August 29, 2016

Public Comment Period Open for Changes to 10th Circuit Local Rules

On Friday, August 26, 2016, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals released proposed changes to the Tenth Circuit Rules, effective January 1, 2017. These rule changes are in addition to the changes to the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure that take effect December 1, 2016. The changes include a reduction in word count for briefs; primary brief word limits have been reduced from 14,000 to 13,000 and reply brief word limits have been reduced from 7,000 to 6,500. The word limit changes are summarized in a new Appendix to the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure. The changes to the rules also address when filings are timely under F.R.A.P. 4, clarify service dates when filings are completed electronically, and require attorneys to explain the criminal process and right to object in a defendant’s native language.

Comments regarding any of the changes may be submitted via email to clerk@ca10.uscourts.gov. For a memo outlining the various amendments, click here. For a redline of the changes, click here.

Tenth Circuit: Refusal to Operate Vehicle in Manner Directed by Supervisor Qualifies as Refusal to Operate

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in TransAm Trucking, Inc. v. Administrative Review Board on Monday, August 8, 2016.

Alphonse Maddin was driving a tractor-trailer for TransAm in sub-zero temperatures on I-88 in Illinois. He could not find the TransAm-approved gas station and his truck’s fuel meter was below E, so he pulled to the side of the highway. When he tried to pull back onto the road about 10 minutes later, he discovered his brakes were frozen and had locked up. He radioed TransAm’s road assist department and was advised that a repairperson would be sent to his location. He then discovered that his bunk heater was not working and there was no heat in the cab of the truck. He fell asleep while waiting for the repair person.

Approximately two hours later, Maddin’s cousin called him and woke him up. According to the cousin, Maddin’s speech was slurred and he sounded confused. When Maddin sat up, he realized his torso was numb and he could not feel his feet. He called road assist again to report that his bunk heater was not working, telling the dispatcher about his physical condition. The road assist dispatcher told him to stay where he was. About thirty minutes later, Maddin became concerned about continuing to wait in the freezing temperatures with no heat. He unhitched the trailer from the truck, pulled a few feet away, and called his supervisor, Larry Cluck, telling him he couldn’t feel his feet and was having trouble breathing because of the cold. Cluck told him not to abandon the trailer. Cluck advised Maddin that he could either drive off with the trailer or stay there and wait for the repairperson. Maddin drove off without the trailer. About 15 minutes later, the repairperson showed up and Maddin drove back to the trailer. When the truck was repaired, Maddin called Cluck for directions to the fuel stop. Cluck threatened to write Maddin up for missing his fuel stop or a late load. Later, Cluck informed Maddin that he was being written up for abandoning his trailer. He was terminated less than a week later for violating company policy by abandoning his load.

Maddin filed a complaint with OSHA, asserting TransAm violated the whistleblower provisions of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act (STAA) when it terminated him. After OSHA dismissed his complaint, Maddin requested a hearing with a Department of Labor ALJ. The ALJ concluded Maddin engaged in protected activity when he reported his defective vehicle to TransAm and again when he refused to obey Cluck’s order to either drive the defective vehicle or stay put. The ALJ found that the protected activity was inextricably intertwined with TransAm’s decision to terminate Maddin, and eventually awarded back pay from the date of discharge to the date of reinstatement, including a per diem allowance provided by TransAm. TransAm appealed the ALJ’s decision to the Administrative Review Board (ARB), which upheld the ALJ’s findings and backpay award. TransAm filed a petition for review in the Tenth Circuit.

TransAm first argued that frozen brakes are not the type of vehicle complaint contemplated by the STAA. The Tenth Circuit declined to resolve the question because the ARB’s decision could be affirmed under another aspect of the STAA also relied on by the ARB. The alternative provision makes it unlawful for an employer to discharge an employee who refuses to operate a vehicle due to safety concerns. TransAm argued that Maddin did not refuse to operate the vehicle since he drove away. The Tenth Circuit applied Chevron deference to the agency’s interpretation of the word “operate,” and found no authority to support that Congress intended to limit the word “operate” solely to driving. The ARB interpreted “operate” to encompass situations in which an employee refused to use a vehicle in the manner directed by the employer, and the Tenth Circuit majority approved of this definition. TransAm argued it would have been impossible for Maddin to drive off while the trailer’s brakes were frozen, so his refusal to drag the trailer could not have contributed to his termination because he could not “defy the laws of physics,” therefore it was not protected activity. The Tenth Circuit majority disagreed. The Tenth Circuit found ample evidence supporting the ARB’s causation finding.

TransAm also raised three challenges to the backpay award. First, it contended that the per diem allowances should not have been included, but the ARB found that because the allowances were paid whenever Maddin drove for TransAm and did not appear to be intended to offset expenses, they were properly included as lost earnings. TransAm argued that the per diems were intended to reimburse Maddin for expenses, but no record evidence supported its assertion. TransAm also challenged the ARB’s refusal to offset the backpay award for earnings from 2010 to 2012, arguing no evidence supported the ALJ’s finding that the income was less than Maddin’s incurred business expenses. The Tenth Circuit, however, noted that the ARB specifically referenced Maddin’s IRS tax records and a personal statement, both of which supported the ALJ’s finding. The Tenth Circuit also rejected TransAm’s argument that Maddin was not entitled to backpay with interest for the entire period between his termination and reinstatement, finding TransAm’s statements conclusory, self-serving, and unsupported.

The Tenth Circuit denied TransAm’s petition for review. Judge Gorsuch dissented; he would not have applied Chevron and instead would have relied on the dictionary definition of “operate” in determining whether Maddin operated the vehicle in defiance of his supervisor’s orders.

Tenth Circuit: Findings of Fact Needed to Determine Whether Termination Caused by Employer’s Belief that Employee Engaged in Protected Activity

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Bird v. West Valley City on Monday, August 8, 2016.

Karen Bird was hired at West Valley City’s animal shelter in 2001, and was promoted to manager by Kelly Davis, her direct supervisor, in 2002. In 2005, West Valley City’s human resources manager, Shirlayne George, investigated the shelter and reported several negative comments about Ms. Bird by fellow employees. Mr. Davis was also the subject of several complaints, especially by women, and Ms. George investigated him in 2009. Most of the women who complained about Mr. Davis were either fired or voluntarily left the animal shelter shortly after complaining. Ms. Bird and Mr. Davis had a disagreement in 2009, and their already strained relationship deteriorated thereafter, to the point where Ms. Bird would not look Mr. Davis in the eye and could not stand to be in the same room as him.

In October 2011, the Salt Lake Tribune published an article about a cat that had endured two failed euthanasia attempts in the shelter’s gas chamber. About a week later, a reporter called the shelter after receiving an anonymous tip about a planned mass-euthanasia due to overpopulation. Both Layne Morris, the Community Preservation Department Director and Mr. Davis’s direct supervisor, and Mr. Davis believed that the anonymous tip had come from Ms. Bird, although she denied it. Ms. Bird was notoriously against using the gas chamber for euthanasia and was one of the few individuals privy to the information about the shelter’s overpopulation. Shortly after this incident, Ms. Bird emailed Ms. George that she could not take any more of Mr. Davis’s harassment. She filed a formal complaint on November 3, 2011.

Less than a week later, Mr. Davis issued two letters of reprimand to Ms. Bird regarding unauthorized use of overtime pay, despite the shelter’s usual practice of issuing less formal warnings before the letters of reprimand. On November 14, in response to Ms. Bird’s complaint, Ms. George undertook an investigation of the entire shelter. She received several complaints regarding both Ms. Bird and Mr. Davis, but more against Ms. Bird. Mr. Morris reviewed the results of the investigation and decided to discipline Ms. Bird for insubordination and failure to be courteous to the public or other shelter employees. He sent Ms. Bird a letter advising of the discipline on November 16, and ultimately terminated her employment on November 29. Mr. Morris testified that his decision to terminate Ms. Bird was not only based on the November 2011 investigation, but rather because of the deterioration of the relationship between Ms. Bird and Mr. Davis. Mr. Morris also testified that he had considered terminating Ms. Bird in December 2010 but Mr. Davis stayed his hand.

