State

The 2018 legislation session ended at midnight, Wednesday, May 9th with positive outcomes for LiveWell Colorado. With a few small exceptions, we were overwhelmingly successful having our positions prevail. Of course, much of this work was done with partners, as it generally takes a village to be persuasive at the Capitol. We also owe many thanks to our contract lobbying team at Capitol Focus (Landon Gates, Brock Herzberg, and Kara Miller). As reported last month, we were successful obtaining $200,000 for food incentive programs and in working with Denver Urban Gardens to change the law to allow the use of reclaimed water for edible crops. Read on to learn what happened with the other bills we engaged on and for our final update of the 2018 session.

Colorado Food Systems Advisory Council (COFSAC), House Bill 18-1236, sponsored by Representatives Barbara McLachlan (D, Durango) and Jon Becker (R, Fort Morgan), passed in its most basic form which simply continues COFSAC in its current form. Despite our efforts to combine COFSAC with the Farm to School Task Force and provide funding for a staff person at the Department of Agriculture to manage the Council, the version that passed contained no changes except to continue the Council for another five years. We will be revisiting this issue after the session to determine a path forward. Despite the political issues, we remain committed to improving the infrastructure available to assist Colorado’s farmers and consumers (and everything in between).

To read the DORA sunset review, click here.

For more information on the Colorado Blueprint of Food and Agriculture, click here.

Transportation Infrastructure Funding, Senate Bill 18-001,  sponsored by Senators Randy Baumgardner (R, Hot Sulphur Springs) and John Cooke (R, Greeley) and Representatives Terri Carver (R, Colorado Springs) and Perry Buck (R, Windsor) passed after much closed-door wrangling and compromises made by both the House and the Senate. ) The bi-partisan compromise provides $495 million in one-time funding for FY18-19 (the fiscal year beginning this July) and $150 million in one-time funding the year after. Following the initial two years, the state will provide $50 million each year thereafter, for 20 years. Additionally, the bill combines the $1.9 billion from last years’ omnibus bill (that re-classified the Hospital Provider Fee as an enterprise and therefore not under the TABOR cap) with an additional $1.327 billion to enable voters to approve the sale of $2.337 billion in bonds in 2019. If one or both of the anticipated ballot initiatives planned for 2018 pass, the bonding question will not go to voters in 2019. The two competing ballot initiatives are the Denver Chamber’s plan to ask for an increase in sales tax to pay for roads and multi-modal needs, and the Independence Institute’s initiative to require the legislature to set aside $350 million each year from general tax revenues to repay transportation bonds.

LiveWell is pleased that the compromise reached in SB 001 provides that for the first two years, 70% of funding goes to CDOT for roads and bridges, while 30% is split between local governments and multi-modal transportation options. Beginning in year three, the split shifts to 85% for roads and bridges and

15% for multi-modal options. The original Senate bill had no funding for multi-modal needs nor for local governments.

Transportation Ballot Initiative

With the passage of Senate Bill 001 and some additional funding for transportation (but not nearly enough to dent the backlog of unfunded needs), the coalition we have been participating in under the leadership of the Denver Chamber of Commerce and the Colorado Contractors Association has determined that a .62 percent sales tax increase is the best course of action to pursue. The campaign will begin to collect signatures to place the sales tax increase on the 2018 ballot. The revenue generated from the sales tax will be split accordingly:

  • 45 percent to CDOT;
  • 40 percent to local governments (these funds are flexible and can be used by municipalities and counties to address both traditional transportation needs as well as multi-modal needs); and
  • 15 percent to a multi-modal fund.

LiveWell is excited to participate in the campaign to pass the measure given the additional dollars it will bring to address walk, bike and transit needs throughout the state. Additionally, the need to address all transportation infrastructure deficiencies is great.

