Good Government

GOOD GOVERNMENT – Government functions should be transparent and the campaigns and elections and that determine who our elected officials are should be too.  There is too much money in politics and too much of that money is hard-to-follow “mystery money”.  Voting should be as easy as possible for all eligible voters because elections are how we settle the hard policy questions in our society.

Below are bills I’ve worked on to increase transparency in our elections and in state government and to make it easier to vote.

More Frequent Reporting By Lobbyists (HB19-1248) – In Colorado’s time-limited, 120-day legislative session, the legislative process moves quickly, but lobbyists are only required to report monthly. It shouldn’t be possible for a bill to be introduced and to move much of the way through the legislative process before the public knows what interests are lobbying for or against the bill. I sponsored this bill to require 72 hour reporting of lobbying during the session and to close loopholes that can arise when attorneys also act as lobbyists and sometimes do not report their lobbying activity. STATUS: signed into law.

Increased Transparency for “Independent Expenditure Committees” (HB19-1318) – Every year more and more money is spent through independent expenditure efforts. Sometimes it’s even questionable how “independent” this campaigning is. I sponsored this bill to increase disclosures required by independent expenditure committees, penalize illegal “coordination” of campaign activity designed to evade campaign finance laws, and require more “disclaimers” on campaign mail pieces, online ads and other political communications so voters can see clearly who is trying to influence them. STATUS: signed into law.

Increased Transparency for “Electioneering Communications” (SB19-068) – Campaigns seem to start earlier every year but current law only requires more frequent reporting 60 days before the general election — even though voters have already been getting mail and seeing ads on TV and online for months by that point. I sponsored this bill to require more frequent reporting earlier in a general election year so more information is available to voters in a timely fashion. STATUS: signed into law.

Enforcement Of Campaign Finance Laws (SB19-232) – Our campaign finance laws need robust enforcement to have their intended effect of transparency. At the same time, one side should not be able to use the law to play “gotcha” on the other side. I sponsored this bill to codify a new system of investigating campaign finance violations, while screening out honest mistakes. STATUS: signed into law.

Colorado Open Records Act Updates (SB17-040 – Sen. Kefalas & Rep. Pabon) – 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.

Create a New Judicial District for Arapahoe County (HB20-1026) – Colorado has a total of 22 judicial districts, and that hasn’t changed in over 50 years.  Right now Arapahoe, Douglas, Elbert and Lincoln Counties are in the 18th judicial district, which has over 1 million residents – about 1/6 of the state’s population, far more than any other district.  Effective starting 2025, this bill would place Arapahoe County in the 18th judicial district and establish a new 23rd judicial district for Douglas, Elbert and Lincoln Counties.  This would enable more efficient operation of the courts for all four counties. STATUS – signed into law.

Update Laws Governing Attorney General’s Office (SB20-063) – The Colorado Attorney General, elected every 4 years, is the top law enforcement official in our state and the people’s lawyer.  This bill updates laws regulating how the office of the attorney operates, clarifies the responsibilities of deputies and assistants who report to the attorney general, and clarifies proper handling of settlement funds recovered by the state in legal actions.  STATUS – signed into law.

Require Online Availability of Judicial Opinions (HB20-1130) – opinions from the Colorado Court of Appeals and the Colorado Supreme Court are the law.  They interpret our statutes and our state constitution and help people understand what their rights are.  So they should be publicly available and free.  This bill would both put into law the existing practice of our courts of making newly published opinions available on their web sites and require them, within a few years, to post older (pre-internet age) opinions as well.  Older opinions are available through private subscription services and sometimes on web sites, but you shouldn’t have to pay to access the law, and people shouldn’t have to rely on unofficial sources of uncertain accuracy either.  STATUS – postponed indefinitely due to COVID-19.

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.

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.