CBA Weekly Media Summary

Each Friday, the CBA brings you our weekly media summary of what is happening in the Colorado Legislature. Questions, comments, concerns? Email us at socialmedia@cobar.org.

Week of March 13 - 17

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The tenth week of the 71st General Assembly continued with lawmakers attempting to address controversial issues such as transgender birth certificates, government funded gun ranges, mentally ill treatment standards overhaul, licensed day care facilities and Colorado ‘sanctuary cities.

Several other controversial pieces of legislation - either introduced or revisited - were singled out this week by journalist. Some media outlets devoting less than a handful of stories to the topic.  A full session schedule can be found HERE.

·         “Ralph Carr” bill on religious registries and roundups

·         12-month supply of contraceptives

·         First driver-less vehicle bill headed to Senate debate

·         A bill to reduce early voting centers

·         Lump-sum payments bill for the wrongly convicted

Legislature Hits Halfway Mark

As lawmakers hit the halfway mark this week, reports took stock of what had been accomplished so far this session and what remains still unfinished.

Legislators started the session saying that transportation funding and construction defect litigation reform would be top priorities. As they enter the second half of the session, lawmakers have a transportation funding compromise — one that asks voters to approve a 0.62 percent sales tax increase to support $3.5 billion in bonding — to debate, and construction defects legislation similar to efforts that failed in previous years is being taken up by the House.

And according to Denverite.com’s political reporter, there are hints that a key Democratic budget reform — reclassification of the hospital provider fee — might not be dead after all.

While lawmakers worked at the state Capitol, Colorado’s judiciary was making both state and nation news. Top of mind continues to be the approaching confirmation hearings of Judge Neil Gorsuch.

Judge Neil Gorsuch

The Senate will begin its confirmation hearings for President Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court on March 20. In the days leading up to the hearings, Colorado media continues to speculating on possible positions Judge Gorsuch might take if confirmed to the High Court.  Reporters focusing on topics that might be considered a barometer for senators and the general public.

·         Second Amendment

·         Immigration

·         Criminal Justice

·         Environment

Meanwhile, a growing list of supporters have weighed into the conversation supporting the confirmation of Judge Gorsuch. In a Denver Post op-ed this week, former Colorado Governor Bill Ritter and former Colorado Attorney General John Suthers made their case saying,

            “It is time to use this confirmation process to examine and exalt the characteristics of a          judge who demonstrates that he or she is scholarly, compassionate, committed to the        law, and will function as part of a truly independent, apolitical judiciary. Judge        Gorsuch fits that bill.”

While ColoradoPolitics.com points out that it is probable that Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet will likely vote not to confirm Gorsuch, CBS4 reports the judge will receive full-throated support from Colorado’s Republican Senator Cory Gardner.

Additional resources: The Denver Post and Grand Junction Sentinel.

Colorado Judicial News

This week, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied Denver’s emergency request for a stay of a lower court decision that ordered the city to allow more timely protests at Denver International Airport.

As reported in the Denver Post, Nazli McDonnell and Eric Verlo filed a lawsuit against Denver after they went to DIA two days after Trump’s Jan. 27 executive order that restricted the travel and immigration to the U.S. of people from seven Muslim-majority countries.

On Tuesday of this week, a group of Colorado lawyers - specializing in drunken-driving cases – were quoted in the Denver Post questioning the validity of thousands of convictions. This, following a technician who certified the state’s breath-test machines said his signature was forged on more than 100 records in 2013.

Gov. John Hickenlooper has rejected a call from the defense bar for an independent investigation into the certification process used for every breath test machine in the state.

And finally, Fourth Judicial District Chief Judge Gilbert Martinez, a nearly three-decade veteran of the local bench, submitted his retirement notice in late February, he confirmed Wednesday. His retirement becomes effective July 31.

As noted by the Gazette, the retirement of El Paso County's top judge is spurring a search for someone new to preside over the case of admitted Planned Parenthood shooter Robert Lewis Dear Jr.

Transportation

No legislative story was covered more this week by Colorado press than the debate over transportation funding. Colorado’s top legislative leaders reached a bipartisan compromise on a measure that would ask voters for a state sales tax hike and a bond issue to fund billions of dollars in transportation needs.

