PERA puzzle, Title IX changes among issues affecting CU at Capitol

Funding questions also loom as state lawmakers begin 2018 session
By Staff

Reform of the Colorado Public Employees’ Retirement Association (PERA), changes to Title IX, the opioid epidemic and teacher shortage are among the issues posing ramifications for the University of Colorado and its faculty and staff this legislative session.

Lawmakers on Wednesday convened at the Capitol for the start of the 2018 Colorado General Assembly.

CU’s State Relations team has worked over the interim to continue cultivating relationships with legislators and promote the endeavors of each of the CU campuses through tours, meetings and outreach activities in legislative districts. The work is critical to the university’s Government Relations efforts during the 120-day session.

The team will work to support funding increases for higher education, CU’s legislative priorities and also navigate through legislation that will affect the institution.

“We are excited to embark on the 2018 legislative session and we look forward to working with our friends in the legislature on both sides of the aisle on issues that are important to CU,” said Tanya Kelly-Bowry, vice president, Office of Government Relations. “We will be running key legislation to benefit the CU system and will also work on key funding initiatives that are made possible by the critical Hospital Provider Fee Enterprise legislation that passed last year, SB 17-267.

“With a minimum of 500 bills introduced each session, we also look forward to working with our campus stakeholders to collect feedback and engage in the policy making process.”

Kelly-Bowry expressed thanks to Gov. John Hickenlooper for his continued support of higher education that was announced in his budget request in November.

The request included an overall increase for higher education in FY 2018-19 of $86.9 million, or 9.7 percent. The total includes $56.8 million for governing boards to be allocated through the state’s funding formula. CU would receive about $18.9 million, or about a 10 percent increase.

The request also includes important increases for capital construction, including $12.3 million for the CU Anschutz Center for Personalized Medicine and Behavioral Health (ranked No. 10) and $15.1 million for Level 1 controlled maintenance.

Government Relations will be working closely with Todd Saliman, vice president and chief financial officer, and his team to support the governor’s request. However, there are several other budget pressures and policy issues that will need to be worked out during the legislative session that might still affect the final higher education allocation, such as transportation and infrastructure needs, health care, and PERA solvency. Because of CU’s lobbying efforts on the Hospital Provider Fee bill last year, there is more money available.

Upcoming legislative policy issues include:

  • Colorado Public Employees’ Retirement Association reform – PERA’s unfunded liabilities are more than $32 billion, and more than 550,000 Coloradans – including 15,000 CU employees – rely on the state’s pension rather than Social Security. The governor’s office, PERA and other stakeholders have submitted proposals to address the solvency issues. The issue presents significant budget pressure – especially for state agencies and state employees – that must be addressed. CU will be actively engaged in the issue.
  • Title IX reform – As the federal government works on new Title IX guidance, there are efforts to codify Title IX processes involving sexual misconduct investigations into state law.
  • Opioid epidemic – The bipartisan Opioid and Other Substance Use Disorders Interim Study Committee met frequently throughout the summer and fall to discuss measures that would address the growing opioid epidemic in Colorado. The committee is submitting six bills, including one with funding for the Colorado Consortium for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention at the CU Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences; it would provide education and training initiatives to practitioners.
  • Teacher Shortage Issues – The governor’s budget request also includes $10 million for teacher preparation initiatives in rural areas that are deeply affected by the teacher shortage. CU’s Colleges of Education already are engaged in important work with these communities. CU will work with stakeholders on the funding allocation. Government Relations will be working with CU education deans, rural schools and community colleges on this issue.

University employees may engage with legislation through various associations or personal interests, which is an important part of the public policy process, the Government Relations team notes. Endeavors that are outside of CU’s official priorities or through Government Relations must be done on personal time. Please see the CU lobbying policy for more information.