Cyberbullying Bill Dies At State Capitol

April 9, 2014 9:28 PM

DENVER (CBS4)- A bill to criminalize cyberbullying comes to a sudden halt at the state Capitol after it was killed by its own sponsors.

While everyone agrees cyberbullying is wrong they can’t agree on whether it should be a crime.

“We’ve determined like most issues down here it’s not black and white, it’s complex,” said Sen. John Kefala, a Democrat representing Fort Collins.

The difficulty in combating cyberbullying was plainly apparent in the Senate Judiciary Committee. That’s where sponsors of a measure that would have made cyberbullying a misdemeanor crime in Colorado killed their own bill.

Part of the reason: they were facing mounting opposition from groups like the ACLU and Anti-Defamation League who called the bill “unconstitutional.”

“Sometimes there’s logic to stepping back for a moment and taking a breath,” said Kefala.

“I think it’s an embarrassment and shameful that this body could not address this very important and critical issue as it relates to harassment,” said Rep. Rhonda Fields, a Democrat representing Aurora.

Fields first introduced the bill in the House where it passed with overwhelming support. It was a different story in the Senate where free speech concerns gave lawmakers pause.

“We’re majorly concerned but at the same time we’re majorly concerned that we don’t overreact and over-criminalize,” said Sen. Lucia Guzman, a Democrat representing Denver.

“I feel constitutional arguments related to free speech are a red herring on this bill,” said Colorado District Attorneys Council spokesman Tom Raynes.

Raynes said no one has the right to speech that inflicts pain and damage even if it’s just a one-time post.

“The analogy I use is not sticking a picture on one locker but thousands of lockers all over the city at one time,” said Raynes.

Opponents said they want more study.

“Study what? What’s there to study?” said Fields.

She said while lawmakers study, cyberbullies continue to torment.

The Senate sponsors of the legislation say they will now introduce a bill that calls for a study of how cyberbullying should be dealt with in the criminal justice system.

5280′s 50 Most Powerful People in Denver

37. RHONDA FIELDS

Colorado State Representative (37)

This Aurora mom was motivated to run for office in 2010 after her son, Javad Fields, was murdered and she began advocating at the Capitol for victims and their families. Once elected, Rhonda Fields quickly became a politician to watch. She weathered vile personal attacks after voting for gun-reform bills last year and remains the most vocal pro–capital punishment voice in the state (a perpetual political topic, thanks to number two).

Adult Education & Skill Development

Colorado ranks 41st in the nation on the measure of state resources allocated for adult for adult education and literacy per adult education and literacy per adult without a high school degree or GED, averaging $8.70 per person.  We are not doing enough in terms of the resources we provide for adult education and ensuring that those resources are accessible to everyone. Only 14,298 individuals, roughly one out of every 25 eligible adults in Colorado are enrolled in the programs that would provide them the basic literacy skills and training needed to participate more productively in the state’s workforce.   This is a “root cause” of many of our state’s education and workforce problems, including the middle-skills gap. To be competitive economically, Colorado must invest in adult education and reach more of the eligible adult population so that workers can enter and succeed in industry recognized credentialing programs.

I will sponsor bold goal to increase the number of people served in adult basic education programs by 50 percent by 2014. The overall goal would be to move Colorado closer to the national average in providing funding for this program and to increase the number of people served. I will recommend that department that comprise the workforce development system should adopt common goals and should adopt common goals and redesign adult basic education programs to focus on moving students more quickly and successfully toward postsecondary certificate and degree completion.

Poverty Reduction

Colorado’s economy is improving. But not for all, and not fast enough. Unemployment remains unacceptably high. Income inequality is growing, And poverty rates continue to climb.

The state’s unemployment rate has been headed in the right direction for the past year. As of April, it had reached a four-year low of 6.9 percent. Still, that was well above the 4.1 percent unemployment rate the state experienced when the recession began in late 2007.  Jobs are returning and state tax revenues are rebounding. Still, significant barriers to a full economic  recovery remain as low-income Coloradoan continues to struggle to achieve self-sufficiency.

