2016 Election Outcomes for Dentistry

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By Jennifer Goodrum, CDA Director of Government Relations
From the Winter 2017 Journal of the Colorado Dental Association

Thanks to all CDA members who participated by voting in the 2016 election. Your voice and actions are a vital part of dentistry’s influence both at the state and national levels. The 2016 election produced several outcomes, both expected and unexpected. Following is a brief update on the results of relevant state and local elections as they pertain to dentistry.

Colorado’s Federal Delegation

In the U.S. Congress, Colorado kept all its incumbents—staying true to its “purple” reputation. Colorado continues to have one Republican and one Democratic senator, and four Republican and three Democratic representatives. There was no change to Colorado’s Washington D.C. delegation, and American Dental Political Action Committee/ADPAC supported nearly all of Colorado’s federal candidates in their races.

At the federal level, the U.S. Senate, U.S. House of Representatives and presidency will all be Republican controlled in 2017 with a change in the party of the president. With this shift, the U.S. Congress is expected to tackle some substantial policy changes, including tax reform, repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), regulatory efficiency and more. Some federal policy changes will likely be beneficial to dentistry, while others may raise challenges for the profession.

Colorado’s State Legislature

Colorado’s state legislature maintained the same political composition as in the last legislative cycle. Republicans continue to control the Colorado Senate on a one vote margin. Two Colorado Senate seats flipped parties in this election, but the parties did an even exchange. The Colorado Dental Political Action Committee (CODPAC) participated in 10 of the 18 state Senate races and a CODPAC supported candidate won in every race. Democrats maintained control of the Colorado House of Representatives, increasing their margin by three seats with a 37-28 split. CODPAC participated in 40 of the 65 state House races and a CODPAC supported candidate won in 36 of those races, giving CODPAC a 92% overall success rate for this election. The Colorado governor was not up for election in 2016, and Democrat Gov. John Hickenlooper continues in that seat.

Given the continuity in Colorado’s state Senate, state House and governor, not much is expected to change in Colorado’s political disposition at this time. Party leadership and committee chairs were recently appointed, and most selections were as predicted. While dentistry is well connected with most key committee appointees, there are a few brand new legislators on healthcare and financial committees. CODPAC will be working to brief these new legislators on key dental issues over coming weeks.

Colorado will likely continue to forge its own path on many social and policy issues, but national themes of reducing regulation, insurance reform, ACA repeal, and economic reform may have some trickle down impact at the state level, especially in relation to Medicaid.

Ballot Initiatives

Ballot initiatives that passed in Colorado include a minimum wage increase, “raise the bar” increasing the threshold to change Colorado’s constitution, medical aid in dying and reforms to include unaffiliated voters in primary elections.

The statewide tobacco tax ballot initiative, Amendment 72, did not pass. Partners supporting Amendment 72 fought against tobacco companies that prioritized profits from addictive, deadly products over health. Philip Morris outspent the “yes” campaign 14-to-1 on advertising—ads that were called out by several media outlets as untrue. While disappointed in the outcome, the CDA is proud to have partnered in this effort to better dental and overall health. Of the other three nationwide ballot initiatives to increase tobacco taxes, only California was successful.

In this election, Boulder was successful in passing ballot issue 2H, a two-cent per fluid ounce tax on sugary beverages. With this vote, Boulder became only the second city in the country to pass such a measure. The campaign was the most expensive ever run for a city ballot initiative, with combined campaign contributions expected to total nearly $2 million.