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Legislative session in full swing

The past week was a busy one as I had three bills in committees for hearing.

The first is a bill I’m carry on behalf of numerous tow truck operators in my district who object strongly to the imposition of a new bond requirement in order for them to obtain a permit to operate in Colorado.

The tow truck operators already carry liability insurance and the new $50,000 bond requirement will only be tapped by the state’s Public Utilities Commission (PUC) in the event civil PUC fines are unpaid by an operator. The bond provides no direct benefit to a wronged consumer, but the bond’s cost has been keenly and adversely felt by many tow operators.

My bill eliminates this bond requirement for tow operators except in the eight counties in the metro area where the vast majority of complaints come from, according to the PUC. The bill was heard in the Senate Transportation Committee and several people from Montrose came to testify on its behalf.

Unfortunately, there’s a sharp division between the urban and rural tow operators as to the need and benefit of the bond, so testimony in committee was conflicting and confusing to the senators. The committee chairwoman laid the bill over, meaning the vote on it was postponed for a couple of weeks.

The bill process highlighted the difference between operating a business on the Front Range versus in the rural, less densely populated areas of Colorado. The towing association, who proposed the bond requirement last year, has its greatest participation, and therefore greatest input, from urban tow operators. They failed to appreciate the consequences of the bond requirement in those areas of the state where the amount and type of towing business is very different than theirs.

There’s an internal struggle within the industry and we’ll see what comes out. Hopefully, the differences can be resolved because Colorado can’t afford to lose any more businesses, particularly due to new governmental burdens that provide no real benefit to the consumers.

My second piece of legislation in committee last week was a resolution very similar to one I ran last year reinforcing the prohibition on unfunded mandates. Resolutions usually go straight to the floor for discussion and a vote. Unfortunately, both last year and this year, the Senate leadership has sent my resolution to committee, which slows it down.

Last year, I went to State Affairs, also referred to as the “kill committee,” but it passed unanimously anyway. Then, it got bogged down for three months and never made it out of both the Senate and House. This year, the resolution was assigned to the Business, Labor and Technology Committee, and again, after I presented it in committee, it passed out unanimously.

I hope I don’t wait another three months to bring this to the Senate floor, as the resolution sends a timely and necessary message to Washington, D.C., to not pass unfunded mandates on to state and local governments.

My third bill in committee last week aims to improve the current process for prosecuting Medicaid fraud. The legislature needs to know more about what fraud is in our system, who’s tackling the problems and how we can better assure taxpayers that the integrity of the Medicaid program is solid. The bill passed unanimously out of committee.

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