Feb 23, 2021 - News

Opposition mounts to Democratic agenda in Colorado's statehouse

Gov. Jared Polis delivers his State of the State address in the Colorado House of Representatives. Photo: Aaron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post via Getty Images

The lobbying battle is accelerating against two top priorities for Gov. Jared Polis and the Democratic majority.

The priorities:

  • A public option bill that would require health care insurers to offer a cheaper plan covering essential benefits and unspecified "high-value services" starting in 2023. If the insurers can't meet the mandated cost cuts, the state would offer the plan itself.
  • Transportation legislation that would levy additional fees on gas and other fees on high-volume drivers, such as delivery services and ride share companies.

The counterattack: Before either bill is introduced, the opposition is building its case, Axios has learned.

On the public option, the local affiliate of the national Partnership for America’s Health Care Future Action — an organization backed by hospitals and insurers — is again leading the effort to kill the bill.

  • The group commissioned a recent poll that shows a split opinion on a state-run public option and a study that suggests it would hurt some hospitals that serve communities of color.

On transportation fees, the conservative Americans for Prosperity-Colorado (AFP) is pushing back.

  • AFP will release a new poll today that found the ideas are unpopular in a handful of key state Senate districts — a move that comes after it spent money on a five-figure opposition campaign that included 81,000 phone calls and 45,000 text messages.

The other side: Advocates behind the two bills conducted separate polling showing the ideas are popular.

  • Democratic Sen. Kerry Donovan, a public option proponent, said the criticism "is less about reducing cost for our neighbors and more about protecting the profits of big corporations."
  • “It’s not news that the special interest group that has stood in the way of pragmatic transportation proposals in Colorado for years is standing in the way of our common sense approach yet again. This is what they do,” said Rep. Matt Gray (D-Broomfield), a transportation bill sponsor.

This story first appeared in the Axios Denver newsletter, designed to help readers get smarter, faster on the most consequential news unfolding in their own backyard.


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