Colorado Senator Michael Merrifield

The Peoples Voice


1 Comment

Notable Bills to be Heard in the Senate This Week (April 13 – April 17)

rotundaDENVER — The Colorado State Senate has scheduled the following noteworthy legislation to be heard this week.  The list is not exhaustive but includes legislation that typically garners public input and media attention.  The dates and times may change throughout the week, so please verify before covering.

HB 15-1173: “I-70 MOUNTAIN CORRIDOR”

Sponsor: Sen. Nancy Todd, D-Aurora

Senate third reading hearing: Monday, April 13 at 10:00 a.m. in the Senate Chamber

The bill addresses the traffic problem on I-70.  It specifies that drivers must have mountain snow tires; chains; or four-wheel or all-wheel drive when using I-70 from Dotsero to Morrison between November 1 to May 15.  The bill was amended during second reading to include any highway that has a mountain pass that connects with I-70.

HB 15-1294: “IN-STATE TUITION FOR VETERANS”

Sponsor: Sen. Nancy Todd, D-Aurora; Sen. Owen Hill, R-Colorado Springs

Senate second reading hearing: Monday, April 13 at 10:00 a.m. in the Senate Chamber

The bill provides in-state tuition for Colorado veterans, spouses of veterans, and children of veterans at public colleges and universities in Colorado.  Specifically, the legislation aligns Colorado with the federal Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014, requiring all public education institutions to provide in-state tuition to veterans and dependents of veterans in Colorado.  The move secures federal financial aid for Colorado public colleges and universities through the GI Bill.

HB 15-1242: “RIGHT OF A PATIENT TO DESIGNATE A CAREGIVER”

Sponsor: Sen. Irene Aguilar, D-Denver

Senate second reading hearing: Monday, April 13 at 10:00 a.m. in the Senate Chamber

The bill allows medical patients to designate a caregiver when admitted and discharged from a Colorado hospital.  The hospital must talk to the patient about what limitations the caregiver has and inform the caregiver of the aftercare plan.

SB 15-205: “VETERANS’ FIRE CORPS”

Sponsors: Sen. Leroy Garcia, D-Pueblo; Sen. Ellen Roberts, R-Durango

Senate second reading hearing: Tuesday, April 14 at 9:00 a.m. in the Senate Chamber

The bill promotes the Veterans’ Fire Corps in the Division of Fire Prevention and Control.  It trains post-9/11 veterans in natural resource management and wildland fire control.

SB 15-252: “RENEWABLE ENERGY AT SCHOOLS”

Sponsor: Sen. Mike Johnston, D-Denver

Senate second reading hearing: Tuesday, April 14 at 9:00 a.m. in the Senate Chamber

The bill allows schools to use resources from Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency for Schools loan program to conduct an energy audit at the school.  The audit will examine the possible savings a school can expect from using wind, solar, or other renewable energy.

SB 15-014: “MEDICAL MARIJUANA”

Sponsor: Sen. Irene Aguilar, D-Denver

Senate second reading hearing: Tuesday, April 14 at 9:00 a.m. in the Senate Chamber

The bill requires the Colorado Medical Board to adopt guideline for when physicians prescribe medical marijuana to patients with severe pain.  It also requires the Dept. of Public Health and Environment to adopt guidelines for primary caregivers who administer medical marijuana — among other changes to medical marijuana rules.

SB 15-012: “ENSURING CHILD SUPPORT GOES TO THE CHILD”

Sponsor: Sen. John Kefalas, D-Fort Collins

Senate second reading hearing: Tuesday, April 14 at 9:00 a.m. in the Senate Chamber

This bill allows Colorado Works participants to receive child support without lowering their public assistance grants.  The current practice diverts the child support of Colorado Works participants and their children back to the government.

SB 15-020: “ERIN’S LAW”

Sponsor: Sen. Linda Newell, D-Littleton

Senate second reading hearing: Tuesday, April 14 at 9:00 a.m. in the Senate Chamber

This bill allows schools to provide information and training about the awareness and prevention of child sexual abuse and assault.  The problem of abuse is widespread, as 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys are sexually abused before the age of 18.  Twenty-one states have already introduced “Erin’s Law” to address this problem.

