Access to Abortion, Basic Needs Headline 2022 Legislative Session
Access to Abortion Codified Into Colorado Law While Access to Basic Needs, Child Care Improved
The Colorado Sun recently identified the 9 “biggest bills” of the 2022 legislative session impacting Coloradans. Two of those were supported by The Women’s Foundation of Colorado: HB22-1279, the Reproductive Health Equity Act, and HB22-1295, the Department of Early Childhood and Universal Preschool Program.
The importance of HB22-1279 cannot be overstated. At a time when federal protections to abortion are likely to be dismantled, the Reproductive Health Equity Act modernizes Colorado statute to protect abortion rights throughout the state. Colorado is only one of 15 states, plus Washington D.C., to codify the right to have an abortion either prior to a fetus’s viability or throughout a pregnancy in state law.
Additionally, the passing of a formalized plan for the Department of Early Childhood and Universal Preschool Program will benefit 63,000 children statewide. The bill centralizes services and makes it easier for parents to obtain help for their children, including signing up for at least 10 hours of free preschool per week in 2023. This is a significant step in helping women enter, remain, and succeed in the workforce.
“A lot of hope around early care and education right now”
Not only will universal preschool launch in 2023, one of WFCO’s three priority bills, HB22-1010, Early Childhood Educator Income Tax Credit, also passed and is awaiting Gov. Polis’ signature. Colorado’s recovery from the pandemic and economic downturn hinges on parents returning to work, and parents returning to work hinges on accessible and affordable child care. However, many providers are struggling to keep their doors open and many have closed their doors permanently, partly due to high turnover among ECE educators.
The tax credit accomplishes two things: 1. It helps retain ECE educators, almost half of whom are women of color and 2.) It rewards educators for advancing their credentials, which in turn strengthens the quality of child care. This is a four-year tax credit.
“There’s a lot of hope around early care and education in Colorado right now,” said Louise Myrland, vice president of programs at The Women’s Foundation of Colorado. “We need to continue centering community voices in the implementation of systems change and support many different types of providers in order to meet our state’s demand.”
Progress made in helping Coloradans meet their basic needs
In addition to progress in making child more accessible to Coloradans, bills increasing access to basic needs also passed. WFCO’s two other priority bills, HB22-1055, Sales Tax Exemption Essential Hygiene Products, and HB22-1259, Modifications to Colorado Works Program, also are awaiting Gov. Polis’ signature.
With the passage of HB22-1055, Colorado acknowledges that period products and diapers are essential products such as food and medicine. Receiving substantial bipartisan support, the bill will provide a sales tax exemption for period products, incontinence products, and diapers. The state estimates it will save Colorado consumers $9.1 million annually. WFCO led the coalition for HB22-1055, comprised of diverse individuals and entities statewide.
HB22-1259 Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), known here as Colorado Works, provides financial support to families living far below the federal poverty level, most of whom are single moms with children. The bill makes critical improvements to Colorado Works with a 10% increase in cash allowance this year and and a cost of living increase every year thereafter. Before this bill, payments through Colorado Works were not tied to inflation, which meant they were worth less than they were worth in 1996.
“The harsh reality is that the cost of living is rising so quickly in Colorado, but we’re doing everything we can to lighten the burden for those most impacted,” said Myrland.
Learn more about the 2022 legislative session outcomes on June 10
In total, all of the bills that WFCO supported were passed, and all of the bills we opposed did not pass. Additional bills we supported will help to make our tax code more fair, provide implementation funding for paid family and medical leave for Coloradans, and increase access to health insurance for pregnant people and children, among many others. These wins support our overarching policy goals:
- Making work work for women
- Increasing women’s access to basic needs
- Ensuring that women statewide have access to the full range of reproductive health information, care, and justice
Register for our Colorado Ambassador Network meeting on June 10 for a presentation by our lobbying and government affairs partner Frontline Public Affairs. We’ll also preview what’s coming next in public policy, including our 2022 ballot guide, The Womanifesto, and continuing to work to make period products, diapers, and incontinence products exempt from local sales taxes.
Thank you to our WINcome public policy grantees, Frontline Public Affairs, and WFCO public policy committee members for their partnership and leadership during this session.