Ms. Bird unsuccessfully appealed her termination to Ms. George, then the city’s human resources director, and finally to the West Valley City Appeals Board. When all three appeals were unsuccessful, Ms. Bird filed a complaint in district court, alleging the city terminated her in violation of Title VII as a result of gender discrimination and subjected her to a hostile work environment; the city violated § 1983 because it terminated her as a result of gender discrimination in violation of the Equal Protection Clause; and both the city and Mr. Davis violated § 1983 because they terminated her in retaliation for exercising her First Amendment rights concerning the anonymous tip to the reporter. Ms. Bird maintained that she did not provide the anonymous tip, but because she was perceived as doing so, the termination in retaliation violated her First Amendment rights. Ms. Bird also brought state law claims for breach of contract and breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing. The district court granted summary judgment to defendants on all claims.

On appeal, the Tenth Circuit first considered Ms. Bird’s Title VII gender discrimination and hostile work environment claims. Applying the McDonnell Douglas burden-shifting framework, the Tenth Circuit evaluated Ms. Bird’s claim that the shelter had a pattern and practice of discriminating against female employees. However, Mr. Morris provided two legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons for terminating Ms. Bird: insubordination and failure to be courteous and cooperative with fellow employees. The Tenth Circuit evaluated Ms. Bird’s proffered reasons why Mr. Morris’s explanation was pretextual. She first contended that the reasons he outlined for terminating her differed from those offered in his deposition. The Tenth Circuit disagreed; the Circuit noted that Mr. Morris had offered specific examples in his deposition but his stated reasons for Ms. Bird’s termination were always insubordination and failure to be courteous. Ms. Bird also contended that the individuals to whom she appealed her termination offered different reasons, but the Tenth Circuit found that they merely offered different instances of her conduct. The Tenth Circuit held that no reasonable juror could determine that the city’s reason for terminating her was pretextual.

The Tenth Circuit similarly disposed of Ms. Bird’s hostile work environment claims. Although Mr. Davis’s conduct was deplorable, the Circuit did not find any evidence that his behavior was gender-based. Ms. Bird pointed to several statements, but the statements were generalized and did not point to specific instances. The Tenth Circuit refused to consider vague and conclusory statements as evidence of gender discrimination.

Turning next to the § 1983 Equal Protection claims, the Tenth Circuit found that because Ms. Bird alleged the same facts to prove her Equal Protection claim as she asserted to prove her Title VII claims, the Equal Protection argument failed for the same reasons. The Tenth Circuit also disposed of Ms. Bird’s state law breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty claims. Ms. Bird relied on the employee handbook to argue her claims based on violation of the “Workplace Violence” section and the unwritten anti-retaliation policy. The Tenth Circuit found that the large disclaimer on the handbook eliminated all contractual liability for the city.

Finally, the Tenth Circuit evaluated Ms. Bird’s § 1983 First Amendment retaliation claims. Although Ms. Bird continued to argue that she did not make the anonymous tips to the reporters, she alleged that she was terminated in retaliation because the city believed she had made the tips. The Tenth Circuit found that the Supreme Court’s decision in Heffernan v. City of Paterson, 136 S. Ct. 1412 (2016), controlled its analysis. The lower court did not evaluate Ms. Bird’s First Amendment claims because she could not show that she engaged in protected activity. The Tenth Circuit remanded for a determination of whether Ms. Bird raised a genuine issue of material fact that the city’s belief motivated its decision to terminate her employment.

The Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment on the Title VII gender discrimination and retaliation claims, the § 1983 Equal Protection Claims, and the state law contractual claims. The Tenth Circuit reversed and remanded on the § 1983 First Amendment claims.

Tenth Circuit: ERISA Plan Consultant Did Not Act as ERISA Fiduciary When Calculating Benefits

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Lebahn v. National Farmers Union Uniform Pension Plan on Monday, July 11, 2016.

Trent Lebahn contacted a consultant hired by his company’s employee pension plan for information regarding his monthly distribution amount. The consultant told Mr. Lebahn that he would receive $8,444.18 per month and verified the amount when Mr. Lebahn asked her to double-check. He retired and began receiving the monthly payments, only to be informed a few months later that he had been being overpayed by nearly $5,000 per month. The plan’s attorney told Mr. Lebahn that he would need to return over $43,000 in overpayments. Unable to retire on the plan’s true monthly distribution, Mr. Lebahn tried to go back to work, but could not find a job. Mr. Lebahn and his wife sued under ERISA, arguing that the plan, the pension committee, and the consultant’s employer incurred liability under theories of breach of fiduciary duty and equitable estoppel. The defendants moved for dismissal based on failure to state a claim, which the district court granted, and the Lebahns appealed.

On appeal, the Tenth Circuit first addressed the Lebahns’ claims for breach of fiduciary duty. The district court dismissed the claims because the consultant had not acted as an ERISA fiduciary when calculating the pension benefits. The Tenth Circuit agreed, finding that because the consultant lacked discretionary authority in administering the pension plan, she was not a plan fiduciary and therefore the district court properly dismissed the claims.

The Tenth Circuit found that the district court also correctly dismissed the Lebahns’ equitable estoppel claims. The district court found that the Lebahns had failed to plead facts to satisfy two of the five prongs of equitable estoppel: awareness of the true facts and justifiable reliance. The Lebahns failed to adequately address justifiable reliance on appeal and therefore forfeited their argument.

The Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal of the Lebahns’ claims.

Tenth Circuit: A Reasonable Jury Could Credit Plaintiff’s Version of Events, So Summary Judgment Inappropriate

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Foster v. Mountain Coal Co., LLC on Tuesday, July 26, 2016.

Eugene Foster worked at Mountain Coal’s West Elk Mine in Colorado when he turned his head suddenly on February 5, 2008, and injured his neck. He sought treatment the following day at a local ER and received a return-to-work form from the ER doctor saying he could return on February 8. However, due to a previously scheduled hernia repair surgery, he did not return to work until March 31. Mountain Coal held a meeting with Foster on February 10 to discuss the injury where his managers rejected the ER doctor’s return to work form and instead told Foster that he needed to have a doctor complete Mountain Coal’s return to work form. Foster said he would try to have it completed during his hernia surgery.

Foster was unable to have a hospital doctor complete the Mountain Coal return to work form, so he dropped it off with his regular doctor. Foster testified in his deposition that sometime in early March, he delivered the form to the Mountain Coal offices, where he left it on the HR person’s desk. When she told Foster she did not receive the form, he obtained another form from his personal doctor and delivered it to Mountain Coal on March 18. Foster continued to receive care for his neck injury at Mountain Coal’s direction.

On March 31, Foster returned to work with a Mountain Coal return to work form completed by his hernia doctor. On April 3, the general manager of Mountain Coal held a meeting with Foster and an HR employee. During the meeting, the manager confronted Foster about not seeing his personal physician for the neck injury. Foster confirmed that he hadn’t seen his personal physician, and averred that he told the managers that but they continued to request that he have the personal physician complete the return to work form. Foster was supposed to have retraining the following day but requested at the April 3 meeting that it be rescheduled to accommodate his appointment with a doctor about scheduling surgery for his neck. Foster was suspended indefinitely during the meeting. According to his account, it was for not seeing the personal physician before receiving the return to work form. According to Mountain Coal, it was because Foster lied about delivering the earlier return to work form.

