Week 16: The Final Countdown
What's the hap at the cap? Legislative updates from April 13 - April 27
By Susan Baughman, Policy and Research Intern
April 27, 2017
With only 2 weeks left in the Colorado session, legislators are frantically working to pass their bills.
The ongoing sexting battle is finally coming to a head. House Bill 17-1064, “Misuse of Electronic Images by a Juvenile,” the bill that would have criminalized all sexting behavior (both consensual and non-consensual), was postponed indefinitely by the House on April 20th. The opposing bill, House Bill 1302, “Juvenile Sexting Crime,” was recently amended in order to come to a compromise with the sponsors of HB 1064. Under the revised version of House Bill 1302, consensual sexting will now be a civil infraction rather than a felony offense, and non-consensual sexting will still be punishable as a felony. This is a huge step in the right direction, as consensual behavior between minors will no longer be treated as a felony, and minors who engage in consensual sexting will no longer have to worry about being put on the sex offender registry for consensual behavior. House Bill 1302 passed in the House yesterday and will now get heard in the Senate.
Although the session is coming to an end, a few more pieces of legislation were introduced in these last couple weeks that, if passed, would have great effects on the state of youth health in Colorado. Senate Resolution 17-001, “Reduce Age Qualification For General Assembly,” was introduced on April 12th, and got an initial approval from the Senate on Monday. It will now move on to the House. This resolution, sponsored by Senator Vicki Marble [R-Broomfield, Larimer, Weld], Senator Michael Merrifield [D- El Paso], and Representative Jovan Melton [D- Arapahoe], would ask voters if 21-year-olds should be able to serve in the state Legislature. Current law mandates that one must be 25 years old to serve in the State or the House.
CYM is a huge supporter of encouraging youth to be more involved in the legislative process, and proponents of this resolution argue that it will do just that. If passed, not only would this resolution increase youth engagement in the political process, but we could potentially have a more fair and just representation. If more young people are able to fill seats in the House and Senate they could directly impact and vote on issues related to youth, including sexual health.
This bill faces a big challenge, as it aims to amend the state’s constitution, meaning that the resolution would have to get more than a simple majority to even make it to the governor’s desk. If you agree with lowering the age requirement, please express support to your representative! We are hoping this resolution passes in the House.
The other important bill introduced was House Bill 17-1307, “Family and Medical Leave Insurance Program Wage Replacement.” This bill, sponsored by Representative Faith Winter [D-Adams], would create a family and medical leave insurance program to provide a partial wage-replacement to eligible individuals who take time off work to care for a new child or family member with serious health conditions. CYM believes that paid parental leave is important and not only benefits parents but the child as well. Studies have shown that when parents get time off of work for a new child, there is a better likelihood the infant will get more routine doctor visits and vaccinations, which translates to better health later in life. Benefits of paid parental leave are seen in mothers’ health as well. One study found that women who had paid time off were less likely to report issues with depression. Research also shows that there is a huge economic benefit for the family, as women are more likely to stay with the same job which means their wages grow at a faster rate. Together, these benefits for both the parents and the child improve health and living conditions for youth. If this bill passes, there is no doubt that Colorado children will benefit.
Here are quick updates from the other bills we have been tracking:
- Senate Bill 17-250, “Student Exemption From Immunization Requirements,” a bill that would make it even easier for youth to be exempt from required immunizations, lost the Senate second reading on the floor.
- Senate Bill 17-061, “Additional Funding Charter School Operating Costs,” which will require school districts to increase funding for charter schools, passed the third reading in the Senate and will now go to the House. A hearing date has not yet been set.
- House Bill 1127, “Exempt Feminine Hygiene Products From Sales Tax,” has no updates, as no hearing date has yet been set. This bill would make menstrual products less financially burdensome.
Remember the Colorado legislative session ends on May 10th. If you feel strongly about any of these bills, or just want your voice heard, contact your representative by May 10th!