2019 Legislative Highlights

The eight members of the Colorado Black Democratic Legislative Caucus (BDLC) proudly serve in the Colorado General Assembly, representing not only their districts but communities of color all across the state. Our priorities for the 2019 legislative session included: Criminal Justice Reform, Education, Protecting the Vulnerable, Economy, Environment, Health Care, and Housing. We work to ensure that Colorado’s black community is represented in all issues at the Capitol. The legislative highlights below are just a few of the many bills the BDLC championed in 2019:

 

Criminal Justice Reform

Generational and systemic biases in our justice system have disproportionately harmed the black community, resulting in higher rates of arrest, incarceration and poverty. The Black Caucus is focused on dismantling the roots of this problem, including the criminalization of poverty, disinvestment in public education, and discriminatory and aggressive policing.

 

No Monetary Bail For Certain Low-level Offenses (Rep. Herod)- Eliminates cash bail for a traffic offense or petty offense, including trespassing, having an open container, and theft of less than $50 worth of goods. With this bill, 13,000 people per year won’t languish in jail pre-trial because they can’t afford to get out. (HB19-1225)

http://leg.colorado.gov/bills/hb19-1225

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Peace Officer Internal Investigation Open Records (Rep. Coleman) – This bill makes an internal investigation file of a peace officer for conduct that involves a member of the public subject to an open records request. The file becomes open for inspection after all the charges are dismissed or the defendant is sentenced. (HB19-1119)

http://leg.colorado.gov/bills/hb19-1119

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Offense Level For Controlled Substance Possession (Rep. Herod) – Changes drug possession from a felony to a misdemeanor for most drugs, if the amount is less than 4 grams, eliminating the possibility of prison time for most drug possession and diverting more people to addiction treatment. (HB 19-1263)

http://leg.colorado.gov/bills/hb19-1263

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Limits On Job Applicant Criminal History Inquiries “Ban The Box” (Rep. Melton & Rep. Herod)- Prohibits employers from asking about a candidate’s criminal record during the initial application or saying that someone with a criminal record may not apply for a job on advertisements or the application itself. This bill will help thousands of Coloradans find stable employment, the most important factor in decreasing recidivism. (HB 19-1025)

http://leg.colorado.gov/bills/hb19-1025

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Education

Our kids deserve a high-quality public education that gives every child an equal opportunity to learn and grow, addresses the challenges faced by vulnerable and underserved populations, and encourages and incentivizes attaining higher education. In 2019, the Black Caucus passed important education legislation including:

 

Child College Savings Accounts (Rep. Herod) – Gives $100 to every child born or adopted in Colorado beginning in 2020, with the opening of a college kickstarter account. Even small amounts of college savings have proven to vastly increase a child’s chances of attending and graduating from college. (HB19-1280)

http://leg.colorado.gov/bills/hb19-1280

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State Funded Full-Day Kindergarten (Sen. Fields) – Provides funding for universal, free, full-day kindergarten, increasing instructional time, allowing parents to return to work, and save money on childcare. (HB 19-1262)

http://leg.colorado.gov/bills/hb19-1262

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Increase Student Aid Application Rates “FAFSA Bill” (Rep. Coleman) – Colorado saw billions of dollars go unclaimed in past years as many college students did not apply for FAFSA. This bill provides an extra $250,000 per year to train and support school counselors to increase FAFSA completion rates. (HB19-1187)

http://leg.colorado.gov/bills/hb19-1187

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“John W. Buckner” Automatic Enrollment In Advanced Course Grant Program (Rep. Buckner) – Finishing the work the late John W. Buckner started, this bill automatically enrolls students in advanced coursework if they have demonstrated proficiency in statewide assessments. This inclusive process ensures that all students, especially disadvantaged minorities and low-income students, have the opportunity to advance their education at the same rate as their peers. (SB19-059)

http://leg.colorado.gov/bills/sb19-059

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Ninth Grade Success Grant Program (Rep. Exum) – Establishes the ninth grade success grant program to provide money for school districts, local education providers, and charter schools to implement a success program to assist ninth-grade students in developing the skills they need to graduate from high school and be successful post-graduation. (HB19-1276)

http://leg.colorado.gov/bills/hb19-1276

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Protecting The Vulnerable

The Black Caucus stands up for vulnerable populations across race, gender, income, and family status. In 2019, the Black Caucus passed targeted bills including:

 

Protections For Minor Human Trafficking Victims (Sen Fields) – Protects minors forced into human trafficking by giving them immunity for certain crimes if they were forced or coerced into engaging in the criminal acts. (SB 19-185).

http://leg.colorado.gov/bills/sb19-185

H-Fields, Rhonda

Foster Youth Bill of Rights (Sen. Fields) – Establishes the rights of siblings in foster care to be placed in homes with their siblings, or near the homes of their siblings if group placement is unavailable. (HB19-1288)

http://leg.colorado.gov/bills/hb19-1288

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Child Care Expenses Tax Credit Low-income Families (Rep. Exum) – Allows those who have a federal adjusted gross income of $25,000 or less to claim up to a $1,000 refundable state income tax credit for childcare expenses for the care of a child who is less than 13 years old. (HB19-1013)

http://leg.colorado.gov/bills/hb19-1013

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Economy

The Black Caucus works to address the economic disparities that have plagued our communities for generations and to create opportunities that lift all Americans out of poverty and into the middle class and beyond. The black caucus supports policies that strengthen protections for workers and expand Black entrepreneurship and business development. Investing in economic development benefits entrepreneurs and workers alike, as well as the communities in which they work.

