In the 2017 regular session I worked on the following bills. To see details on any of these, you can visit the Colorado General Assembly web site at http://leg.colorado.gov/bills
Education & Workforce Readiness
House Bill 1294 – ASCENT Concurrent Enrollment Data – ASCENT is a program that allows high school students to take college courses during a “5th year” of high school, at no tuition cost to the student, making progress toward or even completing a 2-year degree. Aurora Public Schools has more students taking advantage of ASCENT than any other school district in the state. Until this year, ASCENT students were not counted a high school graduates until the end of the 5th year. Thus, high-achieving ASCENT students used to be counted as “failing” to graduate high school on time in 4 years, creating a potential obstacle to utilization of ASCENT. This bill corrects the problem by counting an ASCENT student as having graduated from high school when the high school graduation requirements are met. STATUS – signed into law on June 5.
Senate Bill 254 (Budget) Amendment – ASCENT Funding – I won passage of an amendment to Colorado’s 2017-18 budget to increase funding for the ASCENT concurrent enrollment program by about 10%. More students will now have the opportunity to take college courses through ASCENT than ever before. STATUS – signed into law on May 26.
Senate Bill 118 – Transparency for Private Occupational Schools – With student indebtedness becoming a bigger problem, students need to be able to make informed decisions before committing to a degree or certificate program, particularly at expensive private schools. This bill would have required private occupational schools to provide information to prospective students on metrics like graduation and employment rates and debt levels. STATUS – killed on a party-line committee vote in GOP state senate.
House Bill 1056 – Veterans Service Organizations – Thousands of low-level offenders are sentenced to perform community service each year in Colorado, often in conjunction with probation. However, until this year many Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs) were excluded from being able to supervise individuals performing community service. This bill corrects this problem by allowing 501(c)(4) and 501(c)(19) VSOs to supervise community service just like other non-profits, so that they can benefit from this kind of work. In addition, when individuals serving community service are themselves veterans, they can benefit from being in the presence of fellow veterans with shared experiences. STATUS – signed into law on March 20.
Senate Bill 212 – Colorado Board of Veterans Affairs – The state Board of Veterans Affairs is comprised of volunteers who work with the Colorado Division of Veterans Affairs to assist veterans in claiming benefits. The board also advocates for veterans in housing, employment, and other issues and oversees grant making to VSOs. The bill indefinitely continues the state board so it can perform this important work. STATUS – signed into law on June 1.
House Joint Resolution 1030 – Angels of America’s Fallen – This bipartisan resolution honors children who have lost a parent in the line of duty for our country and recognizes non-profit organizations that support these children. STATUS – passed by both house and senate.
House Bill 1259 – Campaign Finance Reform – Voters are tired of “dark money” in elections, but a recent Colorado court case created the risk of a loophole by which candidates could set up an “independent expenditure committee” to raise or spend unlimited money to influence their own election, thereby circumventing candidate limits approved 2:1 by voters. This bill would have closed the loophole. STATUS – killed on a party-line committee vote in GOP state senate.
House Bill 1311 – Property Tax Information – With property values rising in Arapahoe County and around the metro area, Coloradans should be able to make informed decisions about the true cost of buying and owning a home, including having a full picture of the taxes. This bill would have directed the state Division of Property Taxation to develop an informational tool on its website that Coloradans could use to estimate their property tax liability based on specific mill levy information. STATUS – killed on a party-line committee vote in state senate.
Senate Bill 40 – Colorado Open Records Act (Sen. Kefalas & Rep. Pabon) – In 2017, someone requesting public records should be able to access them in a usable electronic form rather than on paper. This bill modernizes Colorado’s open records law to require that if a public entity has records in a digital format, it must make those records available digitally. The bill also adds protections for the privacy of electronic health records and for security of critical infrastructure like water systems. While not a prime sponsor of this bill, I worked with the sponsors to help get it passed to improve government transparency in our state. STATUS – signed into law on June 1.
Criminal Justice Reform
House Bill 1208 – Criminal Record Sealing – Record sealing is an important mechanism to make sure that defendants will not face barriers to employment and housing. This bill clarifies Colorado’s sealing process so that when a defendant has had charges dropped, or has been acquitted, or has completed a deferred judgment or diversion agreement, the defendant will be eligible to have the related criminal records sealed via an expedited and less expensive process. STATUS – signed into law on May 24.
Senate Bill 236 – Oversight of Bail Bonding – Under existing law, someone obtaining a bond may pledge real property as collateral to secure the bond, but sometimes the bonding agent cannot be located later to release the lien on the property. This bill adds a new consumer protection by allowing the property owner to file a complaint with the state’s insurance commissioner to have the lien released by a court. The bill also continues existing oversight of bonding agents by the Division of Insurance. STATUS – signed into law on May 19.