SB 15-185: “COMMUNITY TRUST AND POLICE ACCOUNTABILITY”

Sponsor: Sen. Mike Johnston, D-Denver

Senate second reading hearing: Tuesday, April 14 at 9:00 a.m. in the Senate Chamber

The bill addresses community discussions about possible discriminatory profiling in the justice system.  It is known as the Community Law Enforcement Action Reporting (CLEAR) Act, and it calls for the State Judicial Department and the State Board of Parole to collect data and prepare reports on aspects of community policing.

SB 15-011: “HOPE FOR COLORADANS WITH SPINAL CORD INJURIES”

Sponsor: Sen. Nancy Todd, D-Aurora

Senate second reading hearing: Tuesday, April 14 at 9:00 a.m. in the Senate Chamber

The bill continues a pilot program providing alternative medicine to people with spinal cord injuries and end a backlog of people waiting for services.  Under the bill, the program could run through September 2020, and it will serve 100 people, up from 67.

HB 15-1130: “PROTECTING MILITARY VOTING RIGHTS”

Sponsors: Sen. Leroy Garcia, D-Pueblo; Sen. Owen Hill, R-Colorado Springs

Senate State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee: Monday, April 13 at 1:30 p.m. in Senate Committee Room 353

The bill would help active-duty military personnel deployed overseas and other overseas citizens vote in local municipal elections.   It would put municipal election code in line with federal, state, and county election code.

HB 15-1215: “IN-STATE TUITION FOR DEPENDENTS OF MILITARY MEMBERS”

Sponsor: Sen. Mike Johnston, D-Denver

Senate State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee: Monday, April 13 at 1:30 p.m. in Senate Committee Room 353

The bill allows all Colorado colleges and universities to provide in-state tuition to dependents of active duty military personnel.  The dependent must have done at least six years of secondary school in Colorado, and enroll in college within five years of graduating from high school.

HB 15-1344: “NATIONAL WESTERN CENTER”

Sponsor: Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver; Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling

Capital Development Committee: Tuesday, April 14 at 7:30 a.m. in Senate Committee Room 356

The bill defines the state’s role in a financing plan for the National Western Center development.

SB 15-039: “HIGH, HIGH MOUNTAINS AT LOW, LOW PRICES”

Sponsor:  Sen. Kent Lambert, R-Colorado Springs

Senate State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee: Tuesday, April 14 upon adjournment of the Senate in Senate Committee Room 353

The bill tries to give the state “concurrent jurisdiction” over federal public lands but the state does not have the ability to manage the lands.  The move could restrict access to areas like Maroon Bells, Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Indian Peaks, Flat Tops, and San Juan Mountains.

HB 15-1271: “MOBILE LEARNING LABS”

Sponsors: Sen. Kerry Donovan, D-Vail; Sen. Vicki Marble, R-Fort Collins

Senate Finance Committee: Tuesday, April 14 at 2:00 p.m. in Senate Committee Room 354

The bill allows the Colorado Existing Industry Training Program to provide resources for mobile learning labs.  Mobile learning labs travel around and provide skills training and career development for Colorado workers at existing Colorado businesses.

HB 15-1159: “INSTREAM FLOW INCENTIVE” 

Sponsor: Sen. Kerry Donovan, D-Vial

Senate Finance Committee: Tuesday, April 14 at 2:00 p.m. in Senate Committee Room 354

The bill continues the Instream Flow Incentive Tax Credit.  The credit is available to Coloradoans who permanently transfers a water right to the Colorado Water Conservation Board.  The Colorado Water Conservation Board uses the water right to create an instream flow that preserves the environment.

SB 15-003: “EDUCATION EVALUATIONS CRITERIA”

Sponsor: Sen. Michael Merrifield, D-Colorado Springs

Senate Education Committee: Wednesday, April 15 upon adjournment of the Senate in Senate Committee Room 356

The bill removes the requirement that 50 percent of an educator and principal’s performance evaluation be tied to student academic growth.

