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Government Affairs Monthly Report

06-10-2019

Déjà vu All Over Again – Town Talking with Ski Corp about Howelsen

It appears that City Council and Ski Corp are again in negotiations about Howelsen Hill operations.

Apparently, there have been high-level discussions between Ski Corp. and a two-person City Council sub-committee made up of Jason Lacy and Sonja Macys about operations of the historic ski hill in downtown Steamboat. The item was discussed at City Council’s May 20 meeting.

In 2017, in response to a request for proposals from the city in operating Howelsen, Ski Corp. proposed an agreement that would’ve seen the resort take over operations on Howelsen. This ultimately resulted in an offer of Ski Corp. placing a general manager and assistant general manager at the hill for a year to serve as consultants initially, with a hint that the resort might be interested in taking on a bigger role at Howelsen.

Council members rejected the 2017 proposal due to the $250,000 price tag and a desire to pass management of the ski hill on to another organization entirely.

Some City Council members did not want to see the item discussed in executive session, which is closed to the public. According to the meeting agenda, the executive session was intended to allow the council to receive legal advice on specific questions and to determine positions and strategy for negotiations.

“I want to know why we’re going into an executive session for discussion about Howelsen Hill operations,” council member Heather Sloop said. “To me, I think this could be done in the public very well. I don’t feel like there is anything that shouldn’t be done in public when it comes to stuff like this. There’s no contract on the table, and there’s stuff that we can talk about in public.”

State News – Governor Unexpectedly Vetoes HOA Administrator Licensing Bill

In a move found surprising to some, Colorado Governor Jared Polis vetoed five bills after the legislative session, one of which would have required state licensing of Community Association Managers.

In his veto message of House Bill 1212, Polis argued that certification of occupational skills “is best done by guilds, unions and professional associations” rather than the state.

But he said his administration would not “categorically rule out allowing any regulation” of occupations, but state licensing is only appropriate in “cases that are compelling for consumer safety and economic reasons.” The position actually aligns Polis with conservatives who blocked such measures in prior legislative sessions when Republicans controlled the state Senate.

Colorado currently licenses more than 100 occupations and industries through the Department of Regulatory Agencies, ranging from accountants and acupuncturists to tow trucks and water conditioning installers.The oversight allows the state to create safety standards and discipline bad actors.

Polis argued that licensing in the past has prevented minorities and economically disadvantaged populations from accessing certain occupations, and a limited supply of professionals increases the cost for services. “Occupational licensing is not always superior to other forms of consumer protection,” Polis wrote in his veto letters.

It’s not clear what existing licensing requirements for professions Polis wants to remove. The governor’s office said it does not have a list.

National News – Court Upholds Ruling of Association Health Plans as Unlawful.

A Federal court has held provisions of the Department of Labor’s (DOL) Association Health Plan (AHP) rule as unlawful, including specific provisions regarding eligibility for working owners (i.e. sole proprietors). The Department of Justice has filed an appeal in this case.

On June 19, 2018, the Department of Labor (DOL) issued a final rule to expand access to health coverage through Association Health Plans (AHPs) by broadening the definition of “employer” to include “working owners” (sole proprietors/self-employed/independent contractors). Thanks to NAR’s advocacy efforts, the final rule reflected important changes that ensured access to AHPs for independent contractors, increasing health insurance options that are better suited to the health care needs of members and their families.

However, in July of last year, twelve attorney generals (AGs) filed suit against DOL challenging the final rule in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. State AG’s include New York, Massachusetts, California, Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Washington, plus D.C. The AG’s argued that DOL exceed its authority in issuing the rule, which would also circumvent protections put in place by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). NAR joined in amicus brief in support of DOL’s rule through the Coalition to Protect and Promote Association Health Plans.

On March 28, 2019, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia held in favor of the AGs, striking down essential parts of the rule that would allow self-employed individuals to participate in an AHP and also for “unrelated” employers to band together to sponsor an AHP.

  • The court held that DOL’s redefinition of “employer” under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) to (1) re-characterize self-employed (“working owners”) as eligible to join an AHP and (2) allow unrelated employers to band together under an AHP, exceeds the statutory authority delegated by Congress under ERISA.
  • The court argued that the rule conflicts with the intent of the ACA to provide fundamental protections to individual and small group insurance market participants, as allowing working owners to join an AHP would forgo the ACA’s individual market protections and put consumers’ health and financial security at risk.

The Department of Justice filed an appeal in the case on May 31, 2019. Pending the appeal, the Department of Labor has issued a series of “question and answer” guidance on the court ruling to address outstanding questions related to AHP operations (NAR Summary; DOL Part 1 Q&A; DOL Part 2 Q&A). In short, current AHPs will continue “business as usual” until the appeal is decided and honor current policy commitments until renewal, but insurers may not enroll any more participants in the meantime, subject to exceptions and overall plan structure. 2 In the meantime, NAR is analyzing the potential nationwide impact of this decision and working with state and local REALTOR® Associations that have already implemented or are pursuing AHPs as a benefit option as we seek to better understand the impact on local Associations.