2019 Voices for Justice Legislative Report

Voices for Justice 2019 Final Legislative Report

Below, you will find the legislative highlights of the 2019 Session of the Colorado General Assembly. We have organized these highlights according to our public policy priority areas. We thank our team for their diligence in following legislation and providing a summary report.

The 2019 Voices for Justice team is: Rev. Marcia Meier, Adrian Miller, Vikki Finnen, Anthony Suggs, and Sue Ricker.

Environment (Vikki Finnen)

Key principles for stewardship that we bring to the legislative arena are sustainability, ecological diversity, justice, and choice.

            The 2019 Colorado legislative session was a productive session for environmental issues. Here is the significant legislation signed by Governor Polis:

  • HB19 1003–expand acreage for solar gardens.
  • HB19 1006–wildfire mitigation.
  • HB19 1113–requirements for timeframes associated with mitigating water quality impacts from mining.
  • HB19 1200–changing wastewater reclamation point of compliance to ensure unsafe water not accessible by public.
  • HB19 1231–improve appliance water and energy efficiency standards.
  • HB19 1259–establish species preservation trust fund.
  • HB19 1261–significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
  • SB19 096–collection of long-term climate change data.
  • SB19 181–local oversight of oil and gas development.
  • SB19 186–expand management of agricultural chemicals to protect surface water.
  • SB19 192–increase costs for excess waste management.
  • SB19 198–increase waste tire management fees.

Collectively, this legislative session marked progress on implementing policies to address climate change.

Immigration (Anthony Suggs)

We, the Colorado Council of Churches will advocate for and support legislation and policy that approaches immigration issues with compassion and respect toward all people and sensitivity toward our deepest values.

In the field of immigration, this session saw substantial expansion of the SB1913-251 drivers license program. Through combined action of the legislature (SB1919-139) and the Join Budget Committee, not only will the program see an expansion from 4 offices to 10 offices in the next two years, the program will no longer be limited by the cap on first-time appointments set in the original law, making this a permanent program. The new offices will bring this much needed service to our immigrant communities currently out of reach from the current offices in Denver, Colorado Springs, and Grand Junction.

Additionally, the Legislature passed legislation (HB1919-1042) expanding jurisdiction for courts to appoint parental guardianship for undocumented immigrant youth seeking special juvenile immigrant status from the federal government. This status allows undocumented youth to apply for permanent residency if they are a victim of abandonment, neglect, or abuse from one or both parents. This process can only be activated by a court order. Therefore, this law increases the court’s ability to assist vulnerable youth in applying for permanent residency. 

Affordable Housing and Housing Justice  (Anthony Suggs)

The member denominations of the Colorado Council of Churches support legislation and initiatives that will provide, build and create affordable housing, especially for low-income persons.  In a just world, all people would have decent affordable and safe housing.

In the field of housing, we have seen successful efforts to protect the health and safety of tenants (HB1919-1170), prevent unequal and unnecessary application fees (HB1919-1106), and increased incentives for environmentally sustainable landscaping in public places (HB1919-1050).

Sexuality, Families and Abuse (Sue Ricker)

Therefore, the member denominations of the Colorado Council of Churches support legislation affirming that adults and children shall live their lives in households free from violence, fear, or abuse in any physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual aspects of their relationships.

In the areas of families, sexuality, abuse, trafficking and foster care, most bills submitted have gone to the governor.

House bills 1288 and 1308 dealt with helping siblings in foster care stay in contact and efforts by social services to give foster children better situations, including the possibility of providing services while staying with their family.   

There are several other bills focusing on children that have been signed by Gov. Polis:

  • HB19-1013–Tax credit to an individual with federally adjusted income of $25,000 or less.
  • HB19-1017–K-5 Access to school social workers.  
  • HB19-1120–Allows minors 12 years and older to seek psychotherapy services without consent of a parent or guardian.
  • HB19-1171–Expanding the free lunch program at public schools to K-8.  
  • SB19-025 Students to be given instruction as to how to access safe haven to relinquish infants.
  • SB19-049–The statute of limitations expanded to 3 years to report abuse.
  • SB19-063–Addressing the home child-care shortage.
  • SB19-071–Expansion of child hearsay out of court admissible testimony.
  • SB19-178–Expansion of subsidies to adopting families.


Bills regarding Human Trafficking also signed by Gov. Polis include:

  • HB19-1051–Expansion of training in identifying signs of human trafficking for law enforcement.
  • SB19-149–Extension of the Human Trafficking Council.
  • SB19-185–Protection for minors and human trafficking victims which expands prior legislation.