During this upcoming session, I will work to advance policy to promote self-sufficiency. There are key areas where we can enact change to unleash the potential of all Coloradans and provide greater opportunities for Colorado’s families to advance toward economic independence and security.  Here’s are a few on my initial thoughts:

  • Unemployment rate
  • Adult Education & Skills Training: Proving the skill to Compete
  • Child Care Support: Lifting Parents and Kids out of Poverty
  • Aging out of foster care

2013 Colorado Legislative Session Summary

(1) CREATING COLORADO JOBS

 

Advanced Industries Acceleration Act (HB 1001) – Reps. Young & Gerou

Advanced industries are a prime driver of Colorado’s economy, accounting for 30% of the state’s GDP as well as hundreds of thousands of primary and ancillary jobs. HB 1001 promotes the growth of Colorado’s advanced industries by encouraging public-private partnerships, increasing access to early-stage capital, creating a strong infrastructure to improve the state’s capacity to be globally competitive, and increasing investment in advanced technologies.

 

Advanced Industries Export Acceleration Program (HB 1193) – Reps. Kraft-Tharp & McLachlan

In conjunction with HB 1001, HB 1193 will accelerate the ability of high-tech Colorado companies to export their products by providing small grants, as well as training and consultation services, to help them springboard onto the global marketplace.

 

Small Business Development Centers (HB 1002) – Rep. Tyler

With a staff of four and a general fund appropriation of less than $85,000, Colorado’s Small Business Development Centers served more than 5,000 small businesses, created 1,700 jobs and assisted in nearly $132 million in small business capital formation in 2011 alone for Colorado start-ups. This bill will provide an additional $300,000 for the next two years and draw down additional matching funds to create new Colorado companies and new Colorado jobs.

 

Economic Gardening Pilot Project (HB 1003) – Reps. Lee & Garcia

HB 1003 creates a program to train and certify Small Business Development Center staff to provide a year of strategic assistance to at least 20 second-stage Colorado companies to foster growth and job creation. Economic Gardening is a method developed in Colorado that is proven to help mid-level companies grow to the next level, streamline business strategies, and put Coloradans back to work. OEDIT will receive $200,000 to develop a pilot program.

 

Keeping Jobs In Colorado (HB 1292) – Reps. Lee & Pabon

The Keep Jobs In Colorado Act will ensure that more of our taxpayer dollars stay in Colorado, supporting Colorado businesses and creating jobs for Coloradans. When considering bids on state contracts, state agencies will weigh overall “best value,” including the use of Colorado workers and Colorado products to complete the contract, as well as wages, health care and other benefits.

 

Extending the Job Growth Incentive Tax Credit (HB 1287) – Reps. Primavera & DelGrosso

The Colorado job growth incentive tax credit provides support to any business in Colorado that creates quality jobs in the state (minimum of 5 jobs in a rural enterprise zone, and at least 20 in other areas). Since its implementation in 2009, the program has attracted 27 new business and 7,200 jobs to Colorado.

 

Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (HB 1301) – Reps. Ryden & Gardner

This bill, with bipartisan co-sponsors, funds the Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTACs) – an important resource for Colorado businesses, helping them navigate the procurement process for federal and state contracts. The bill also creates a task force to determine the future direction of the PTAC program.

 

Simplify Sales Tax For Marketplace Fairness Act (HB 1295) – Rep. Ferrandino

This bill takes an important step toward ensuring that Colorado’s small businesses are competing on a level playing field with large online retailers and also reduces burdensome red tape on small, Colorado-owned businesses. HB 1295, which received broad support from Colorado business groups, requires large out-of-state retailers to collect state and local sales tax for sales delivered in Colorado, contingent on the passage of a federal law that would allow states to do so.

 

Extend the Renewable Energy Standard (SB 252) – Reps. Ferrandino & Duran

SB 252 makes changes to the Renewable Energy Standard (RES) in Colorado, expanding the list of eligible energy resources to include innovative new companies and technologies, and increasing the RES from 10% to 20% by 2020 for certain cooperative electric associations. These changes will reduce greenhouse gas emissions to ensure that all of Colorado has clean water to drink and fresh air to breathe, while reducing our dependence on fossil fuels, creating jobs and diversifying our economy, especially in rural areas.

