Legislative update - week of Feb 11, 2019 Two bills in Committee, Update on another

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Protected under the First Amendment
of the United States Constitution


All Content by
Maureen Welch,
Volunteer Activist and
Registered Volunteer Lobbyist, Colorado.

February 10, 1019

This coming week, two Colorado bills are being heard in committee which impact the Intellectually and Developmentally Disabled Community: 

Wednesday, February 13, 2019 01:30 PM
Senate Judiciary Committee
Senate Committee Room 352. 
SB19-072 Bill Of Rights Protected Person Under Guardianship

 Thursday February 14, 2019 1:30 pm
House Committee Room  0112

HB19-1045 Office Of Public Guardianship Operation Conditions

UPDATE: HB19-1063 At-risk Information Sharing
Between County Departments.
It passed committee in the House, and is currently calendared for committee, with public testimony Senate Judiciary Committee 
Monday Feb 25 at 1:30 pm in Senate conference room 352. 


SB19-072 Bill Of Rights Protected Person Under Guardianship. 
Wednesday, February 13, 2019 01:30 PM Senate Judiciary Committee, Senate Committee Room 352. 

  • Senator Holbert, Senate Minority Leader, is to be commended for taking the lead on this bill, followed up with addition of Rep Ransom and Rep Melton, to highlight the dire need to reform guardianship of at-risk adults.

  • Colorado currently lacks safeguards and oversight of Legal Guardianship in County Probate Courts.

  • Who is watching the Guardians? (most particularly the professional and county human services/public employees who sometimes serve as guardians) 

  • State of Nevada's Supreme Court Justices got involved, with similar concerns, and their legislature passed Guardianship Reform.

  • SB19-072 is modeled after Nevada's Reform (click here), as a means to shine light on Colorado's dire situation.

  • It is critical to integrate current best practices of consideration of presumed competency, and less restrictive options. These include options to full guardianship if appropriate, such as:  supported decision-making and limited guardianships. "Current trends presume the decision-making capacity of individuals with I/DD and the preservation of legal capacity as a priority for all people needing assistance with decision-making." American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities and Arc Joint statement 


HB19-1045 Office Of Public Guardianship Operation Conditions

What is this Office Of Public Guardianship Pilot Program (OPG)?

From the OPG webpage
Background

HB17-1087 created the Office Of Public Guardianship Pilot Program within the judicial department to provide legal guardianship services to indigent and incapacitated adults who:

  • Have no responsible family members or friends who are available and appropriate to serve as a guardian;

  • Lack adequate resources to compensate a private guardian and pay the costs and fees associated with an appointment proceeding; and

  • Are not subject to a petition for appointment of guardian filed by a county adult protective services unit or otherwise authorized by law.

History of HB19-1045

  1. The original bill language simply removing the requirement to raise $1.7M before being able to hire an Executive Director, which would be presumably at no cost to state.

  2. As of publication of this newsletter on Sunday Feb 10th, the original version of HB19-1045 was on the bill website.

  3. However on February 7, 2019 at a stakeholder meeting, Rep Snyder shared that there will be amendments to ask for funding of the pilot, likely about $2M, TBD as the fiscal note is not yet complete! 

  4. As of publication of this newsletter, neither the amendments nor fiscal note for 1045 had been finalized. Future versions will be updated on the bill page online here

  5. HB19-1045 will be vastly different bill than originally proposed. And it comes with a huge price tag in the area of $2M.

  6. Stakeholders, including myself, have been participating and up to date in OPG Commission meetings for over a year.

Concerns about HB19-1045 Pilot progra OPG include:

COSTS

  1. Precedent Setting Funding: Colorado Joint Budget Committee members raised the concern on September 20, 2018, when they voted down a supplemental budget request for the OPG,  that if the JBC approved funding after they failed to secure gifts, grants and donations there could be a long line out into the downtown streets from other legislation, also wanting state funding after they too failed to raise gifts, grants and donations. Audio can be found here, scroll to Sept 20, 2018.

