Eye on the Legislature

April 9, 2018

Sadly, the charges of sexual harassment down under the gold dome continues, and it is indeed sad that innuendo has replaced the guilty as charged or not guilty idea seems to have gone out the window. The even sadder commentary on this is the despicable, in this writer’s opinion, waste of tax dollars spent on such created by legislators who are elected to pass legislation affecting every Coloradan. Is there no sense of moral responsibility to voters by those committing sexual harassment?

House Bill 18-1319:  Legislators are finally taking note of the foster care system’s need to help youth between the ages of 18 and 21 years of age. The legislative declaration of the General Assembly provides this picture of the youth in that age range:

  • each year, more than 300 youth, ages 18 to 21 leave Colorado’s foster are system without a permanent home or a stable support network, without the same safety, supportive adults as other youth their age;
  • such youth must find affordable housing, pursue higher education or training, employment, manage tight budgets and take care of health needs – all services and supports available while they are in the foster care system, but these disappear when the exist the system;
  • many youth are still dealing with the long-term consequences of trauma related the abuse, neglect, removal and overall lack of resources that they may have experienced;
  • other states have have developed creative approaches to address the needs of these youth, and Colorado can start addressing the needs of youth by allowing counties to use existing child welfare money to provide continued supportive services for youth who exit the foster care system ; and

   Acknowledgment is made in the legislative declaration that “Although existing child welfare money may enable the state to provide services to some youth, it is insufficient to address all the need, nor is it available consistently across the state.”

Provisions in HB 1319 allows county department of human or social services to provide services to foster youth who have aged out of the foster care system if the county department develops a plan for the services. Services for former foster youth includes assistance with:

  • education;
  • employment’
  • financial management;
  • housing;
  • mental health care; and
  • substance abuse prevention.

   HB 1319 also creates the Former Foster Care Youth Steering Committee established in the state Department of Human Services (DHS), which hopefully means with the specificity the title identifies, the foster youth will not get lost in the overall DHS.

Sponsors of House Bill 18-1319:   Representatives Jonathan Singer (D-Boulder) 866-2780 and Dave Young (D-Weld) 866-2929. No sponsor as yet in the Senate.

House Bill 1306:  An additional bill supporting foster care youth, HB 1306 recognizes that there are students in foster care and other highly mobile student populations should be given the opportunity to achieve educational success, HB 1306 includes a legislative declaration that implementing a policy that ensures flexibility and cooperation between the education system, child welfare system and families and students is necessary. These statistics from the declaration:

  • Half of Colorado students in foster care change schools at least once, and often several times each year;
  • Multiple school transitions create gaps in a student’s knowledge and create barriers to educational attainment;
  • Improving educational stability is likely to increase the four-year graduation rate;
  • A University of northern Colorado study found that when a student has three or more moves during high school, the odds of the student existing without a credential are greater than the odds of graduating; and
  • It is imperative to remove barriers to the educational success of students in foster care due to frequent moves and lack of continuity in education.

     HB 1306 is yet to receive its fiscal impact analysis and its first committee hearing. The bill provides for a number of amendments to the Colorado Revised Statutes such as providing for a foster care education coordinator, a child welfare education liaison for all school districts, transportation and services for a student in out-of-home placement to remain in the student’s school of origin, and counseling for improving access to post-secondary options. 

Sponsors of House Bill 18-1306: Representative Michaelson Jenet (D-Adams) 866-2945. No sponsor in the Senate as yet.

House Bill 18-1273:  Titled “Protection for Colorado Residents From Federal Government Overreach Based on a Person’s Status,” is one with a misleading title, in the opinion of this writer. Here is the basis for the legislation, according to the legislative declaration:

  • Colorado has been a beacon of hope against inhumane practices;
  • the Colorado General Assembly is aware that history often repeats itself;
  • History has demonstrated that the demonization of communities leading to internment camps and the deprivation of human rights, constitutional rights, and civil rights is often rooted in the overreach of federal policies;
  • the Colorado General Assembly rejects any federal attempts to demonize Colorado communities;
  • rejects any attempts to detain or intern Coloradans because of their race, ethnicity, national origin, immigration status, sexual orientation, gender identity or religious affiliation; and
  • rejects any attempts to access data or information about Coloradans for illegal or unconstitutional purposes.

      The fiscal impact analysis summarizes HB 1273 as requiring “the state and its political subdivisions (local governments, schools, statutory public entities and special districts) to determine whether a request from a federal government agency is for a legal and constitutional purpose prior to disclosing certain information about a Colorado resident.”

Inherent characteristics are defined in the bill as a person’s race, ethnicity, national origin, immigration status, sexual orientation, gender identity or religious affiliation. The state or political subdivision of the state must determine that the request is for a legal and constitutional purpose before providing an inherent characteristic. Readers should take note of the “immigration status” term. No doubt this one will be a volatile and controversial debate.

Sponsors of House Bill 18-1273:  Representatives Joseph A. Salazar (D-Adams) 866-2918 and Daneya Esgar (D-Pueblo) 866-2968. No sponsor as yet in the Senate.

Senate Bill 18-190: Titled “The Ability of the Boards of County Commissioners to Delegate Certain Land Use Determinations,” this one is grossly misnamed and a really bad idea. A better name would be handing the ability to change the character of a county over to one person.

The fiscal impact analysis explains the bill as “authorizes a board of county commissioners to delegate by resolution any planning powers it has to the county planning commission, except for creating fines and penalties. The right to appeal a planning decision to the board of county commissioners must be retained.”

As background, the analysis states, “County planning commissions review and decide on planning and zoning matters within the county, such as rezoning requests, land use code rules and regulations, land use amendments, and planning design standards.”

As example of why this one is such a bad idea, look at small Gilpin County. The Board of County Commissioners allowed the department head for the Planning Commission far too much leeway and the county, which has as its main transportation route, umpteen sites for village centers up and down the highway (State Highway 119), also known as the Peak-to-Peak Scenic Byway.  The county has a population of some 5,000, but only about 3,000 full time residents.

Unfortunately, when counties hire people such as a person from the city to be in charge of such matters in a rural county, the county ends up being turned into a bedroom community of the nearest metropolitan area – Denver in this case, when Commissioners refuse to stand up to such a person. Commissioners should never able able to delegate such matters.

Sponsors of Senate Bill 18-190: Senator Bob Gardner (R-El Paso) 866-4880. No sponsor as yet in the House of Representatives.

The reader's comments or questions are always welcome. E-mail me at doris@dorisbeaver.com.