  • Colorado’s transportation needs have gone unmet for decades. Despite a growing population, we lack the resources to maintain our roads, highways and local bus routes. The number of drivers on Colorado roads has nearly doubled since 1991, while we now spend half the amount per driver and we are currently struggling to keep up with basic maintenance much less address growing needs.
  • Nearly one hundred thousand people are moving to Colorado every year. Growth is taking a toll on our infrastructure. Additional transportation funding is necessary to keep up with growth and protect our quality of life.
  • Our failure to invest in infrastructure is costing us real money. Potholes and rough roads damage a vehicle’s tires and suspensions, costing the average Colorado driver four-hundred-sixty-eight dollars repairs each year.
  • We need a new funding source to fix our roads. More than 80 million tourists come to Colorado every year, filling up our roads. This sales tax measure will ensure those tourists pay their fair share toward improving our transportation infrastructure and lower the cost to Coloradans.
  • This initiative would ensure funding for local projects chosen by local communities across the state and in rural communities – not just the metro area. All Coloradans will see improvements near where they live and work.
  • We need a statewide solution that ensures local governments have the resources to meet demands, address high-priority projects on I-70, I-25 and other state highways, and promotes multimodal transportation options that reduce congestion and protect our air quality.

Expand Child Nutrition School Lunch Protection Act, Senate Bill 18-013, sponsored by Senators Rhonda Fields (D, Aurora) and Bob Gardner (R, Colorado Springs) and Representative Dafna Michaelson Jenet (D, Commerce City) increases state funding to cover the $0.40 co-pay that kids who receive reduced-price school lunches must pay in grades six through eight. We are pleased to announce that the bill passed on the second to last day of the legislative session and now awaits the Governor’s signature.

Agriculture Workforce Development Program, Senate Bill 18-042, sponsored by Senators Kerry Donovan (D, Vail) and Larry Crowder (R, Alamosa) and Representatives Marc Catlin (R, Montrose) and Barbara McLachlan (D, Durango) is a product of the Young and Beginning Farmers Interim Study Committee. As passed by the legislature, the bill requires the Department of Agriculture to create a program where agricultural businesses can be reimbursed up to 50% of their costs for hiring an intern for up to six months. LWC supported this bill and is pleased with its passage.

RTD Regional Transportation District Low-income Fare Program, House Bill 18-1401, sponsored by Representatives Faith Winter (D, Westminster) and Dominique Jackson (D, Aurora), is a bill to authorize the regional transportation district (RTD) to create a program to offer reduced fares to low-income riders and directs the rail and transit division of the department of transportation to provide assistance and oversight. The bill would have made an appropriation of $80,000 to be used to establish and implement the program. The bill was defeated by the House Appropriations Committee. While LiveWell supports the effort to provide assistance to low-income riders who disproportionately rely upon RTD as their sole means of transportation, we do recognize that it may not be the best use of state dollars to fund one transportation agency as there are needs throughout the state for improved multi-modal options.

Restrictions on Discount Fare Programs Offered by the Regional Transportation District (RTD), Senate Bill 18-204, sponsored by Tim Neville (R, Littleton) and Representative Kimmi Lewis (R, Las Animas) is a bill that places restrictions on RTD to offer discount fare programs without a vote of the General Assembly. LiveWell opposed the legislation as it restricts the ability of RTD to offer discount fares. The bill died on the Senate floor.

 

Federal

Farm Bill

On Friday, May 18th, the U.S House of Representatives voted down H.R. 2, the House Agriculture Committee’s version of the Farm Bill on a vote of 198-213, with 30 Republicans joining 183 Democrats. While a few moderate Republicans were among the 30 who voted no, most of the Republican opposition came from the very conservative wing of the Republican Party – they essentially used the Farm Bill as a bargaining chip in a play to force a vote on a conservative immigration bill. All attempts at a deal unsuccessful and eventually that group voted with the Democrats. The vote, while great news for the time being, only temporarily stops the bill. However, for this version of the bill to come back, the Republicans would have to reach a deal with their conservative wing on immigration legislation. If they do, this bill (or a different version) could return. For now, however, we are celebrating the demise of this highly partisan and very harmful bill. We will be keeping our eye on the House as we now turn our attention to the U.S. Senate where their Agriculture Committee (CO Senator Michael Bennet is a member) is currently drafting their much more bi-partisan version of the Farm Bill.

