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Senate Unanimously Passes Bill Continuing the Colorado Civil Rights Division
This morning, the Senate unanimously adopted on a final, Third Reading vote of 35-to-0 an amended HB-1256 to reauthorize the Colorado Civil Rights Division and Commission, thus breaking a partisan political logjam in the Chamber. The reauthorization is required under Colorado’s sunset law.
CACI, the Colorado Chamber of Commerce, supported an amendment in the Senate that gained bipartisan support Friday on Second Reading, and it supports the bill in its current form.
The Democrat House leadership, however, opposes the Senate version of the bill, which sets the stage for a conference committee to meet to try to reach a compromise that will pass both chambers. If the conference committee cannot reach a solution, then the Division and the Commission will wind down operations during 2019 and cease to exist.
The bill’s House Sponsors, Speaker Crisanta Duran (D-Denver) and Representative Leslie Herod (D-Denver), who want to reauthorize the Commission and the Division without any changes, issued a statement Friday afternoon:
We have always advocated for a clean reauthorization of the Commission because it is fulfilling its purpose – to ensure that Coloradans’ rights are protected regardless of where they’re from, whom they love or the family they were born into. The changes added in the Senate go too far, reworking the commission dramatically. We cannot support the current changes, and hope that we can find common ground and pass a bill reauthorizing the Civil Rights Division and Commission before the end of session. Coloradans are watching.
Reauthorization of the Division and the Commission under Colorado’s Sunset law has been mired in sharp partisan conflict over religious beliefs and discrimination for months.
Given the trench warfare between the two political parties over the issue that has been going on, the Senate’s accomplishment Friday morning was quite remarkable. The bill subsequently was passed on Second Reading on a unanimous voice vote.
The House passed the bill on a largely partisan vote of 36-to-26 with only two Republicans voting for the measure.
The Senate amendment ensures that the Colorado Civil Rights Division is reauthorized in statute while creating additional protections within the make-up of the Civil Rights Commission and a balanced appointment process of the Commission members.
The amendment creates a nine-member Commission to include:
- Five Commission appointments by the governor, and
- Four Commission appointments by the General Assembly that are of the opposite party affiliation of the governor.
Commission members would include:
- One small business representative with at least 5 employees,
- One business representative with at least 50 employees,
- One business organization representative,
- Two labor organization representatives,
- One local government representative, and
- Three at-large members.
The amendment ensures that five Commission members are within a “protected class.” Finally, the amendment provides for review of the Commission by the Colorado State Auditor.
The Senate sponsor of the bill is Senator Bob Gardner (R-Colorado Springs).
Here’s the legislature’s description of the introduced bill:
Sunset Process – House Judiciary Committee. The bill implements the recommendation of the department of regulatory agencies in its sunset review of the Colorado civil rights division and the Colorado civil rights commission to continue the commission and the division and their respective functions for 9 years, through September 1, 2027.
The bill appropriates $1,642,843 to the department of regulatory agencies for the 2018-19 fiscal year for use by the civil rights division for personal services, operating expenses, hearings, and commission meeting costs.
The appropriation assumes that the division will require 27.2 FTE to implement the bill. The bill also acknowledges, for informational purposes, that the civil rights division will receive $496,489 in federal funds for the 2018-19 fiscal year.
The bill’s Fiscal Note contains more details about the introduced bill:
Summary of Legislation
The bill continues the Colorado Civil Rights Division and the Colorado Civil Rights Commission in the Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) through September 1, 2027. The programs are scheduled to repeal on July 1, 2018.
The Colorado Civil Rights Division in DORA enforces Colorado’s anti-discrimination laws in the areas of employment, housing, and public accommodations, and provides training to groups and individuals throughout Colorado. The division receives funding through the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development/Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. It formal cooperative agreements with these federal agencies avoid duplication of efforts on cases where joint jurisdiction exists.
The Colorado Civil Rights Commission is a seven-member board that develops policy and conducts hearings regarding illegal discriminatory practices. Board members may receive per diem and reimbursement costs for their work on the board, which typically costs less than $5,000 per year.
For information on HB-1256, contact Loren Furman, CACI Senior Vice President, State and Federal Relations, at 303.866.9642.
For news media coverage of HB-1256, read:
“Senate attempts compromise on civil rights division, commission: House sponsors say ‘no,’” by Marianne Goodland, ColoradoPolitics, April 27th.
“Democrats and Republicans in the Senate reached a Colorado Civil Rights Commission deal. Now, House Democrats are rejecting it,” by Jesse Paul, The Denver Post, April 27th.
“Colorado’s Civil Rights Commission has a serious problem—but the House won’t fix it,” opinion, by Jeff Hunt, ColoradoPolitics, April 27th.
“Republican lawmakers propose more changes to Colorado Civil Rights Commission—and they meet more pushback,” by Jesse Paul, The Denver Post, April 18th.
“Civil rights commission up for dogfight in Senate committee Wednesday,” by Marianne Goodland, ColoradoPolitics, April 18th.
“Religious freedom or discrimination? Wedding-cake fight reaches U.S. Supreme Court,” The Denver Business Journal, November 28, 2017.
“Business groups help to maneuver rejection of Colorado Civil Rights Commission appointee,” The Denver Business Journal, May 5, 2017.