It is officially the strangest legislative session to date with a global pandemic, a massive change in budget status and a protest movement that roused many to action.
The session ended on June 15, 2020, after a 10-week suspension that began on March 14, 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The session prior to the break was vastly different than the second half which started back up on May 26, 2020. Prior to March, the legislature was primed to pursue an ambitious democratic platform with majorities in both chambers and the governor’s office, as well as a healthy projected budget to finance a variety of new legislation. Protests were aimed at vaccinations and families were camped out in hallways. That outlook changed drastically as the Capitol was closed to the public and the state’s fiscal situation dramatically worsened through the spring. The General Assembly was left with a $3.3 billion dollar shortfall and a constitutional requirement to have a balanced budget prior to the new fiscal year. In addition to cutting the state budget by 25%, legislators had to face the hard facts that there was no money to support much of the legislation that had been proposed. Protests continued outside the building and focused on racial and social justice. The hallways were empty and committees were done remotely. Legislators were coming to terms with the fact that next session will likely face equally difficult fiscal challenges. Despite these dire circumstances, legislators were able to get some good work done.
Incredibly, the legislature came together in the last two weeks of session to introduce, amend, and pass a law enforcement reform bill to increase police accountability with strong bipartisan support. SB20-217 will likely be signed by the governor by the time you read this newsletter!
The OCR is hopeful this will benefit our youth of color so disparately impacted by our criminal and judicial system and that continued reform will follow.
As always, we will provide an in-depth legislative and case law update in the fall. Until then, here are some other important bills that passed this session:
HB0-1360: is the Long Bill (also known as the state budget). It was finalized and passed on June 12, 2020, with no further reductions to the OCR’s budget!
HB20-1026: created a 23rd Judicial District that will include Douglas, Elbert, and Lincoln counties while Arapahoe county will remain in the 18th Judicial District. The new district will begin to operate January 7, 2025.
HB20-1237: ensures children/youth who obtain services under Medicaid through the initiation of a D&N are assigned to the managed care entity in the county in which the D&N initiated.
HB20-1297: clarifies that a child’s immunization status does not alone constitute child abuse or neglect.
SB20-14: includes behavioral health concerns as a valid excused absence from school.
SB20-162: is this year’s FFPSA bill. It updates definitions from last year’s bill and adds some new information and requirements.
Sadly, many bills we were working on this session (such as HB20-1071 which further addressed foster youth and driver’s licenses) died on the calendar as the general assembly was unable to advance them through both chambers within required timeframes or postponed them indefinitely in the committee of reference. Rest assured we will work with bill sponsors to revisit these bills next session!