HB 15-1265: “GENDER IDENTIFICATION ON BIRTH CERTIFICATES”

Sponsor: Sen. Jessie Ulibarri, D-Westminster

Senate State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee: Wednesday, April 15 at 1:30 p.m. in Senate Committee Room 356

The bill, known as the 2015 Birth Certificate Modernization Act, allows the state to change the birth certificate of a person, who was born in Colorado, if the person has a different gender than the gender noted on the birth certificate.  The change requires consent from the person or the person’s parents, if the person is a minor — as well as a statement from a licensed medical professional.

HB 15-1300: “LOCAL GOVERNMENT MINIMUM WAGE”

Sponsor: Sen. Michael Merrifield, D-Colorado Springs

Senate State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee: Wednesday, April 15 at 1:30 p.m. in Senate Committee Room 356

The bill empowers local governments to raise the minimum wage within the area it governs.  Currently, the statewide minimum wage is $8.23 an hour — or $17,118 a year for an employee who works 40 hours a week and never takes time off.  That is nearly $3,000 below the federal poverty line for a family of three.

HB 15-1259: “COLLECTING RAIN WATER”

Sponsor: Sen. Michael Merrifield, D-Colorado Springs

Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Energy Committee: Thursday, April 16 at 1:30 p.m. in Senate Committee Room 354

The bill allows Coloradans to collect two barrels rainwater from their roof for a total of 100 gallons of water or less.  The water could be used to water lawns or gardens.

HB 15-1232: “EMERGENCY USE OF EPINEPHRINE”

Sponsor: Sen. Nancy Todd, D-Aurora

Senate Health and Human Services Committee: Thursday, April 16 at 1:30 p.m. in Senate Committee Room 352

The bill allows entities – including recreation camps, colleges, day care centers, youth sports leagues, amusement parks, restaurants, businesses, and sports arenas — to acquire and use epinephrine auto injectors.  The epinephrine auto injectors could be used to help people suffering from anaphylaxis because of an allergen.

Advertisements


Leave a comment

Senate Education Committee Approves Bipartisan, Balanced Bills to Adjust Assessments Accordingly

2015-MerrifieldDENVER – Protests over standardized testing in K-12 education have led to calls for change in the system.  Last night after lengthy debate, Senate Democrats resisted an extreme, fringe way of addressing the problem (SB15-233), but united in favor of cutting back social studies testing in SB 15-056.  In addition, a majority of Democrats on the Senate Education Committee backed a balanced, bi-partisan and comprehensive fix through Educational Standards and Assessments and Flexibility Pilot Program (SB15- 257).

The standards flexibility bill (SB 15-257) would allow local education providers to choose a single high school grade in which English Language Arts, Mathematics, and Science tests are administered.  It also reduces some required early education literacy testing.  If a student is reading at grade level at the start of a school year, the student is not required to take additional tests, as current policy dictates. The bill also moves a deadline up for the State Board of Education to review and revise the state’s academic standards – changing the deadline from 2018 to 2016.

To ensure testing fairness for students lacking typing or computer skills, the bill requires the state to allow computerized tests to be completed using pencil and paper.  Also, the bill allows the state to administer tests in languages other than English, if the student has not participated in an English language proficiency program for more than three years.

Last, the standards flexibility bill allows local education providers to design and implement alternative accountability and testing systems, in collaboration with the Colorado Department of Education.

The Senate Education Committee accepted several amendments to the original bill Thursday evening.  Notably, one amendment added requirements for each local school to provide written information to parents regarding testing.  The notifications would include the testing schedule – including the specific hours of the day that testing will take place – and whether each test is required under federal or state law.  Another amendment clarified that contracts between schools would specify which school a student’s test scores would be assigned to, if they attend individualized education programs in one school and attend another school simultaneously.

“Testing is a valuable way to understand school performance, but classroom time is an even more valuable way to teach a student in school.  We need to make sure the system works fairly for everyone involved — students and teachers,” said Sen. Michael Merrifield, D-Colorado Springs and a co-prime Senate sponsor of SB 15-257.  “I hear from many people who think we have gone too far with testing, and they want and deserve action now.  This bill cuts back on the overwhelming amount of time we spend on testing, in response to this frustration from parents, students, and teachers.”

