5.9%, (2007 No changes), 2008 NCCI – 0.6%, Independent Actuary -16%, 2009 NCCI – 9.7%, Independent Actuary -19.8%. (See Rate Chart).
*Medical providers reported difficulty in getting treatment approved, bills paid, and getting access to all of the necessary documentation to review claim. Providers are now reporting difficulty in getting approvals or payment even for care within the medical treatment guidelines (See Physician Testimony).
*Injured workers had difficulty with denied claims, denied medical treatment and prompt payment of reasonable and necessary medical care. Some workers testified that Pinnacol's non-payment led to foreclosures, bankruptcy. We also heard evidence that Pinnacol's non-payment led to cost-shifting (to private health insurance, Medicaid or in emergency room visits). We heard from workers who had been crush victims, amputees, fire victims some blinded or in wheel chairs who reporting having to fight Pinnacol at every step of the way. (See Worker Testimony, Letters)
*Pinnacol has a gainsharing and bonus structure that creates financial incentives to deny of claims and medical treatment. Some of the problematic bonus structures include basing bonuses or gainsharing on "net income" – total minus claims paid, the number of days prior to medical discharge (MMI), time for claim closure. These financial incentives exist for everyone but most problematically claims managers, nurse case managers and even the Medical Director. This is a direct financial conflict of interest with the statutory purpose of Pinnacol and workers compensation. (See Pinnacol MBOs, Gainsharing Reports)
*Injured workers also reported frequent harassment with spying and surveillance and while Pinnacol spent $4.7 million in surveillance on thousands of workers, only 10 workers (out of 50,000+ claims) were actually convicted of fraud (0.02%). The present system has virtually no checks-and-balances, approval process or limit. The current system doesn't even require that a carrier have a reasonable basis to suspect fraud or any kind of material mis-statement at all. (See Witness Testimony, Pinnacol Document on Surveillance).
These issues are real and compelling and can be addressed with some simple, common sense solutions. Most of the proposals coming forward focus on a few common sense themes designed to help the current system work better:
- increased transparency & accountability
- improving enforcement of existing law
- giving workers plain language notice of their rights under current law
- removing conflicts of interest in the system
The committee is not looking to:
- sell or transfer any of Pinnacol's current assets
- change the legal structure of Pinnacol or its function as carrier of last resort
- make any sweeping changes to Colorado workers comp laws
For copies of all materials provided to date you can visit:
Rate Reduction Act (Ryden – Tochtrop):
- Lower Premiums: Lower Rate of NCCI or Independent Actuary Unless Good Cause
- Transparent Rate Filing: – Open to Public for Review
- Increases Dividends: Dividend Trigger 800% RBC well above solvency requirements or other CO carriers.
Workers Bill of Rights (Miklosi – M. Carroll):
- Notice to Injured Workers Upon filing of Claim of their Rights Under WC
Pinnacol's Board Transparency Act (Miklosi – Hodge):
- Balance the Board: Add injured worker, 2/3 employees non-management, Dir. DOL
- Public Notice, Publicly Posted, Opportunity for Public Comment
- Board Compensation X$ Amount –$250 per diem.
Injured Worker Privacy Act (Pace – M. Carroll):
- Requires reasonable basis to suspect fraud prior to triggering surveillance
- Gives injured worker right to expedited hearing to challenge
- Gives injured worker right to receive all materials
Transparency Act (Hodge – Ryden):
- Restore Annual Oversight Report
- Put Division of WC Complaint Process Online
- Survey Feedback from Injured Workers: Results Posted Publicly
Reduce Conflicts of Interest (M. Carroll – Miklosi):
- No Financial Incentives or Bonuses to Delay / Deny Claims / Medical Treatment
- Disclosure of Financial Interests in Division IME Panel:
- No Reversionary Interests to Self (Pinnacol / Carrier) upon death of injured worker
- No ex parte 3rd Party communications with physicians unless in writing or in presence of patient
Penalties (Tochtrop – Pace):
- Increases Penalties (unchanged in decades) to Better Enforce Current Law
- Changes Willfully to Knowingly regarding penalty for unpaid bills
It has been interesting, to say the least, to see a quasi-governmental entity resist and vilify its own oversight and to see entities that receive 6 figure checks from Pinnacol rally to their "defense" even at the expense of some of the rational interests of their own members (i.e. lower premiums, higher dividends, proper care for their workers).
These bills will be considered by the Legislative Council Committee on November 10, 2009. Bills passed from there will be considered as part of the regular 2010 Legislative Session.
There is no doubt that there are some things that Pinnacol does well (and even better than its predecessor CCIA), but the committee did find some troubling problems that we could not ignore.
Please remember to vote and encourage everyone you know to vote in your local elections. The decisions made at the local level can be some of the most important ones to our daily lives and neighborhoods. Aurora is having an all-mail ballot. Please return your ballots ASAP and verify you have adequate postage.
NEXT TOWNHALL MEETINGS
Meetings with Su and Morgan
Thursday November 19, 2009
7:00 – 8:30 PM
Community College of Aurora
16000 E. Centretech Pkwy, Aurora
*IMPORTANT NOTICE: There will be no December evening townhall on the usual 3rd Thursday due to holidays.
Coffee with Carroll and Ryden
Monday December 7, 2009
7:00 – 8:30 AM
E. Steamers Coffee
360 S. Chambers Rd, Aurora
Hope you're well!