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Disrupting Colorado's Status Quo: Unlocking New Policy Advocacy in 2022

In our efforts to bring health in reach for all Coloradans, we work closely with advocates and policymakers across the state to advance public policies that align with the Foundation's focus areas

We know that we are not the only organization that has experienced change and disruption to its status quo in the last two years. The pandemic pushed every organization to examine and change how it operates. Just as changes in the Foundation’s work have unlocked essential learnings for us, many other institutions have discovered similar lessons for themselves, including our government institutions. 

Our policy agenda this year looks and feels different than it has in the past. Rather than simply looking into issue-specific policy opportunities, the Foundation is focused on addressing how Colorado’s policymaking process itself can become more inclusive and equitable. Our Public Policy team gathered perspectives from a wide range of advocacy organizations on how the institutions of Colorado’s state government operate and make public policy decisions. Our report on Colorado’s Policymaking Processes summarizes what we learned about opportunities to reform state policymaking to become more inclusive and responsive to the voices of Coloradans. This year, we are focusing intensively on the following three areas:

  • Improving housing affordability
  • Reforming state rulemaking processes
  • Reforming the rules and procedures of Colorado’s state legislature

The Foundation sees our policy agenda as a way to focus our voice on some important issues that can bring health closer in reach for all Coloradans. We also have funding available to other organizations engaging in advocacy for health equity across an even broader range of issue areas. You can learn about our advocacy funding here

Questions? Email us at [email protected].

2022 Policy Agenda

Advocate for state and local policies that improve housing affordability for Coloradans living on low income.

Why this and why now?

We believe that safe, stable and affordable housing is a fundamental human right because it is a critical foundation for good health. Housing costs have increased substantially across the state, making a place to call “home” increasingly unaffordable for Coloradans living on low incomes. Many people across Colorado are forced to make impossible choices between housing and healthy food, health care expenses, educational opportunities child care and more. Our annual Pulse poll found that more than eight in 10 (82%) respondents cited housing costs as a very serious problem in 2021.

Colorado’s housing affordability challenges result from multiple factors that will require local and state public policy interventions to change. However, the complexity of factors contributing to the current lack of affordable housing presents significant challenges for policymakers at all levels of government. Many elected officials struggle to disrupt the root causes of the challenges their urban, suburban and rural communities face and remain uncertain about which solutions fall within their scope of authority to implement.

Advocate for reforms to state rulemaking procedures to make these policymaking processes more equitable and inclusive.

Why this and why now?

Many advocates tend to focus their energies on advancing policy changes related to specific issue areas like mental health, food security or affordable housing. While this can allow advocates to advance meaningful policy changes on those topic areas, relatively few actors in Colorado’s advocacy ecosystem focus specifically on disrupting or challenging governance and power structures, which define processes for how policy decisions are made.

Colorado's advocacy ecosystem's relative lack of attention to reforming the rules and processes by which Colorado's state government institutions make policy decisions produces a bias toward maintaining the status quo – one where people, communities and organizations have little influence over public policy. This, in turn, preserves structures, patterns and practices in state government institutions that perpetuate racially unjust distributions of power and resources that ultimately make it more likely for the voices of the wealthy and privileged to be heard in policymaking processes.

In 2021, the Foundation intentionally gathered perspectives from a wide range of advocacy organizations about how the policymaking processes in Colorado’s state government institutions could be reformed to be more equitable, inclusive and racially just. Advocates expressed particular concern and frustration with state boards and commissions’ current processes for issuing formal rules and regulations. They reflected that state rulemaking is currently an exclusive and opaque “insiders’ game” where it is especially difficult for Coloradans who have traditionally not had power and privilege to have their voices heard in critical policy decisions made in the state’s executive branch of government.

Advocate for reforms to the operating procedures of Colorado’s state legislature to make its policymaking processes more equitable and inclusive.

Why this and why now?

Advocates also shared that the processes and procedures of Colorado’s General Assembly make it extremely difficult for Coloradans to make their voices heard in the policy decisions made in the state’s legislative branch of government. Many advocates who have engaged with the state legislature reflected that power and influence is currently concentrated in the hands of lobbyists and the organizations who have the resources to employ them. In fact, the legislature’s rules and procedures make Colorado’s lawmaking process difficult to monitor and influence for anyone without extensive experience working in the capitol.

While this dynamic is not unique to Colorado and our state’s legislature, many advocates also expressed optimism that changes to the rules and procedures the General Assembly follows are possible and can produce meaningful shifts in who can have power and influence at the capitol. For example, many reflected how the option to testify remotely in legislative committee hearings during the pandemic made it possible for more Coloradans to speak directly to lawmakers.

Resources

The Foundation provides reliable, nonpartisan information on a variety of topics to inform public policy and advocacy efforts across the state. These educational efforts often take the form of briefs, regulatory comment letters, webinars and in-person convenings.

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