2015-KerrThe other bill that reduced testing, SB 15-056, would adjust the state’s testing regimen for social studies.  It would allow the Colorado Department of Education to administer statewide social studies tests in a representative sample of schools, as long as testing occurs in each public school at least once every three years.  Currently, the state administers social studies testing annually to all students in a single specified grade for each level of school – currently 4th, 7th and 12th grades.  As a bonus, the bill could save the state $540,000 per year due to a reduction in hand-scoring of tests.

“This bill provides flexibility to our schools, saves money, and still allows us to measure how our schools and students are performing. I was happy to see bipartisan support for it. ” said Sen. Andy Kerr, D-Lakewood, SB 15-056 sponsor.

Both bills will now go to the Senate Appropriations Committee for another hearing.

-Jessica Bralish, Communications Director


Leave a comment

Notable bills to be heard in the Senate this week (April 6 – April 10)

rotundaDENVER — The Colorado State Senate has scheduled the following noteworthy legislation to be heard this week.  The list is not exhaustive but includes legislation that has typically garnered public input and media attention.  The dates and times may change throughout the week, so please verify before covering.

HB 15-1130: “PROTECTING MILITARY VOTING RIGHTS”

Sponsors: Sen. Leroy Garcia, D-Pueblo; Sen. Owen Hill, R-Colorado Springs

Senate third reading hearing: Monday, April 6 at 10:00 a.m. in the Senate Chamber

The bill would help active-duty military personnel deployed overseas and other overseas citizens vote in local municipal elections.   It would put municipal election code in line with federal, state, and county election code.

SB 15-091: “REDUCE STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS ON CONSTRUCTION DEFECTS”

Sponsor: Sen. Ray Scott, R-Grand Junction

Senate second reading hearing: Monday, April 6 at 10:00 a.m. in the Senate Chamber

As amended in committee, the bill would reduce the statute of repose from six years to five years in most cases involving single-family homes, impacting homeowners’ ability to get faulty construction fixed.  Also, the bill could reduce the statute of limitations from two years to one year.

SB 15-223: “ELIMINATE PENALTIES FOR OPTING OUT OF TESTING”

Sponsors: Sen. Nancy Todd, D-Aurora; Sen. Chris Holbert, R-Parker

Senate second reading hearing: Monday, April 6 at 10:00 a.m. in the Senate Chamber

The bill prohibits penalizing districts, students, teachers, principals, or schools if parents decide to opt-out from standardized assessments.

SB 15-204: “CHILD PROTECTION OMBUDSMAN OFFICE”

Sponsors: Sen. Linda Newell, D-Littleton; Sen. Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud

Senate second reading hearing: Monday, April 6 at 10:00 a.m. in the Senate Chamber

The bill removes the Office of the Child Protection Ombudsman from the Department of Human Services, and it gives an independent board oversight of the office.

HB 15-1173: “TRACTION ON I-70 MOUNTAIN CORRIDOR”

Sponsor: Sen. Nancy Todd, D-Aurora

Senate second reading hearing: Monday, April 6 at 10:00 a.m. in the Senate Chamber

The bill specifies that drivers must have mountain snow tires; chains; or four-wheel or all-wheel drive when using I-70 from Dotsero to Morrison between November 1 to May 15.

HJR 15-1018: “CÉSAR CHÁVEZ DAY” AND HONORING DOLORES HUERTA

Sponsor: Sen. Lucia Guzman, D-Denver

Senate: Monday, April 6 at 10:00 a.m. in the Senate Chamber

The resolution honors César Chávez and Dolores Huerta, who helped start the United Farm Workers of America (UFW).  The resolution reads, in part: “César Chávez tirelessly devoted himself to making all people aware of the struggles of farm workers and their need for better pay and safer working conditions.”

HB 15-1072: “KIANA ARELLANO’S LAW”

Sponsor: Sen. Linda Newell, D-Littleton

Conference Committee: Monday, April 6 at 12:00 p.m. in House Committee Room 0112

Given that bullying is different in the twenty-first century, the bill adds electronic harassment to the existing harassment law.

