Issues affecting local senior citizens was the focus of a town hall April 6 conducted by Rep. Terri Carver, R-Colorado Springs, and Sen. Bob Gardner, R-Colorado Springs.
The meeting was at the Library 21c, where Carver and Gardner discussed issues affecting senior citizens in the current legislative session. Both speakers talked about extending the Senior Property Tax Exemption for Medical Necessity and support for senior citizen options for Home Health Care and Assisted Living.
Carver and Gardner also spoke of their wanting to keep Electric Utility Legislation from raising utility bills, and in protecting seniors and other “at-risk” individuals from abuse and fraud scams. About 40 residents attended the meeting.
Despite the various issues discussed, it was the Senior Property Tax Exemption that commanded the most attention. According to Carver, voters in 2002 added senior property tax exemption for 50 percent of the first $200,000 appraised value. To qualify for this exemption, citizens must be 65 or older and have lived in their home for 10 years.
Carver and Gardner explained that voters in 2006 added 100 percent service disabled veterans to receive the senior property tax exemption. “This means people who have reached age 65 and have lived in their home for 10 years receive a break on their tax bill,” Carver said.
Carver said El Paso County Assessor Steve Schleiker brought this issue to her attention, noting some senior citizens live in homes that don’t meet their medical condition requirements.
Under current state law, senior citizens risk losing their property tax exemption if medical issues prompt their relocation. One example is moving to a lower altitude because of heart or respiratory issues. Mobility impaired citizens who live in a multi-level with stairs, or who must relocate to where they can receive required medical treatment also are examples.
Both speakers earlier this year introduced a bill to expand the property tax exemption. If the bill passes, senior citizens could get an exemption on their property taxes if medical issues prompt their relocation.
“Voters spoke in adding this to our state constitution,” Carver said. “It is a modest benefit for people whose homes aren’t as large or lavish. However, I don’t appreciate some of the maneuvering going on that could negate this.”
Resident Ron Rubin asked, “How much does it cost the state to give this exemption?” Gardner said it would cost millions, adding, “However, you must have lived in your home 10 years.”
Meanwhile, Carver is seeking to pass bills designed to stop electricity utility legislation from increasing utility bills for seniors living on fixed incomes. She also want to pass a bill that would limit Colorado Deptartment of Transportation from imposing toll roads in highway construction projects.
Carver also wants to enhance the level of wildfire mitigation in Colorado. She believes supporting the efforts of cities, counties, federal public lands and state agencies in removing dead tree kill and other forest fuels is the best way to do that. “We currently have catastrophic wildfire in Colorado,” Carver said.
Additionally, Carver wants to bring in more Colorado judges to handle the increased criminal and civil case workload. In a handout presented to attendees, Carver wrote, “We must have a judicial system that timely hears and resolves legal disputes in civil cases, and that can handle the growing criminal prosecutions in a timely manner.”
Through her “Lemonade Stand” bill, Carver wants to prohibit local government from requiring a business license or permit on minors wanting to operate a lemonade stand or pursue other part-time business ventures. A child ordered to close her lemonade stand due to lack of a permit inspired the bill.
A retired military colonel, Carver wants a veteran hiring preference by private sector businesses. She also wants heightened penalties for theft rings responsible for Colorado retail business losses, and human trafficking training support for law enforcement and victim assistance groups. Carver said this will raise public awareness of human trafficking recruitment in schools.