Foster saw the specialist on April 4, who opined that he would not recommend surgery because Foster’s work was aggravating the neck condition. On April 9, Foster saw his personal physician, who opined that Foster should not return to his regular work activities. Foster received a letter from his personal physician on April 11 memorializing the doctor’s conclusions that Foster was unable to return to work, and immediately called Mountain Coal to inform them of the letter. He spoke to his direct supervisor.

Two Mountain Coal managers testified that they had decided to terminate Foster on April 9 because he had lied about leaving a return to work form on the HR person’s desk, while a third testified that Foster had not provided a return to work form with the correct dates for his release “and stuff.” On April 14, Foster received a letter advising him of his termination. Although the letter was dated April 11, it stated that the termination was effective April 9. The letter advised that Foster was being terminated for false information regarding a return to work slip.

After Mountain Coal terminated his employment, Foster filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC and Colorado Civil Rights Division. He received a right-to-sue letter from the EEOC, and filed a complaint in district court in December 2012, seeking relief under the ADA and Colorado law. The district court entered summary judgment for Mountain Coal, and Foster appealed.

The Tenth Circuit first concluded that genuine issues of material fact existed regarding whether Foster had proved his ADA retaliation claim. Foster claimed that his requests for accommodation on April 3 and April 11 were protected activity, and his termination was a retaliatory adverse employment action. The Tenth Circuit evaluated Foster’s claims of requests for accommodation and found them sufficient to apprise Mountain Coal of his needs. Although the district court held that Foster’s April 3 remarks were not sufficiently direct and specific to constitute a request for accommodation, the Tenth Circuit found that the remarks conveyed a need to meet with the doctor in order to schedule surgery, which was sufficiently specific to trigger accommodations. The Tenth Circuit noted that Foster’s deposition testimony could be clearer, but it was clear enough to survive summary judgment. The Tenth Circuit also found that Foster’s April 11 request was clear, and found Mountain Coal’s attempt to retroactively terminate Foster disingenuous. The Tenth Circuit noted the discrepancies between Mountain Coal’s stated reasons for suspending and terminating Foster, and found that the suspicious timing could lead a reasonable fact-finder to infer that Mountain Coal learned of Foster’s request for accommodation and terminated him because of it.

The Tenth Circuit reversed the district court’s grant of summary judgment to Mountain Coal.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Hearing Officer Erred in Ascribing Fault to Claimant for her Mental Health Disorders

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Mesa County Public Library District v. Industrial Claim Appeals Office on Thursday, June 16, 2016.

Unemployment Compensation Benefits—Mental Health Disorder.

Gomez worked for the Mesa County Public Library District (Library) for almost 25 years. In 2013, she began having performance issues and was placed on two successive performance improvement plans (PIPs). In September 2014, she was placed on a third PIP and told to produce a satisfactory organizational capacity report by October 7 or face additional disciplinary action, including discharge. She called in sick on that date, and again on October 9, and did not return to work again. On October 14, she submitted a doctor’s note advising that she was suffering from acute stress disorder and major depressive disorder. She was granted a request to remain off work for four to six weeks. The Library director terminated her on October 20, 2014 for failing to provide the organizational capacity report.

The hearing officer in her unemployment compensation benefits case determined that Gomez had become mentally unable to perform her job duties but found her “at fault” for becoming mentally unable to complete the report, and under C.R.S. § 8-73-108(5)(e)(XX), disqualified her from receiving benefits. On review, the Industrial Claim Appeals Office (Panel) adopted the hearing officer’s evidentiary findings but rejected as a matter of law the conclusion that Gomez was disqualified from receiving benefits because she was at fault for her own diagnosed mental disorders. It awarded her benefits under C.R.S. § 8-73-108(4)(j).

On appeal, the Library argued that the Panel substituted its findings of fact for those of the hearing officer. The Court of Appeals found that the Panel adopted the hearing officer’s findings of fact. The Court also rejected the Library’s contention that the evidence demonstrated that Gomez’s mental health disorder did not affect her ability to complete the report. The Court agreed with the Panel that the hearing officer erred in determining that Gomez was at fault for her nonvolitional conduct.

The Panel’s order was affirmed.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Civil Union Marriage Bill, Workers’ Compensation Sample Form Requirement Bill, and More Signed

On Wednesday, June 8, 2016, Governor Hickenlooper signed 24 bills into law. To date, he has signed 275  bills this legislative session. Some of the bills signed Wednesday include a bill enhancing measures against charitable fraud, a bill regulating the practice of massage therapy to deter human trafficking, a bill setting forth requirements for marijuana cultivation in indoor spaces, a bill clarifying the marriage process for individuals in a civil union, and more. The bills signed Wednesday are summarized here.