HB 15-1212: “TRUST LANDS FOR LOCAL GOVERNMENTS”

Sponsors: Sen. Andy Kerr, D-Lakewood; Sen. Michael Merrifield, D-Colorado Springs

Senate State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee: Monday, April 6 at 1:30 p.m. in Senate Committee Room 353

The bill continues a program where the State Land Board can transfer land to local governments for fair market value.

SB 15-039: “HIGH, HIGH MOUNTAINS AT LOW, LOW PRICES”

Sponsor:  Sen. Kent Lambert, R-Colorado Springs

Senate State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee: Monday, April 6 at 1:30 p.m. in Senate Committee Room 353

The bill tries to give the state “concurrent jurisdiction” over federal public lands but the state does not have the ability to manage the lands.  The move could restrict access to areas like Maroon Bells, Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Indian Peaks, Flat Tops, and San Juan Mountains.

HB 15-1133: “COLORADO PAY EQUITY COMMISSION”

Sponsor: Sen. Jessie Ulibarri, D-Westminster

Senate State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee: Monday, April 6 at 1:30 p.m. in Senate Committee Room 353

The bill continues the work of the Pay Equity Commission.  It studies the existing pay gap and devises ways to overcome it.  Colorado women are still only paid 80 cents for every dollar earned by men.

SB 15-195: “SAVINGS FROM EARNED TIME”

Sponsor: Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver

Senate Judiciary Committee: Tuesday, April 7 upon adjournment of the Senate in Senate Committee Room 352

The bill allows the Department of Corrections to use savings incurred because of achievement earned time for academic or vocational programs or parole services.

HB 15-1204: “DISTILLERY PUBS”

Sponsor: Sen. Andy Kerr, D-Lakewood

Conference Committee: Wednesday, April 8 at 8:15 a.m. in House Committee Room 0109

The bill establishes a distillery pub license with rules like a winery or brew-pub license.  The distillery must sell other alcohols and food, as well as have a state and local liquor license.

HB 15-1242: “RIGHT OF A PATIENT TO DESIGNATE A CAREGIVER”

Sponsor: Sen. Irene Aguilar, D-Denver

Senate Health and Human Service Committee: Wednesday, April 8 upon adjournment of the Senate in Senate Committee Room 352

The bill allows medical patients to designate a caregiver when admitted and discharged from a Colorado hospital.  The hospital must talk to the patient about what limitations the caregiver has and inform the caregiver of the aftercare plan.

HB 15-1147: “GENETIC COUNSELORS”

Sponsor: Sen. Nancy Todd, D-Aurora

Senate Business, Labor, and Technology Committee: Wednesday, April 8 at 1:30 p.m. in Senate Committee Room 354

The bill helps ensure that genetic counselors are properly trained before counseling about genetic risks and management.  It requires counselors to get a license starting June 2016.

HB 15-1255: “IMPROPER USE OF EBT CARDS”

Sponsors: Sen. Cheri Jahn, D-Wheat Ridge; Sen. Kevin Grantham, R-Canon City

Senate Business, Labor, and Technology Committee: Wednesday, April 8 at 1:30 p.m. in Senate Committee Room 354

The bill requires the Department of Human Services and Department of Revenue to report misuse of Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards and establish ways to prevent misuse.

SB 15-185: “IMPROVE POLICE OPERATIONS”

Sponsor: Sen. Mike Johnston, D-Denver

Senate Judiciary Committee: Wednesday, April 8 at 1:30 p.m. in Senate Committee Room 352

The bill requires the Colorado Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice to start an advisory committee to study policing practices.  In addition, it requires policing departments, the Judicial Department, and the Department of Corrections to give the Division of Criminal Justice demographic data about various activities like arrests, sentencing, or parole.

HB 15-1175: “PROHIBIT CONVERSION THERAPY”

Sponsor: Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver

Senate State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee: Wednesday, April 8 at 1:30 p.m. in Senate Committee Room 353

The bill prevents Colorado minors from being forced into so-called “conversion therapy,” by banning the practice in Colorado.  “Conversion therapy” is a discredited practice that attempts to change a person’s sexual orientation.

