Although some media pundits claim a lack of accomplishments during this year’s legislative session, I take a different view. During the 120 days of the second session of the 70th Legislature we considered more than 700 bills and passed almost 400, all with bipartisan support. I am gratified to have successfully sponsored 15 bills. Congress should be envious of the Colorado State Legislature.
As in the past, I sponsored several bills to improve Colorado’s business climate and economy. I am especially proud of one: HB16-1267, Veterans Service to Career, which will help veterans make the transition to civilian jobs through apprenticeships, internships and skills training offered through local workforce centers. With 500 to 1,000 veterans being discharged monthly into our community, we want to connect them to businesses that need them so both can prosper together. We appreciate the support of local Mt. Carmel Center of Excellence leaders Bob McLaughlin and Jay Cimino, as well as Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance leaders Dirk Draper and Hannah Parsons, in helping this bill through the legislative process. It was signed into law several weeks ago by Gov. John Hickenlooper at the Pioneers Museum.
To help businesses in need of capital, I made some modifications to the Colorado Crowdfunding Act which I sponsored last year. HB15-1246 enables Colorado businesses to sell stock over the internet. At the urging of the State Securities Commissioner, I proposed modifications to increase the number of financial institutions that can retain escrow funds and to allow funds to be released sooner (HB16-1049). Working with the Business Law Section of the Colorado Bar Association, I sponsored two bills to clarify and improve the operations of partnerships and limited liability companies (HB16-1333, HB16-1329), another to simplify the transfer of control of businesses (HB16-1270), and a fourth to correct erroneous corporate filings with the Secretary of State (HB16-1330). All four were bipartisan, and three passed unanimously.
As the vice chairman of both the House Judiciary and the House Education committees, my other 2016 legislative priorities focused on ensuring that Colorado’s schools are the best they can be, and that our criminal justice system protects public safety and promotes opportunities for rehabilitation and restoration. Despite a tight 2016 budget, we increased funding for K-12 schools by $112 per student to $7,425 annually. We were able to hold the negative factor to last year’s level. With respect to higher education, we averted a possible $20 million cut, though stagnant funding means fees are likely to rise (HB16-1422).
I am most proud of HB16-1328, which restricts the use of solitary confinement of juveniles in detention. The local Spring Creek facility was exposed last year for keeping kids in isolation for days or even weeks, and this practice is both inhumane and contrary to best correctional practices. I would like to publicly acknowledge the bipartisan support of co-sponsor Sen. Kent Lambert, R-Colorado Springs, and the untiring assistance of the American Civil Liberties Union and the Colorado Juvenile Defenders Coalition.
My other criminal justice bills will help enable people who have successfully completed the court processes to rebuild their lives. One bill will expand the power of judges to send defendants struggling with substance abuse to residential drug treatment (HB16-1278).
Another will simplify the process for sealing criminal justice records following acquittal, dismissal or completion of a deferred sentence or diversion agreement and allow for expungement of records if the juvenile is complying with his or her restitution order (SB16-116). A third bill allows certain offenders to regain a driver’s license.
Two additional juvenile justice bills should be noted. SB16-180 provides a step-down program within the Colorado Department of Corrections for offenders convicted as juveniles and sentenced to more than 20 years. The program is designed to allow the former juvenile offender the opportunity to demonstrate the capability to re-integrate into society by participation in various structured programs. SB16-181 addresses the unconstitutional life-without-the-possibility-of-parole sentences of juveniles in Colorado. The bill allows consideration of parole after 40 years, less earned time, based on consideration of a series of factors, including the facts of the offense, the juvenile’s rehabilitation, capacity for change and his or her record within the CDOC. Both bills reflect emerging brain science regarding the development of the frontal lobe and conventional wisdom that juveniles have the capacity to change.
Those were just a sample of the more than 700 bills we considered and 400 that passed. The 2016 session was active, bipartisan and productive.
I invite suggestions, comments or input from members of the community.
Pete Lee is the state representative for Colorado House District 18. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.