(2) STRENGTHENING OUR SCHOOLS

 

Budget (SB 230)

The key to building a robust 21st century economy is a well-educated and well-trained workforce. This budget starts to chip away at the cuts our schools have received in recent years:

ñ  Increases K-12 funding by $127.1 million.

ñ  Adds $31 million to higher education operating funds and $5.3 million for financial aid.

 

Future School Finance Act (SB 213) – Rep. Hamner

This bill redesigns Colorado’s school finance formula to invest in proven strategies, increase equity, expand accountability, and help prepare students for success in their future educational and career goals. The school finance formula proposed in this bill is subject to future revenues.

 

Alignment of Child Development Programs (HB 1117) – Rep. Hamner

This bill improves early childhood development programs in Colorado by bringing them under the Department of Human Services, aligning funding sources and making the programs more efficient. This change will provide high-quality, streamlined early childhood programs and allow Colorado to better serve our at-risk populations.

 

Colorado Early Childhood Education Grant Program (HB 1291) – Rep. Duran

This bill creates a grant program to help early childhood programs expand quality services to more families. Early childhood education programs are one of the most effective tools for ensuring that children have a strong foundation, allowing them to succeed in their future educational and career goals.

 

Breakfast After the Bell (HB 1006) – Reps. Moreno & Exum, Sr.

HB 1006 will provide breakfast at school for up to an additional 44,000 hungry kids.  Many students who qualify for pre-school breakfasts don’t get to school in time to eat, and studies have shown that hungry children don’t learn as well as their better-fed peers. The bill directs schools to provide breakfast for all students after the first bell of the day, if 70% or more of their students qualify for federal free or reduced lunches.

 

(3) PROVIDING QUALITY JOB SKILLS TRAINING

 

Colorado Careers Act (HB 1004) – Reps. Duran & Melton

HB 1004 will match skills training programs with the jobs that are available today. This bill creates the career pathways program, to enable target populations to acquire and improve skills necessary to find good-paying jobs and advance their employability.

 

Integrated Basic, Career & Technical Training (IBEST) (HB 1005) – Reps. Fields & Buckner

HB 13-1005 will address the needs of adults in Colorado who lack a high school diploma or GED. It creates partnerships with the community college system to create 20 pilot programs of career and technical education certificate courses that will be available to under- and unemployed adults.  Job seekers will learn basic professional and technical skills in real-world scenarios.

 

Colorado ASSET (SB 033) – Reps. Duran & Williams

The ASSET bill offers in-state college tuition rates to all Colorado high school graduates, including those who are Coloradans in every way except their immigration status. The bill will give all qualified high school graduates a shot at an affordable education, so that their talents and economic contributions won’t go to waste.

 

(5) KEEPING COLORADO CHILDREN, FAMILIES AND COMMUNITIES SAFE

 

Gun Safety Measures

HB 1229 (Reps. Fields & McCann) closes the private sale loophole that permits firearm transfers without background checks; HB 1224 (Rep. Fields) limits the size of magazines; SB 197 (Reps. McCann & Fields) makes it harder for perpetrators of domestic violence to access firearms; and the bi-partisan SB 196 (Rep. May) enhances quality training for those seeking a concealed-carry permit.  These reasonable gun safety measures will help ensure criminals and dangerous people don’t have access to deadly weapons, while also protecting our communities and ensuring the ability of law-abiding citizens to own firearms, making our communities safer.

 

 

 

Enhancing Child Welfare (HB 1271) – Reps. Singer & May

HB 1271 takes the first step toward establishing a statewide child abuse reporting hotline, creating a streamlined process for informing child welfare advocates about suspected abuse that will ensure better outcomes for children.

 

Preventing Child Fatalities (SB 255) – Reps. May & Singer

This bill directs local public health agencies to create child fatality prevention teams, which will coordinate with the Department of Public Health and Environment and the Department of Human Services to review the deaths, near deaths, and egregious abuse of children up to age 17, report case findings, and make recommendations for how to prevent these tragedies from occurring in the future.

 

Creating Safeguards Against Identity Theft For Foster Care Youth (SB 047) – Rep. Fields

This bill directs the Department of Human Services to perform yearly credit checks on behalf of youth in foster care, to catch attempts to use their Social Security numbers without their consent.