One item of particular note: as mentioned in the previous update, the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentives (FINI) grant received additional funding. However, we have also recently learned that several other commodity crops – in addition to dairy which we had known about – want to be included in the FINI program. Currently, FINI is restricted to fruits and vegetables, one of the very few federal programs dedicated to fruits and vegetables. We are very supportive of ensuring that FINI remains restricted to fruits and vegetables and one of our national partners circulated a sign-on letter asking the Senate to make FINI funding permanent and restrict it to fruits and vegetables – I’m sure many of you saw and signed that letter. Just to give you a quick update, Colorado was so overwhelmingly supportive that we represented nearly 30% of the total signers! Thanks very much for taking the time to sign-on. Stay tuned to this space for Farm Bill and FINI updates.

LiveWell has created a Farm Bill Action Team (FBAT), which is a group of people from around the state who are engaging in policy advocacy around the Farm Bill. If you want to become more involved in LWC’s farm bill advocacy efforts, please email Terri at terrilivermore@livewellcolorado.org

Read LiveWell Colorado’s Farm Bill Platform here.

Other Federal Policy Activities

In addition to the Farm Bill advocacy efforts mentioned, LiveWell has engaged in three other types of actions so far in 2018: issuing official LWC policy statements, providing comments on federal rules/regulations, and signing on to national partners’ comments on rules, regulations and legislation.

We recently issued an official statement regarding permanent funding for and ensuring FINI remains restricted to fruits and vegetables. We provided comments on Food Crediting and Time Limits on SNAP recipients who are Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents (ABAWD). Finally, we have signed onto partners comments regarding rules around Menu Labeling, the School Nutrition Rollback, and Farm Worker Protection, as well as signing onto three national partners comments regarding the Farm Bill: 1) Reauthorize FINI, 2) Oppose the House Agriculture Committee version of the Farm Bill (H.R. 2), and 3) Support Equity and Access in the Farm Bill.

If you wish to see any of these statements, comments, or sign-on letters, please email Terri at terrilivermore@livewellcolorado.org.

 

LiveWell Colorado Legislation Tracking list

Colorado State Legislature: Colorado General Assembly Website

The letters HB indicates the bill began in the House of Representatives. The letters SB indicates the bill began in the Senate. All bills must go through both the House and Senate before they can become law.

 

HB 1072 – Red Light and Photo Radar Camera Repeal; Rep. Humphrey (R), Sen. T. Neville (R)

Eliminates cameras for use in traffic enforcement.

Postponed Indefinitely

LWC position: Oppose

HB 1093 – Reclaimed Water for Edible Crops; Rep. Arndt (D), Sen. Coram (R)

Defines categories of water quality standards and adds edible crop irrigation as an allowable use for reclaimed domestic wastewater.

Became law April 28th

LWC position: Support

HB 1236 – Colorado Food Systems Advisory Council (COFSAC); Reps. McLachlan (D) and Becker (R)

Sunset bill that recommends the continuation of COFSAC and combines COFSAC with the Farm to School Task Force. The bill will also provide staffing for COFSAC in the Department of Agriculture.

Passed, awaiting the Governor’s signature

LWC position: Support

HB 1401 – RTD Regional Transportation District Low-income Fare Program; sponsored by Representatives Faith Winter (D) and Dominique Jackson (D) Authorizes the regional transportation district (RTD) to create a program to offer reduced fares to low-income riders and directs the rail and transit division of the department of transportation to provide assistance and oversight.