  2. Funding the OPG pilot creates an inherent need to continue future funding.  There will be OPG wards (CO statutory term for people in legal guardianship) from the pilot. Won’t the state have to continue to support them? Will that fact put the legislature in a position of feeling compelled to continue the office?

  3. The eventual state wide OPG was estimated to be at a cost of $8-10M a year, several years ago from a fiscal note, with 81+ full time staff projected.

PILOT METHODOLOGY 

  1. Critical details of the pilot are undetermined. There is no evidence based data, a new JBC requirement, that reflects accurate numbers of people in need of OPG. 

  2. What methodology and tools will be used? What controls are in place for comparison? Will the pilot data be valid? Who will oversee the guardians, of a very vulnerable population? Current statute does not have safeguards or oversight of guardians. The OPG requires more thoughtful and inclusive planning in an open and transparent process, not passing it all forward to the future Executive Director.

LACK OF OPG DETAILS AND TRANSPARENCY

  1. Per discussions on February 7th, 2019 with current OPG chair, all details of OPG operations will all be left to the discretion of one person: the future Executive Director of the OPG. There are no checks or balances to that power.

  2. The hiring of the Executive Director  will be likely be a private process with the Commission,  conducted in closed Executive session with no Sunlight of Transparency. (OPG often goes into Executive Session for discussions).

  3. Shari Caton, Esq., the former OPG Commission Chairperson, recently resigned. Stakeholders asked for clarification on process for appointment of the new commissioner, questions which have gone unanswered. 

  4. An Open records request of Colorado Adult Protective Services produced a document showing that 600+ at -risk individuals are in a conflicted relationship with County APS serving as both their guardians, and case investigator.  

IN CONCLUSION,

  1. Many stakeholders believe it would be most responsible to hit the PAUSE button on funding HB19-1045 and focus on guardianship reform that will produce safeguards, oversight and current best practices.  

  2. The high cost of this initial pilot of $2M is a big demand.

  3. Many at the capitol perceive the launch of OPG as a means to create unnecessary layers of government, which are lacking in transparency, which could lead to harmful, unintended consequences. 


Update on HB19-1063 At-risk Information Sharing Between County Departments
Concerning the ability to share information between county adult protective services with county child protective services as well as at-risk adults obtaining their own information.

  • It was heard in House Public Healthcare and Human Services.

  • The audio is here, scroll down to Feb 1, 2019 it was the first agenda item. 

  • At the opening of the hearing, Rep. Liston made a rare super motion. A super motion  allows the bill to be voted on in the affirmative, without testimony, and  be sent to the Full House for a vote ("committee of the whole").

  • More on Supermotion here

  • Thankfully, Committee Chair Rep. Singer overruled the motion, stating that four individuals had signed up to speak in opposition had waited for hours to speak, and he felt they should be heard.

  • The committee heard public concerns of the bill expanding investigatory power of Adult and Child Protective services since the bill proposed opening information sharing between these departments.

  • The bill does state that individuals shall have access to their records, but the requirements make it rare that a person in guardianship that will actually access their records.

  • HB19-1063 passed unamended in an 11-0 vote.

  • It is currently calendared to be heard in Senate Judiciary committee, with public testimony Monday Feb 25 at 1:30 pm in Senate conference room 352.

  • Calendars change so it is recommended you check hereonline regularly.


What can you do? 

  • Come down and participate. Join me at the Capitol this week. I usually am easy to find with my full size cardboard cut out of my son! 

  • The best way to learn the process, is to come attend some committee meetings, experience the environment and also stop by your own legislators' offices to say hello.

  • Check out the a simple "build a testimony worksheet" for those wanting to come to committee and sign up to testify for 3 minutes. These are posted for Jan 30, 2019 under BLOG tab here. I usually have several extra printed out before committee meetings so just ask!

  • A person can also call or email legislators,  realizing the sheer volume is staggering for one person and an aide to manage. Face to face is most memorable and interactive.

  • Read and research online at http://leg.colorado.gov 

  • Watch live streamed or archived Floor work of House and Senate and listen to committee meetings at http://leg.colorado.gov/watch-listen