Advocacy Update #3 from Wesley Moncrief

     Welcome to another week of our Advocacy Update. This week, the topics are affordable housing for the future (HB23-1184), as well as better advocacy for immigrants by dismantling colluding power structures (HB23-1100). For the latter, I’m including input from Jean Demmler, a member of the Voices for Justice team who represents The Presbytery of Denver.

     Last week, we looked at HB23-1118. Though I believe that the legislators had good intentions and a good policy framework, it did have some fatal flaws. During the committee hearing, opponents provided very legitimate concerns regarding the difficulty of having shifts covered, needing both forewarning and signed acknowledgement of the employer and any employees involved. One of the key appeals to the service industry is its inherent flexibility, so this level of excessive oversight feels stifling on both ends. Additionally, many restaurants are just now beginning to recover from the height of the Covid pandemic, and this bill felt it could have too many unintended consequences that block a full financial recovery.

      Unfortunately, there was a great deal of misinformation surrounding the bill. In other areas where legislature like this was put in place, it affected any business with over 50 employees, while HB23-1118 only affected those that employed 250+, yet many of the people who testified against it would not have even qualified under the wording of the bill. Most local businesses would not be affected by this bill but because of that fear of financial strain, they testified without fully understanding the intent of the bill to target primarily larger businesses. That aside, I think that, overall, this bill needed work to be passed. The idea of providing additional pay for last minute rescheduling, offering newly available hours to existing workers, and the requirement that schedules be put out well in advance would do wonders for many in the restaurant industry who struggle to consistently make ends meet due to inconsistent scheduling. However, the over administration of swapping shifts would need to go, as it serves neither the employer or the employer.

Ultimately, I wish that it had been brought before the greater legislature so that it could be scrutinized to bring out the gems of what is good and rework what is poor, as waiting another year for legislation like this is another year where workers are in semi-exploitative environments that only further divide us financially, where financial parity has been shown to provide greater investment in smaller businesses and benefit communities as a whole.

     HB23-1184, or “Low-income Housing Property Tax Exemptions” expands on previous property tax-exemptions for non-profits who purchase land with the express goal of creating low-income housing. It also expands “low-income” to encompass people who are at or below 100% of the median area income, rather than the previous 80% benchmark. The property tax exemption exists until the property is purchased. This bill would allow for more non-profits or other groups that hope to create affordable housing to be able to do so at a larger scale across the state, which could help to curb rising rent and homeownership costs.

     Another focus this week is HB23-1100, titled “Restrict Government Involvement in Immigration Detention.” In current practice, the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) contracts state and local governments to house detainees, who then may subcontract with private prisons for the same purpose. This bill prohibits state and local governments from entering into or renewing contracts that would house or detain individuals for federal civil immigration purposes.  Sponsors of this bill are Rep. Naquetta Ricks, Rep. Lorena Garcia, Sen. Julie Gonzales and Sen. Sonya Jaquez Lewis.

     This bill does not impact the GEO detention facility in Aurora because it is the federal government (not Colorado governmental entities) that contracts with that privately owned facility.  There are, however, county jails in Colorado, primarily in rural counties, that have contracts to house migrant detainees. Because this bill would prohibit the renewal of agreements regarding detaining migrants for civil offenses in those jails, there was strong opposition to the bill in the committee hearing. Having passed the House, HB23-1100 will be heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee (link to committee website). No hearing date has been set.  Voices For Justice asks for your support for HB23-1100 by emailing or calling your Senator to encourage a “yes” vote in committee or later, hopefully, on the floor.

     While private prisons are often comprised of nonviolent offenders, statistics show that they are significantly less safe than public prisons, with around 50% more violent incidents with guards and 65% more violent incidences amongst prisoners. Aside from the clear issue relating specifically to violence in private prisons, they also function primarily to make profit, and therefore have a history of cutting corners and minimizing costs at the expense of the prison population in order to be as profitable as possible. While we may not be able to solve the incredibly complex issues involved in immigration, we can at the very least start treating our fellow human beings with dignity instead treating them as commodities.Blessings,

Wesley Moncrief
CCC Social Justice Fellow