 

Employee Support Services Bill (Rep. Coleman & Sen. Fields)– Creates a program to finance emergency support up to $400 a year. In order to be eligible, an individual must be 16+ years of age, be eligible to work in the U.S., have a household income at/below the federal poverty line, and be unemployed and actively involved in employment prep, job training, or employment pursuit. (HB19-1107)

http://leg.colorado.gov/bills/hb19-1107

 

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Equal Pay For Equal Work Act (Rep. Buckner) – Addresses the pay gap between women and men by allowing employees to challenge pay discrepancies in certain circumstances. (SB19-085)

http://leg.colorado.gov/bills/sb19-085

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Legalizing Minors’ Businesses “Lemonade Stand” Bill (Rep. Coleman & Sen. Williams) – Allows minors to explore their entrepreneurial interests by removing the red tape to legally run a small, occasional business. (SB19-103)

http://leg.colorado.gov/bills/sb19-103

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State Procurement Disparity Study (Sen. Williams & Rep. Buckner) – Creates a study to research and ascertain whether disparities exist between the participation of historically underutilized businesses and other businesses in the state procurement system. (SB19-135)

http://leg.colorado.gov/bills/sb19-135

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Local Government Minimum Wage (Rep. Melton) – Empowers local governments to raise the minimum wage higher than the state’s minimum wage, allowing them to adapt to the economic needs of their citizens in an ever-changing economic climate. (HB19-1210)

http://leg.colorado.gov/bills/hb19-1210

Jovan Melton Official Photo 2015


Environment

Communities of color are disproportionately harmed by climate change, pollution and other environmental degradation, which predisposes those who live in these communities to health issues such as asthma, cancer, and learning disabilities. The Black Caucus works to address climate change and mitigate environmental issues by focusing on carbon emissions, water quality, and air pollution.

 

Protect Public Health Firefighter Safety Regulation PFAS Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (Rep. Exum) – Prohibits the use of class B firefighting foams that contain intentionally added water contaminants – perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS foam) – for training purposes, and creates a civil penalty for doing so. Practice firefighter foams have been contaminating the water, particularly in El Paso County recently. The resulting water contamination leads to both short-term and long-term sickness in the community. (HB19-1279)

http://leg.colorado.gov/bills/hb19-1279

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Climate Action Plan To Reduce Pollution (Rep. Jackson) – Creates statewide goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from 2005 levels: A 26% reduction by 2025, a 50% reduction by 2030, and a 90% reduction by 2050. This bill will allow Colorado to do its part to address climate change, which disproportionately impacts communities of color. (HB19-1261)

http://leg.colorado.gov/bills/hb19-1261

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Electric Motor Vehicle Charging Station Parking (Rep. Melton) – Prohibits a non-electric vehicle from parking in an electric vehicle charging parking spot and prohibits an electric vehicle from parking there if it is not charging. (HB19-1298)

http://leg.colorado.gov/bills/hb19-1298

Jovan Melton Official Photo 2015


Health Care

The Black Caucus works to improve the health, healthcare, and wellbeing of all Coloradans, including low-income people and people of color. The Black Caucus advocates for research and outreach efforts that combat health disparities and help equip Coloradans with the information they need to live healthier lives. The Black Caucus also supports increased diversity in the healthcare workforce.

 

Colorado Department Of Public Health And Environment Maternal Mortality Review Committee (Rep. Buckner & Sen. Fields) – In Colorado, maternal mortality has doubled over the last five years, with black women and women in rural areas making up a disproportionate percentage of the increase. Nearly 80 percent of these deaths are considered preventable. This bill will establish a review committee to better understand avoidable maternal deaths. The committee will also make policy recommendations for the health and safety of women and their families. (HB19-1122)

http://leg.colorado.gov/bills/hb19-1122

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Family Medical Leave Insurance Program “FAMLI Act” (Sen. Williams) – Moves Colorado toward a paid family and medical leave program by studying the implementation of such a program and creating a task force to recommend a plan to implement the policy. (SB19-188)

http://leg.colorado.gov/bills/sb19-188

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Housing

As Colorado’s population continues to increase, especially in urban areas, housing has become a dire concern for many people unable to afford living in the communities they grew up in, unable to find alternative housing nearby, and for many, unable to find any affordable housing at all. The Black Caucus has worked to make housing safer, more secure, and more affordable for Coloradans, by passing legislation including:

 

Time Period To Cure Lease Violation (Rep. Jackson & Sen. Williams) – Three-day notices to pay or face eviction are putting families out on the street as soon as they hit a financial pothole. This bill extends the time period to cure a lease violations to up to 10 days, giving renters enough time to come up with the necessary money to pay their landlords and temporarily overcome financial issues stemming from healthcare, education, and employment. (HB19-1118)

http://leg.colorado.gov/bills/hb19-1118

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Residential Tenants Health & Safety Act (Rep. Jackson & Sen. Williams) – Strengthens and revises protections for tenants when the unit they are renting does not meet the standards agreed upon with the landlord, holding the landlord accountable for providing a habitable space for tenants. (HB19-1170)

http://leg.colorado.gov/bills/hb19-1170

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