Voices for Justice

The mission of Colorado Interfaith Voices for Justice is to work with faith communities to educate and advocate on behalf of those living in poverty. Voices for Justice focuses on state and federal public policy issues concerning affordable housing, criminal justice, healthcare, hunger and welfare. In working with congregations and faith-based organizations, Voices for Justice seeks to create a powerful faith movement ready to take action in our communities and at the State Capitol. Colorado Interfaith Voices for Justice now has a new home with the Colorado Council of Churches.

Voices for Justice brings diverse faith communities together to speak out for those who often do not have a voice in public policy: the working poor, the disabled, the elderly. Voices for Justice calls on policy makers to have justice for those who are struggling to make ends meet and survive in our world.

Working with Voices for Justice will help make a strong voice for the voiceless at the State Capitol: the more voices who speak out on an issue, the more legislators pay attention to their constituents. By partnering with Voices for Justice, you will be joining a coalition of faith communities, faith-based agencies and individuals all called to make a difference in the world.

Our Final 2021 Legislative Report

Voices for Justice Final Report for the 2021 Legislative Session of the Colorado General Assembly

Criminal/Restorative Justice

Report by David C. Taussig

There were seventeen bills passed by the Colorado General Assembly during the 2021 session

that furthered Criminal Justice reform and Restorative Justice. Many of the bills this session

addressed how juveniles are treated in the criminal justice system from bonding, to paying

administrative costs, to sentencing, to detention, to parole, to mental health aspects.

In the House:

HB21-1064 Update Processes Juvenile Sex Offender Registry. The act implements various

recommendations of the legislative oversight committee concerning the treatment of persons

with mental health disorders in the criminal and juvenile justice systems regarding juveniles

who have committed sex offenses. Gov. Polis signed 6/24/21

HB21-1090 Criminal Marijuana Offenses. The act eliminates possession of 2 ounces of

marijuana or less as a crime and provides for the sealing of records in marijuana possession

offensives under certain circumstances. Gov. Polis signed 5/20/21

HB21-1209 Parole Eligibility for Youthful Offenders. The act expands the eligibility under the

state’s current program to adults serving a sentence for a felony that was committed when the

person was under 21 years of age. The act requires the court, when it sentences a person under

21 years of age, to make a statement that it is possible the defendant could serve a portion of

the sentence in the specialized program. Gov. Polis signed 7/6/21.

HB21-1211 Regulation of Restrictive Housing [Solitary Confinement] in Local Jails. Beginning

July 1, 2022, the act prohibits a local jail with a bed capacity of over 400 beds from involuntarily

placing an individual in solitary confinement if the individual has a mental illness or suicidality

or other specified impairments. Gov. Polis signed 6/24/21

HB21-1214 Record Sealing Collateral Consequences Reduction. This act increases the ability to

have records sealed for specified offensives and automatically seals the records for

misdemeanors, traffic misdemeanors, petty offenses, or municipal violations with an 18-month

statute of limitations or less if 18 months have passed since the date of arrest without the filing

of charges. The act creates a process to automatically seal drug convictions. Gov. Polis signed


HB21-1215 Expansion of Justice Crime Prevention Initiative. The justice reinvestment crime

prevention initiative incorporates programs that expand small business lending and provide

grants aimed at reducing crime and promoting community development in certain target

communities. Gov. Polis signed 7/6/21; Effective 9/1/21

HB21-1250 Measures to Address Law Enforcement Accountability. The act makes changes to

the provisions of Senate Bill 20-217, to among other things: 1) provide clarity on the use of

body cameras; 2) the information that must be reported by a contacting officer; and 3) directs

studies of no-knock warrants and provide a report on best practices for policing by July 1,

2022. Gov. Polis signed 7/6/21

HB21-1251 Appropriate Use of Chemical Restraints on a Person [Ketamine]. This act describes

specific parameters for an EMS to administer ketamine on a person. Gov. Polis signed 7/6/21

HB21-1280 Pre-Trial Detention Reform. The act includes various measures to allow persons

charged with crimes to obtain release from jail though the bonding process. Gov. Polis signed


HB21-1315 Costs Assessed to Juveniles in Criminal Justice System. The act removes various

administrative fees, costs, and surcharges in juvenile delinquency cases that a juvenile or a

juvenile's parent or legal guardian must pay. Gov. Polis signed 7/6/21

In the Senate:

SB21-066 Juvenile Diversion Programs. The act makes several changes and clarifications to

current juvenile diversion programs, including using risk screening for eligibility into the

diversion program. Gov. Polis signed 4/29/21

SB21-071 Limit the Detention of Juveniles. The act prohibits the imposition of secured

monetary or property conditions on a bond for juveniles charged with or accused of committing

a delinquent act. Gov. Polis signed 7/6/21

SB21-138 Improve Brain Injury Support in Criminal Justice System. The bill requires the

department of corrections to create a brain injury pilot program to evaluate outcomes for

offenders with a brain injury who received screening and support while in the criminal justice

system. Gov. Polis signed 7/6/21

SB21-146 Improve Prison Release Outcomes. The act changes the eligibility criteria for inmates

who are eligible for special needs parole and requires the department of correction to develop

a parole plan for every inmate prior to release. In addition for 2021-22, $1,167,297 and for

2022-23, $1,481,622 is provided to the community-based reentry services cash fund. Gov. Polis

signed 7/6/21

SB21-174 Policies for Peace Officer Credibility Disclosure. The act creates the peace officer

credibility disclosure notification committee, which in turn, is required to create a statewide

model for peace officer credibility disclosure notifications by December 1, 2021. The statewide

model must include policies and procedures that law enforcement agencies and district

attorneys' offices are required to adopt and implement on or before January 1, 2022. Gov. Polis

signed 7/2/21

SB21-271 Misdemeanor Reform. The act reforms the sentencing provisions related to

misdemeanors and petty offenses on the recommendation of the Colorado criminal and

juvenile justice commission on sentencing. Specifically, the act: 1) reclassifies various criminal

offenses within the new classification system for misdemeanors, petty offenses, and civil

infractions; 2) changes the elements of some crimes to align with the new sentencing

classifications; 3) creates procedural rules for prosecution of the new civil infractions; 4)

updates the alternate sentencing options for misdemeanors and petty offenses: and 5) creates

standard time credits for jail sentences. Gov. Polis signed 7/6/21

SB21-280 Bias Motivated Crimes. This bill added that bias can be “part” of the motivation, not

the sole, motivating factor because of the person’s race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin,

physical or mental disability, or sexual orientation. Gov. Polis signed 7/6/21


Report by Mary Ann Panarelli


HB21-1006 Fifth Day School Enrichment Program. 

Creates grant program to award 3-year grants to community non-profit organizations to provide supplemental educational programs on the fifth day of week where schools have a 4 day a week schedule. Applicants must have prior experience with existing before and after school programs and serve a majority of children from low-income families. 111 of 178 school districts in Colorado have four day a week schedules, more than any other state, impacting approximately 80,000 students. The need to provide additional academic time and support has been recognized, especially taking into consideration the learning loss that has been exacerbated due to COVID. The bill passed the Senate and House with bipartisan support, 29-9 and 54-8-3, respectively. NOTE: No specific funds have been earmarked for this fund yet. 

Gov. Polis signed this bill into law on June 30, 2021.

HB21-1010 Diverse K-12 Educator Workforce. 

The bill directs the department of higher education and the department of education to convene a workgroup on diversity in the educator workforce (workgroup). The workgroup shall investigate barriers to the preparation, retention, and recruitment of a diverse educator workforce and shall consider strategies to increase diversity in the educator workforce. The bill includes specific issues for the workgroup to consider. Passed House 43-20-1; Senate 25-10. 

Gov. Polis signed this bill into law on June 29, 2021. 

HB21-11-8 Gender Identity Expression Anti-Discrimination. 

The bill amends the definition of “sexual orientation” and adds definitions of the terms “gender expression” and “gender identity”. The bill also adds the terms “gender expression” and “gender identity” to statutes prohibiting discrimination against members of a protected class, including statutes prohibiting discriminatory practices. Passed House 44-22-2; Senate 24-11. 

Gov. Polis signed this bill into law on May 20, 2021.

HB21-1112 School District Scholarship Funds.  

This bill allows for school districts to establish scholarships for district graduates using additional mill levy revenue. Boards are encouraged (but not required) to prioritize low income and first-generation students, to limit tuition rate that may be paid by scholarship, and to specify use of scholarship. Requires report of funds used and demographic info of recipients. Passed House 53-10; Senate 35-0. 

Gov. Polis signed this bill into law on May 18,2021.

HB21-1114 School District Provision of Internet Services. 

This bil specifies that voter approval is not needed for the school district or board of cooperative services to provide enhanced internet services to students, teachers, and school staff in order to access district owned and operated networks to facilitate remote learning. Passed House 52-12-1; Senate 29-5-1. 

