Monday, March 18, 2013

Settling The Employment Credit Score

More Consumer Protections

Today's post is about SB13-018, Permissible Use of Credit Information By Employers sponsored by Sen. Ulibarri and Rep. Fischer. 

This session I seem to be drawn toward bills that enhance consumer protections. My series of posts concerning HB13-1046, Social Media Privacy Protections, can be found here. Between the two of them a common thread is their Senate sponsor Jessie Ulibarri. A freshman to the legislature, he's really come out of the gate swingin' bills co-sponsored by more experienced House Democrats Angela Williams and Randy Fischer. Both are expected to be signed into law by the Governor. 

Back to SB18. This is a bill designed to prohibit employers using consumer credit checks to screen potential new hires or their existing employees. That sounds a bit odd, right? Have you ever heard of that happening? In truth, and this is proven by employment records*, about 1 in 7 people are turned down from being hired because the employer ran a credit check on them and didn't like what they found. According the primary source of the argument in favor of the bill, a Demos study on the topic, 1 in 4 people report that their credit scores have been checked as a condition for employment. 

The thrust for why SB18 exists can be found in the executive summary of the Demos study that the sponsors refer to during testimony. 
  1. Credit scores to not reflect a person's integrity or work ethic as an employee.
  2. Credit scores are commonly ruined by uncontrolled forces: the recent economic crash, bouts of unemployment, unexpected medical costs and associated crushing medical debt, divorce, identity theft, military separation, student debt, and even residential relocation.
  3. Race. Blacks and Latinos have on average worse credit scores than Whites. 
  4. For all of the above, using credit scores to evaluate workers becomes a discriminatory practice and effectively perpetuates an individual's bad credit score ie. Being unemployed leads to bad credit which prevents one from being hired, which continues unemployment and a bad credit score.

In Committee

SB18 was heard in the House Business, Labor, Economic and Workforce Development committee March 7th (full audio recording is here). It had previously survived the Senate side of things where it had been introduced and substantially amended to exclude certain employers from the credit check prohibition. They included employers that dealt with Defense, National Security, Intelligence, or Space Agencies of the federal government. 

Also from the Senate, and this is the big one, an employer may require an employee credit check if they are a bank or financial institution, if they are required to by law, or if the credit check is "substantially related to the employee's current or potential job and the employer has a bona fide purpose for the information".

All that aside things went smoothly enough for Rep. Fischer in the House committee. Republican Reps. Brian DelGrosso and Libby Szabo were critical of the bill. They repeatedly (and redundantly) asked Fischer to explain why the hiring tool of credit checks should be taken away from employers, to which he referenced the Demos report findings of basically "credit scores have not been found to accurately predict an individual's work integrity". 

Democrat Rep. Millie Hamner expressed personal offense at the notion of credit checks being used to prevent individuals from finding work in today's tough economic times. Naturally enough, and perhaps too frequently nowadays, the battle lines seemed to be drawn along party lines, D vs. R. As the discussion played out Fischer was able to assuage many of the concerns from DelGrosso and at least acknowledge Szabo's (although her's were noticeably more aggressive). 

The major amendment that came from committee was one excluding state or local law enforcement agencies from the ban on using credit score checks. SB18 successfully passed on to House second readings (CoW) where it's been put on hold for the time being.

Field Trip

March 7th was a day I made it down to the capitol! Which is always better because you get to experience it in person. In committee you can feel the tension or jubilation in the room, see members sweat over a crucial vote, watch body language of sparring opponents/proponents. It's exciting stuff! So here are a few pictures. 

Above is a photo I took from the Senate committee lobby. In the immediate foreground is a Sergeant At Arms. They are the stewards of the capitol. If you're wearing a hat in committee they will ask you to remove it. If you're somewhere you shouldn't be they'll excuse you. And allegedly, if you're walking down the center isle of the Senate or House chambers they will tackle you to the ground. (Center isle is for elected folks only). 

Take a moment to notice how packed the place is. Among them: senators, lobbyists, stakeholders, students, and many others planning to testify or observe committees. The committee rooms are behind the doors lining the hall on the left and right.   

This is the House Business committee SB18 was heard in. The room itself (LSB-A) is actually situated in the old capitol museum across the street from the capitol building. If it weren't for my phone's camera settings you'd be able to see the gorgeous capitol outside those windows. The committee chair sits in center of the half ringed desk, flanked by fellow committee members.  Sponsors of the bill being heard, and those giving testimony, sit at the desk facing the committee members. Audience members sit in the back. In the photo the committee is about to commence. Rep. Fischer, sponsor of SB18, is off to the side talking with folks and preparing notes.

From left to right we have Representatives: (R) DelGrosso, (R) Holbert, (D) Rosenthal, (D) Exum, committee staff person, empty chair of Chair (D) Williams, vice chair (D) Kraft-Tharp, (D) Ryden, (D) Hamner, (R) Navarro, walking to her seat (R) Szabo, (R) Nordberg.  

*Several years ago a law was passed that required employers to send formal notices to potential hires (and the Department of Labor) that they were passed up because of their credit score numbers. 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Healthy Concern, Pt. 1


On Site Inspections of Medicaid Providers

By Rep. Young and Sen. Roberts

Close Inspection

Compliance bills are ones advocated for by state departments that keep Colorado law aligned with federal law. 1068 is one of those. 