Health Care (Rev. Marcia Meier)  

… governments have the obligation to provide leadership and coordination in balancing competing private and social interests in moving toward the goal of equitable access to health care.

Significant health care legislation this session was:

  • HB19-1004–implements a competitive state option and requests authorization to use existing federal money.  
  • SB19-004–addresses High-cost Health Insurance by creating a Pilot Program that modifies the health care coverage cooperatives laws to include consumer protections and allow consumers to collectively negotiate rates directly with providers.
  • HB19-1009–creates additional support for persons recovering from substance abuse and encourages vouchers for housing assistance and requires licensure for those recovery residences. 
  • HB19-1044–concerns behavioral health and scope of treatment for consenting adults.
  • SB19-188—enacts the Family Medical Leave Insurance Program (FAMLI).

Criminal/Restorative Justice  (Rev. Marcia Meier)

There are several bills that have been introduced which address these areas. 

SB19-008 addresses treatment of individuals that come into contact with the criminal justice system.  SB1919-036 requires the state court administrator to administer a program to remind criminal defendants to appear in court as scheduled which could help with next steps in the judicial process.  Missed court dates cause much unnecessary havoc.

SB19-108 (sent to the Governor) concerns changes to improve outcomes for youth in the juvenile justice system. SB1919-143 concerns changes related to parole releases to alleviate prison population issues.  SB19 19-191, HB1919-1225, and HB1919-1226 (died on the floor) concern bonds, bails, and pretrial processes that could also help with prison crowding and financial requirements that result in unnecessary incarcerations in certain circumstances.

SB19-172–concerns at-risk persons, and, in connection therewith, creates the crimes of unlawful abandonment and unlawful confinement.  HB19 19-1250 (died on the floor) also protects those held in custody.  Again, issues of human dignity and civil rights were of importance.

HB19-1025–places limits on job applicant criminal history inquiries and helps the process of reentry for those recently released.

SB19-182, which would have repealed the death penalty, passed the House, but not the Senate.

Poverty

Several bills were introduced regarding rental properties and fair pay for those who literally live paycheck to paycheck.

HB19-1085, which died on the floor, would have created grants for low-income seniors and individuals with disabilities. HB1919-1118 allows more time for a tenant to cure a lease violation.

HB19-1210 and SB1919-085 have both address fair wages. They create “Equal Pay for Equal Work” and to prevent disparities in local jurisdictions for the minimum wage.

Education of Children

We didn’t have anyone tracking the Education bills. The Colorado Sun provided a nice summary of education-related legislation. Here are some excerpts from that article that deal with providing adequate resources.

For parents of kindergarten-age children: The state, at a cost of $174 million in the next fiscal year, will cover the cost of full-day kindergarten in districts that offer it starting in the 2019-20 school year.  The legislation, House Bill 1262, says districts cannot charge parents tuition and fees, and it does not require districts to offer full day kindergarten.

For educators: The state spending bills for education will give school districts an additional $100 million to spend, and rural school districts will receive an additional $20 million. That extra funding could mean more money available for teacher pay and classroom materials, but it will depend how each district decides to spend their share.

For students with reading deficiencies: The legislature sent to the governor a bill that will overhaul the READ Act, a statewide reading program that has failed to improve the reading deficiencies of young students despite costing the state more than $231 million over the past five years. Under Senate Bill 199, the districts that receive the money would need to ensure early grade teachers receive evidence-based training in how to teach reading to young students.

For teachers with student loan debt: Up to 100 teachers a year who work in rural areas or teach hard-to-fill content areas, are now eligible for up to $5,000 annually for a maximum of five years to pay off student loans. Senate Bill 3 is awaiting the governor’s signature.

For students who need help: More social workers, nurses, school psychologists and counselors would join school districts after the legislature allocated an additional $3 million from marijuana tax revenue to cover the cost. No school district in the state meets the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommended staffing levels for social workers, nurses, school psychologists and counselors, and the new money under Senate Bill 10 would target districts with the most needs. A separate grant program that won approval would address mental health needs for students in kindergarten through fifth grade.

Racism (Adrian Miller)

There were few high-profile bills that dealt directly with issues of racism. There were some bills (HB19-1081 and HB19-1111) designed to limit the powers of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, but those failed. Two significant bills that were passed are HB19—1192 and SB19-135. HB19-1192 requires Colorado public schools to incorporate contributions of people of color and marginalized communities in history courses.SB19-135 will study whether disparities involving certain historically underutilized businesses exist within the state procurement process. The results of this study could bear significantly on the ability of minority-owned business to be involved in a fairer procurement process.

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