On June 8, a month later than usual, the Colorado House and Senate each adjourned their 2021 legislative sessions sine die (without plans to reconvene). Even with a special break for COVID vaccinations and a shorter-than-usual session, 675 bills were introduced; at the time of adjournment, Governor Polis had already signed 234 of those that passed both chambers.
The JCRC actively supported the passage of four bills and signed onto the coalitions supporting six others. All 10 passed and are set to be signed into law by Governor Polis. (An asterisk below indicates that the JCRC actively supported the bill):
*HB21-1150: Create the Office of New Americans creates a new Office of New Americans in the Department of Labor and Employment. The new Office will convene a process to determine where the Colorado Refugee Services Program should be housed. The Office will also implement a statewide strategy to facilitate economic stability of new Americans. Governor Polis signed the bill on June 25.
HB21-1194: Immigration Legal Defense Fund creates an Immigration Legal Defense Fund within the Department of Labor and Employment. The Department will use the fund to provide grants to nonprofits that provide legal representation for indigent clients in an immigration proceeding. Governor Polis signed the bill on June 25.
*SB21-077: Remove Lawful Presence Verification eliminates a requirement that a state agency verify an individuals lawful presence prior to issuing a professional license. It also clarifies that lawful presence is not a requirement for any state issued license, certificate or registration. Governor Polis signed the bill on May 27.
SB21-131: Protect Personal Identifying Information prohibits state agencies from sharing personally identifiable information with law enforcement or any other government agencies if the information is solely to be used for the purpose of assisting in immigration enforcement. The bill was introduced in the 2021 session after it was discovered that the Division of Motor Vehicles in the Department of Revenue had shared information of undocumented immigrants with the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement to help identify individuals without warrants. Governor Polis signed the bill on June 25.
SB21-199: Remove Barriers to Certain Public Opportunities repeals a broad prohibition of providing state and local public benefits to individuals not lawfully present. It also clarifies that verification of lawful presence is not required when lawful presence is not explicitly required by law or rule with regard to federal stimulus. Governor Polis signed the bill on June 25.
AMERICAN INDIAN ISSUES
*SB21-116: Prohibiting American Indian Mascots prohibits the use of American Indian mascots by public K-12 schools and higher education institutions. Leaders from the American Indian community asked the JCRC to support the bill, and the JCRC chose to since the Jewish community has also dealt with hateful, stereotypical depictions. Governor Polis signed the bill on June 28.
HB21-1258: Rapid Mental Health Response for Colorado Youth, one component of the state stimulus package, creates a temporary Youth Mental Health Services Program to provide free mental health screenings for youth and up to three sessions with a mental health provider. It included $9 million for the temporary program which ends in 2022. The JCRC moved to support the bill after hearing about some of the effects the pandemic has had on youth during the Speakers Series event focused on education.
SB21-027: Emergency Supplies for Colorado Babies and Families requires the Department of Human Services to provide diapers, wipes, and diapering essentials to eligible individuals. The bill has $2 million for these purposes, and the Department will contract with distribution centers to distribute the items. The JCRC pursued the bill at the suggestion of our partners at Jewish Family Service of Colorado, which has seen a massive increase in demand for such supplies at its food pantry.
EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION
*HB21-1304: Early Childhood System creates a stand-alone state agency dedicated to early childhood programs. Currently, early childhood programs are spread among multiple state agencies, including the Department of Education, the Department of Human Services, the Department of Public Health and Environment, and the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing. The bill also sets up the framework for creating a universal preschool program in Colorado. The JCRC chose to support the bill’s passage after hearing the benefits that early childhood education centers in the Jewish community anticipated from this new state agency. Governor Polis signed the bill on June 23.
POST-HIGH SCHOOL CAREERS
SB21-106: Concerning Successful High School Transitions creates a new pilot program in the Department of Higher Education to provide state funding for low-income students who graduate early from high school to use for postsecondary education. This program came up in discussions with leaders from the Black community, including one of the bill’s co-prime sponsors, Senator James Coleman (SD-33), who participated in the 2017 Colorado Public Officials Mission to Israel.