May 24, 2010
Our most recent townhall meeting on May 20, 2010 was on "Tips to Save Money". There were some great tips provided by our expert panel and members of the audience.
1. Track EVERY dollar you spend for 3 months. You need a baseline to know what you are spending where if you are to better understand where you can save money.
2. Pay down debt. The faster you pay down debt the better your interest rates will be and the more of your own money you can keep.
3. Save. Put something away every month (like need to pay a creditor). The habit is more critical than the amount initially. http://www.americasaves.org/
4. Comparison Shop. The amount of time spent comparing should be somewhat proportionate to the size and significance of the purchase. i.e. a home, car, insurance or major appliance may warrant more research.
5. Check out the vendor. You should check out the vendor with the Better Business Bureau and if buying any good or service from a licensed profession, check out the profile from the Department of Regulatory Agencies to see what their complaint or disciplinary history includes (plumbers, doctors, electricians, cosmetologists etc.)
6. If you need help resolving tax issues, consider the DU tax clinic.
7. Look for bargains and deals (MileHighOnTheCheap.com) and other places. Remember coupons don't always mean its cheaper and look for a recognized vendor and expiration date on coupons to ensure they are legit. Corporate v. franchise may mean some coupons are not honored everywhere.
8. Ever tried frecycle? This is about as cheap as it comes, given that it is free. The Aurora freecycle group is at: http://groups.freecycle.org/Aurora-Freecycle/description.
9. Craig's List is another great resource for finding good deals. http://denver.craigslist.org/
10. Watch out for scams. Check with the consumer affairs division of the 18th Judicial District Attorney's office for the latest trends in scams. Also check with the Better Business Bureau. Don't give your social security, date of birth or other information out over the phone or internet unless you know who you are dealing with. Bottom line: you should be able to say "I'll get back with you" to any purchase and if they do a "now or never" on you, walk away.
11. Libraries. Membership to Colorado libraries are reciprocal and you can get free books, videos, computer access, classes, research assistance, job help, tax information. This is one of the best deals around.
12. Entertainment: Look for "free days" or matinees or other bargain times for museums, movies, plays, concerts.
13. Check out Fees and Deals at http://feesanddeals.blogspot.com/.
May 16, 2010
§ $3.5 billion – Amount over two years that Democrats have cut to balance the state’s budget. Democrats have cut waste and fraud while protecting essential services.
§ $132.6 million – Amount that 11 closed corporate tax exemptions will bring in during the next budget year to support schools, public safety, and community services.
§ 130,000 – The number of women who will no longer pay up to 59% more than men for the exact same health insurance coverage with passage of the Gender Fairness in Health Insurance Bill. HB 1008 - Reps. Sue Schafer (D-Wheat Ridge), Beth McCann (D-Denver), Sens. Morgan Carroll (D-Aurora), Gail Schwartz (D-Snowmass)
§ 35,000 – Number of cars and trucks that cross the Continental Divide through the Eisenhower Tunnel on an average day during peak season- all of which will benefit from reduced drive times and less congestion on I-70. SBs 184 and 196 – Sens. Chris Romer (D-Denver) and Dan Gibbs (D-Silverthorne), Rep. Christine Scanlan (D-Dillon)
§ 19,795 – Number of additional families receiving essential food assistance via the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). HB 1022 – Rep. Sara Gagliardi (D-Arvada), Sen. Betty Boyd (D-Lakewood)
§ 3,333 – Estimated number of “construction period” jobs per year that could result from 1,000 megawatts of renewable energy from local sources like rooftops. (from votesolar.org report) HB 1001 – Rep. Max Tyler (D-Golden), Sens. Gail Schwartz (D-Snowmass), Bruce Whitehead (D-Hesperus)
§ 2,000 – Number of new energy efficiency jobs that will be created in the next 5 years by increasing access to bonds & loans for home energy improvements. HB 1328 – Rep. Joe Miklosi (D-Denver), Sen. Gail Schwartz (D-Snowmass)
§ 50% –Annual expected increase in nursing faculty thanks to expansion of the Nursing Teacher Loan Forgiveness program. More nursing-teachers means more nurses. SB 58 – Sen. Abel Tapia (D-Pueblo), Rep. Sara Gagliardi (D-Arvada)
§ 30% – Amount of energy produced by the state’s utilities that will come from renewable sources by 2020 with our new Renewable Energy Standard. HB 1001 – Rep. Max Tyler (D-Golden), Sens. Gail Schwartz (D-Snowmass) and Bruce Whitehead (D-Hesperus)
§ 23 – Number of jobs that one single primary care physician can generate in a community, increasing economic development through the Health Care Jobs Act. HB 1138 – Rep. Sara Gagliardi (D-Arvada), Sen. John Morse (D-Colorado Springs)
§ 10th – Maximum grade level for language used in insurance policies; insurers must replace confusing “legalese” with “plain language” in their policies. HB 1166 – Rep. John Kefalas (D-Fort Collins), Sen. Linda Newell (D-Littleton)
§ 1 – Sites where the public can find all the information they need to keep government accountable. Via SMART, transparent information about state programs’ efficacy will be in one place. HB 1119 –Rep. Mark Ferrandino (D- Denver), Sen. Brandon Shaffer (D-Longmont)
§ $0 – Colorado’s budget deficit!
