BY FREDA MIKLIN – GOVERNMENTAL REPORTER
In a town hall meeting on April 17, U.S. Rep. Jason Crow and area state Reps. Meg Froelich and Tom Sullivan provided an update on current legislation in Washington D.C. and at the general assembly.
Crow said the most important federal bill pending is H.R. 1, which expands voter registration and voting access, while limiting the removal of voters from voting rolls. It also requires states to establish independent redistricting commissions for congressional redistricting to prevent gerrymandering. The bill increases election security and requires candidates for president and vice-president to disclose ten years of tax returns. Most of the provisions of the proposed law that apply to states are already followed in Colorado.
On the subject of federal legislation to address gun violence, Crow said, “At the end of the day, don’t buy into the argument that it’s the Second Amendment or nothing.” He added that the U.S. House had passed gun control legislation that is awaiting action in the U.S. Senate.
On the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan (ARP), Crow said it was keeping businesses afloat and vaccinations coming. “Along with an extension of the PPP (Paycheck Protection Program), it (the ARP) is providing money to our schools so they can reopen safely and parents can go back to work. It also extended and expanded the Child Tax Credit, which will help families who are trying to get out of poverty,” he added.
About the proposed American Jobs Plan (also known as the infrastructure bill), Crow said that the modern American economy was built by the investments made by the federal government after World War II and it is now time to make the investments to catch up to other countries. He added, “It doesn’t help people when 84% of the benefits in the 2017 tax cut bill went to the top one percent and corporations. What helps is investing in people, through education and job training and infrastructure.”
In response to a question about how the American Jobs Plan will address climate change goals, Crow said, “We can’t move energy from where the wind is blowing and where the sun is shining without sufficient infrastructure. It takes a long time to build it, so we have to get this infrastructure going so we can move toward clean, renewable energy.”
State Rep. Tom Sullivan, whose son was killed in the Aurora theater massacre in 2012, told listeners that he had passed a bill in the general assembly for safe storage of guns (HB21-1106) and another to require reporting lost and stolen firearms (SB21-078). He said that another bill has passed bill out of committee (HB21-1255) to enforce the requirement that individuals convicted of domestic violence should not have firearms. It has not been approved yet by either the full state House or Senate.
HD3 Rep. Meg Froelich said she passed a bill to require equal access to services for foster youth and foster parents (HB21-1072) that Governor Polis will sign on April 19. She said she is also working on a bill that will address interactions between disabled people and police (HB21-1122). Froelich said, “There are five cities in my district and some discussions are very different in each of them, but most agree that criminal justice reform and social justice are important. Part of that is addressing mass incarceration, which is being addressed by SB21-162 (presently under consideration in the general assembly).” She added, “We want better outcomes, increased safety for our police officers and our citizens. I think criminal justice reform is an important pillar for social justice. I am disappointed that SB21-182 was withdrawn because we know that students with (disabilities) are more likely to get suspended or written a ticket than other students and that bill sought to track that information.”
Froelich also talked about SB20-217, the Enhance Law Enforcement Integrity Act. She said, “We have a cleanup (HB21-1250) of our police accountability bill to include our state patrol and clarify other things, including our Greenwood Village challenge in which they gave blanket immunity to their police officers.”
Both Froelich and Sullivan indicated that the general assembly might pause its statutory 120-day session to reserve time to reconvene to distribute federal funds when they arrive in Colorado. Sullivan advised listeners to “check with Senators Hickenlooper and Bennett and Rep. Crow” to make sure this money gets to us soon. Froelich pointed out that, in addition to money that comes to the state for distribution, “There will be funds going directly to cities, counties, and school districts.” She added, “The total amount coming to Colorado exceeds our annual budget. The input as to how it should be spent has been bipartisan and statewide. The governor has collected a ton of input from across the state, but the buckets are big and these are one-time dollars. Our Democratic caucus values putting this money to work for the people of Colorado. We can get an indication of what we should spend money on by what we spent previous federal money on, including housing, mental health, green energy, jobs, small businesses, and access to health care,” plus charging stations for electric vehicles.