House approves two foreclosure prevention bills
Although foreclosure rates have plummeted since 2012, when Colorado still ranked 10th in the nation for homeowners losing their homes, what looks like a possible 2014 uptick has the state Division of Housing a little worried.
“Both [foreclosure] filings and sales hit new lows during November 2013, but since then, filings are up 51 percent, and sales are up 45 percent,” the Division announced in February.
Today, the House gave initial approval to two bills that seek to keep Coloradans in their homes.
HB 1295 would require lenders to offer borrowers a single and consistent person with whom they can negotiate loan modifications if they’re about to default on their mortgage. It also prohibits foreclosing on a home if the borrower is in the middle of those negotiations.
“We’re here today because we believe our best policy is to maximize the number of Colorado families who can stay in their homes even if they suffer some interruption in ability to pay, for example an illness or someone looses their job,” said Denver Rep. Elizabeth McCann, the bill’s sponsor.
Opponents of the bill noted that it virtually duplicates federal consumer protection laws in state statue. McCann said she is aware of the similarities, but wanted to make sure Coloradans would have the tools to negotiate their loans and to avoid foreclosure in the meantime, even if there are changes with the federal law.
HB 1312, sponsored by Denver Rep. Angela Williams, extends the foreclosure deferment program that began in August of 2009 until September of 2015. The program allows qualifying homeowner to defer a foreclosure for up to 90 days.
Controversial vaccination education bill gets bipartisan support in the House
Where does choice begin and where does it end? This question has been at the heart of the debate around HB 1288, which would require parents wishing to opt out of immunizations for their school children to take an online course about vaccines first.
“This bill preserves parent choice, it just insures that choice is informed,” said the legislation’s sponsor, Rep. Dan Pabon of Denver. He added that during the 2013-2013 school year, some 13,000 Colorado kindergarteners enrolled without vaccinations.
Rep. Lori Saine of Firestone disagreed. She said the measure was unnecessary and insulting to parents.
“Parents who choose not to vaccinate, the parents I’ve talked to are some of the most educated parents I’ve seen,” she said.
The issue was hardly a matter of partisanship, however. Rep. Cheri Gerou of Evergreen, a Republican co-sponsor of the bill, took the floor to remind her colleagues that even the founding fathers (or mothers, in this case Abigail Adams) vaccinated their children.
“I’m going to be a yes on this bill because I actually believe in science and I actually believe whatever I can do to protect children is my job here,” Gerou said.
Ultimately Pabon said the issue was critically important to him because making the choice to vaccinate a child had community-wide impacts.
Pabon quoted testimony heard on the bill from Dr. Erwin Gelfand, head of pediatrics at National Jewish Hospital in Denver: “When I see an asthmatic child treated with steroids and on a ventilator fighting for her life due to a pertussis (whooping cough) infection, I ask where does choice begin and where does it end,” said Gelfand.
The measure passed out of the House with a vote of 42-19. It now heads to the Senate.
Senate moves to cap Colorado Open Records fees
The Senate gave initial approval today to HB 1193, a bill that would require governmental custodians of public records to publish their research and retrieval fees and TO cap those fees at $30 per hour.
The bill, sponsored in the House by Joe Salazar of Thornton, comes out of a litigious history surrounding open records fees and a huge degree of variation in those fees depending on which governmental agency is keeping the records and who’s asking for them.
“Basically what we’re trying to do is shine more light on state and local government in Colorado by creating more certainty for the citizen, for the public, to be able to access public records,” said Sen. John Kefalas of Fort Collins, the bill’s sponsor in the Senate.
The bill got initial approval today and will likely come up for a final vote this week.
No more mug shot muggings
HB 1047 started off as a measure to make it possible for folks who’ve been arrested but later cleared of criminal charges to request that their mug shot be pulled for free from any number of numerous pay-to-pull mug shot websites. The bill would also give the unjustly shamed the right to sue if the company didn’t pull the image. When it turned out that approach ran afoul of First Amendment rights, the sponsors — Rep. K.C. Becker of Boulder and Sen. Lucia Guzman of Denver — had to rewrite the bill entirely under the same title and with the same goal in mind.
“This bill requires anyone requesting a mugshot to sign a form saying they will not put it on a website that makes people pay to remove it,” said Guzman of the new approach. She acknowledged that while the bill doesn’t make it impossible to get the mugshots, or even to publish them, it does remove the economic incentive behind the booming humiliation industry.
The bill’s new language got initial approval in the Senate today. If it passes on a final vote the measure will bounce back to the House, which voted on the earlier version.