Sep 23, 2019

Recent articles

CCLP’s 2024 legislative wrap-up, part 2

CCLP's 2024 legislative wrap-up focused on expanding access to justice, removing administrative burden, supporting progressive tax and wage policies, preserving affordable communities, and reducing health care costs. Part 2/2.

CCLP’s 2024 legislative wrap-up, part 1

CCLP's 2024 legislative wrap-up focused on expanding access to justice, removing administrative burden, supporting progressive tax and wage policies, preserving affordable communities, and reducing health care costs.

CCLP testifies in support of Clean Slate updates

Bethany Pray, CCLP’s Chief Legal and Policy Officer, provided testimony in support of House Bill 24-1133, Criminal Record Sealing & Expungement Changes. CCLP is in support of HB24-1133, as it is one of our priority bills.

Meet Bob Connelly, Esq: A Champion of Economic Justice

by | Sep 23, 2019

For an attorney who has given so much of his life and work to the causes of social and economic justice, Bob Connelly’s career took several unusual — and often fruitful — detours. Connelly’s experience, passion and dedication are what distinguish him as a true Champion of Economic Justice – an honor that he’ll accept during Colorado Center on Law and Policy’s annual Pathways from Poverty Breakfast on Oct. 17.

A graduate of Thomas Jefferson High School in southeast Denver, Connelly earned his bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth College in 1969 before becoming the first-ever recipient of an Honors Degree in Economic History from London School of Economics. In 1974, he completed his Juris Doctorate at Columbia School of Law.

“I grew up as a middle-class kid from south Denver in a house of Eisenhower Republicans,” he said. “It was only when I went away to college and broadened my horizons that I developed a social awareness.”

Influenced by the social movements of the 1960s, Connelly said he went to law school “fully intending” to become a civil rights lawyer. Between his first and second year in law school, he worked for a legal services organization in Harlem. After his second year, he provided research assistance for civil rights lawyers in Manhattan. As a staff attorney for the Atlanta Legal Aid Society, his work emphasized litigation in housing and education law, including trial work at the federal level and appellate work at both the state and federal levels.

Connelly chose the road less traveled among attorneys who gravitate towards civil rights and legal aid work and joined a large law firm in Atlanta — with the hypothesis that it would sharpen his litigation skills to serve his convictions.

“It worked out as I thought,” he said. “After three years, I feel I had better-developed litigation skills than legal-service lawyers at the Atlanta Legal Aid Society who had practiced for far longer. I did line legal work on evictions and small-loan defenses, but also a lot of impact work.”

He returned to the big law firm for “a variety of personal reasons” before taking a sabbatical with his wife and traveling to India, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, China, Japan, Korea and Taiwan.

“One can’t get enough experience with other people from other cultures to help inform how you live your life, how other people live and respect for other cultures,” he said.

Returning to work in the western U.S. in 1985, Connelly went on to head the litigation department at the firm of Isaacson, Rosenbaum, Woods, Levy & Snow in Denver. He was recruited by US West – then the Rocky Mountain region’s dominant phone and telecommunications company — in 1988. At US West, Connelly held a variety of positions, including Chief Counsel of Colorado and Wyoming, Corporate Counsel in London and eventually Senior Vice President of Law and Deputy General Counsel. His reporting groups had more than 500 employees and total expense budgets of approximately $90 million.

After a brief stint as a “retired private investor” when US West merged with Qwest Communications International Inc., Connelly returned to private practice where he ended up getting a lot of business from the highly regulated telecommunications arena. He was again recruited by the phone company and served at Vice President and Deputy General Counsel for Qwest (which was acquired by CenturyLink) before making a – seemingly permanent – attempt at retirement and private investing in 2007.

But Connelly’s retirement is far from retiring. He’s been actively involved in a number of nonprofit boards and startups, including the ACLU, Denver Botanic Gardens, the Alliance to Lead Impact in Global Human Trafficking and many more.