But as the Aurora Sentinel reports, lawmakers acknowledged Thursday that it’s going to be a hard sell — and not just at the ballot box in November. Proving it was going to be an uphill battle, the debate began almost immediately with editorials and oped’s from individuals ranging from lawmakers to possible gubernatorial candidates.

·         Americans for Prosperity targets four GOP senators over transportation funding

·         GEORGE BRAUCHLER: There’s a better path to fixing Colorado roads than raising taxes

·         Perry: Pay your damn share if you want your damn Colorado roads fixed

·         Conservative group nudges — who else? — fellow Republicans to oppose transportation tax

·         EDITORIAL:  Sen. Grantham is a statesman for standing up for Colorado transportation

·         Democrat Steve Lebsock says he’ll ‘probably be a no vote’ on transportation tax legislation

The current proposal would raise the state sales tax from 2.9 percent to 3.5 percent — about 3 1/2 cents on the dollar. It also would lower vehicle registration fees anywhere from $10 to $70, or about $75 million per year. And it would target top-priority projects throughout the state, not just in the Denver metropolitan area.

Democratic House Speaker Crisanta Duran and Republican Senate President Kevin Grantham were quoted in the Aurora Sentinel saying they expect plenty of changes as the bill makes its way through the Legislature. If it passes, the measure would require a simple majority by voters in November to take effect.

Additional resources: The Denver Post, Colorado Statesman, Denver Business Journal and ColoradoPolitics.com.

Construction Defects Bill

As the Denver Business Journal reports this week, it looks less likely that Colorado will see construction reform law come out of this session. Tuesday, House Speaker Crisanta Duran assigned the business community’s centerpiece construction-defects reform bill to the so-called “kill committee.”

SB 156 would have required that disputes between condominium owners and builders over alleged defects go to alternative dispute resolution such as binding arbitration. It would have required that a majority of condo owners, rather than just a majority of homeowners-association board members, vote to move forward with any legal action.

One of the bill’s sponsors, Assistant House Minority Leader Cole Wist, R-Centennial, told the Colorado Statesman that Duran’s assignment of SB 156 was “disappointing” and warned that special interests might have again derailed a solution nearly everyone has said is within sight.

            “We all know what it means when a bill goes to that committee…” Wist said. “The        disappointing thing about this getting sent to the kill committee is that we don’t get it            to the floor for discussion.”

Construction defect litigation reform has emerged as one of the most critical issues facing the legislature this year, according to ColoradoPolitics.com. Duran highlighted it in her opening day remarks, as did Senate President Kevin Grantham R-Canon City. Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, also underscored the issue in his State of the State address.

Another defect bill, House Bill 1169 died in the House State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee earlier this month. The bill would have clarified that a developer has the right to receive notice concerning a proposed defect lawsuit, and that the developer could inspect the property and then decide to repair the defect or settle before the association files a lawsuit.

Yet another bill, Senate Bill 155 would define “construction defect” in state law. Homeowners are concerned that the bill would give developers immunity from having to repair defects by excluding claims for defects creating a risk of bodily injury or a threat to life, health or safety.

Education

Colorado lawmakers are a little past the halfway point for this legislative session and have little to show for the state’s public schools, according to the reporting of Chalkbeat.  Most of the proposed legislation making its way through the Capitol so far involve pilot programs, minor fixes or slight changes on the margins.

Only a handful of the 51 education bills introduced so far have gotten significant attention. Those include bills equalizing funding for charter schools, banning corporal punishment and providing gun training for school employees.

Other bills, such as a bill to limit out-of-school suspensions for the state’s youngest students, that might have been controversial in the past are sailing through with broad bipartisan support.

Colorado charter schools received support this week in an editorial by the Denver Post. The Post editorial Board advocating for Senate Bill 61. The proposed legislation would require districts to begin sharing those additional tax dollars equally with charter schools based on a per-student allocation. Charter schools would get roughly $19 million in additional funding under the plan, according to the League of Charter Schools’ survey.

Other topics lawmakers discussed or introduced.

