Legislative Update: Summer 2021

The First Regular Session of the 73rd General Assembly began on January 13, 2021, adjourned three days later, started again on February 16, 2021, and wrapped up on June 8, 2021. The OCR monitored over 70 bills this session, provided testimony on ten bills, and participated in numerous stakeholder meetings for a variety of bills. This legislative session, like all things during a pandemic, was filled with surprises, new procedures, and a lot of remote video conferencing. Special thanks to this year’s incredible OCR Legislative Committee: Elizabeth Martinez, Megan Curtiss, Josi McCauley, Laura Locke, Beth Padilla, Erin Clifft, Brittany Radic, Jim Plumhoff, and Jennifer Zamarippa. Your time and insight were incredibly valuable!

During (or around the time of) the fall conference, the OCR will do the annual caselaw and legislative update. In the meantime, a few key pieces of legislation follow.

HB21-1084: Driver’s Licenses for Foster Youth: Effective September 6, 2021 – requires the state department of human services to reimburse the counties for costs paid by counties to public or private driving schools for instruction provided to young people aged 15-21 who were in the custody of the department. This bill also clarifies that counties do not have liability for foster youth who drive. These provisions should help GAL your advocacy in getting youth their permits, driving instruction and driver’s licenses.

HB21-1094: Foster Youth Transition Program: Effective upon the signature of Governor Polis – will change how transition-age youth move through the system and allow for young people aged 18 and older to re-enter the system until they reach the maximum age permitted by federal law. These changes will ensure that the system is more developmentally appropriate for young adults, provide more autonomy for young adults, and provide a safety net to young adults. Shortly after the bill is signed, the OCR will host a townhall on the program. As this program is implemented, the OCR will provide resources, training, guidance. Some important points to know now include the following.
• On the day a young person turns 18, the GAL role will change from a best-interests model of representation to a client-directed model of representation. The one exception is where a young person requires ongoing GAL services after they turn 18 due to diminished capacity; the GAL will remain a GAL and new counsel will be appointed as a client-directed attorney. The bill explains that young people get to decide if they want to continue with their current GAL as counsel or have a new attorney appointed. The bill also provides that GALs do not have to continue as counsel if they are no longer available or if there is a conflict.
• A transition hearing must be held within 35 days after a young person’s 18 birthday. During that hearing, the young person may opt-in to the transition program or choose to emancipate.
• A personalized emancipation transition plan is required for all young people. Such plan must be finalized no more than 90 days before the emancipation discharge hearing. Young people must be advised of their right to begin receiving services again through the transition program at a later date.
• The bill outlines a method to re-enter with a petition, deadlines, etc.
• The bill allows for the OCR to assign counsel to youth eligible for the transition program prior to a petition being filed.
The second part of the bill establishes a grant program to expand Chafee services.

HB21-1101 – Preserving Familial Connections: Sections 1-4 effective September 1, 2021, and remaining sections effective upon the signature of Governor Polis – originated from the ORPC and has two parts. The part addresses visitation. The bill requires courts to enter temporary orders for reasonable visitation between children and parents, as consistent with the child’s age and developmental needs, and if in the best interests of the child. Courts must order contact between children and parents within 72 hours of a temporary custody hearing unless a delay is in the best interests of the child; such contact can be via telephone, virtual, or in-person. Parents granted visitation are entitled to a hearing prior to an ongoing reduction in, suspension of, or increase in the level of supervision. Exceptions are outlined in the bill. The bill also establishes a taskforce to consider establishing a clearer and more consistent visitation practice. The second part of the bill established procedures to allow for open adoption.

SB21-059 – Juvenile Justice Code Reorganization: Effective May 13, 2021 – this 300-page bill re-organized Article 2 to better follow the flow of a case.

SB21-071 – Measures to Limit the Detention of Juveniles: Effective upon the signature of Governor Polis – eliminates cash bond for juveniles, has some time limits, and changes the juvenile bed cap to 215. This bill also creates a working group to establish a mechanism to loan detention beds to other judicial districts and criteria for detention and commitment of juvenile offenders.