Postponed Indefinitely

LWC position: Support

SB 001Transportation Infrastructure Funding; Sens. Cooke (R) and Baumgardner (R), and Reps. Carver (R) and Buck (R)

Provides state funding for transportation infrastructure, largely limited to roads and bridges.

Passed, awaiting the Governor’s signature

LWC position: Oppose

SB 013School Lunch Protection Act; Sens. Fields (D) and Gardner (R), and Rep. Michaelson Jenet (D)

Expands state funding for reduced priced lunch through eighth grade.

Passed, awaiting the Governor’s signature

LWC position: Support

SB 042Agricultural Workforce Development Program; Sens. Crowder (R) and Donovan (D), and Reps. McLachlan (D) and Catlin (R)

Creates a program in the Dept. of Agriculture to provide incentives to agricultural businesses to hire interns. This bill resulted from the Young and Beginning Farmers Interim Study Committee.

Passed, awaiting the Governor’s signature

LWC position: Support

SB 204Restrictions on Discount Programs Offered by the Regional Transportation District (RTD); Sen. T. Neville (R), and Rep. Lewis (R)

Places restrictions on RTD to offer discount fare programs without a vote of the General Assembly.

Postponed Indefinitely

LWC position: Oppose

 

 

United States Congress: U.S. Congressional Website

The letters H.R. indicate bills introduced in the House of Representatives. The letter S indicates bills introduced in the Senate. All bills must go through both the House and Senate before they can become law. Congress considers approximately 5,000 bill each year – approximately 4% become law.

 

Farm Bill, Farm Bill Marker Bills, and Related Issues

H.R. 2 – Farm Bill: Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018 (Mike Conaway, R-Texas)

A massive piece of legislation dealing with Agriculture and the SNAP program, along with many other issues. This is the first Farm Bill introduced. The Farm bill is typically updated every five years and the current bill expires in September 2018.

Voted down on House Floor; not entirely dead and could return

LWC position: Oppose

H.R. 3941 – Local FARMS Act (Chellie Pingree, D-ME; Jeff Fortenberry, R-NE; Sean Maloney, D-NY)

Creates comprehensive programs and funding opportunities to: help farmers reach new markets through outreach, cost-share, and technical assistance programs; increase access to fresh, healthy, local food among low-income groups and communities in need; and develop new and strengthen existing infrastructure that connects producers to consumers.

Assigned to House Agriculture and House Education and Workforce

LWC position: Actively Support

Companion Bill: S. 1947 – Local FARMS Act (Sherrod Brown, D-OH, Susan Collins, R-ME)

Same summary as H.R. 3941.

Assigned to Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry

LWC position: Actively Support

H.R. 3687 – Farm to School Act of 2017 (Jeff Fortenberry, R-NE; Marcia Fudge, D-OH)

Reauthorizes the Farm to School Act and expands funding for the grant program from $5 million to $15 million. Ensures the inclusion of early care and education sites, summer food service sites, after care program sites and tribal schools and producers. Focuses on increasing participation among beginning, veteran and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers.

Assigned to House Education and Workforce

LWC position: Actively Support

Companion Bill: S. 1767 – Farm to School Act of 2017 (Patrick Leahy, D-VT; Thad Cochran, R-MS)

Same summery as H.R. 3687.

Assigned to Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry

LWC position: Actively Support

H.R. 1760 – Eliminate Agriculture Secretary’s Authority to Grant a Work Waiver in the SNAP Program (Glenn Grothman, R-Wisconsin)

Removes the ability of the Secretary of Agriculture to waive work requirements for SNAP recipients in high unemployment or limited employment areas.

Assigned to House Agriculture

LWC position: Oppose

H.R. 1276Closing the Meal Gap Act of 2017 (Alma Adams, D-North Carolina)

Expands food stamp benefits. Revises the calculation for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits to be based on a low-cost food plan, accounting for how much working people spend on food. Contains other provisions, including the ability to exempt able-bodied adults from work requirements if no available slot exists in the SNAP Employment and Training Program.