  • HB 16-1047 – Concerning the Adoption of an Interstate Compact to Allow Physicians to Become Licensed in Multiple States through an Expedited Licensure Process, and, in Connection Therewith, Making an Appropriation, by Reps. Perry Buck & Faith Winter and Sens. Linda Newell & Ellen Roberts. The bill enacts the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact (compact) and authorizes the Governor to enter into the compact on behalf of Colorado. Under the compact, physicians licensed in a member state may obtain an expedited license in other member states, allowing them to practice in Colorado or in another member state.
  • HB 16-1088 – Concerning the Authorization for a Fire Protection District to Impose an Impact Fee on New Development, and, in Connection Therewith, Enacting the “Public Safety Fairness Act,” by Rep. Timothy Dore and Sen. Ellen Roberts. The bill authorizes a local government to impose an impact fee on new construction to fund fire and emergency services provided by that local government.
  • HB 16-1114 – Concerning the Repeal of Duplicate Reporting Requirements, by Rep. Brian DelGrosso and Sen. Jessie Ulibarri. The bill bill eliminates current employment verification standards that require each employer in Colorado to attest within 20 days that it has verified the legal work status of each employee, has not altered or falsified employee identification documents, and has not knowingly hired an unauthorized alien; require each employer in Colorado to submit documentation to the director of the Division of Labor in the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE) that demonstrates that the employer is in compliance with federal employment verification requirements; and fine an employer for failing to provide required documentation or for providing fraudulent documentation.
  • HB 16-1129 – Concerning Measures for Enhanced Enforcement Against Acts of Charitable Fraud, by Reps. Polly Lawrence & Beth McCann and Sens. Larry Crowder & Rollie Heath. The bill strengthens measures against charitable fraud in several ways. It allows the state to bring civil actions against individuals charged with charitable fraud, with a penalty of up to $10,000 for each violation with a cap of $3 million for related series of violations. In determining a civil penalty, the court must adjust the limitations cap for inflation.
  • HB 16-1171 – Concerning Continuation of the Colorado Special Education Fiscal Advisory Committee, by Reps. Brittany Petterson & Rhonda Fields and Sen. Laura Woods. The bill indefinitely extends the sunset of the Colorado Special Education Fiscal Advisory Committee.
  • HB 16-1194 – Concerning a Temporary Income Tax Deduction for a Portion of Lease Payments Received by a Qualified Taxpayer for Leasing the Taxpayer’s Agricultural Asset to an Eligible Beginning Farmer or Rancher, by Reps. Diane Mitsch Bush & Jon Becker and Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg. The bill creates an income tax deduction for taxpayers that lease an agricultural asset, defined as land, crops, livestock, livestock facilities, farm equipment, grain storage, or irrigation equipment, to a beginning farmer or rancher satisfying certain qualifications.
  • HB 16-1282 – Concerning the Alignment of Regular Biennial School Elections with Disclosure Requirements Governing Other Election Races Under the “Fair Campaign Practices Act”, and, in Connection Therewith, Making an Appropriation, by Reps. KC Becker & Brittany Pettersen and Sens. Nancy Todd & Jack Tate. The bill applies the disclosure requirements in the Fair Campaign Practices Act to regular biennial school board elections.
  • HB 16-1320 – Concerning the Regulation of Massage Therapy to Modify Practices that are Linked to Criminal Behavior, by Reps. Mike Foote & Terri Carver and Sen. John Cooke. The bill removes specific exemptions from the practice of massage therapy and clarifies that other health care professionals may practice massage therapy as long as the therapy is within the limits of their license. The bill also specifies that massage therapists must be at least 18 years of age.
  • HB 16-1335 – Concerning the Unlawful Sale of Certain Publicly Provided Services, by Reps. Dan Pabon & Jovan Melton and Sen. Pat Steadman. The bill prohibits a person from reserving or obtaining a cost-free government service or appointment to sell or intend to sell.
  • HB 16-1377 – Concerning the Creation of a Task Force on the Collection and Security of Digital Images of Evidence of Child Abuse or Neglect, by Rep. Dianne Primavera and Sen. Kent Lambert. The bill creates a task force in the Department of Human Services to examine the collection and security of digital images of evidence of child abuse and neglect. The task force is required to examine current practices by county departments of human services, best practices and safeguards concerning digital images, the role of law enforcement and medical professionals, and to make recommendations.
  • HB 16-1429 – Concerning Alternative Education Campuses, and, in Connection Therewith, Making an Appropriation, by Reps. Brittany Pettersen & Jim Wilson and Sen. Andy Kerr. The bill modifies the criteria for designation as an alternative education campus by lowering the threshold for AEC designation from 95 percent high-risk students to 90 percent high-risk students; substituting four absences in any one month, or ten absences in any given year, for the current high-risk criteria of failing to remain continuously enrolled and regularly attending school in the previous semester; expanding high-risk criteria to include students who are wards of the courts, are in foster care, or have experienced the loss of a parent or sibling; and redefining the meaning of behavioral health issues related to high-risk students in AECs.
  • SB 16-035 – Concerning the Public School Fund, and, in Connection Therewith, Creating a Public School Fund Investment Board to Direct the State Treasurer on the Investment of the Fund and Changing the Distribution of the Interest or Income Earned on the Investment of the Moneys in the Fund, by Sens. Michael Johnston & Jerry Sonnenberg and Reps. Bob Rankin & Dave Young. The bill creates the Public School Fund Investment Board to oversee investment of the Public School Fund and broadens the allowable investment options for the fund. The board is charged with establishing policies concerning allowable investments of the fund and the distribution of income and interest earnings.
  • SB 16-069 – Concerning Measures to Provide Community-Based Out-of-Hospital Medical Services, and, in Connection Therewith, Making an Appropriation, by Sen. Leroy Garcia and Rep. Dan Pabon. The bill requires the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to establish rules governing the scope of practice of community integrated health care service, including the issuance of an endorsement in community integrated health care service to emergency medical service providers. In addition, agencies managing and offering community integrated health care services must be licensed by CDPHE beginning December 31, 2018.
  • SB 16-073 – Concerning the Authority of the State Auditor to Audit the Use of State Gaming Tax Revenues Transferred from the State Historical Fund Directly to the Gaming Cities for Historic Preservation, by Sen. Kevin Grantham and Rep. Polly Lawrence. The bill requires the State Auditor to conduct postaudits and performance audits of the limited gaming funds that are transferred to the State Historical Fund for the preservation and restoration of the gaming cities of Central, Black Hawk, and Cripple Creek.
  • SB 16-080 – Concerning Secured Marijuana Cultivation Requirements, by Sen. Linda Newell and Reps. Cole Wist & Dan Pabon. The bill removes an exemption from certain offenses relating to marijuana and marijuana concentrate provided for lawfully cultivated medical marijuana. Under the bill, residential growers of medical marijuana will be subject to the same requirements as other growers to lawfully cultivate in an enclosed and locked space and to restrict the access of persons under the age of 21, unless that person is at least 18 years old and holds a valid medical marijuana card or is a registered primary caregiver. The bill also clarifies that if a person is lawfully cultivating medical marijuana, that fact alone is not sufficient to require a referral to child protection services.
  • SB 16-120 – Concerning Providing an Explanation of Benefits to Medicaid Recipients for Purposes of Discovering Potential Medicaid Fraud, and, in Connection Therewith, Making an Appropriation, by Sen. Ellen Roberts and Rep. Don Coram. The bill requires the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing to provide explanation of benefits (EOB) statements to Medicaid clients beginning July 1, 2017. The EOB statements must be distributed at least bimonthly and the department may determine the most cost effective means of sending out the statements, including email or web-based distribution, with mailed copies sent by request only. The bill specifies the information to be included in the EOB statements, including the name of the client receiving services, the name of the service providers, a description of the service provided, the billing code for the service, and the date of the service.
  • SB 16-124 – Concerning Sales and Use Tax Treatment for Equipment Used for Processing Recovered Materials, by Sen. Kevin Grantham and Reps. Kevin Priola & KC Becker. The bill expands the current sales and use tax exemption for machinery and machine tools used in manufacturing to include machinery purchased by businesses listed in the Department of Public Heath and Environment’s inventory of recyclers and solid waste processors.
  • SB 16-150 – Concerning Marriages by Individuals who are Parties to a Civil Union, and, in Connection Therewith, Prohibiting Marriages in Circumstances in which one of the Parties is Already in a Civil Union with Another Individual, Addressing the Legal Effect of Parties to a Civil Union Marrying Each Other, Clarifying the Dissolution Process when Parties to a Civil Union Marry, and Amending the Bigamy Statute to Include Parties to a Civil Union, by Sen. Pat Steadman and Rep. Daneya Esgar. The bill amends state law concerning civil unions and marriage to do the following: allow persons in a valid current civil union to marry each other without having to first dissolve the civil union; specify that a civil union and marriage are merged when two people in a civil union subsequently enter into marriage and that the civil union terminates on the date of the new marriage; specify that the Uniform Dissolution of Marriage Act applies to marriages that result from a merger with a civil union; specify that time spent in a civil union prior to it being converted to marriage is included when determining the duration of such a marriage during dissolution proceedings; apply state bigamy laws to persons currently in a civil union who enter into marriage with someone other than the civil union partner or persons who enter into another civil union; and more.
  • SB 16-161 – Concerning the Regulation of Athletic Trainers by the Division of Professions and Occupations in the Department of Regulatory Agencies, and, in Connection Therewith, Making an Appropriation, by Sen. Larry Crowder and Rep. Dianne Primavera. The bill requires athletic trainers to be registered with the Division of Professions and Occupations in the Department of Regulatory Agencies, and reinstates the Athletic Trainer Practice Act as it existed prior to its 2015 repeal.
  • SB 16-182 – Concerning Technical Revisions to the Statutes Governing the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, by Sen. Kent Lambert and Rep. Dave Young. The bill makes technical changes to align state statute with federal law and rules for vocational rehabilitation programs and updates program terminology.
  • SB 16-192 – Concerning a Needs Assessment Tool for Persons Eligible for Long-Term Services and Supports, Including Individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, and, in Connection Therewith, Making an Appropriation, by Sen. Kent Lambert and Rep. Dave Young. The bill requires the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing to select a new needs assessment tool for persons receiving long-term services and supports, including services for persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities, by July 1, 2018.
  • SB 16-198 – Concerning the Standards Applicable to Documents Used by Workers’ Compensation Insurance Carriers in Colorado, and, in Connection Therewith, Requiring Advisory Organizations and Ratings Organizations to File Sample Forms of Policies, Riders, Letters, Notices, and Other Documents to the Commissioner of Insurance, by Sen. Chris Holbert and Rep. Tracy Kraft-Tharp. The bill adds advisory organizations and rating organizations to the list of entities required to comply with current law regarding submission of policy forms, which may include any endorsement, rider, letter, notice, or other document affecting an insurance policy or contract. These materials are to be submitted to the Commissioner of Insurance in the Division of Insurance within the Department of Regulatory Agencies via an annual report due by July 1 of each year.
  • SB 16-200 – Concerning the Creation of a Position in the Office of the Governor that Coordinates the Permitting of Water Projects, by Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg and Rep. Ed Vigil. The bill creates the position of Director of Water Project Permitting (permitting director) in the Governor’s Office to coordinate the federal, state, and local government permitting of raw water diversion, storage, or delivery projects, including associated hydroelectric facilities and both consumptive and nonconsumptive uses of water; and water projects that are either assessed a water quality certification fee or are eligible for financing from the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) Construction Fund.
  • SB 16-215 – Concerning Modifications to the Implementation of the State’s Payroll System that will Allow All State Employees to be Paid Twice a Month, by Sen. Jack Tate and Rep. Dave Young. The bill modifies the implementation of the state’s twice monthly payroll system authorized through House Bill 15-1392. The bill allows the State Personnel Director within the Department of Personnel and Administration to determine when to begin paying salaries twice a month, if it is determined that it is necessary to delay until after July 1, 2017, due to the implementation of the Human Resources Information System. Additionally, the bill eliminates one of the options an employee may use to repay a one-time loan authorized through HB 15-1392.

