Jimmy Sengenberger Show, Laura Woods, May 14, 2016

Station: KNUS, 710 AM

Show:     Jimmy Sengenberger Show

Guests:  Woods

Link:      http://sengenberger.podbean.com/

Date:      May 14, 2016

Topics:  Senate District 19

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HOST JIMMY SENGENBERGER:  So, Wednesday was sine die, the end of the legislative session here in Colorado, which is 120 days.  And I thank God every day that we only have a 120 day session so that our legislature can be restrained from doing too many things.  I think it’s a good thing that we have a limitation on the number of days that each session runs. Well, one of the leading conservatives in the Colorado state Senate is the senator for District 19, Laura Woods, and she joins us now, here on the Jimmy Sengenberger Show, to talk a little bit about the legislative session and what went on there.  Senator Woods, welcome to the show.  Good to have you here.

STATE SENATOR LAURA WOODS (HOUSE DISTRICT 19):  Thank you, Jimmy.  It’s good to be here.

SENGENBERGER:  So. Give us a general sense.  What do you think — looking back at the 2016 legislative session — what you think of it?

WOODS:  As usual, it was, um –.

SENGENBERGER:  You’ve got to find the right words.

WOODS:  –a slow start.  [laughs]  –A slow start, you know, you pick up pace, and then a very fever pitch ending to the session.  We were able to stop some of the overreach from the other side of the aisle, and a lot of the bills from the other chamber that — they ran 468 bill through the House this year and lots of those met their demise in the Senate because they were simply that bills I think that we started the session off with the Governor’s dire predictions on the budget and he was in a cut K-12 higher add primary provider fees transportation will in getting money and all my goodness take a little the sky is falling we certainly need the enterprise that hospital provider and then our JBC did a great job that they did.

SENGENBERGER:  [that’s] the joint budget committee

WOODS:  Yes, Joint Budget.  It doesn’t matter which member you look at in there, they work together so well, across party lines.  And they do what’s right for the state.  They balanced the budget and gave more money to K-12, kept the negative factor flat, did not cut higher ed[ucation], put money to transportation, gave primary care providers an increase in the Medicaid world, — and all of that without enterprising the hospital provider fee. So, those are some of the highlights, I think.

SENGENBERGER:  Now, let’s talk about the hospital provider fee, just to clarify exactly what that would have done —and thank goodness it was defeated.  But what would have been done in that case?  Refresh and and expand upon it a little bit for those listeners that may be a little confused by it.

WOODS:  Well, the provider fee is basically a bed tax, charged on every hospital patient for every night they spend in the hospital. And the hospitals then send an invoice to the federal government and the federal government matches dollar for dollar with — by the next day.  So, we send a dollar invoice out to the feds, they send us two back the very next day.  And it has grown into this large fund that is used to offset the cost for indigent or uninsured patients that come into the hospitals.   So to change it to an enterprise fund would have been an end run around TABOR, and would’ve allowed the governor to give pots of money to transportation, higher ed, K-12, hospitals, primary care providers.  These were all the groups lining up to get that money.  And at the same time, the bill did not include a reduction of the TABOR cap.  So, when we enterprise CU a few years ago, we lowered the TABOR cap, and it made it a lot more palatable for conservatives.  But this one would not have included a reduction in the TABOR cap.  And so, — so it was an end run around TABOR that we just could not –.  You know, we support the Constitution, we are to defend it — we take an oath to  defend it, so that was not something we could vote for.  And all we had been asking, the entire session, was for some real Medicaid reform — Medicaid expansion reform, real reform in that area, Mr. Governor.  If that’s what you want, then bring us some real reform ideas and an assurance that this money would not just be sucked into another health insurance expansion entitlement black hole, like 38% of our budget already is.  And they wouldn’t come back with any ideas.  So, they really — you know, we gave them an alternative.  [We] said, “Come.  Come to us with this.”  And they wouldn’t come back with any suggestions on that.  So, that’s a long-winded answer to a good question.

SENGENBERGER:  Well, it is one that requires a bit more explanation to really understand it, and I appreciate—that was an excellent explanation of the hospital provider fee issue. And thank goodness, it was defeated. You know, it seems like –it’s interesting. I was talking with another legislator this past week, who said, “Look, we got some bills in that were good, passed.  You know, I was able to— [I] being this legislator, “was able to get some things passed.  But even more importantly, we were able to stop bad bills.”  And that was interesting in your answer to the previous question.  One of the most—one of the earliest comments that you made, State Senator Laura Woods, was that you stopped bad bills, and I don’t think that we praise that enough.   We always talk about, “Oh, I managed to get through this bill in that bill.”  But I love hearing about the bad bills that were stopped.

WOODS:  Well we were — there with a bill to change Indigenous People’s – or, Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day.  And my Italian constituents were up in arms over that bill.  It’s just a rewriting of history.  So, that’s one of the bad bills that we stopped.   There was another bill to take the “illegal alien” out of the statutes and change it to — what were they changing it to?  — “undocumented worker”, I think.  That bill died.  Uh, the election bills, the primary bills – changing it to a primary, –.

SENGENBERGER:  That’s right!

