#Coleg Notebook: Driver’s license compromise; economic forecasts

Lawmakers compromise on immigrant driver’s licences 

It can be difficult to understand exactly what the six-member Joint Budget Committee is doing, but on Wednesday the proceedings were particularly hazy. They were hammering out a compromise on a bill to release already-allotted funding for an immigrant driver’s license program.

Hazy, in part, because the hammered-out compromise had clearly already happened somewhere else.

Vice Chair Millie Hamner, D-Dillon, simply asked for a vote on the committee’s “first report,” which would cut $100,000 from the DMV’s initial request to run the program, which was less of a cut then previously proposed and supported by the Republican members of the committee, who have made headlines for trying to narrow the program by funding only one office in the state to do the work of issuing licenses to non-citizens.

The allotted money pays for five offices. Democrats got Republicans to agree to pay for three offices. The three offices that will keep issuing the licenses will likely be blocated in Denver, Grand Junction and Pueblo.

“It’s one of those things, if nobody’s happy it must be a good decision,” said Hamner of the compromise, which is expected to carry-over into the next budget year as well.

“Both sides made some good compromises,” said JBC member Sen. Kevin Grantham, R-Canon City. “You don’t see that every day, maybe it’s something to celebrate.”

Lawmakers, law enforcers work together on police reform

Body cams and a citizen’s right to film police interactions. No chokeholds, unless in self-defense. Special prosectors in some excessive force cases and more transparency in all of them. These policies were among the 10 police reform bills introduced at the state Capitol on Tuesday.

Colorado Sheriffs and Chiefs of Police called the proposed reforms the “thoughtful” products of compromise.

“We hope that people realize the proactive steps that we are taking to improve our profession and help to rebuild the public trust,” said Melissa Zak, the CU Boulder Chief of Police.

But law enforcement leaders were also careful to couch their support in the language of necessity.

“Though the legislature is proposing several thoughtful policy solutions that seek to build trust of law enforcement, which will be supported by our organization, anything that unnecessarily puts officers in harms’ way or overly burdens departments already working in the margins, will be opposed by the Chiefs of Police of Colorado,” stated John Jackson, president of the Chiefs Association.

Half of the ten measures have bipartisan support, many from ex-sheriff Sen. John Cooke, R-Greeley, an indication that they have a good chance of passing both chambers. Those measures include: encouraging the use of body cams, maintaining records on police who have “misrepresented” encounters, dropping charges if police make an unlawful order (such as, “stop recording”) and increased data collection and transparency after officer involved shootings.

Fiscal forecasts 

Economists working for the legislature and the governor’s office released fiscal forecasts. They’re available online here and here.

The Colorado Independent will visit the forecasts elsewhere but, mainly, unemployment has been cut in half since 2010 and it looks like taxpayers will get a refund of maybe $100 each. Due in part to those Taxpayer Bill of Rights-required refunds, lawmakers will continue to struggle to pay for basic services and maintaining infrastructure.

We don’t need no standardized testing 

Leadership for both parties stood with Governor John Hickenlooper on Tuesday to announce an “everyone’s on board” bill to reduce standardized testing and test-prep time across Colorado. SB 215 would allow districts to opt out of 11th and 12th grade student testing altogether (apart from the ACT).

Though Hickenlooper said he staunchly supports eliminating redundant tests and giving students about to graduate high school more flexibility to pursue independent study and future career goals, he emphasized that not all standardized tests will, or should, be eliminated.

“We want to make sure we don’t let the politics of the moment undermine what is in the long-term best interest of our children, or more than a decade’s worth of hard work to create education reform. We all believe our kids deserve a world-class education… to really make sure they get there we need a system of high standards.”

This testing reform bill, which has whopping bipartisan support in both chambers, is relatively moderate in comparison to other testing rollbacks introduced this session. It comes out of specific task force recommendations and in the wake of broad public concern about over-testing and a growing “opt out” movement wherein parents keep their kids home on standardized testing days.

Tightening rules around campus sexual assault reporting

With four Colorado universities under investigation for possible violations of Title IX nondiscrimination rules, lawmakers are seeking to standardize campus sexual assault response policy across the state.

Bipartisan House Bill 1220 would require Colorado institutions to train staff to respond to assaults and to partner with medical providers to offer consistent care and evidence collection following an assault.

“These are our public schools, we should do better for our students,” said sponsor Rep. Jessie Danielson, D-Wheat Ridge.


[C.R.E.A.M via Flickr.]