by Emily Bishop, Program Manager, CMS Division of Government Relations
Featured in the May-June 2020 Colorado Medicine Colorado Medicine.
The Colorado General Assembly met for a special Saturday session on March 14 to temporarily adjourn in response to coronavirus. The unprecedented move was made to encourage social distancing and prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Much has happened since then, including an economic downturn, a landmark Colorado Supreme Court decision, and the pandemic’s increasing impact on every aspect of life for Coloradans.
One of the biggest questions when the legislature began their extended recess was whether the 120-day general assembly session had to be consecutive or could extend beyond the original sine die date of May 6. The Colorado Supreme Court ruled in a close 4-3 decision that it could be extended, but whether the legislature will use all of the residual 53 days remains unclear.
Currently, the legislature is scheduled to reconvene May 18 but even this is tentative and the adjournment could be further extended [after publication, leadership announced a new adjournment date of May 26]. One thing is clear, however: the legislature’s priorities when they reconvene will look a whole lot different than they did pre-pandemic. For one thing, the budget for new legislation has been slashed with the economic downturn over the last two months. Senate President Leroy Garcia (D-Pueblo) has indicated the focus will be on supporting health care and front-line workers, as well as passing the budget for FY 2020-21, school finance bill, and any outstanding sunsets for practice acts that are set to expire on July 1. Outstanding bills from before the pandemic will be assessed by their potential cost, their contribution to the state’s current needs, and their potential contention.
One possible bill introduced when the legislature reconvenes is a direct response to COVID-19 and the unique needs of physicians. Spearheaded by COPIC and supported by the Colorado Medical Society, the issue of expanded liability protections for physicians responding to the pandemic has been raised multiple times with the Polis administration as a potential executive order. The administration has responded with concern that this falls outside of the emergency powers of the governor. COPIC, CMS and our partners are currently exploring immediate action through other avenues; however, if need be, a new bill retroactively expanding liability protections will be a priority of CMS during this truncated session.