WOODS:  [inaudible] so much public outcry of, ”Why are we rushing these bills through in the last two weeks of session?”   House Bill 1454 was introduced on, I think, April 22 and Senate Bill 216 not until May.   And there was a lot of public outcry, saying, “Why? What’s the hurry? We haven’t even had chance, as the public, to testify on these bills to give you our input, and to speak out in favor or against.”  So, those were another set of bills that didn’t make it through.

SENGENBERGER:  Yeah, I was very pleased to hear about that for the reasons stated that there was such a rush because of the passions that were flaring about what had happened and then presidential candidate Donald Trump kind of, you know, flying the flames a little bit more and so forth are really got people —  fanning the flames.  It really out people energized on that issue and I think it’s much to the credit of those in the state Senate for example who were thinking, “You know what? Maybe we should hold off on this and —  when the passions are just flaring — and really think through a reasonable direction.

WOODS:  It was a knee-jerk reaction to both the Donald Trump issues that he raised about the caucus system, but also on the ballot Initiative 98.  And if you look at the language of ballot initiative 98 it seems to be unconstitutional and that it is going to and and disenfranchise members of the minor parties — the Libertarians, the Green Party, the American Constitution Party so I think that ballot initiative has so many problems built within it that we didn’t need or knee-jerk reaction to change the whole system just because they were threading up writing about initiative but we really need a study and so that’s what we – myself, Kevin Lundberg, Jerry Sonnenberg, Kevin Grantham, and Ray Scott had set up a elections study group. Our first meetings can be on June 11 at the capital from 1 to 3.  That’s Saturday.  And the people come in the south door and go up to the old Supreme Court chambers.  We are going to just take testimony from citizens who want to come in and speak for the primary or for the caucus.  We’re going to have some survey forms for people to fill out to give us their input, so we can get a handle on what the electorate wants us to do down at the legislature.  And then perhaps next session, with 120 days ahead of us, we can begin to work on a piece of legislation that the people have asked for, not something that we that was a good idea.

SENGENBERGER:  Very reasonable deliberative approach.  We’re talking with State Senator Laura Woods, representing Senate District 19.  So, I want to narrow in a little bit on some of the things that you did this session.  What are couple of bills that you were advocating for and put forward yourself that you might want to comment about?

WOODS:  Well, I think the two largest pieces of legislation I worked on this year were Senate bills 180 and 181, which were dealing with juvenile life without parole sentences that were handed out in Colorado between 1990 and 2006.  The Supreme Court has said that the unconstitutional sentence for the vast majority of juveniles.  In other words, you can only use a life without parole in the rarest of circumstances.  And we can all think of some — the Austin Siggs of the world that need life without parole, no doubt. But in 1992, in response to a summer of violence, the Governor called a special session, the legislature said, “Oh, my gosh! You got all the gang members killing people!  What are we going to do?  I know, let’s throw them away for life and toss the key so they can never get out of there.”  And it doesn’t matter if they’re guilty of first-degree murder, murder with reckless indifference, or felony murder, it’s life without parole for teenagers.  And so the felony murder inmates were kids who were in the wrong place at the wrong time — in the backseat of the car when the front seat passenger shot somebody; you know, the sort of slow kid who was picked up by his friends and taken off into the woods and doesn’t know how to get himself out of that situation — didn’t pull a trigger, didn’t kill anybody, but was there, like an accomplish; the one who helped his friend dispose of evidence of a murder because he was loyal to his friend, but he didn’t kill anybody.  So we’ve got 48 of these men, now, — who were sentenced as teenagers — still in prison and the Supreme Court has said it’s an unconstitutional sentence.  So, Senate Bill 181 gave our district courts some new sentencing guidelines.  Right now, we have to resentence all 48 of those.  The only option would be life without parole again, or life with the possibility of parole after 40.  So, we kept life with the possibility of parole, –out after about 40 years — for the worst offenders, and we gave it another option of a determinate sentence of 30 to 50 years for those who might’ve been the non-shooter, the felony murder guys, or the murder with reckless indifference inmates.  And we took life without parole for a juvenile off of the books in Colorado.  So, that was one of our bills.  And the second bill created a program in DOC, if you’re sentenced to prison as a teenager and 20 years later you’re still there, you’d qualify for this program.   It will be a 3 to 5 year program, and after five years then you would be eligible to apply for parole — to ask the Governor for parole.  It doesn’t mean you’ll get parole.   But the program is reentry into society,  tips and help for these guys to be successful when they are put back into society.

SENGENBERGER:  Those seem like a couple of great bills, in terms of criminal justice reform.  So I appreciate you helping to take the lead in that, State Sen. Laura Woods, and for coming on the program to talk a bit about the session.  Thank you so much for taking some time.

WOODS:  You’re very welcome.  Thanks, Jimmy, for having us on.

SENGENBERGER:  And keep up the good work.  You seem to be doing some great work, there.

WOODS:  I will do it!

SENGENBERGER:  All right.  And though the Republicans — so many of the Republicans there in the state legislature who were fighting the good fight, managed to stop some bad bills.  I mean, that hospital provider fee, for example, was ruinous.  And thank goodness that was prevented. I’m Jimmy Sengenberger.  We’ll be right back on Newstalk 710 KNUS with some final thoughts.  Or, if you want to call in, we’ve still got five minutes — 303 696-1971.  We’ll be right bac