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CO Legislature 2012: Progress for Seniors

May 23, 2012

DENVER - Expect some experimentation in Colorado - the result of a bill passed by the state Legislature which offers a creative way for the state to pay for senior services as part of the Older Coloradans Act.

The bill allows those age 65 and older to give up their homestead exemption and reallocate the money to senior programs, such as Meals on Wheels.

Kelli Fritts, advocacy director for AARP Colorado, says the new law is a test case of sorts - to see if Coloradans will be willing to give up a tax break to help the less fortunate remain in their homes as they age.

"It's the right thing to do, and it saves both the state and middle-class families a lot of money."

That's because the cost of assisted living can be very high - and it's often borne by state-run programs such as Medicaid. The state allocated about $100 million this year for the homestead exemption - but in past years, it has been suspended because of budget problems.

Another bill, which would have permanently deregulated phone service provided by cable and cell-phone companies, died in committee. AT&T and Comcast were among the biggest supporters of the legislation, Fritts says, but the telephone company CenturyLink, along with unions and AARP, opposed it.

"It's just a question of what's in the best interest of the consumer? And it's never been consumers saying, 'We need to deregulate phones in Colorado.' "

Other bills which passed include partial reform of the state's mandatory reporting requirements for at-risk adults and increased transparency in hospitalization costs.

Kathleen Ryan, Public News Service - CO