SB 15-252: “RENEWABLE ENERGY AT SCHOOLS”

Sen. Mike Johnston, D-Denver

Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Energy Committee: Thursday, April 9 at 1:30 p.m. in Room 271

The bill allows schools to use resources from Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency for Schools loan program to conduct an energy audit at the school.  The audit will examine the possible savings a school can expect from using wind, solar, or other renewable energy.

SB 15-257: “PUBLIC SCHOOL ACCOUNTABILITY”

Sponsors: Sen. Mike Merrifield, D-Colorado Springs; Sen. Owen Hill, R-Colorado Springs

Senate Education Committee: Thursday, April 9 at 1:30 p.m. in Senate Committee Room 356

The bill moves up the date for the State Board of Education to revise Colorado academic standards to July 2016.  It restricts statewide testing and gives local districts further flexibility around testing.

SB 15-003: “EDUCATOR PERFORMANCE EVALUATIONS”

Sponsors: Sen. Mike Merrifield, D-Colorado Springs

Senate Education Committee: Thursday, April 9 at 1:30 p.m. in Senate Committee Room 356

The bill removes the requirement that 50 percent of an educator and principal’s performance evaluation be tied to student academic growth.

SB 15-056: “STATEWIDE ASSESSMENT IN SOCIAL STUDIES”

Sponsor: Sen. Andy Kerr, D-Lakewood

Senate Education Committee: Thursday, April 9 at 1:30 p.m. in Senate Committee Room 356

The bill reduces the number of social studies assessments.  The department will only be required to administer the social studies assessment in each public school at least once every 3 years.

SB 15-073: “REDUCING TESTING IN SCHOOLS”

Sponsor: Sen. Michael Merrifield, D-Colorado Springs

Senate Education Committee: Thursday, April 9 at 1:30 p.m. in Senate Committee Room 356

The bill requires the Board of Education to adopt a system of assessments that complies only with federal law and eliminates statewide testing.

HB 15-1097: “FETAL ALCOHOL SPECTRUM DISORDERS COMMISSION”

Sponsor: Sen. Linda Newell, D-Littleton

Senate Health and Human Services Committee: Thursday, April 9 at 1:30 p.m. in Senate Committee Room 352

The bill continues the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Commission indefinitely.  The commission helps educate the public about possible health risks.  The bill also clarifies when a juvenile in the juvenile justice system should be screened for fetal alcohol spectrum disorders.


Leave a comment

Senate Republicans Choose Private Schools over Public Schools

Republicans vote “no” on amendment to eliminate “negative factor” first.

DENVER — During the recession, the legislature was forced to cut public education by nearly $1 billion, and since then the Senate Democrats have worked to repair the system by restoring the cuts.

2015-Merrifield

Senator Michael Merrifield

This afternoon, Colorado Senate Republicans reversed direction from the previous year’s progress, approving legislation to establish back door school vouchers.  Sen. Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud, sponsored the bill, which could reduce public school revenue in favor of subsidizing private, private-religious, or home-school education (SB 15-045).

The bill would create income tax credits for parents enrolling their children in home-based or private schools.

The bill was amended today by Senate President Bill Cadman, R-Colorado Springs, allowing parents who do not have enough tax liability to get the entire tax credit within a specified time to get an actual refund.  The amendment arguably changed the program from “back door” school vouchers to actual school vouchers.

“Colorado students are going to have to compete in a global economy,” said Sen. Andy Kerr, D-Lakewood.  “We need to provide them with all the tools necessary to be effective in today’s world.  Public schools should offer a level playing field and provide all children with that opportunity.”

2015-Kerr

Senator Any Kerr (D- Lakewood)

During debate, Sen. Mike Johnston, D-Denver, acknowledged the fiscal impact tax credits would have on public education.  He offered an amendment that would allow for the tax credits but only after the public education system has recovered from recession-era deductions, known as the “negative factor.”  Republicans bucked the amendment.  Republican Sen. Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud, argued against the amendment saying, “I do not agree that the ‘negative factor’ is a reality.”

“We need to make our education system whole again before we start handing out special tax credits,” said Sen. Mike Johnston, D-Denver.  “During the recession, K-12 education was hit hard, and for the sake of our economy overall, we must reinvest in the system.”