For a complete list of Governor Hickenlooper’s 2016 legislative decisions, click here.

Uniform Trust Decanting Act, Governing Law for LLCs, Funding Marijuana Research, and More Bills Signed

On Monday, June 6, 2016, Governor Hickenlooper signed 34 bills into law. Governor Hickenlooper vetoed a bill on Thursday, HB 16-1231, “Concerning the Limited Use of Automated Vehicle Identification Systems Designed to Detect Disobedience to a Traffic Signal.” To date, the governor has signed 251 bills and vetoed one bill this legislative session.

The bills signed Monday include a bill enacting the Uniform Trust Decanting Act, a bill amending requirements for limited liability companies, a bill limiting the applicability of the statute of frauds to partnerships, a bill allowing appropriations from the marijuana cash fund to finance marijuana research, and more. The bills signed Monday are summarized here.

  • HB 16-1040 – Concerning Auxiliary Emergency Communications in the State, and, in Connection Therewith, Establishing the Auxiliary Emergency Communications Unit in the Office Of Emergency Management in the Department of Public Safety, and Making an Appropriation, by Rep. Jonathan Singer and Sen. Chris Holbert. The bill creates the Auxiliary Emergency Communications Unit, which can establish programs for training auxiliary emergency communications across the state.
  • HB 16-1142 – Concerning the Creation of a Credit Against the State Income Tax for Rural Primary Care Preceptors Training Students Matriculating at Colorado Institutions of Higher Education, by Reps. Perry Buck & Joann Ginal and Sens. Larry Crowder & John Cooke. The bill creates a state income tax credit for licensed Colorado health care professionals who provide uncompensated personalized instruction, training, and supervision to one or more graduate students seeking a medical degree at a Colorado institution for higher education.
  • HB 16-1177 – Concerning the Continuation of the Council of Higher Education Representatives, by Rep. Janet Buckner & Brittany Pettersen and Sen. Owen Hill. The bill extends the sunset of the Council of Higher Education Representatives until September 1, 2021.
  • HB 16-1186 – Concerning the Allocation of a Portion of Fee Revenues Collected from Public Utilities to Meet Colorado’s Grant Match Obligations Under Federal Law Governing the Funding of Fixed Rail Guideway Safety Oversight Programs, and, in Connection Therewith, Making an Appropriation, by Rep. Max Tyler and Sen. Randy Baumgardner. The bill diverts $150,000 of the public utility fees from the General Fund to the Fixed Utility Fund.
  • HB 16-1287 – Concerning a Requirement that the Department of Labor and Employment Study the Integration of Alternative Training by Colorado Businesses, by Reps. Paul Rosenthal & Jim Wilson and Sens. John Cooke & Andy Kefalas. The bill requires the Department of Labor and Employment to review its regulations that may impact the availability of apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs in Colorado businesses by July 1, 2017.
  • HB 16-1329 – Concerning Laws Governing Limited Liability Companies Codified in Article 80 of Title 7 of the Colorado Revised Statutes, by Rep. Pete Lee and Sens. Mark Scheffel & Rollie Heath. The bill changes state law regarding limited liability companies, including removing the requirement that a partner’s contribution to the LLC is a prerequisite to becoming a member of the company, limits the statute of frauds, and reconciles various partnership and LLC acts.
  • HB 16-1330 – Concerning Authority to File a Correction Statement with the Secretary of State if a Document Previously Filed was Delivered to the Secretary of State for Filing in Error, by Rep. Pete Lee and Sens. Mark Scheffel & Rollie Heath. Under current law, an entity may file a statement of correction with the Secretary of State’s Office to revoke a previously filed document under certain conditions. This bill allows statements of correction to also be filed for a document that was delivered and filed in error.
  • HB 16-1332 – Concerning Modifications to the Income Tax Credits for Alternative Fuel Motor Vehicles, and, in Connection Therewith, Fixing Specified Dollar Amounts for the Credits, Allowing the Credit to be Assigned to a Financing Entity, Requiring Vehicle Identification Number Tracking of the Motor Vehicle for which the Credit is Claimed, and Making an Appropriation, by Reps. Crisanta Duran & Daneya Esgar and Sens. Ray Scott & Michael Johnston. The bill changes two refundable income tax credits in current law: the innovative motor vehicle credit and the innovative truck credit.
  • HB 16-1333 – Concerning Laws Governing Partnerships Codified in Title 7 of the Colorado Revised Statutes, by Rep. Pete Lee and Sens. Mark Scheffel & Rollie Heath. The bill limits the applicability of the statute of frauds to partnerships and specifies which laws govern limited partnerships.
  • HB 16-1348 – Concerning a Specific Crime of Cruelty to a Certified Police Working Dog, by Rep. Su Ryden and Sen. Nancy Todd. The bill creates the crime of cruelty to a law enforcement service animal as a class 6 felony for a first offense and a class 5 felony for subsequent offenses.
  • HB 16-1349 – Concerning Continuation of the Voluntary Contribution to the Military Family Relief Fund, by Reps. Su Ryden & Dan Nordberg and Sen. Morgan Carroll. The bill extends the voluntary contribution designation benefitting the Military Family Relief Fund through tax year 2020.
  • HB 16-1368 – Concerning the Codification of Current Practice for the Management of Records of Governmental Agencies, by Rep. Max Tyler and Sen. Beth Martinez Humenik. The bill clarifies and codifies the current practices of the state archivist in the Department of Personnel and Administration related to the storage and retention of state archives and public records.
  • HB 16-1373 – Concerning Requiring School Districts to Adopt a Policy Permitting the Use of Medical Marijuana by Students Authorized to Use Medical Marijuana, by Rep. Jonathan Singer and Sens. Chris Holbert & Vicki Marble. The bill allows school districts to adopt policies allowing medical marijuana use by students authorized to use medical marijuana.
  • HB 16-1375 – Concerning Changes to Dates for Submitting Reports that Involve the Department of Higher Education, by Reps. Jeni James Arndt & Jim Wilson and Sens. Nancy Todd & Owen Hill. Under current law, the Department of Higher Education and Department of Education are required to submit a joint report on February 1 annually. The bill changes the due date to April 1.
  • HB 16-1458 – Concerning Measures to Effectuate the Conservation of Nature Species in Colorado, and, in Connection Therewith, Making Appropriations from the Species Conservation Trust Fund for Purposes Recommended by the Department of Natural Resources, by Reps. Ed Vigil & Don Coram and Sens. Jerry Sonnenberg & Leroy Garcia. The bill appropriates $3.0 million from the Species Conservation Trust Fund for programs that are designed to conserve native species that have been listed as threatened or endangered under state or federal law, or are likely to become candidate species.
  • HB 16-1465 – Concerning Modifications to the Colorado Low-Income Housing Tax Credit, and, in Connection Therewith, Extending the Period During which the Colorado Housing and Finance Authority may Allocate Low-Income Housing Tax Credits, by Reps. Crisanta Duran & Jon Becker and Sens. Jessie Ulibarri & John Cooke. The bill extends the number of years, from two to five years, in which the Colorado Housing and Finance Authority may allocate low-income housing income tax credits.
  • SB 16-003 – Concerning Increased Methods to Reduce Wildfire Risk, by Sens. Ellen Roberts & Matt Jones and Rep. KC Becker. The bill adds broadcast burning to the types of projects and methods for which the Department of Natural Resources may award grants from the Wildfire Risk Reduction Cash Fund, and authorizes the transfer of a total of $3.0 million into the cash fund.
  • SB 16-041 – Concerning Data Collected by the Division of Criminal Justice in the Department of Public Safety Concerning the Study of Marijuana Implementation, by Sen. Randy Baumgardner and Rep. Dan Pabon. Currently, the Department of Criminal Justice is required to study law enforcement activities and costs related to the personal use and regulation of marijuana. This bill repeals the section of statute that requires the study to examine law enforcement costs and repeals the requirement that the study contain information concerning marijuana-initiated contacts by law enforcement, broken down by judicial district and by race and ethnicity.
