My third town hall meeting will keep my tradition of working with my colleagues across the aisle and bringing innovative solutions to Colorado regardless of party.
Representative Mark Barker, R – Colorado Springs, and Representative Mark Waller, R -Colorado Springs, will join me on March 19 at 10am at the Valley Hi Golf Course restaurant, 610 South Chelton Road.
The House Judiciary Committee passed the Restorative Justice Bill by a vote of 11-0 last night. The final edition of this bill results from a collaboration with the Colorado District Attorney’s Council, the State Judicial Department which represents Probation and the Judges, representatives from victims groups and many of you who contributed your ideas, insights and recommendations. The bill received bipartisan support in the committee consisting of 6 Republicans and 5 Democrats – or 11 Coloradans.
HB11-1032 gives District Attorneys, Judges and defense lawyers another tool to address offenses by both juveniles and adults, enabling them to deal more effectively with criminal conduct and offenses. By providing opportunities for engagement, accountability and restoration, this bill will reduce recidivism, save costs and provide opportunities for healing for victims and communities. The bill encourages School Boards to use restorative justice practices in schools as a first consideration in addressing misconduct. For the first time in Colorado, it opens the door for restorative justice in prisons when money is available to fund a program there.
We still have work to do to move the bill through the House on second and third reading, then seek passage in the Senate and finally obtain the Governor’s signature. Meanwhile, we need to work with the State RJ Council and the Pikes Peak Restorative Justice Council to develop standards and criteria for facilitators so we can ensure continuing competence and professionalism.
Thank you to all who have worked so hard and contributed so much to advance the cause.
This week I was proud to have the first of my own bills pass the House. HB 11-1203 would extend the scope of the criminal record sealing law to “private custodians” of criminal records. Having a criminal record makes it harder to get a job, rent an apartment or get credit. Once a judge orders a record sealed, private companies that sell that information would now have to seal their records as well. The bill passed the House unanimously, and now moves on to the Senate.
Unfortunately we lost a bill that addressed one of my most important goals – creating jobs in Colorado. I co-sponsored HB 11-1129 with Representative Dan Pabon. The bill would have given certain preferences to Colorado-based, U.S. and veteran-owned businesses when the state government contracts services from private companies and the costs are roughly equal. Colorado tax dollars are funding these projects, so Colorado citizens should be the first to get the jobs that they create. A majority is needed to pass a bill out of committee but the vote was split along party lines, which prevented HB 11-1129 from going on.
The exciting and stimulating, but sometimes frenetic, pace at the Capitol continues.
With daily floor sessions lasting most of the mornings, and meetings of the Local Government or Judiciary committee filling the balance of the mornings and most of the afternoons, there is little time for a break. For example, on Monday the 14th, we heard and voted on 14 bills on the Floor, I met with two Colorado Springs constituents from the local NAACP visiting the capitol for Black Legislative Day, and then heard testimony on three bills in the local government committee from 1:30 until 4:00. After that I attended a reception honoring former State Treasure Cary Kennedy and heard testimonials by Gov. Ritter and Former Speaker Romanoff.
With support from the United Way, we passed a bill making Colorado eligible for funding for reducing the age of eligibility for homeless youth to stay at shelters from age 15 to 11 and extended their temporary time from 14 to 21 days.
Following the lead of the Colorado Association of Police Chiefs, I voted against the so-called Secure Communities Bill. I spoke with El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa and he told me he opposed the bill as written. Although intended as a public safety measure, it punishes local communities by withholding state funds if they don’t have the resources or technology to follow its requirements. There was testimony describing how, in other communities, it was applied to tens of thousands of low level offenders, encouraged racial profiling and undermined community policing by creating distrust and reluctance to report crime. These are not consequences I can support.
After 15 days at the Capitol, I can report that I am energized and enthusiastic – and a little overwhelmed as well. My mission is to build the Colorado we want for our children and grandchildren. We want to maintain the magnificent Colorado environment. We desire a 21st century educational system, health care for all and a society that is just, fair and sustainable. To do all this, we need an economy that supports our families and provides economic opportunity. Those are my priorities: a recovery that creates jobs and gets people back to work. Yet amidst that we face diminished revenue and rising costs for services.
You know me as an optimist who believes no obstacles are insurmountable. To meet our challenges, we need to pull together to find practical solutions. During my campaign I had a consistent bipartisan message, focused on what we can do to promote job creation and move the economy forward. I have focused on that task in the legislature and now I want to report to you, which is why my second Town Hall meeting to be held this Saturday (February 5) will be bipartisan. But for the first time in El Paso County, and consistent with my bipartisan approach, I have invited my fellow Representative Mark Waller, (R) Colorado Springs to join us. We both cordially invite you to a community conversation.