Another amendment was offered by Sen. Michael Merrifield, D-Colorado Springs.  It would have required families accepting tax credits to send their children to a school that accepts students of all races, sexual orientations, or religions.  He noted that only 20 percent of private school students attend non-sectarian schools, while the other 80 percent are in religiously-affiliated schools.  Also, he said that due to the high cost of private schooling, only six percent of kids attending private schools come from households with incomes of less than $50,000, while 26 percent are at $200,000 or more.  Despite those facts, the amendment was defeated.

“All children deserve a top-notch education, not just the wealthy few,” said Sen. Merrifield.  “For some families, private school is what works best, but the vast majority of middle class families rely on public education.”

The bill passed the Senate today on a second reading voice vote, and will now go to a third reading vote.  If it passes on third reading, it will go to the House of Representatives.


Leave a comment

Notable bills to be heard in the Senate this week (March 23 – March 27)

rotundaDENVER — The Colorado State Senate has scheduled the following noteworthy legislation to be heard this week.  The list is not exhaustive but includes legislation that has typically garnered public input and media attention.  The dates and times may change throughout the week, so please verify before covering.

SB 15-069: “RIGHT TO DISCRIMINATE”

Sponsor: Sen. Laura Woods, R-Arvada

Senate third reading: Monday, March 23 at 10:00 a.m. in Senate Chamber

The bill repeals basic protections for workers at businesses with fewer than 15 employees.  It eliminates a way to achieve recourse against intentional discrimination based on sex, race, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, and disability.

SB 15-086: “NO CRIMINAL BACKGROUND CHECKS FOR FIREARMS”

Sponsor: Sen. Kent Lambert, R-Colorado Springs

Senate second reading hearing: Monday, March 23 at 10:00 a.m. in Senate Chamber

The bill erodes public safety by eliminating a requirement for criminal background checks on gun transfers between strangers who met online or through classified ads.

Throughout 2014, 308,908 law-abiding Coloradans passed a criminal background check for a firearm transfer.  During that same period, about 6,068 firearm sales were blocked because the applicant had a record.  In addition, because of background checks, local authorities were able to find and arrest 226 fugitives who tried and failed to obtain a gun.

SB 15-045: “TAXPAYER DOLLARS FOR PRIVATE AND HOME SCHOOLS”

Sponsor: Sen. Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud

Senate second reading hearing: Monday, March 23 at 10:00 a.m. in Senate Chamber

The bill plays financial gymnastics with K-12 education by establishing tax credits, similar to vouchers, for parents who have opted to enroll their kids in home or private schools.

The tax credit is costly; decreasing state general fund revenue by $37 million in FY 2016-17, $63 million in 2017-18, and $318 million in 2028-29, impacting public education funding.

SB 15-091: “REDUCE STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS ON CONSTRUCTION DEFECTS”

Sponsor: Sen. Ray Scott, R-Grand Junction

Senate second reading hearing: Monday, March 23 at 10:00 a.m. in Senate Chamber

As amended in committee, the bill would reduce the statute of repose from six years to five years in most cases involving single-family homes, impacting homeowner rights.  Also, the bill could reduce the statute of limitations from two years to one year.

HB 15-1072: “KIANA ARELLANO’S LAW”

Sponsor: Sen. Linda Newell, D-Littleton

Senate second reading hearing: Monday, March 23 at 10:00 a.m. in Senate Chamber

Knowing that bullying is different in the twenty-first century, the bill adds electronic harassment to existing harassment law.  It is named for a Colorado victim of electronic harassment.  National studies show that cyber bullying victims are more likely to attempt suicide than even traditional bullying victims.

HB 15-1164: “POSTPONING JURY SERVICE FOR BREAST-FEEDING”

Sponsor: Sen. Andy Kerr, D-Lakewood

Senate second reading hearing: Monday, March 23 at 10:00 a.m. in Senate Chamber

The bill allows a prospective juror, who is breast-feeding a baby, to be excused from duty.  The postponement can be for 24 months.

