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Special session in the works to fix error in Colorado hospital provider fee bill

September 13, 2017 Updated: September 14, 2017 at 7:07 am
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photo - Colorado State Capitol Building
Colorado State Capitol Building 

State lawmakers could return to the Capitol next month to fix a drafting error in one of the last session's most important accomplishments, Senate Bill 267.

The significant compromise that raised money for rural Colorado hospitals and schools, as well as transportation, by tinkering with the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights.

The governor's office confirmed it is considering calling back lawmakers for a special session, after several legislators tipped off Colorado Politics about phone calls they had received asking about their schedules for October.

"We are considering it," said Jacque Montgomery, a spokeswoman for Gov. John Hickenlooper. "No decision has been made yet."

Complete Colorado's Sherrie Peif was the first to report in July that the error would cost several special taxing districts, including the Regional Transportation District and metro Denver's Scientific and Cultural Facilities District, significant revenue, because the bill inadvertently throttled their ability to collect the 2.9 percent sales tax on retail marijuana sales effective July 1.

RTD told Peif that the lawmakers' error would likely mean cuts in services.

Senate Bill 267, while a bipartisan victory, was a rolling ball of complicated negotiations until it passed on the last evening of the legislative session. It was signed into law by the governor on May 30.

The legislation reclassified the hospital provider fee, which is assessed on hospital stays, out from under a constitutional revenue cap set by the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights by simply calling it an "enterprise fund." The cap triggers taxpayer refunds, but as an enterprise fund the cap and trigger don't come into play.

That allows the state to use that money to shore up rural hospitals and other needs. Most statehouse Republicans have been resistant to that change for years. In exchange they got Democrats to lower the state spending cap and raise co-pays on Medicaid recipients.

Rep. Steve Lebsock, a Democrat from Thornton, has been saying weeks the legislature needed to reconvene to address "significant language" problems in the hastily passed bill that could adversely affect special districts, and ultimately taxpayers who lose services even though the taxes have been paid.

Reached after the governor's office confirmed a special session is in the works, Lebsock said the stakes are too high when RTD is already years behind in building commuter rail and other services for north metro taxpayers.

"Many of us in the legislature knew the only way we could fix this was through legislation," he said. "This is not something the (Joint Budget Committee) can fix or that we can wait on. A number of us have been saying that for some time."

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