  • SB 16-085 – Concerning the “Colorado Uniform Trust Decanting Act,” by Sen. Pat Steadman and Rep. Yeulin Willett. The bill enacts the Uniform Trust Decanting Act in Colorado, which allows a trustee to reform an irrevocable trust document within reasonable limits that ensure the trust will achieve the settlor’s original intent. The act prevents decanting—a term to describe the distribution of assets from one trust into a second trust—when it would defeat a charitable or tax-related purpose of the settlor.
  • SB 16-087 – Concerning Funding for the Highway-Rail Crossing Signalization Fund, and, in Connection Therewith, Making an Appropriation, by Sen. Randy Baumgardner and Rep. Max Tyler. The bill creates a one-time state transfer of $240,000 from off-the-top Highway Users Tax Fund (HUTF) revenue to the Highway-Rail Crossing Signalization Fund in FY 2016-17. In FY 2017-18 and each year thereafter, the bill creates a state diversion from the General Fund.
  • SB 16-104 – Concerning Incentives to Become a Teacher in a Rural School District in Colorado, and, in Connection Therewith, Making an Appropriation, by Sens. Nancy Todd & Jerry Sonnenberg and Rep. Jon Becker. The bill creates several new programs to provide incentives for individuals to become teachers in rural school districts, and to support the needs of professional educators in rural school districts.
  • SB 16-132 – Concerning Clarifying that Test Results Relating to Certain DUI Offenses are Not Public Information, by Sen. John Cooke and Rep. Mike Foote. The bill requires the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to keep all personal identifying information related to blood alcohol content test results confidential, and specifies that the test results may only be released to the individual who is the subject of the test, his or her attorney, a named party in a civil or criminal case to which the test results are directly related, or a prosecuting attorney, law enforcement officer, state agency, or state and local public official legally authorized to use such information to carry out his or her duties.
  • SB 16-135 – Concerning a Pharmacist’s Provision of Health Care Services that have been Delegated by Another Health Care Provider, by Sen. Irene Aguilar and Rep. Joann Ginal. The bill allows health insurance plans to provide coverage for health care services provided by a pharmacist as part of a collaborative pharmacy practice agreement if certain conditions are met. Specifically, the health plan must provide coverage for the same service if it is provided by a licensed physician or an advanced practice nurse and the pharmacist must be included in the insurers network of participating providers.
  • SB 16-146 – Concerning Modernizing Statutes Relating to Sexually Transmitted Infections, by Sen. Pat Steadman and Rep. Daneya Esgar. The bill updates state law concerning sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and allows for all STIs to be treated uniformly. It removes language specifically criminalizing HIV infection.
  • SB 16-171 – Concerning Modification and Clarification of the Statutes Pertaining to the New Energy Improvement District, by Sens. Beth Martinez Humenik & Mark Scheffel and Reps. Max Tyler & Jon Becker. The bill requires treasurers of counties that have authorized the New Energy Improvement District program to retain a 1 percent collection fee for each NEID special assessment that it collects. The bill also requires such treasurers to distribute NEID special assessments to the NEID in the same manner, less the collection fee, as property taxes are distributed.
  • SB 16-189 – Concerning the Nonsubstantive Revision of Statutes in the Colorado Revised Statutes, as Amended, and, in Connection Therewith, Amending or Repealing Obsolete, Imperfect, and Inoperative Law to Preserve the Legislative Intent, Effect, and Meaning of the Law, by Sen. Ray Scott and Rep. Mike Foote. The bill amends or repeals obsolete, unclear, or conflicting laws. The bill also clarifies statutory language, but does not change the intent or meaning of existing statute. The bill’s appendix explains the reasons for each amendment.
  • SB 16-191 – Concerning Marijuana Research Funded by the Marijuana Tax Cash Fund, and, in Connection Therewith, Making an Appropriation, by Sen. Pat Steadman and Rep. Bob Rankin. The bill authorizes the General Assembly to appropriate money from the Marijuana Tax Cash Fund to the Board of Governors of the Colorado State University System to fund scientific and social science research at CSU-Pueblo concerning marijuana and other matters that impact the state and its regions.
  • SB 16-193 – Concerning the Duties of the Safe2Tell Program, and, in Connection Therewith, Making an Appropriation, by Sens. Bill Cadman & Mark Scheffel and Reps. Dickey Lee Hullinghorst & Crisanta Duran. The bill requires the Department of Law to provide Safe2Tell program materials to Colorado preschools, elementary schools, middle schools, high schools, 4-H extension offices, and boys and girls clubs by August 1 of each year, beginning on June 30, 2017.
  • SB 16-195 – Concerning the Annual Appropriation of Money in the Central Fund for Veterans Centers to the State Department of Human Services, by Sen. Kevin Grantham and Rep. Bob Rankin. The bill grants the Department of Human Services continuous spending authority from the central fund for the direct costs of the operation and administration of veterans centers, and for capital construction in connection with the centers.
  • SB 16-196 – Concerning the Creation of a Pilot Program for Inclusive Higher Education for Persons with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, and, in Connection Therewith, Making an Appropriation, by Sens. John Cooke & Bill Cadman and Reps. Lois Landgraf & Dave Young. The bill creates a pilot program aimed at establishing higher education programs for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The program will operate from FY 2016-17 through FY 2020-21 at three institutions: the University of Northern Colorado, the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs, and Arapahoe Community College.
  • SB 16-203 – Concerning the Evaluation of State Tax Expenditures, and, in Connection Therewith, Making an Appropriation, by Sen. Kent Lambert and Reps. Millie Hamner & Bob Rankin. The bill directs the Office of the State Auditor to conduct evaluations of all state tax expenditures, and requires the evaluations to include descriptions of the expenditure’s purpose and intended beneficiaries, whether it is accomplishing its goal, costs and benefits of the expenditure, similar expenditures in other states, other businesses or programs accomplishing the expenditure’s goals, recommended changes, and performance measures used in the evaluation.
  • SB 16-204 – Concerning the Higher Education Revenue Bond Intercept Program, by Sen. Kent Lambert and Rep. Bob Rankin. The bill modifies the legislative and executive branch review and conditions of participation in the higher education revenue bond intercept program.
  • SB 16-205 – Concerning Payment for Expenses of Indigent Parents, by Sen. Kent Lambert and Rep. Millie Hamner. Under current law, the Office of the State Court Administrator receives funding to pay for an indigent parent to retain one expert witness and to obtain a transcript of the trial during a parent-child termination proceeding. Given that responsibility for retaining counsel for indigent parents in such cases is now managed by the Office of the Respondent Parents’ Counsel (ORPC), this bill clarifies that funding for these expenses are to be appropriated to the ORPC.
  • SB 16-209 – Concerning Authorizing a School District Board of Education to Construct a Building for Lease to a State Institution of Higher Education, by Sens. Nancy Todd & Chris Holbert and Reps. Janet Buckner & Kevin Priola. The bill authorizes a school district board of education to lease school district property to a state institution of higher education and to accept in-kind services (such as tuition reduction or scholarships for their students) from the institution as all or part of the lease payments.