·         Bill Aims To Reduce Children Suspended, Expelled From School

·         ‘College is not for everyone,’ senator says, so make tuition assistance flexible

·         Denver Chamber gives thumbs-up to tech education and tax simplification

·         5th Graders Witness Government In Action At State Capitol

Corporal Punishment

A Republican-controlled state Senate committee Monday killed a bill that would have prohibited corporal punishment in Colorado’s public schools and day care centers that receive state funding.

The Senate Judiciary Committee defeated House Bill 1038, sponsored by state Sen. Rachel Zenzinger, an Arvada Democrat. The bill went down on party lines, according to the Colorado Independent.

            “I’m disappointed, to say the least,” Zenzinger said in a statement.  “This practice has    no place in a modern nation that prides itself on decades of advancement in the areas            of human rights and racial equality. It’s a black mark on our reputation and really     defies logic.”

Meanwhile, House Bill 1210 to ban expelling or suspending children in second grade or younger passed a Democrat-led House committee. The spankings ban died in the Senate Judiciary Committee, 3-2, on a party line vote. The HB 1210 passed the House on a party-line vote on Feb. 13.

            “I voted against the corporal punishment bill as I believe that policies on student          discipline are best left to the local districts,” Sen. Bob Gardner, a Republican from    Colorado Springs told ColoradoPolitics.com.

Rep. Jim Wilson, a retired public school superintendent and a career educator, characterized expulsion as a tool especially for rural school districts that don’t have restorative justice counselors for families\, the way urban schools such as Denver might have.

Other Resources: CBS4, Denver Post and Chalkbeat.

Immigration and Immigrant Issues

House Judiciary Committee Democrats Thursday evening passed Thornton Rep. Joe Salazar’s states’ rights Ralph Carr Freedom Defense Act. The bill now heads to the House floor for debate.

House Bill 1230, the “Ralph Carr Freedom Defense Act,” aims to head off involvement on the part of Colorado state and local officials in any federal government efforts to illegally or unconstitutionally target for monitoring or detention Coloradans based on race, ethnicity, national origin, immigration status, or religious affiliation.

An outdoor press conference Thursday afternoon acted like another rally for multi-cultural solidarity in the Trump era, according to the reporting of the Colorado Statesman. The most powerful speeches came like bookends on controversial chapters of American history.

Jo Ann Ota Fujioka recounted her experience as a survivor of President Franklin Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066, which forced the removal and internment of some 120,000 Japanese Americans in camps set up around the country. More than 60 percent of the people detained were U.S. citizens.

Additional Resources: The Colorado Statesman, ColoradoPolitics.com and Denverite.com.

Also this week, Colorado lawmakers took up a bill that would expedite immigrant license renewals. Colorado has issued driver's licenses to unauthorized immigrant residents since 2014, and lawmakers acted Wednesday to make it easier to renew them when the first of those licenses start expiring in August.

HB 1206 if approved by the House Local Government Committee would expedite the process, in part by allowing drivers to renew online or by mail, as U.S. citizens do, with proof of residency in Colorado.

Applicants must provide documented proof of residency and an affidavit declaring they've applied or intend to apply for citizenship. The licenses are effective for three years, and the first were issued on Aug. 1, 2014.

Since then – according to the Gazette - more than 29,000 driver licenses and 4,500 learners' permits have been issued to people unable to demonstrate they're in the U.S. legally, said Sarah Werner, spokeswoman for the Department of Revenue, which oversees the DMV.

Additional Resources: Denver7, the Gazette and Denverite.com.

Liquor Laws

Gov. John Hickenlooper is threatening to veto legislation that would allow local governments to extend bar hours past 2 a.m.  In a letter Wednesday to House Speaker Crisanta Duran, D-Denver, and Senate President Kevin Grantham, R-Canon City, Hickenlooper said he is “unpersuaded that extending alcohol service hours will enhance public safety or lead to less intoxicated driving.”

The governor – according to ColoradoPolitics.com - urged the legislature to either scrap House Bill 1123 altogether for a study on public safety impacts, or present “conclusive evidence and data demonstrating that public safety will not be harmed.”

The bipartisan legislation passed 38-27 out of the House on Feb. 15, and its sponsors, including state Reps. Dan Thurlow, R-Grand Junction, and Steve Lebsock, D-Thornton, and Senate Majority Caucus Chair Vicki Marble, R-Fort Collins, believe the bill has more than enough support to pass in the full Senate.