Gov. Polis signed this bill into law on May 18, 2021.

HB21-1234 Supplemental Education High Impact Tutoring Programs. 

This bill allocates $4.9M and 1 FTE to the DOE. It offers grants for local educational providers to create high impact tutoring programs to address learning loss and unfinished learning due to the pandemic. Grants will be awarded by the DOE based on demonstrated need, which may include serving low income or underserved students. They will also take into consideration the need for financial and technical assistance in rural schools that must be addressed in order to develop the program. Bill repeals after 5 years. Passed House 55-8-3; Senate 34-0-1. 

Gov. Polis signed this bill into law on June 13, 2021.

HB21-1259 Extended Learning Opportunities. 

Bill allows local educational providers to combine requests for funds to address learning loss due to Covid-19 disruptions, which will streamline the application and reporting process. The bill also provides for the DOE to evaluate programs across providers, utilizing a standardized evaluation tool. Passed house 56-7-1; Senate 35-0. 

Gov. Polis signed this bill into law on June 7, 2021.

SB21-053 Adjustments to School Funding for Fiscal Year 20-21. 

Provides schools with originally allocated funds for the school year, which would have otherwise been lowered due to a decrease in enrollment and local tax contributions. Passed Senate 35-0; passed House 53-11-3. 

Gov. Polis signed this bill into law on March 5, 2021.

SB-21-115 Annual Funding for Talking Book Library Services. 

This bill continues prior legislation that provided annual funding for the Talking Book Library for disabled individuals and added a provision to allocate $250,000 annually for this purpose. Passed Senate 32-0-3; House 57-4-4. 

Gov. Polis signed this bill into law on May 28, 2021.

SB21-151 Literacy Curriculum Transparency. 

This bill adds to the Colorado READ Act which states that educational providers must provide links on school websites to state reports on core and supplemental reading programs used at each grade level, as well as the number of students in K-3 who have reading plans, and the number who have achieved reading competency. Additionally, information must be provided to explain each education provider’s narrative and budget for how READ Act funds are being used. Passed Senate 35-0; House 62-0-3. 

Gov. Polis signed this bill into law on June 18, 2021.

SB21-172 Educator Pay Raise Fund. 

This bil creates a fund which consists of monies the general assembly may appropriate or transfer. Monies from the fund are to be distributed by the DOE to assist school districts in increasing teacher salaries and hourly wages of other school employees. Passed Senate 23-12; House 22-12-1. NOTE: Established fund, but did not allocate monies at this time.

Gov. Polis signed this bill into law on July 7, 2021.

SB21-208 General Fund Transfer to State Education Fund. 

Authorizes transferring $100M from general fund to education fund. Passed Senate 32-02; House 59-4-1. 

Gov. Polis signed this bill into law on May 4, 2021.

Bills postponed indefinitely

HB21-1029 Use of READ Act Per Pupil Intervention Money. 

Current law requires that intervention materials purchased using these funds must be selected from the DOE approved list. Bill proposed to allow school divisions to purchase materials not on the approved list, but were determined by the LEP to meet the criteria for being included on the list. The LEP may have then used these materials for 2 years, at which point the DOE would evaluate their effectiveness. Did not make it out of the Education Committee.

SB21-014 Allocation Formula for Colorado Childcare. 

Would have allowed for consideration of utilization (service delivery cost/total number of eligible children) when allocating state child care assistance to counties. Appropriations passed the resolution for $48,766 for the database needed to make this change, but the appropriations resolution to refer to the Senate committee of the whole failed.

SB21-037 Student Equity Education Funding Programs. 

Bill would have required school divisions to provide per pupil state funds to parents to use for tutoring or other programs if the school division was closed to face-to-face instruction for more than 30 days.

SB21-182 School Discipline:  

Bill focused on apparent disproportionate representation of students of color in disciplinary actions in schools. It would have established a consistent way of collecting and reporting discipline data to the state department of education and required school districts to track offenses and consequences by race, English language learners, Free and Reduced Lunch status, gender, and disability. It also would have limited actions of school resource officers. Sponsor withdrew support after bill had been referred to Education Committee. https://co.chalkbeat.org/2021/4/6/22370687/colorado-school-discipline-bill-withdrawn-racial-disparities-tickets-arrests Expect to see revised bill return next session.


Report by Jean Demmler

Migrants and immigrants have more protections and benefits in Colorado law as a result of legislative bills passed by the Colorado Assembly during its 2021 session. Of eleven bills identified as related to immigrants and migrants introduced into the session, there were six bills that Voices For Justice strongly supported and followed closely. All have been signed into law by Gov. Polis.