For a complete list of Governor Hickenlooper’s 2016 legislative decisions, click here.

Pregnancy Accommodations Bill, CCB Transparency Bill, and More Signed by Governor

On Wednesday, June 1, 2016, Governor Hickenlooper signed 13 bills into law. To date, the governor has signed 217 bills this legislative session. Some of the bills signed Wednesday include a bill requiring employers to make reasonable accommodations for pregnant women, a bill to increase transparency of community-centered boards, a bill authorizing the sale of land for expansion of Fort Logan National Cemetery, and more. The bills signed Wednesday are summarized here.

  • HB 16-1187 – Concerning a Sales and Use Tax Exemption for Meals Provided in Certain Retirement Communities, by Rep. Tracy Kraft-Tharp and Sen. Chris Holbert. The bill creates sales and use tax exemptions for food and food packaging to be consumed by residents on the premises of a retirement community, which includes assisted living residences, nursing homes that provide continuous nursing care, and independent living facilities providing services to residents age 55 and older.
  • HB 16-1277 – Concerning the Appeal Process for Medical Assistance Benefits, and, in Connection Therewith, Making an Appropriation, by Reps. Susan Lontine & Lois Landgraf and Sens. Andy Kefalas & Ellen Roberts. The bill requires the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing to give Medicaid clients at least 10 days advanced notice prior to suspending, terminating, or modifying a client’s medical assistance benefits. The bill also extends the deadline to appeal for a client to appeal the intended action to 60 days after the date of notice, up from 30 days under current law.
  • HB 16-1280 – Concerning the Regulation of Air Ambulance Service, and, in Connection Therewith, Making an Appropriation, by Rep. Faith Winter and Sen. Kent Lambert. The bill gives the CDPHE authority to establish state-level licensing of air ambulances that allows for air ambulance operators to receive a license either by gaining accreditation through an approved organization or by meeting licensing standards established by the CDPHE and the State Board of Health.
  • HB 16-1387 – Concerning Health Insurance Coverage for Severe Protein Allergic Conditions, by Rep. Dianne Primavera and Sen. Laura Woods. Current law requires that health insurance plans provide coverage for medical foods for newborn children with inherited enzymatic disorders caused by single gene defects involved in the metabolism of amino, organic, and fatty acids. This bill adds coverage for severe protein allergic conditions and amino acid-based elemental formulas.
  • HB 16-1397 – Concerning the Completion of the Fitzsimmons State Veterans Community Living Center to Provide a Continuum of Residential Care Options, by Reps. Su Ryden & JoAnn Windholz and Sens. Mary Hodge & Larry Crowder. The bill repeals and reenacts the authority of the Department of Human Services to build a veterans community living center and assorted facilities on the site of the former Fitzsimons Army Medical Center and outlines the requirements for the construction and use of the facilities.
  • HB 16-1438 – Concerning the Provision of Reasonable Accommodations by an Employer for Persons Who Have a Condition Related to Pregnancy, by Rep. Faith Winter and Sen. Beth Martinez Humenik. The bill requires employers to engage in a timely, good-faith, interactive process when an employee or applicant requests reasonable accommodations related to pregnancy or physical recovery from childbirth. Reasonable accommodations may include the provision of more frequent or longer break periods; more frequent bathroom, food, or water breaks; acquisition or modification of equipment or seating; limitations on lifting; temporary transfer to a less strenuous or hazardous position or light duty, if available; assistance with manual labor; or modified work schedules, as long as certain conditions are met.
  • HB 16-1456 – Concerning the Sale of a Portion of Land at the Colorado Mental Health Institute at Fort Logan to the United States Department of Veterans Affairs for the Expansion of Fort Logan National Cemetery, by Rep. Susan Lontine and Sen. Larry Crowder. The bill authorizes the Department of Human Services to sell up to 15 acres of vacant land around the Colorado Mental Health Institute at Fort Logan to the United States Department of Veterans Affairs at fair market value for purpose of expanding the Fort Logan National Cemetery.
  • SB 16-027 – Concerning Allowing the Option for Medicaid Clients to Obtain Prescribed Drugs Through the Mail, and, in Connection Therewith, Reducing an Appropriation, by Sens. Beth Martinez Humenik & Nancy Todd and Reps. Dianne Primavera & Lois Landgraf. Under current law, only a limited number of Medicaid recipients may receive maintenance medication by mail order. This bill expands the option to receive a three-month supply of maintenance medication through the mail to all Medicaid recipients.
  • SB 16-038 – Concerning Measures to Promote the Transparency of Community-Centered Boards, and, in Connection Therewith, Making Certain Community-Centered Boards Subject to Performance Audits Undertaken by the State Auditor, Making All Community-Centered Boards Subject to the “Colorado Local Government Audit Law”, Expanding Public Disclosure of the Administration and Operations of the Community-Centered Boards, and Making an Appropriation, by Sen. Irene Aguilar and Reps. Dave Young & Lang Sias. The bill requires a community centered board (CCB) that receives more than 75 percent of its annual funding from federal, state, or local governments, or any combination thereof, to be subject to the Colorado Local Government Audit Act.
  • SB 16-158 – Concerning the Ability of a Physician Assistant to Perform Functions Delegated by a Physician that are Within the Physician Assistant’s Scope of Practice, by Sen. Kevin Lundberg and Rep. Dianne Primavera. The bill clarifies and expands the duties that a physician may delegate to a physician assistant within his or her scope of practice, including allowing a PA to issue certain statements verifying a medical condition, obtain Level I accreditation in workers’ compensation matters, and more.
  • SB 16-190 – Concerning Improving the Process for County Administration of Public Assistance Programs, and, in Connection Therewith, Making and Reducing Appropriations, by Sen. Pat Steadman and Rep. Bob Rankin. The bill establishes performance standards to improve the administration of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, including requiring DHS to contract with an external vendor to collect data regarding costs and performance of several public assistance programs.
  • SB 16-202 – Concerning Increasing Access to Effective Substance Use Disorder Services Through Designated Regional Managed Service Organizations, and, in Connection Therewith, Making an Appropriation, by Sen. Pat Steadman and Rep. Dave Young. The bill requires each managed service organization to assess the sufficiency of substance use disorder services for various populations in its geographic region, and to prepare a community action plan to address the most critical service gaps by March 1, 2017. The bill allows appropriations from the Marijuana Tax Cash Fund to support the implementation of MSO community action plans and to provide substance abuse treatment.
  • SB 16-212 – Concerning Aligning Changes Made to the Federal Child Care and Development Block Grant Reauthorization of 2014 to the Twelve-Month Eligibility Requirement of the Colorado Child Care Assistance Program, by Sen. Larry Crowder and Rep. Janet Buckner. The bill makes changes to align state law on eligibility for the Colorado Child Care Assistance Program with federal law. Specifically, if an eligible participant’s income rises above the level set by the county to deny child care assistance during the twelve-month eligibility period, the county must continue providing the child care subsidy until the next twelve-month redetermination period.

