(May 17) – As Chairwoman of the Joint Budget Committee, Rep. Millie Hamner, D-Dillon, has already seen several of her bills become law, including the entire state’s budget. Today, Gov. John Hickenlooper signed two of her bills that have significant impact for the Western Slope—a bill to study how to lower health care costs in the area and a bill to clean up abandoned mining sites.

HB16-1276, signed this morning at the Peanut Mine near Crested Butte, authorizes the use of the Emergency Response Cash Fund any time hazardous circumstances exist at a legacy mine site. Legacy sites are hard rock mining operations that were abandoned prior to July 1, 1976, and where there is no continuing responsibility for reclamation under state or federal laws. But for the collaboration of the High Country Conservation Advocates, Crested Butte Land Trust, Coal Creek Watershed Coalition, the town of Crested Butte and other partners to clean up Peanut Mine, it could still be one of the hundreds of mining sites in the state that pose threats to public health and Colorado’s natural environment.

“This bill allows for funding in any emergency situation at a legacy mine site,” said Rep. Hamner, who shares prime sponsorship of the bill with Rep. Don Coram, R-Montrose. “This is an important step to ensure we can take care of hazardous conditions at mining sites and protect our environment and public safety.”

HB16-1336, signed this afternoon at Elevate coSpace in Frisco, will study how a single insurance rating area in Colorado could help lower the exorbitant health insurance costs for the Western Slope.

“Health care premiums are rising so quickly in these mountain communities that it’s become a crisis,” said Rep. Hamner, who shared prime sponsorship of the bill with Rep. Bob Rankin, R-Carbondale. “This bill will investigate how a single insurance rating zone could help lower health care costs for all of us here on the Western Slope.”

In 2016, premiums in the mountain area increased an average of 25.8 percent, while the average increase across the state was 9.8 percent. Currently, Colorado has nine geographic rating areas, and combining these into one statewide area could even out these discrepancies. The study has a quick turnaround with the deadline of Aug. 1 to make recommendations to the Joint Budget Committee.

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