Five of the six bills followed by Voices for Justices originated in the House.  They are: 

HB21-1075 Replace the Term Illegal Alien 

This bill replaces the term “illegal alien” to “worker without authorization” in state contracts for services. 

Gov. Polis signed this bill into law on April 15.

HB21-1054 Housing Public Benefit Verification Act

This bill eliminates the requirement of verifying lawful presence in the US in order to receive public housing benefits.

Gov. Polis signed into law on April 15.

HB21-1057 Extortion of Immigrants Engaging in Lawful Acts

This bill extends the definition of extortion of migrants and immigrants to include sexual assault, domestic violence and report of another person’s immigration status to law enforcement.  The bill essentially closed a loophole in earlier extortion law and was strongly supported by the Colorado Districts’ Attorneys Council.

Gov. Polis signed this bill into law on May 20.

HB21-1060 U Visa Certification Requirements

This bill establishes a standardized state-wide process for application for the U non-immigrant Status (U-Visa) from the federal government. This process enhances the consistency and timeliness of the verification process across Colorado for migrants who are victims of crime. 

Gov. Police signed this bill into law on May 10.

HB21-1194 Immigration Legal Defense Fund

This bill establishes a state-wide Immigration Legal Defense Fund.  This fund would award grants to non-profit organizations that provide legal advice, counseling and representation for, and on behalf of, indigent clients who are subject to immigration proceedings.  The fund would begin with $100,000 from the General Fund.

 Gov. Polis signed this bill into law on June 25. 

SB21-077 Remove Lawful Presence Verification Credentialing 

This bill removes the requirement that the department of education and each division, board, or agency of the department of regulatory agencies, verify the lawful presence of each applicant before issuing or renewing a license. 

Gov. Polis signed this bill into law on May 27.

Military and Veterans

Report by Vicky Daub

SB21-032 Mobile Veterans-support Unit Grant Program

This bill establishes a mobile veterans-support unit grant program to provide grant funding to a veteran-owned-and-focused organization to create a mobile veterans-support unit. Unit acts as a point of contact to veterans in rural areas or to veterans experiencing homelessness. Unit distributes supplies, transports veterans who do not have access to public or private transportation, and works with the office of economic development to provide business and job opportunities to veterans. 

Gov. Polis signed this bill into law on June 23, 2021. 

*Vicky Daub spoke with a non-profit that is being considered to enact this program on June 17, 2021. She suggested that preliminary legwork should be done before a Mobile Veteran Unit goes to a rural area. This legwork would include identifying at least one key contact and “meeting point” before the Unit makes its first visit.

If selected, this non-profit has invited Vicky to partner with them in delivering these important services.

SB21-129 Veteran Suicide Prevention Pilot Program

This bill requires the state department of human services (department) to establish a veteran suicide prevention pilot program to reduce the suicide rate and suicidal ideation among veterans by providing no-cost, stigma-free, confidential, and effective behavioral health treatment for 700 veterans and their families in El Paso County. At any time, the pilot program may be expanded to serve more than 700 veterans and their families and/or to other areas of the state. The department is permitted to enter into an agreement with a nonprofit organization to administer the pilot program. The department is required to include information about the pilot program in its annual report to the general assembly. The pilot program is repealed June 30, 2025. 

Gov. Polis signed this bill into law on June 23, 2021. 


Report by Adrian Miller

SB21-116 Prohibit American Indian Mascots

From the summary provided by Colorado Legislative Services: After June 1, 2022, the bill prohibits the use of American Indian mascots in any public school or institution of higher education unless the school had an agreement with a federally recognized Indian Tribe before June 30, 2021, or the school is operated by a federally recognized Indian Tribe. Public K-12 schools must cease using such a mascot as of October 1, 2021. Failure to change the mascot results in a fine of $25,000 for each month the mascot remains unchanged. K-12 schools may apply for a grant through the Building Excellent Schools Today (BEST) program to accomplish structural changes needed to come into compliance with the bill. The bill specifies that it does not impact the ability of a federally recognized Indian Tribe to create and maintain a relationship or agreement with a school to emphasize education, support a curriculum, and encourage positive cultural exchange The bill also requires the Colorado Commission of Indian Affairs to identify each public school in the state using an American Indian Mascot and does not meet the criteria for an exemption and to post the list on their website.

Gov. Polis signed this bill into law on June 28, 2021.