Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Rocky Mountain News Examines Proposed Prescription Drugs Ethics Act

The Rocky Mountain News has published a good analysis of the proposed Prescription Drugs Ethics Act, which is scheduled for a committee hearing today.

SB 166, sponsored by Sen. Morgan Carroll, D-Aurora, would ban wholesale drug or medical device distributors from giving gifts to health care providers. It would also block drug manufacturers and distributors from gaining access to data about state health program patients' prescriptions for use in marketing efforts.

The measure would also require those distributors and manufacturers to disclose their advertising and marketing expenses if they participate in state-sponsored programs aimed at providing health care services.

The article by the Rocky's Ed Sealover says that opponents of the measure will argue that it could drive drug manufacturers out of the state and prevent drug companies from keeping doctors informed about new products.

Bill to Promote Solar Energy Use in New Homes Proceeds

The House gave final approval Wednesday to a bill that would give purchasers of a new home the right to request that the building equipped with solar panels or pre-wired for solar energy use.

The bill makes it possible for purchasers of a new home to incorporate solar technology into their mortgage.

“Not only does this legislation help Colorado homeowners easily access alternative energy, it also has the potential to increase overall resale value,” sponsoring Rep. Mike Merrifield, D-Colorado Springs, said. “Solar power helps people move away from traditional, finite energy sources, it help home-owners save money, and it helps to create good jobs, from installers to engineers.”

HB 1149 was adopted on a 57-6 vote.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

FASTER Heads Out of House Committee

A bill that would pay for repairs and improvements to the state's highways and dilapidated bridges by raising motor vehicle registration fees cleared a House committee Tuesday evening.

The FASTER proposal, which would raise more than $200 million per year, was approved on a party-line vote by the House Transportation and Energy Committee.

The bill cleared the committee despite continued strong Republican opposition to it.

"This bill needs a complete overhaul,” House minority leader Mike May, R-Parker, said. “We are well beyond the time for a simple tune-up. We just cannot support this massive fee increase during an economic downturn.”

But Democrats argue the FASTER proposal is essential to the state's economy and the safety of motorists.

“The bill may not be all things to all people but it does save jobs, create jobs, and repair bridges," Rep. Joe Rice, D-Littleton, said. “It’s important that we do something, and after 17 years of delay, we literally cannot wait any longer. The cost of doing nothing is quantifiably higher than the cost of doing something.”

Rice said the bill could be expected to result in the protection of at least 5,000 new jobs in the next year and that it is the result of lengthy negotiations with local governments, business interests, and members of both major political parties.

GOP legislators have argued that some of the money needed for the state's transportation system should be taken from the general fund and that a portion of the state's tax on oil and gas extraction activities should also be made available for that purpose.

GOP legislators say they have been stymied in efforts to achieve a compromise by Gov. Bill Ritter's unwillingness to bend.

"If there is still a chance for a bi-partisan road and bridge funding measure, the governor will have to recognize the burden he is proposing for working families," Rep. Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch, said. "He will have to back away from his hard-line partisan negotiating tactics.”

The bill now heads to the House Appropriations Committee.

House Gives Preliminary Nod to Teacher Identifier Pilot Project

Some of the state's teachers and principals will be assigned a tracking number, and the academic achievements of their students correlated with those educators' years of experience and other personal information, under a bill given preliminary approval by the House Tuesday.

HB 1065 would create a pilot project, to be employed in at least three of the state's school districts, that would aim to use information about educators' training, experience, and professional continuing education affect their performance.

The bill is not controversial, at least not publicly. It was recommended by the Quality Teachers Commission in a report issued last summer.

According to that report, the identifier program should not be used to punish a teacher or principal or play any role in their job evaluations. HB 1065 includes language stating that "the data obtained from the pilot program shall not be used to negatively sanction individual educators."

The Quality Teachers Commission is to recommend whether to expand the program to all of Colorado's school districts and make it permanent by the end of 2010.

The Quality Teachers Commission was created by the legislature in 2007.

HB 1065 is sponsored by Rep. Debbie Benefield, D-Arvada, and Sen. Nancy Spence, R-Centennial.

Bill Mandating Benefits for Domestic Partners Gets Committee OK

A controversial bill that would require the state to provide the same employee benefits for same-sex couples as it does for married employees advanced to the House floor Monday.

HB 1260, while not establishing domestic partnerships or requiring the state to recognize same-sex civil unions, has nevertheless drawn fire from Republicans who insist that it contradicts voters' rejection of Referendum I in 2006.

According to an article in this morning's Denver Post, the GOP's Bob Gardner, of Colorado Springs, insisted during a hearing on the bill that it creates "de facto civil unions."

But sponsoring Rep. Mark Ferrandino, D-Denver, said the bill's impact is not limited to gay couples.

The Post report quoted Ferrandino as saying that HB 1260 is aimed at "making sure people can take care of each other."

He was supported in that view by Rep. Ellen Roberts, R-Durango, who voted with the majority Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee to advance the measure to the House Committee of the Whole.

The U.S. Bureau of the Census estimated in 2007 that there are more than 750,000 same sex couples in the country.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures 14 states mandate that public employee benefit programs recognize domestic partnerships.