Colorado legislative session comes to a close; see what bills could impact veterinarians and animal health in Colorado

Colorado legislative session comes to a close; see what bills could impact veterinarians and animal health in Colorado

As reported this week in the Denver Post and Colorado Politics, Colorado’s 2023 legislative session had a chaotic ending late on Monday, May 8 that followed a session of simmering frustration along with lengthy debate on difficult bills and contentious exchanges. As a result, many bills did not advance (including several related to the veterinary profession) and ultimately died with the end of the session.

Update on the veterinary professional associate (mid-level practitioner)

For the veterinary profession, discussions of the uncertainties of the veterinary professional associate (referred to as a VPA or mid-level practitioner) and veterinary telehealth came forward into the contentious dynamic of the 2023 legislative session. CVMA was part of numerous formal meetings, correspondence, research, ongoing consideration of issues, and bill drafting that started in late 2022 and continued well into spring 2023. Click here to read more about CVMA’s work on the VPA in 2022 and 2023.

To inform evidence-based dialogue, Representative Karen McCormick (also a veterinarian) hosted 13 working group sessions to systematically explore the VPA. These open sessions were held from June-December 2022. In January 2023, Rep. McCormick drafted a bill intended to encourage improved efficiency and utilization of veterinary technicians in the veterinary profession. Its two parts would have 1) authorized veterinarians to delegate tasks to qualified personnel under supervision, and 2) required a study to evaluate and analyze workforce development issues in the veterinary profession along with related educational and training pathways. CVMA fully supported Rep. McCormick’s draft bill.

In fall 2022, with the support of the Animal Welfare Association of Colorado (AWAC), Representatives Ryan Armagost and David Ortiz drafted a bill that would have created a VPA and allowed a VPA to establish a veterinarian-client-patient-relationship (VCPR) using telehealth technology, to work under direct or indirect supervision, to diagnose minor conditions, and to perform routine surgeries. CVMA does not believe that the creation of such a professional in Colorado is the answer to current workforce shortages and opposes the creation of such a professional in Colorado.

Later in the session, at the request of house leadership, Rep. McCormick drafted two additional bills, one that would have defined various types of telehealth, clarifying that a VCPR be established by a veterinarian who has conducted an in-person physical examination, and setting guidelines for veterinary telemedicine in Colorado. The second bill would have created a veterinary workforce commission to assess the workforce needs of the veterinary industry in Colorado. CVMA fully supported both bills. AWAC opposed them.

Ultimately, the House of Representatives leadership decided not to introduce any of these bills; instead, leadership pressed for a single, consensus bill. Development of a consensus bill proved to be impossible due to opposing viewpoints, and as a result, no bills related to veterinary medicine were introduced.

Looking ahead, CVMA anticipates that VPA proponents will again push for the creation of a VPA during the 2024 legislative session and will work to make such a professional a reality in Colorado. Additionally, CVMA expects VPA proponents to also advocate for the expansion of telehealth in Colorado without an in-person VCPR. CVMA opposes these changes and will be hard at work on these issues in the coming year.

CVMA’s overriding concerns are to address Colorado’s veterinary workforce needs, and to ensure animal protection through the competent practice of veterinary medicine. Our goal is to ensure that any statutory language honors and protects the health of animals as well as the interests of their owners, and ensures the competence, professional integrity, judgment, and wellbeing of the veterinary workforce.

Other legislative updates

In addition to the VPA issue, CVMA staff and veterinarian members invested time and effort on tracking other legislation this session and testifying on behalf of Colorado veterinarians.

Read on for an update on legislation that may impact veterinarians and animal welfare in Colorado.

Bills that will become law if signed by the governor

Veterinary Education Loan Repayment Program (SB 23-044)

CVMA was in strong support of this bill and testified several times in support of it. This bill was passed by the legislature on April 28 and was sent to the governor for signature on May 2. If signed by the governor, this bill will update the veterinary education loan repayment program in the following ways:

  • Increase the number of qualified applicants per year from 4 to 6;
  • Eliminate the requirement that an applicant must have graduated from an accredited veterinary school in 2017 or later;
  • Increase the total amount an applicant is eligible for over a 4-year period from $70,000 to $90,000;
  • Increase the yearly repayment amounts for successful applicants; and
  • Require the state treasurer to transfer $540,000 from the general fund to the veterinary education loan repayment fund on September 1, 2023.

This 2023 bill was proposed by Colorado State University and it updated and expanded the provisions of HB17-1282 that established the Veterinary Education Loan Repayment Program. CVMA enthusiastically supported both the original bill and this update. We are grateful for the leadership of Senators Joann Ginal and Rod Pelton, and Representatives Karen McCormick and Ty Winter for sponsoring this bill. Thanks also go to to Drs. Will French, Kayla Henderson, Callie Kuntz, and Kayle Austin for testifying in support of the bill.

Nontoxic Bullet Replacement Hunting Program (HB 23-1036)

CVMA watched this bill, which was passed by the legislature on April 27. If signed into law, this bill will create a nontoxic bullet pilot program that will allow hunters to receive vouchers that offset the cost of purchasing hunting rounds with nonlead bullets. The bill directs the Division of Parks and Wildlife to work with a nongovernmental organization to develop educational programs about the benefits of nontoxic bullets.

Prohibit Wagering on Simulcast Greyhound Races (HB 23-1041)

CVMA watched this bill, which was passed by the legislature on May 5. If signed into law, it will make it unlawful in Colorado to wager on any race of greyhounds that is conducted at, and simulcast from, a track that is outside of Colorado. The bill also creates the greyhound welfare and adoption fund.

Pet Animal Ownership in Housing (HB 23-1068)

CVMA watched this bill, which was passed by the legislature on April 26. If signed into law by the governor, landlords will be required to cap pet rent for tenants; pet rent would be capped at 1.5 percent of the owner’s monthly rent or at $35 a month – whichever is greater. Pet deposits will also be capped at $300 on top of other security deposits, and they must be fully refundable. Additionally, the bill makes it unlawful for homeowner’s insurance companies to discriminate against specific dog breeds when selling policies. In the event of eviction, law enforcement agencies carrying out eviction orders must return pets to their owners or to a local shelter.

Bills that were introduced but did not pass

Prohibit Equine Slaughter for Human Consumption (SB 23-038)

CVMA watched this bill. This bill would have established the crime of unlawful equine slaughter as it relates to equine slaughter for human consumption. The bill died in committee in March.


Did you know?

CVMA staff and volunteers spend 3,200+ hours a year tracking important legislative and regulatory issues that impact your practice of veterinary medicine in Colorado. We do the heavy lifting so that you can focus on what you do best: Providing exceptional care to Colorado’s animals.

Click here to donate to the CVMA Political Action Committee.