Legislation

Below are measures I sponsored in the 2017 and 2018 legislative sessions.  To see details on any of these, you can visit the Colorado General Assembly web site at http://leg.colorado.gov/bills.

You can read a PDF version of my 2017-18 legislative newsletter here.

AFFORDABLE HOUSING

Property Tax Information (HB17-1311) – 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. I sponsored this bill to direct 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 GOP state senate.

Expanding the Property Tax, Heat and Rent Credit (HB18-1380) – Low-income seniors and people with disabilities are able to claim a credit against state income taxes to offset the cost of property taxes or rent. The credit amount is very modest and has not been updated in several years, despite the rapidly increasing cost of housing. I sponsored this bill to adjust the amounts available to eligible seniors by inflation and to allow the amounts to increase for inflation going forward to help seniors stay in their homes. STATUS: killed on a party-line vote in GOP state senate.

Budget Amendment (HB18-1322) – I sponsored an amendment to the budget to increase funding to the Division of Housing by $5 million. The Division of Housing is the primary unit of our state that funds construction and renovation of affordable housing units for both ownership and rental. This amendment did not pass, but a similar amendment to increase funding by $1 million was approved. We need to do more to fund affordable housing, but every bit helps. STATUS: signed into law.

Budget Amendment (HB18-1322) – I co-sponsored another budget amendment to unlock $4.7 million for supportive housing for individuals with behavioral health conditions transitioning out of the criminal justice system. This funding would otherwise have gone unused, but now will help people in need avoid homelessness. STATUS: signed into law.

EDUCATION

ASCENT Concurrent Enrollment Data (HB17-1294) – 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 and Cherry Creek schools have more students taking advantage of ASCENT than most other districts in the state. Until recently, ASCENT students were not counted as 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. I sponsored this bill to correct 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.

Budget Amendment – ASCENT Funding (SB17-254) – 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.

Transparency for Private Occupational Schools (SB17-118) – 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.  I sponsored this bill to require 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.

Budget Amendment for ATC Funding (HB18-1322) – I sponsored an amendment to the budget to increase funding to Area Technical Colleges (ATCs), including Pickens Tech in Aurora, by $1.2 million to help keep up with enrollment growth. Area Technical Colleges like Pickens offer valuable technical training that helps students of all ages compete for good- paying jobs and funding the ATCs to fulfilll their mission is a smart investmentSTATUS: signed into law.

GOOD GOVERNMENT & CITIZEN PARTICIPATION

Closing Mystery Money Loopholes (HB17-1259) – 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.  I sponsored this bill to close the loopholeSTATUS – killed on a party-line committee vote in GOP state senate.

Colorado Open Records Act Updates (SB17-040 – 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.

Updating time off to vote (HB18-1033) – Under existing law, voters can take 2 hours off to vote, but only on Election Day. This bill would have updated the law to match the reality of how we vote in Colorado by allowing 2 hours off within the days leading up to Election Day as well, to drop off a ballot, obtain a ballot or replacement ballot, or obtain ID or other necessary documents as well as to vote. Voting is a fundamental right and it’s how we choose our leaders and decide big questions as a society.  I sponsored this bill to make voting easier.  STATUS: killed on a party-line vote in GOP state senate.

Stand By Your Ad Act (HB18-1403) – This bill would have expanded the types of political advertising required to contain a “disclaimer” indicating who paid for the ad. More money is spent on campaigns with every passing year, and usually the less apparent it is who’s spending the money, the more negative the advertising is. This is no good for our democracy. I sponsored this bill because transparency in campaign ads lets voters make informed choices.  STATUS: killed on a party-line vote in GOP state senate.

SUPPORTING VETERANS

Veterans Service Organizations (HB17-1056) – 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.  I sponsored this bill to x this problem by allowing 501(c)(4) and 501(c)(19) VSOs to supervise community service just like other non-pro ts, so that they can bene t 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.