Assigned to the House Committee on Agriculture, Subcommittee on Nutrition

LWC position: Support

H.R. 5259 – STRESS Act (Tom Emmer, R-MN)

Amends the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008 to reauthorize the farm and ranch stress assistance network.

Assigned to House Agriculture, Subcommittee on Biotechnology, Horticulture, and Research

LWC position: TBD

Related Bill: S. 2712 – FARMERS FIRST Act (Tammy Baldwin, D-WI)

A bill to amend the National Agricultural Research, Extension, and Teaching Policy Act of 1977 to establish a farm and ranch stress assistance network.

Assigned to Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry

LWC position: TBD

  1. 2762 – Next Generation in Agriculture Act (Heidi Heitkamp, D-ND)

Amends the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 to support opportunities for beginning farmers and ranchers.

Assigned to Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry

LWC position: TBD

School Food and Related Issues

H.R. 203 – Summer Meals Act of 2017 (Don Young, R-Alaska)

Expands access to Summer Meals program and adds to the types of institutions that can participate in the program. Similar bills were introduced but not enacted in 2013 and 2014.

Assigned to House Education and the Workforce

LWC position: Support

H.R. 610 – Federal Fund for School Vouchers and to Repeal a Rule Relating to School Nutrition Standards (Steve King, R-Iowa)

Limits authority of Dept. of Education to block granting money to qualified states. Establishes a voucher program. Repeals established nutrition standards for school lunch and breakfast programs. A similar bill was introduced but not enacted in 2016.

Assigned to House Education and the Workforce

LWC position: Oppose

H.R. 1332 – Early Childhood Nutrition Improvement Act (Suzanne Bonamici, D-OR)

Amends the School Lunch Act to improve the child and adult care food program.

Assigned to House Education and Workforce

LWC position: TBD

 

H.R. 2382 – Permanent Flexibility for School Meals Act (Kristi Noem, R-South Dakota)

Amends the School Lunch Act and Child Nutrition Act to change federal nutrition requirements into nutrition guidelines in both bills.

Assigned to House Education and Workforce

LWC position: Oppose

  1. 1064 – Anti-Lunch Shaming Act of 2017 (Tom Udall, D-NM)

Amends the National School Lunch Act to Prohibit the Stigmatization of Children Who Are Unable to Pay for Meals by prohibiting the public identification or stigmatization of the child including hand-stamping or wristbands, making the child perform chores, or removal of served food from the child. Requires school officials to discuss payment with parent or guardian and not the child.

Assigned to Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry

LWC position: Support

Companion Bill: H.R. 2401 – Anti-Lunch Shaming Act of 2017 (Michelle Grisham, D-NM)

Summary is similar to S. 1064.

Assigned to House Education and the Workforce

LWC position: Support

Other Pertinent Issues

H.R. 952 – Food Donation Act of 2017 (Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio)

Allows food donation to include food beyond its past date. Extends liability protections to stores that sell donated foods to food recovery organizations, provided the cost is equal to or less than administration, handling, and distribution costs. It also extends liability protections to entities that donate food directly to individuals in need.

Assigned to House Education and the Workforce

LWC position: Support

 

Companion Bill: S. 2787 – Food Donation Act of 2018 (Orrin Hatch, R-UT)

Amends the Child Nutrition Act of 1966 to clarify and expand food donation under the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act.

Assigned to Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry

LWC position: TBD

  1. 1034 – Agricultural Worker Program Act of 2017 (Dianne Feinstein, D-CA; Michael Bennet, D-CO)

Creates a “blue card” status for certain agricultural workers which protects them from deportation, allows them to travel outside the US and return, and provides a path to lawful permanent residency. It also protects agricultural employers of eligible farmworkers from civil penalties for previously hiring undocumented workers.

Assigned to Senate Judiciary

LWC position: Support

 Don’t see a bill you’re interested in? Let us know!