HB 15-1130: “PROTECTING MILITARY VOTING RIGHTS”

Sponsors: Sen. Leroy Garcia, D-Pueblo; Sen. Owen Hill, R-Colorado Springs

Senate second reading hearing: Monday, March 23 at 10:00 a.m. in Senate Chamber

The bill would help active-duty military personnel deployed overseas and other overseas citizens vote in local municipal elections.

Currently, municipal elections are not conducted like other elections for our men and women in uniform.  With passage of this bill, municipal election code would fall in line with federal, state, and county election code.

SJR 15-019: “COLORADO AEROSPACE DAY”

Sponsors: Sen. Nancy Todd, D-Aurora; Sen. Kent Lambert, R-Colorado Springs

Monday, March 23 at 10:00 a.m. in the Senate Chamber

The resolution acknowledges aerospace activities in Colorado.  It reads, in part: “WHEREAS, 163,000 Coloradans are employed in space-related jobs, generating approximately $3.2 billion in annual payroll.”

HB 15-1204: “DISTILLERY PUBS”

Sponsor: Sen. Andy Kerr, D-Lakewood

Senate second reading hearing: Tuesday, March 24 at 9:00 a.m. in Senate Chamber

The bill establishes a distillery pub license with rules like a winery or brew pub license.  The distillery must sell other alcohols and food, as well as have a state and local liquor license.

SJR 15-020: “WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH”

Sponsors: Sen. Nancy Todd, D-Aurora; Sen. Ellen Roberts, R-Durango

Wednesday, March 25 at 9:00 a.m. in the Senate Chamber

The resolution designates March Colorado Women’s History Month to coincide with National Women’s History Month.  It reads, in part: “WHEREAS, In 1893, Colorado was the first state to give women the right to vote through popular vote, and a year later Colorado was the first state to elect women to the state legislature.”

SB 15-205: “VETERANS’ FIRE CORPS”

Sponsors: Sen. Leroy Garcia, D-Pueblo; Sen. Ellen Roberts, R-Durango

Senate Judiciary Committee: Monday, March 23 at 1:30 p.m. in Senate Committee Room 352

The bill promotes the Veterans’ Fire Corps in the Division of Fire Prevention and Control.  It trains post-9/11 veterans in natural resource management and wildland fire control.

HB 15-1104: “OUT-OF-POCKET EDUCATOR EXPENSES”

Sponsor: Sen. Mike Johnston, D-Denver

Senate Finance Committee: Tuesday, March 24 at 2:00 p.m. in Senate Committee Room 354

The bill establishes the Colorado educator expense tax deduction for tax years 2016-2018.  It allows educators to deduct unreimbursed school supplies.

SB 15-200: “PRIVATE STUDENT LOAN DISCLOSURE REQUIREMENTS”

Sponsor: Sen. Andy Kerr, D-Lakewood

Senate Education Committee: Wednesday, March 25 upon adjournment of the Senate in Senate Committee Room 356

The bill requires student loan lenders be transparent and disclose information like possible adjustments to the interest rate and an estimate of what the total repayment will be, among other disclosures.  It also ensures that lenders do not have unfair agreements with schools.

HB 15-1142: “MODERNIZING FORECLOSURE SALES” 

Sponsor: Sen. Lucia Guzman, D-Denver

Senate Business, Labor, and Technology Committee: Wednesday, March 25 at 1:30 p.m. in Senate Committee Room 354

The bill allows public trustees to do foreclosure sales on the Internet.

HB 15-1183: “CHILDREN’S STATEMENTS OF ATTEMPTED SEX CRIMES” 

Sponsor: Sen. Lucia Guzman, D-Denver

Senate Judiciary Committee: Wednesday, March 25 at 1:30 p.m. in Senate Committee Room 356

The bill allows children who survive or witness an attempted sexual offense to give a statement outside of the courtroom.

HB 15-1221: “PARENTAL INVOLVEMENT IN EDUCATION”

Sponsor: Sen. Andy Kerr, D-Lakewood

Senate State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee: Wednesday, March 25 at 1:30 p.m. in Senate Committee Room 353

The bill extends and expands the Parental Involvement in K-12 Education Act of 2009.  It allows workers to take unpaid leave for parent-teacher conference and other school activities.