Continue Colorado Board of Veterans Affairs (SB17-212) – 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.  I sponsored this bill to continue the state board so it can perform this important workSTATUS – signed into law.

Angels of America’s Fallen (HJR17-1030) – I sponsored this bipartisan resolution to honor children who have lost a parent in the line of duty for our country and to recognize non-pro t organizations that support these children.  STATUS – passed by both house and senate.

CONSUMER PROTECTION

Arbitration Fairness Act (HB18-1261) – Forced arbitration practices in consumer and employment contracts abridge people’s rights. Instead of resolving a debate before a neutral judge, arbitration privatizes the justice system, lacks transparency, and lacks protections against conflicts of interest by arbitrators and companies that force arbitration on consumers.  I sponsored this bill to require greater disclosures and transparency in arbitration and to provide remedies for non-compliance.  STATUS: killed on a party-line vote in GOP state senate.

CONSERVATION

Optional electric vehicle charging in new residential construction (HB18-1107) – This bill asked home builders to offer pre-wiring suitable for electric vehicle charging to buyers of new single family dwellings.  I sponsored this bill because it costs a few hundred dollars to get the wiring in place at the time of construction, compared to potentially thousands of dollars later.  With big changes coming to our vehicle fleet in the next several years, this bill aimed to save home buyers money. STATUS: killed on a party-line vote in GOP state senate.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM

Reforms to parole (HB18-1209) – for 25 years Colorado has sentenced certain offenders to serve a mandatory 5 years of parole once released from a correctional facility. However there is little evidence that 5 years of parole contributes to public safety or reduces recidivism despite an average cost to taxpayers of over $6,000 per year per person on parole. Therefore the bill makes the maximum term of parole 3 years instead of 5 for most offenders (lower level offenders already serve 3 years parole or less). We have incarcerated too many people, with too much racial disparity, for too long, and it’s time to start changing that.  STATUS: signed into law.

Oversight of Bail Bonding (SB17-236) – 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.  I sponsored this bill to add 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.

Criminal Record Sealing (HB17-1208) – Record sealing is an important mechanism to make sure that defendants will not face barriers to employment and housing.  I sponsored this bill to clarify 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.

Updates to compassionate release parole (HB18-1109) – Colorado spends an average of $38,000/year to incarcerate someone. For older and sicker inmates, the cost can be two or three times as much. It is not necessary for public safety, a bad use of taxpayer dollars, and morally questionable to incarcerate the most ill and incapacitated inmates.  I sponsored this bill to give the Department of Corrections more discretion to send older and ill inmates to the state parole board to be considered for compassionate release.  STATUS: signed into law.

Continuing the Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice (HB18-1287) – For 10 years the Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice or “CCJJ” has studied the effectiveness of Colorado’s criminal laws and has helped bring about major reforms in areas like drug sentencing.  I sponsored this bill to continue CCJJ for another five years while adding new representatives including a crime victim, a victim advocate, and a former offender so that CCJJ will benefit from many perspectives.  Criminal justice is too important not to be based on research and deliberationSTATUS: signed into law.

Collateral sanctions relief (HB18-1344) – Even after completing a sentence, there are hundreds of “collateral consequences” of a criminal conviction that prevent people from getting back to work and earning a living.  I sponsored this bill to expand the ability of adult offenders to seek an order of collateral relief — an individualized determination by a judge that the person has been rehabilitated and should be allowed to seek a professional license to work. The bill also allows orders of collateral relief for juvenile offenders.  STATUS: signed into law.

Collateral consequences reduction in licensing and employment (HB18-1418) – I sponsored this bill to reduce the collateral consequences of prior justice system involvement and help people get back to work and re-integrate into society. The bill provides that individuals who have been charged but not convicted, or have been pardoned, or have had records sealed or expunged may not be barred from a state or local government agency license or certification or job opening. The bill also increases data collection so we can better understand the scope of collateral consequences in the future.  STATUS: signed into law.