Medicaid expansion, Fort Lyons, rape kit measures all move forward at Capitol

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DENVER — With less than a month until the end of the legislative session, Colorado lawmakers kicked it into high gear on Monday, taking action on a number of consequential and controversial proposals.

In the Senate, lawmakers approved a major expansion of Medicaid that will provide coverage for a 160,000 uninsured Coloradans.

Senate Bill 200, which has the support of Gov. John Hickenlooper, whose administration helped craft the proposal, cleared the Senate on a 21-14 final vote Monday morning.

One Republican, Sen. Larry Crowder of Alamosa, joined the chamber’s 20 Democrats in voting yes.

This bill expands Medicaid eligibility from 100 percent of the federal poverty level to 133 percent; that would allow Coloradans earning less than $15,000 annually, or families earning under $32,000 a year, to receive Medicaid coverage.

According to supporters, the proposal is expected to save the state some $280 million over the next decade as a result of various reforms and changes: better use of technology by Medicaid-funded doctors, renewed efforts to reduce waste and a continued move toward wellness goals.

House approves proposal to re-open Fort Lyons prison as a homeless shelter

Closed two years ago as revenue shortfalls brought on severe budget cuts, Fort Lyons may reopen its doors as a homeless shelter of sorts under a proposal that passed the House on a bipartisan Monday.

House Bill 1261, which would repurpose the shuttered prison into a residential community for the homeless that offers substance abuse support, medical care and job training services, is on its way to the Senate after the 49-13 vote.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Leroy Garcia, D-Pueblo, believes the roughly $3 million it will cost the state annually to run the facility would be an investment that would pay dividends not just for the people who would be cared for there but for the sagging local economy, which has suffered since Fort Lyons’ closure.

The legislation would make the facility open to homeless people from across the state.

Legislation to ease rape kit testing backlog heads to Senate

A bill aiming to ease the backlog of untested rape kits in Colorado is also heading to the Senate after it unanimously passed the House of Representatives today.

“I am grateful that we are taking this first, very important step to find justice for women who have been sexually assaulted,” said Rep. Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch, the bill’s sponsor. “The next step is to test the rape kits sitting on shelves and to use the evidence to put serial rapists behind bars and off of our streets.”

Rape kits are used in all sexual assault investigations to preserve evidence from victims, but many kits in Colorado and across the country are never tested after they are collected.

In Colorado, hundreds of rape kits remain untested across multiple counties, even though the Colorado Bureau of Investigations offers to test the collected evidence free of charge.

House Bill 1020 requires the Department of Public Safety to adopt standards for when evidence collected after a sexual assault is submitted and when it must be analyzed and compared to DNA databases.

Consent of the victim is required prior to the release of any evidence.

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