After serving on the ACLU’s board during an often-turbulent leadership and organizational transition, Connelly said he was ready for more “hands-on stuff” when he approached CCLP about volunteering his skills and expertise to the organization.

“The primary reason I sought out CCLP was that I have very strong feelings about how economics and material well-being – or lack of material well-being – affect the way that people live their lives,” he said. “I also have very strong feelings about inequity in this country in terms of income and wealth. Given what CCLP’s mandate was – as I understood it – I felt it was an organization I’d like to help any way that I could.”

For example, Connelly helped CCLP by researching the use of the unclaimed property trust fund to give the state the ability to fund affordable housing – a policy that saw the light of day earlier this year when House Bill 1322 was passed into law. He also served as one of CCLP’s legal representative in the acquisition of the nonprofit Rocky Mountain Health Plans by the for-profit United HealthCare to ensure the fair-market value of the nonprofit continues to serve communities in need.

Last year, he was called to help CCLP with legislation in reforming wage-garnishment laws that essentially drove Colorado debtors deeper into debt. He worked with a number of community groups in drafting 2019’s House Bill 1189. The legislation requires more-timely notice of garnishment and will help Coloradans whose wages are garnished to meet their household needs while paying their debts. Passed with bipartisan support and signed by Gov. Jared Polis earlier this year, Connelly will continue to work to ensure that the rules are consistent with the new state statute.

Moving forward, Connelly may help CCLP develop other consumer-friendly policies in the near future. He’s chairing the CCLP litigation working group among other things. Combined with his other interests in traveling, bicycle racing, stair-climb racing, skiing, reading and art and book collecting, it’s difficult to fathom how Connelly is “retired” by any stretch of the imagination.

We at CCLP are grateful that Connelly has generously contributed his significant intellect, time, energy and other resources to the cause of making Colorado a more equitable and just state. For those and other reasons, we’re honored to bestow upon him the Champion of Economic Justice Award.

Join us in celebrating Bob Connelly’s accomplishments and the work of Colorado Rep. Dominique Jackson during the Pathways from Poverty Breakfast, Oct. 17. The event will also feature a keynote from author and law professor Mehrsa Baradaran, Esq. on the racial wealth gap. Seating is limited, so RSVP now.

– By Bob Mook

Recent articles

CCLP’s 2024 legislative wrap-up, part 2

CCLP's 2024 legislative wrap-up focused on expanding access to justice, removing administrative burden, supporting progressive tax and wage policies, preserving affordable communities, and reducing health care costs. Part 2/2.

CCLP’s 2024 legislative wrap-up, part 1

CCLP's 2024 legislative wrap-up focused on expanding access to justice, removing administrative burden, supporting progressive tax and wage policies, preserving affordable communities, and reducing health care costs.

CCLP testifies in support of Clean Slate updates

Bethany Pray, CCLP’s Chief Legal and Policy Officer, provided testimony in support of House Bill 24-1133, Criminal Record Sealing & Expungement Changes. CCLP is in support of HB24-1133, as it is one of our priority bills.

HEALTH:
HEALTH FIRST COLORADO (MEDICAID)

To maintain health and well-being, people of all ages need access to quality health care that improves outcomes and reduces costs for the community. Health First Colorado, the state's Medicaid program, is public health insurance for low-income Coloradans who qualify. The program is funded jointly by a federal-state partnership and is administered by the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy & Financing.

Benefits of the program include behavioral health, dental services, emergency care, family planning services, hospitalization, laboratory services, maternity care, newborn care, outpatient care, prescription drugs, preventive and wellness services, primary care and rehabilitative services.

In tandem with the Affordable Care Act, Colorado expanded Medicaid eligibility in 2013 - providing hundreds of thousands of adults with incomes less than 133% FPL with health insurance for the first time increasing the health and economic well-being of these Coloradans. Most of the money for newly eligible Medicaid clients has been covered by the federal government, which will gradually decrease its contribution to 90% by 2020.

Other populations eligible for Medicaid include children, who qualify with income up to 142% FPL, pregnant women with household income under 195% FPL, and adults with dependent children with household income under 68% FPL.