May 16, 2010
SENATE DEMOCRATS’ TOP TEN JOB CREATION AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
♣ Renewable Energy Standard — House Bill 1001 Sens. Gail Schwartz (D-Snowmass), Bruce Whitehead (D-Hesperus), Rep. Max Tyler (D-Denver)
Creates good jobs in Colorado, recharges the economy, and stabilizes people’s energy bills by increasing the Renewable Energy Standard to 30% by 2020.
♣ Clean Air Clean Jobs Act — House Bill 1365 Sens. Bruce Whitehead (D-Hesperus), Josh Penry (R-Grand Junction), Reps. Judy Solano (D-Brighton), Ellen Roberts (R-Durango)
Creates jobs, cuts air pollution, and increases the use of cleaner energy sources by retiring, retrofitting or repowering Front Range coal-fired power plants and replacing them with natural gas and other lower- or non-emitting energy sources.
♣ Job Retraining Accounts — Senate Bill 202 Sen. Bruce Whitehead (D-Hesperus), Rep. Andy Kerr (D-Lakewood)
Helps get qualified workers back to work, increases productivity, and improves recruitment and retention by helping workers set up a savings account dedicated to continued job training.
♣ Higher Education Flexibility — Senate Bill 3 Sens. John Morse (D-Colorado Springs), Josh Penry (R-Grand Junction) Reps. Mark Ferrandino (D-Denver), Karen Middleton (D-Aurora)
Preserves Colorado’s higher education system by keeping Colorado’s colleges and universities open and accessible to all students by giving the institutions more flexibility. SUPPORT FOR COLORADO FAMILIES
♣ Medicaid Efficiencies Act — Senate Bill 167 Sen. Betty Boyd (D-Lakewood), Rep. Jim Reisberg (D-Greeley)
Cuts down on fraud and abuse and increases Medicaid’s efficiency, providing healthcare for more people at a lower cost.
♣ Health Care Cost Transparency Act — House Bill 1330 Sen. John Morse (D-Colorado Springs), Rep. Sara Gagliardi (D-Arvada)
Creates a higher quality healthcare system, protects consumers, and improves government efficiency by collecting information to expose costly inefficiencies and gauge how dollars are spent.
♣ Creating a Child Protection Ombudsman — Senate Bill 171 Sen. Linda Newell (D-Littleton), Rep. Sara Gagliardi (D-Arvada)
Protects Colorado children by creating an independent Child Protection Ombudsman to serve as an outlet for citizens to report suspected child abuse and potential problems in the child protection system.
♣ Gender Fairness in Health Insurance — House Bill 1008 Sens. Gail Schwartz (D-Snowmass), Morgan Carroll (D-Aurora) Reps. Su Schafer (D- Denver), Beth McCann (D-Denver)
Protects Colorado’s women, children, and families by guaranteeing that health insurance companies no longer use gender as a factor when determining an individual’s insurance costs. STANDING UP FOR TRANSPARENCY AND ACCOUNTABILITY
♣ SMART Government (“State Measurements for Accountable, Responsive, & Transparent” Government ) — House Bill 1119
Sen. Brandon Shaffer (D-Longmont), Rep. Mark Ferrandino (D-Denver)
Ensures CO has one of the best- and the smartest-run state governments in the country by creating budgets with “performance budgeting.” Ensures quality, efficient, and essential government services.
