Colorado to lead hemp industry and adopt mandatory minimums for child sex offenders


Hemp is a magical crop 

In addition to legalizing recreational marijuana, amendment 64 also makes it possible for the hemp industry in Colorado to take off.

The Senate gave hearty bipartisan approval to SB 184 today, a bill which allows folks in Colorado to grow hemp and sell products made from it. The bill also lifts existing constraints which currently limit hemp production to no more than 10 indoor acres.

Sen. Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass, the bill’s sponsor, noted that Colorado’s legalization of marijuana means that the most recent federal Farm Bill allows producers in the state to grow the crop as long as it is very low in THC — the chemical compound that makes people high. She added that her bill also creates a seed research program through the Department of Agriculture to help growers develop standardized seed that won’t produce druggy hemp plants that have to be thrown out.

“Hemp is a magical crop that can address so many problems confronting our state and our country… it fits so well with dryland farming in Colorado,” said Sen. David Balmer, R-Centennial. He noted that Colorado has the opportunity to become a hemp industry leader, researching and producing drought-resistant hybrids that can be used for everything from fabric to fuel production.

The Senate gave the measure initial approval today and it will come up for final passage this week.

House remembers Ludlow Massacre 

One hundred years ago this week striking miners asking for better wages and treatment from the Rockefeller family’s Colorado Fuel & Iron Company were shot at by Colorado National Guard militia and their camp north of Trinidad burnt to the ground. More than 20 people died that day, 13 were women and children.

Rep. Leroy Garcia of Pueblo brought forward a resolution to memorialize the tragedy and asked the House to sit in a moment of silence.

Garcia recounted the terrible conditions in the mines, where injury was expected and death hardly a surprise.

“The coal miners did what any brave Americans would do and fought back using the political process and their First Amendment rights,” he said, adding that the massacre perpetrated against them partially at the behest of the state’s then Governor was a wrong that “plagued our people and threatened our freedom.”

“The Ludlow miners inspired freedom and change,” Garcia concluded.

The Colorado Independent is honoring the 100th anniversary of Ludlow with an in-depth series to be fully released on Thursday. You can read some of the first installments here:

Ludlow: One hundred years of silence by Susan Greene

The rise and fall of labor after Ludlow by Mike Littwin


Colorado’s (Democratic) Jessica’s Law

After killing a more punitive version of the bill sponsored by Republicans, Democrats introduced what they call a Colorado approach to Jessica’s Law — a bill many states have adopted establishing mandatory minimums for child sex offenders which got its start in Florida after the assault and murder of nine-year-old Jessica Lunsford in 2005.

Though the bill has generally been championed by Republican state legislators, it didn’t gain traction in Colorado until a modified version was put forward by Democratic Sen. Mike Johnston of Denver. Unlike the original Florida legislation, which establishes 25-year mandatory minimums for all felonious acts of sexual assault against a child, Colorado’s version of the bill would tier the mandatory minimums beginning with 10 years for a class four felony (typically 2-6 years) and ranging up to 24 years for a class two felony (typically 8-24 years).

In the House this move raised serious hackles with Republicans who said the modified bill didn’t live up to the standards of its name. In that chamber it was called a political move at the expense of Colorado’s children. By the time the bill got to the Senate, however, everyone was on board.

Sen. Bernie Herpin, R-Colorado Springs, who sponsored the full 25-year version of the bill earlier this session, supported the new measure calling it a step in the right direction. He said April, being National Child Abuse Prevention Month, was a very good time for the legislature to pass this kind of policy and added that Jessica’s father, Mark Lunsford, is also in support of the bill.

The Senate adopted Colorado’s Jessica’s Law on a unanimous voice vote. The bill will come up for final approval this week.


Senate adopts vastly reduced immunizations bill 

HB 1288, a bill which originally required parents who want to send their kids to school unvaccinated to take an online vaccine education course first, met serious opposition from constituents who fear that vaccinations will harm their children. Despite that opposition, the bill passed out of the House. However, by the time the measure made it to the Senate floor the mandatory re-education component had become voluntary.

The bill will still require schools to publish information about vaccination rates and the vaccine education program will still be made available for any parent curious about the health benefits and risks of vaccination.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Irene Aguilar, D-Denver, said she felt the new bill was a good compromise and that the provision requiring schools to publish their vaccination rate information was crucial for families with medically fragile children.

Rep. Dan Pabon, D-Denver, the bill’s sponsor in the House, has already said he won’t mount opposition to this watered-down version of the bill, which is likely to come up for final passage this week.


Senate cracks down on school board executive sessions

In February the event in the video above, which depicts the highly contentious resignation of a Jefferson County Superintendent from a district with a highly partisan school board, made so many headlines that lawmakers couldn’t help but take notice. SB 182, which would require school boards to record and publish the amount of time they spend talking about a topic when they recess from public meetings to speak privately with a lawyer, is a product of increasingly political school board skirmishes like this one.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Mary Hodge, D-Brighton, said her bill was a simple effort at providing a highly engaged constituency with the transparency they have been clamoring for.

Sen. Scott Renfroe, R-Eaton, strongly opposed the bill, which he said micromanaged school boards and noted that other similar boards don’t have to produce such detailed reporting. He worried that the measure could have negative impacts on areas where privacy is crucial for school boards, for example personnel issues.

Hodge said that because the law already requires school boards to provide an agenda for these private meetings, what’s known as executive session, adding time allotments to the reports is hardly burdensome or overreaching.

The bill got initial approval with an uncounted, but visibly partisan split — Democrats approved and most Republicans opposed. It will come up for a final vote this week.