CODHA Explorer April 2023

CODHA Lobbyists – Part 2


CODHA employs two experienced lobbyists working on our behalf. Last month the CODHA Explorer in the Monday Update (March 14, 2023) described what a lobbyist is and explained how our two lobbyists, Diana Orf and Kathy Oatis contributed to the successful passage of legislation creating a peer assistance program for dental hygienists (SB22-068) and the regulations necessary for dental therapists to be licensed in Colorado. Today, we explain further exactly how Diana and Kathy worked to advocate for these new bills. It is a complicated process that is important for dental hygienists to understand. Our lobbyists, Diana and Kathy initially emphasized the critical contributions of our CODHA leadership team. Our state association leaders educated the lobbyists on the impacts of such legislation on dental hygienists and also reviewed multiple drafts to assure proper language and intent. It was a great deal of work by many people and resulted in the very TANGIBLE BENEFIT OF BEING A MEMBER OF THE COLORADO DENTAL HYGIENISTS ASSOCATION.

The step-by-step process when advocating for a bill such as a new program or addition to the scope of practice was shared by our lobbyists at CODHA annual session last fall in Beaver Creek and has been edited from their own words below:

  • Obtain legislators who are willing to submit a request for a bill title and enough information to start a bill draft and providing the sponsor(s) with sufficient rationale for the bill that they are comfortable with being able to explain it to others. For SB 058, we called a legislator from Alamosa whose predecessor had helped us with DH legislation in the past.
  • Provide enough details for the sponsor(s) to work with the drafter assigned to the bill to move forward; reviewing the subsequent drafts and bringing back to the organization perhaps multiple times and working directly with the drafter prior to introduction. The Office of Legislative Legal Services assigned a drafter and notified the sponsor, who authorized the drafter to work directly with us. We coordinated feedback with CODHA leaders and the sponsor so he always knew what was happening. He frequently inquired about the position of DORA, which meant we communicated frequently with that office.
  • Provide the sponsor with rationale and statements regarding the bill, the need for it, and how it would be implemented to present to the committee to which it is assigned. For these two steps, the CODHA leadership had been working on the Peer Assistance issue for some time and were able to supply us with necessary information.
  • Obtain witnesses to testify in committee. Be prepared to step in and testify on behalf of the organization if necessary (a couple of times in the past). CODHA leadership identified two witnesses best able to respond.

Obtain witnesses from our organization and supporters to testify in committee. Be prepared to step in and testify on behalf of our organization if necessary (in the past it was a couple of times). CODHA leadership identified two witnesses best able to respond.

  • Provide the sponsor with responses to questions likely to be raised by the committee members so that he/she can answer those questions in committee.
  • Talk with leadership (House Speaker, Senate President, Majority/Minority leaders) to identify and respond to potential problems.
  • If there is a fiscal impact, work with the JBC staff and lobbying JBC members to make sure there is no fiscal barrier. Because the program is to be paid for with fees, we heard concern initially from the sponsor, then from. DORA (who thought the fees would not be sufficient), and later from the Governor’s office which had taken a position of reducing fees.
  • Based on committee questions and actions, provide the sponsor(s) and supporters with a statement for presentation on the House/Senate floor, along with appropriate responses to questions that will be raised. This involves identifying arguments that are or could be raised by opponents.
  • Prepare and distribute fact sheets to members of the House/Senate when appropriate that answer key questions about the bill.
  • Work with other interested parties to obtain their support or, if they oppose the bill, try to identify solutions to their concerns. We worked with the oral health community to obtain their support for the bill, including CDA, Delta Dental and DD Foundation.
  • Talk directly to legislators to secure their support for the bill and respond to any concerns.
  • Work with administrative agencies (e.g., DORA, CDPHE) and the Governor’s office when necessary. We held zoom calls with DORA and CODHA leaders, and separate calls with the Governor’s office concerning the fee issue.
  • Repeat the process with the second chamber. We obtained House sponsor and kept her up to date on progress in the Senate. She had a bill that included peer assistance for veterinarians (her own profession).
  • Monitor the timelines to make sure deadlines are met for action before the end of the legislative session or other applicable deadlines that could affect success of the bill and its implementation. .
  • When necessary, follow through with the Governor’s office to make sure the bill is signed or allowed to become law. As time grew short and we heard of continued concerns, we talked with our Senate and House sponsor and asked them to also urge the Governor to sign the bill.

When a bill is opposed or there are significant concerns about the impact on the dental hygiene profession, the steps followed are:

When we first learned about the Dental Therapy bill (the concept had been discussed in previous years), we did website searches for the major bill proponent Healthier Colorado, to

learn about their board members/interests, staff that we could contact, previous legislative efforts, and funding.

  • Learn about their goals for the bill. What is its primary purpose? Who are their sponsors? What is the problem to be solved by the bill? Is it similar to bills or programs in other states? How have those efforts impacted dental hygiene? We reached out to CDA to learn about that organization’s views and contacted Healthier Colorado in mid-November to set a meeting to learn more about the bill. Lobbyists and CODHA leaders met with Healthier Colorado staff starting in December and throughout the legislative process. These discussions were mostly conceptual until a bill draft was available in late January.
  • Communicate our concerns to the bill proponents and sponsors, legislative leadership, and the Governor’s office, as well as our own supporters. We began communicating potential concerns prior to the legislative session, so there would be time to shape the bill or defeat it if necessary. We coordinated meetings including legislators, CODHA leaders, and talked with representatives of DORA and the Governor’s Office about problems with impact and implementation of the bill
  • Assess the impact of the proposed legislation on dental hygiene practice. When we obtained the draft bill, we coordinated with CODHA leaders as they analyzed the impact on dental hygiene licensure and practice including impact on opportunities for expanding our scope of practice. The bill was not formally introduced until April 21.
  • When concerns have been resolved as verified by CODHA leaders, communicate that position to proponents, their sponsors, our supporters and allies and change records of position at Secretary of State’s office to reflect that we no longer oppose, as required by lobbying rules.
  • In situations where there is not a resolution of concerns, we would continue to oppose a bill and keep legislators informed as to why we cannot resolve differences with proponents, and why we seek their opposition to support dental hygienists.

As mentioned, many steps! Fortunately, we have two seasoned professionals working legislatively along with our leaders on our behalf.

Thank you, CODHA leadership and Kathy Oatis and Dianna Orf!