Inside the 2010 federal Affordable Care Act is a bit that gives state agencies that administer Medicaid the authority to check in on their providers without giving advance notice of the inspection visit. The Department of Health Care Policy and Finance is responsible for delivering Medicaid to Coloradoans, and they are the major actors behind 1068 and its intent to comply with federal law. 

Under current law the Department must provide 10 day advance notice of any inspection, audit, or on-site visits to a Medicaid provider. 

In Committee

1068 was routed to the House Public Health Care and Human Services Committee chaired by Rep. Primavera and vice chaired by Rep. Young (the sponsor of the bill). As Young explained, after the bill was introduced many stakeholders took issue with the language not being tight enough and having the potential to negatively affect them. Together, the Department and concerned parties worked together to re-draft the bill to a state agreeable to all. Completely altering a bill is called a strike below because it wipes clean everything below the enacting clause portion. 

The enacting clause

The introduced version of the bill can be found here, and the engrossed version can be found here.   

Witnesses lined up to testify in support of the bill as amended (the new version) included the Colorado Hospital Association, the Colorado Association of Medical Equipment Suppliers, former Representative Young (not to be confused with current Representative Young), and of course the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing. All of them were involved in remaking the bill. 

Although no party was terribly specific about the changes that were made, Rep. Young explained that most of the new language was borrowed from the federal version of the law. It includes specifics on categories of risk for providers, pre-enrollment and post enrollment site visits, and an important section that ensures inspectors will not be paid on commission for violations they uncover. 

Everyone harmonized on the bill. With few questions from committee members the strike below amendment passed unanimously, the bill passed to the committee of the whole unanimously which sent it to third readings, and earlier today 1068 passed the House third reading vote unanimously too. It's now off to the Senate where I predict smooth sailing clear to Hickenlooper's hands. 

More Ahead

1068 is not the only health care related bill this session. Among many more that I plan to keep track of are 
  • 1115 which repeals the outdated program CoverColorado
  • 008 which eliminates a waiting period in the CHP+ program
  • 026 which updates the Michael Skolnik Medical Transparency Act
  • 044 which deals with prepaid inpatient health plans
  • 1175 which limits Medicaid expansion -- Postponed Indefinitely on 2/19/13 --
  • 1196 which requires enhanced reporting by the Department
  • 1199 regarding fee collection for nursing home providers -- Passed thirds in the House, now in the Senate --

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Social Media Privacy Protection, Pt. 2

HB13-1046 by Rep. Williams and Sen. Ulibarri

Employee User Name Password Protection


Catching Up

We last left this bill as it was being introduced in January. The bill is essentially an employee protection mechanism designed to prevent employers from spying on social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc) by prohibiting the forced, or coerced, disclosure of login passwords. 

Committee Work

1046 arrived in the Business, Labor, Economic & Workforce Development committee chaired by its sponsor, Rep. Williams, on February 12th. You can check out the full audio recording of the hearing here, or read on for the summary. The bill survived, but many substantial amendments were added to it. While presenting her bill, Rep. Williams situated herself facing the committee and Rep. Kraft-Tharp (the Vice Chair) became acting Chair.

Of the concerned parties lined up to testify

  1. The Colorado Dept. of Corrections 
  2. The Colorado Dept. of Labor and Employment
  3. The Colorado Defense Lawyers Association
  4. The Colorado Association of Police Chiefs
  5. The Employment Lawyers Association
All would support it if certain amendments were passed. 

The Dept. of Corrections wanted an exemption, arguing that being able to monitor their staff's social media was crucial for workplace safety in a dangerous prison environment. Things like inmate+staff relationships are prohibited, and the current best way to discover their existence is through social media.  The Association of Police Chiefs wanted the same exemption; both were granted it. 

Shaded text denotes an amendment

Another amendment was introduced by Williams which clarified that employees needn't add their coworkers or bosses to their social media contact list, nor ease their privacy settings to make their profiles more accessible. It passed as well.

Shaded text denotes an amendment

The final slice of the amendment pie came with a clarification that the Dept. of Labor and Employment is to be the sole enforcer of the legislation, and to be the one promulgating rules and penalties for it. Fines for employers found to be in violation of the law range from $1,000 to $5,000 in addition to anything else the department deems appropriate. After a bit of back and forth between committee members, it was unanimously approved.

Shaded text denotes an amendment

Par For Course

1046 is the norm for most agreeable bills. Stakeholders withhold their full support until changes they want are included as amendments. Occasionally differences are ironed out ahead of the hearing, but things evolve quickly in the General Assembly and digestion times are short. 

In this instance, law enforcement agencies became aware the bill existed, had their analysts look over it, and found that they needed to step in to prevent a major upset to their way of doing business. By making a strong but reasonable case for exemption they were able convince the committee of necessity without the sponsor feeling it would undermine the purpose of the bill. 

1046 moves on to the Appropriations Committee March 1st along with 14 other bills. In Appropriations, the deal is usually this: if a bill will cost the state even slightly more money than exists in current revenue streams it will likely die. 1046 is projected to expend $23,064 from the Employment Support Fund each fiscal year. However, since fines range from $1,000-$5,000 per infringement, and there is no sure way to predict how many infringements there will be, 1046 has the possibility of generating revenue by fining more than it costs to administer. Here is the official document breaking down the numbers, called the Fiscal Note.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

New Features


New to the site are a series of guides to aid in understanding the fundamentals of the General Assembly. 

Here is a summary of the general process.

Here is a guide to understanding committees of reference. 

Coming soon will be a page on lobbyists and a page on state finances. In the meantime enjoy the read!