The legislative session began January 13, 2021, as originally scheduled but convened for only three days in order to swear in newly elected legislators and pass a handful of COVID related legislation before recessing until February 16, 2021. The General Assembly reconvened as planned on February 16, 2021. Within the first 24 hours, over 200 new bills were introduced, including a backlog of bills which were sidelined during the truncated 2020 session. That backlog has not stopped legislators from introducing new priorities, which means we are looking at a jam-packed session that will likely occur in a shortened time frame.
Participation this year can occur in a variety of ways. Members of the General Assembly, staff, press, and the public may attend the session in person; however, those who are not members are strongly encouraged to participate remotely whenever feasible. Remote participation is authorized via WebEx or written testimony. All sessions and committees can be viewed or heard online. If you are interested in participating and need assistance doing so or if you have any questions or comments about legislation, please feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org.
As mentioned, the session has restarted with a bang. Here are some bill highlights: (Please note that the session moves quickly, so the status of these bills may have changed by the time OCR’s Spring Newsletter is published).
HB21-1060 – U Visa Certification Requirement: This bill will standardize the process for victims of qualifying crimes to get necessary documents and findings to apply for a U-VISA. It was amended and passed by the House Judiciary Committee 8-3 and referred to the Committee of the Whole.
HB21-1064 – Update Processes Juvenile Sex Offender Registry: This repeat bill from the 2020 session implements various recommendations of the legislative oversight committee concerning the treatment of persons with mental health disorders in the criminal and juvenile justice systems regarding juveniles who have committed sex offenses. It was passed by the House Judiciary Committee 11-0 and will now move to appropriations.
HB21-1072 – Equal Access to Out of Home Placements: This new bill aims to prevent discrimination in placement and services for families and youth on the basis of the real or perceived disability, race, creed, religion, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, marital status, national origin, ancestry, or any communicable disease, including HIV. It passed the House Public and Behavioral Health and Human Services Committee 7-4 and was referred to the Committee of the Whole.
HB21-1084 – Driver’s Licenses for Foster Children: This repeat bill from the 2020 session provides driver’s education for youth in foster care. It passed the House Transportation and Local Government Committee unanimously and was referred to the House Finance Committee.
HB21-1094 – Foster Youth in Transition Program: This bill has been in the works for several years and was finally introduced this year. It will allow youth to re-enter the system after reaching the age of 18 when needed. Additionally, it will change how a case is handled once a youth reaches the age of 18 including having a GAL transition to client directed representation. It is scheduled for its first hearing on March 16, 2021, in the House Public and Behavioral Health and Human Services Committee.
HB21-1101 – Preserving Family Relationships in Child Placement: This new bill introduced by the ORPC addresses visitation and allows for open adoption. It has been assigned to House Judiciary Committee. A hearing date has not been set.
HB21-1151 – Indian Tribes to Certify Own Foster Homes: This new self-explanatory bill has been assigned to the House Public and Behavioral Health and Human Services Committee. A hearing date has not been set.
SB21-059 – Juvenile Justice Code Reorganization: This newly introduced bill encompasses years of work to reorganize Article 2 of Title 19. It will be heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 16, 2021.
SB21-071 – Limit the Detention of Juveniles: This bill will reduce the bed cap and remove cash bail for juveniles in detention. It will be heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 11, 2021.