These past few weeks in America have certainly been long and tense. The legislature is moving forward on passing the budget for next fiscal year, which includes $3.3 billion in budget cuts. While there is a large amount of legislation that has to be “killed” because of the deficit, the legislature was proud to introduce several COVID related bills this past week.
I am sponsoring HB20-1411, COVID-19 Funds Allocation For Behavioral Health, with Rep Dafna Michaelson Jenet and Senator Brittney Petersen. This bill allocates $15 million of federal CARES Act funding to behavioral health programs in the Departments of Human Services, Public Health & Environment, Higher Education, and Law. The funding will cover existing programs with COVID related expenses through December 31 such as telehealth, crisis hotline, mobile services, opioid services.
SB20-217, Enhance Law Enforcement Integrity, was introduced this week in response to the daily protests and calls for change. The work with advocates and law enforcement actually started last November, however it became a higher priority this month. The goal of the bill is to increase transparency and accountability with law enforcement. The bill eliminates qualified immunity, engages the state general attorney as the lead in investigations, mandates the use of body cameras for local law enforcement, requires data reporting on the use of force and other incidents, prohibits certification or hiring of officers convicted of certain offenses relating to the use of force, and eliminates the use of choke holds. The Jeffco legislators “met” with the Jeffco Sheriff and Chiefs to listen to their input. Our law enforcement supported some components and opposed others. The bill is working it’s way through the legislative process.
The legislature has introduced numerous bills over the past few weeks that address COVID-19 consequences, all the way from health care, behavioral health, and telehealth, to school funding, elections, and finance.