For a list of Governor Hickenlooper’s 2016 legislative decisions, click here.

Tenth Circuit: Arbitration Agreement Requiring Parties to Pay Own Costs Prohibitive to Plaintiff

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Nesbitt v. FCNH, Inc. on Tuesday, January 5, 2016.

Rhonda Nesbitt was a student at the Denver School of Massage Therapy (DSMT), and as such was required to provide massage therapy services to the public without compensation. Nesbitt filed a class action against DSMT’s parent companies (defendants) in April 2014, alleging that the students were effectively acting as employees in providing services to the public and, as such, were entitled to compensation under the Fair Labor Standards Act and wage and hour laws. Defendants moved the district court to stay the proceedings and compel arbitration pursuant to the arbitration agreement contained in plaintiffs’ student contract. The district court denied defendants’ motion, noting that although the agreement was not unconscionable, it effectively precluded Nesbitt from pursuing her claims because the cost of arbitration was prohibitive. The district court determined that because the arbitration agreement contained no savings clause, the entire agreement was unenforceable. Defendants filed an interlocutory appeal.

The Tenth Circuit first determined that the dispute was governed by the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), and discussed the effective vindication exception, where plaintiffs are effectively prohibited from pursuing their claims because the prohibitive cost limits use of the arbitral forum. In this case, defendants argued that Nesbitt failed to carry her burden to show that arbitration would be prohibitively expensive. The Tenth Circuit disagreed. The Tenth Circuit found Nesbitt’s argument persuasive that the possibility of fee-shifting later in the arbitration is not the same as FLSA protection. The Tenth Circuit also rejected the defendants’ arguments that the arbitration agreement was silent as to fees and costs, noting it explicitly invoked the American Arbitration Association’s Commercial Rules, which address the allocation of fees and costs. The Tenth Circuit concluded that forcing an employee to pay for arbitration with the mere possibility of future reimbursement constituted prohibitive costs.

The Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Hearing Board Erroneously Judged Conduct Subjectively, Not Objectively

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in City & County of Denver v. Gutierrez on Thursday, May 19, 2016.

Silver Gutierrez is a captain with the Denver Sheriff’s Department (DSD) and is on the board of the Denver Sheriff’s Foundation. Cheryl Arabalo is also a DSD captain and board member for the Foundation. On August 26, 2010, Arabalo went to Gutierrez’s office. Gutierrez was on the phone but he gestured for Arabalo to lift up her shirt and expose her breasts and then to sit on his lap. Two months later, Arabalo filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Division, alleging sexual harassment.

A hearing officer with the DSD Internal Affairs Bureau found that this type of behavior was prevalent among board members, who had a “locker room” culture and frequently engaged in sexualized behavior with each other. The DSD suspended Gutierrez for 75 days for violations of several Departmental Orders (DOs), but a hearing board reduced the suspension to 30 days. The hearing board decided that while Gutierrez’s conduct violated some of the DOs, it did not satisfy the criteria for the most egregious conduct.

The City appealed the hearing board’s decision to the district court pursuant to C.R.C.P. 106(a)(4). The district court determined the board had abused its discretion by applying a subjective standard rather than an objective standard to Gutierrez’s conduct. The district court remanded to the hearing board to reconsider, and Gutierrez appealed.

On appeal, the court of appeals agreed with the district court that, although the hearing board stated it was using objective criteria, it actually evaluated Gutierrez’s conduct using subjective standards. The hearing board considered the Foundation board’s “locker room” atmosphere and sexualized behavior in finding that Gutierrez’s conduct was not that bad. The court of appeals found this was in error, and the hearing board should have viewed the conduct as it would appear to an outside observer.

The court of appeals affirmed the district court and remanded to the hearing board for determination of appropriate disciplinary action.

Bills Regarding Residential Drug Treatment for Probationers, Enhancing Cybersecurity, and More Signed

On Friday, May 20, 2016, Governor Hickenlooper signed seven bills into law. To date, he has signed 199 bills this legislative session. Some of the bills signed Friday include a bill to extend the transitional jobs program, a bill to allow persons on probation for any offense to engage in residential drug treatment, and a bill to increase state cybersecurity. The bills signed Friday are summarized here.

  • HB 16-1097 – Concerning Regulation of Medicaid Nonemergency Transportation Providers, and, in Connection Therewith, Making and Reducing an Appropriation, by Reps. Don Coram & Dominick Moreno and Sen. Ray Scott. The bill allows providers of non-emergency transportation to Medicaid clients to operate under a limited regulation permit from the Public Utilities Commission.
  • HB 16-1197 – Concerning a Requirement that State Agencies Implement a Program to Streamline the Granting of Occupational Credentials to Veterans Based on Military Training, and, in Connection Therewith, Making an Appropriation, by Reps. Terri Carver & Jovan Melton and Sens. Nancy Todd & Larry Crowder. The bill requires each state agency that certifies, licenses, or registers an occupation to publish a summary of pathways available to military veterans by evaluating the extent to which military training meets state requirements, identifying reciprocity mechanisms in other states, and determining if occupational examinations are available that authorize a veteran to practice; consult with community colleges and other post-secondary education institutions about courses or programs that fill the gap between military and civilian occupational training, and refresher courses for lapsed occupational training; and consider adopting a national credentialing examination.
  • HB 16-1267 – Concerning the “Colorado Veterans’ Service-to-Career Pilot Program”, and, in Connection Therewith, Creating a Grant Program Through the Department of Labor and Employment to Aid Work Force Centers in Supporting Veterans and their Spouses Seeking New Employment and Careers, and Making an Appropriation, by Reps. Pete Lee & Rhonda Fields and Sens. Laura Woods & Morgan Carroll. The bill creates the Colorado Veterans’ Service-to-Career Pilot Program. Through CDLE and in partnership with nonprofit agencies, workforce centers throughout the state may apply for grants to develop and expand career services for veterans, spouses, and eligible participants. Eligible participants include a veteran’s dependent child under age 27 and a veteran’s caregiver over age 18.
  • HB 16-1278 – Concerning Residential Drug Treatment for Persons on Probation, by Rep. Pete Lee and Sen. John Cooke. The bill allows the court to require a defendant to participate in drug treatment when sentenced to probation for any offense, rather than just drug offenses.
  • HB 16-1288 – Concerning the Creation of an Industry Infrastructure Grant Program Within the State Work Force Development Council, by Reps. Tracy Kraft-Tharp & Cole Wist and Sens. Jack Tate & Michael Merrifield. The bill creates the Industry Infrastructure Grant Program within the Colorado Workforce Development Council (CWDC). The purpose of the program is for the CWDC to partner with eligible nonprofit entities to develop industry competency standards to support businesses in their implementation of work site training programs.
  • HB 16-1290 – Concerning an Extension of the Transitional Jobs Program, and, in Connection Therewith, Making an Appropriation, by Reps. Daneya Esgar & Tracy Kraft-Tharp and Sens. Andy Kerr & Owen Hill. The bill extends the sunset of the transitional jobs program until June 30, 2022, and requires the Department of Human Services to stop offering transitional jobs after December 31, 2021.
  • HB 16-1453 – Concerning Measures to Enhance Cybersecurity, and, in Connection Therewith, Making an Appropriation, by Rep. Millie Hamner and Sen. Kent Lambert. The bill creates the Colorado Cybersecurity Council in the Department of Public Safety, which is to operate as a steering group to develop cybersecurity policy guidance for the Governor; develop comprehensive goals, requirements, initiatives, and milestones; and to coordinate with the General Assembly and the Judicial Department regarding cybersecurity.

For a complete list of Governor Hickenlooper’s 2016 legislative decisions, click here.