♣ Campaign Finance Reform — Senate Bill 203 Sen. Morgan Carroll (D-Aurora), Rep. Paul Weissmann (D-Louisville)
Brings transparency to Colorado’s campaign finance laws and defends fair elections in Colorado in response to the Citizens United ruling allowing corporations or unions to spend unlimited money without disclosure
May 12, 2010
I will write separately focusing on some of the overall best and worst bills of the 2010 session but I wanted to update you on the status of the bills that I carried this year.
The following bills I carried passed this year:
GOOD GOVERNMENT REFORMS:
(Land Development & Subsidy Reform) HB 1107 (Fischer - M. Carroll) stops the worst abuses of "blighting" ag lands for purposes of triggering subsidies to private developers, including a forced backfill from the state budget.
(Campaign Finance Reform) SB 203 (M. Carroll - Weissmann) closes disclosure loopholes created in the wake of Citizens United v. FEC that authorized unlimited corporate and union independent expenditures in campaigns -- a practice previously outlawed by Colorado voters.
(HOA Reform) HB 1278 (Ryden - M. Carroll) creates an HOA information office to provide information about basic rights and responsibilities in Colorado law and a mechanism for tracking complaints.
(Rulemaking Reform) HB 1346 (Kagan - M. Carroll) fixes the timeline in rulemaking to reduce the use of "emergency rules", to give best process to rules.
(IT Transparency) HB 1401 (Ferrandino - M. Carroll) returns the State Internet Portal Authority handling all state sensitive information online back to oversight authority of the state auditory, chief information officer and increases reporting to the Joint Budget Committee.
HEALTH CARE REFORMS:
(Insurance Reform) SB 76 (M. Carroll - Primavera) prohibits bonuses for denial of claims or cancellation of insurance policies.
(Insurance Reform) HB 1008 (S. Schafer, McCann - M. Carroll, Schwartz) prohibits gender discrimination in the individual health insurance market, making rates gender-neutral.
(Medical Provider Transparency) SB 124 (M. Carroll - Ryden) Michael Skolnik Transparency Act of 2010 extends the same information to patients that we previously created for MDS to other critical health professions (credentials, education, honors, disciplinary, malpractice and criminal history.
(Phamaceutical Transparency) SB 126 (M. Carroll - Tyler) Pharmaceutical Transparency Act of 2010 captures federal information about pharmaceutical industry gifts to medical providers in Colorado on state web site.
CONSUMER PROTECTION REFORMS:
(Debt Collection) HB 1222 (Middleton - M. Carroll) protects the requirement that debt collection agencies keep and maintain a physical presence in the State of Colorado if collecting debt from Colorado consumers to ensure consumers have access to an actual place where debts can be paid or negotiated.
(Foreclosure Reforms) HB 1240 (Ferrandino - M. Carroll) makes some logistical improvements to last year's foreclosure reform bill to help direct people to the free Foreclosure Hotline and the ability to renegotiate loan terms.
WORKERS COMPENSATION REFORMS: The Interim Committee on Pinnacol Assurance met and recommended 7 bills to improve transparency, accountability and enforcement of our current workers compensation laws. I chaired that committee so include some bills that I did not carry.
SB 11 (M. Carroll - Miklosi) reduces conflicts of interest in WC in 4 key areas: independent medical examinations, conflicts in financial incentives in denying claims, ex parte communications with medical providers in absence of patient, prohibiting insurance carriers from making themselves beneficiaries of deceased workers benefits for purposes of taking back benefits owed.
SB 12 (Tochtrop - Pace) updates enforcement penalties for violation of the workers compensation act and puts teeth in the medical prompt pay statute.
SB 13 (Hodge - Ryden) reinstates the annual oversignt report on Pinnacol Assurance, creates an exit satisfaction survey of injured workers, and posts the complaint process online at the Division of Workers Compensation.
HB 1038 (Miklosi - M. Carroll) gives injured workers notice of their rights under Colorado law.
HB 1009 (Miklosi - Hodge) gives public notice prior to regularly scheduled Pinnacol Board meetings.
HB 1247 (Gagliardi - M. Carroll) extends the workers compensation appeals board that allows employers to challenge their risk classification in workers comp.
PUBLIC SAFETY REFORMS:
(Higher Ed Campus Safety) HB 1054 (S. King - M. Carroll) creates a requirement that every higher education campus have a critical incident safety protocol and that it be distributed to students, parents, faculty annually.