“The state of Colorado has chosen an arbitrary number of 2 a.m. for bars to close,” Lebsock told the Colorado Statesman. “We could choose another arbitrary number like 2:30 or 3 a.m. Instead, we should allow local governments to make an informed decision in collaboration with residents, their local businesses and their local law enforcement.”

Mothers Against Drunk Driving sent reporters a list of the organizations that oppose the bill in the Senate.

·         The Association of Colorado State Patrol Professionals

·         Center for Impaired Driving Research and Evaluation

·         Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police

·         Colorado Department of Transportation

·         Colorado District Attorneys’ Council

·         Colorado Organization for Victim Assistance

·         Colorado State Patrol

·         Liquor Enforcement Division, Colorado Department of Revenue

·         Voices of Victims

Marijuana

The nation’s most generous grow-your-own marijuana laws came closer Monday to being curbed in Colorado, according to the Colorado Statesman. The State House advanced a pair of bills aimed at cracking down on people who grow weed outside the commercial, taxed system.

House Bill 17-1220 would set a statewide limit of 16 marijuana plants per house, down from a current limit of 99 plants before registering with state health authorities. Of the 28 states with legal medical marijuana, only Colorado currently allows more than 16 pot plants per home.

Also on Monday, the House gave preliminary approval to a companion measure, House Bill 1221, which would create a $6 million-a-year grant program to help local law enforcement crack down on illegal grows. It will be paid for using unspent money in the state’s marijuana cash fund, which is funded by marijuana sales taxes.

The two measures – according to the Denver Post - come amid growing uncertainty over how the Trump administration will handle states like Colorado that have legalized a drug that the federal government still considers an illegal, Schedule 1 narcotic.

In an editorial published in the Denver Post, the editorial board advocates for the passage of HB 1220.

            “The bipartisan authors of the bill — Rep. KC Becker, D-Boulder, and Rep. Cole Wist,     R-Centennial — have crafted a smart compromise bill that avoids shutting down home   grows altogether. Gov. John Hickenlooper in November called the gray market a ‘clear            and present danger’ and asked lawmakers to help him close down the loopholes. We        hope they do so this session.”

Legislative Round-up

Colorado lawmakers either visited or revisited several topics this week that received a moderate amount of media attention. We expect these topics will generate more press in the days to come.

Daylight Savings Time

Colorado House committee votes against daylight saving time bill

Colorado House committee kills daylight saving time bill

This Colorado bill would make daylight savings time last all year

Daylight Saving Time bill to be debated at State Capitol on Monday

Opioid Use

Opioid efforts locally and nationally unite Republicans and Democrats

Opioid efforts locally and nationally unite Republicans and Democrats

Rangely police chief is ‘caring’ despite blunt remarks about overdose victims

Parental Leave

Senate committee kills effort to revive mandatory parental-leave program

On third strike, Sen. Andy Kerr goes down swinging on parental leave

Sen. Andy Kerr, geography teacher, studies middle ground on parental leave

Campaign Law

A GOP gadfly fights reform of a campaign law that many say has run amok

Democrats announce bills to curb the influence of money in politics

Democratic lawmakers take on dark money in elections communications

Open Records

Colorado public records bill heads to Senate for debate

Digital public records bill heads to Senate floor with amendments intact and an appropriation

Public Records Bill Heads To Senate For Debate

Colorado public records bill heads to Senate for debate

Colorado public records bill heads to Senate for debate

Energy

Fracking history flares as Colorado Rep. Foote plans bill to ‘clarify’ setbacks

Colorado bill would move oil and gas wells farther back from many schools

Irresponsible by ratepayers: Is Xcel floating legislation for mandated CO version of CPP?

Foote, oil and gas industry still prepping in run-up to school setback debate

Texting While Driving

Police hopeful this change could curb distracted driving in Colorado

These issues will have a profound impact on the Colorado and many areas of law. The Legislative Policy Team of the Colorado Bar Association is your resource and connection to the State Legislature.  As we work on the issues and bills these coming 6 months we are working to improve Colorado Law and the practice of law.  Please don’t hesitate to reach out should you have a question or comment on a bill, or issue under the dome.

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