Some analyses indicate that Colorado's investment in Medicaid will pay off in the long run by reducing spending on programs for the uninsured.

FOOD SECURITY:
SUPPLEMENTAL NUTRITION ASSISTANCE PROGRAM (SNAP)

Hunger, though often invisible, affects everyone. It impacts people's physical, mental and emotional health and can be a culprit of obesity, depression, acute and chronic illnesses and other preventable medical conditions. Hunger also hinders education and productivity, not only stunting a child's overall well-being and academic achievement, but consuming an adult's ability to be a focused, industrious member of society. Even those who have never worried about having enough food experience the ripple effects of hunger, which seeps into our communities and erodes our state's economy.

Community resources like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as Food Stamps, exist to ensure that families and individuals can purchase groceries, with the average benefit being about $1.40 per meal, per person.

Funding for SNAP comes from the USDA, but the administrative costs are split between local, state, and federal governments. Yet, the lack of investment in a strong, effective SNAP program impedes Colorado's progress in becoming the healthiest state in the nation and providing a better, brighter future for all. Indeed, Colorado ranks 44th in the nation for access to SNAP and lost out on more than $261 million in grocery sales due to a large access gap in SNAP enrollment.

See the Food Assistance (SNAP) Benefit Calculator to get an estimate of your eligibility for food benefits.

FOOD SECURITY:
SPECIAL SUPPLEMENTAL NUTRITION PROGRAM FOR WOMEN, INFANTS AND CHILDREN (WIC)

Every child deserves the nutritional resources needed to get a healthy start on life both inside and outside the mother's womb. In particular, good nutrition and health care is critical for establishing a strong foundation that could affect a child's future physical and mental health, academic achievement and economic productivity. Likewise, the inability to access good nutrition and health care endangers the very integrity of that foundation.

The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) provides federal grants to states for supplemental foods, health care referrals, and nutrition information for low-income pregnant, breastfeeding and non-breastfeeding postpartum women and to infants and children up to age five who are found to be at nutritional risk.

Research has shown that WIC has played an important role in improving birth outcomes and containing health care costs, resulting in longer pregnancies, fewer infant deaths, a greater likelihood of receiving prenatal care, improved infant-feeding practices, and immunization rates

Financial Security:
Colorado Works

In building a foundation for self-sufficiency, some Colorado families need some extra tools to ensure they can weather challenging financial circumstances and obtain basic resources to help them and their communities reach their potential.

Colorado Works is Colorado's Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program and provides public assistance to families in need. The Colorado Works program is designed to assist participants in becoming self-sufficient by strengthening the economic and social stability of families. The program provides monthly cash assistance and support services to eligible Colorado families.

The program is primarily funded by a federal block grant to the state. Counties also contribute about 20% of the cost.

EARLY LEARNING:
COLORADO CHILD CARE ASSISTANCE PROGRAM (CCCAP)

Child care is a must for working families. Along with ensuring that parents can work or obtain job skills training to improve their families' economic security, studies show that quality child care improves children's academic performance, career development and health outcomes.

Yet despite these proven benefits, low-income families often struggle with the cost of child care. Colorado ranks among the top 10 most expensive states in the country for center-based child care. For families with an infant, full-time enrollment at a child care center cost an average of $15,140 a year-or about three-quarters of the total income of a family of three living at the Federal Poverty Level (FPL).

The Colorado Child Care Assistance Program (CCCAP) provides child care assistance to parents who are working, searching for employment or participating in training, and parents who are enrolled in the Colorado Works Program and need child care services to support their efforts toward self-sufficiency. Most of the money for CCCAP comes from the federal Child Care and Development Fund. Each county can set their own income eligibility limit as long as it is at or above 165% of the federal poverty level and does not exceed 85% of area median income.

Unfortunately, while the need is growing, only an estimated one-quarter of all eligible children in the state are served by CCCAP. Low reimbursement rates have also resulted in fewer providers willing to accept CCCAP subsidies.