 

Protecting Vulnerable Individuals From Abuse

SB 220 (Rep. Fields) and SB 012 (Rep. Singer) add emergency medical providers and youth sports organization personnel to the list of individuals who are required to report suspected child abuse or neglect. SB 111 (Reps. Schafer & Stephens) directs this list of mandatory reporters to also inform authorities about suspected abuse of at-risk elders.

 

Statewide Victim Information & Notification System (HB 1241) – Reps. Fields & Gardner

The Victim Information Notification Everyday (VINE) system allows victims of crimes to obtain free information on the custody status of inmates in county jails, helping victims feel secure. This bipartisan bill continues the program and provides funding to operate the VINE system.

 

Crimes Against Pregnant Women Act (HB 1154) – Reps. Foote & Levy

This bill gives prosecutors an important tool to hold criminals accountable when they cause the loss of a woman’s pregnancy through intentional or reckless criminal behavior. The bill creates a comprehensive set of criminal offenses that can be charged in addition to, or in place of, other charges, providing important protections for pregnant women while not infringing on their reproductive rights.

 

Sexual Assault Victim Emergency Payment Program (HB 1163) – Rep. Kagan

Victims of sexual assault often seek medical care in the aftermath of their attack, only to be presented with a hefty hospital bill afterward. By creating a compensation fund to ensure that victims of sexual assault don’t have to pay for the medical treatment costs associated with their attack, this measure will help ensure that these victims don’t suffer financial hardship in addition to the trauma they’ve already experienced.

 

 

Restorative Justice (HB 1254) – Rep. Lee

Restorative justice gives crime victims who choose to participate in the program a chance to meet face-to-face with their offender to talk about the effects of their actions, with the goal of promoting individual responsibility and repairing the harm done. This bill creates four restorative justice pilot projects for eligible juvenile first offenders and creates a funding mechanism for existing programs across the state.

 

 

Protecting Employees’ Privacy (HB 1046) – Rep. Williams

This bill protects the privacy of employees by prohibiting employers from requiring or requesting access to personal accounts or services such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and other websites. The bill also sets up a review system to investigate violations of these protections.

 

 

(6) PROTECTING OUR NATURAL RESOURCES

 

Water Conservation Board Construction Fund Projects (SB 181) – Rep. Fischer

Drought has been a serious issue in Colorado in recent years, and it’s clear that we need to take serious measures to conserve water. SB 181 makes appropriations for a variety of Colorado Water Conservation Board programs and projects, so that we can protect our most precious natural resources while creating jobs in communities across Colorado.

 

 

 

Authorize Graywater Use (HB 1044) – Rep. Fischer

HB 1044 creates an important tool for water conservation by directing the Water Quality Control Commission to authorize and create standards for the use of graywater, which is the lightly used wastewater from bathtubs, showers and sinks, excluding toilets and kitchen sinks. Local governments will be able to decide whether to allow graywater use in their areas, thereby conserving as much as 30% of our state’s most precious natural resource.

 

Wildfire Safety

Spurred by the devastation caused by wildfires in Colorado last year, the General Assembly passed an extensive package of legislation to reduce the risk of wildfires and improve our response to these disasters. HB 1012 (Reps. Levy & Gerou) continues a tax deduction for landowners who perform wildfire mitigation measures; SB 273 (Reps. Hamner & Coram) incentivizes the beneficial use of forest biomass, which will reduce the amount of dry wood in our forests; SB 269 (Reps. McLachlan & Coram) creates a new grant program for wildfire risk reduction; SB 270 (Reps. Fischer & Coram) authorizes the governor to transfer funds to the Wildfire Emergency Response Fund in the case of an imminent disaster; and HB 1225 (Rep. Levy) will help ensure that insurance companies cover what their policies claim to cover, providing better protection to homeowners in the event of a disaster.

 

Improving Reporting of Oil Spills (HB 1278) – Rep. Mitsch Bush

HB 1278 requires oil and gas operators to report spills to the COGCC and the local municipality or county within 24 hours, including any available information about the type of waste involved in the spill. This bill will encourage the responsible development of our energy resources, while preventing water pollution and protecting public safety.

 

 

(7) INCREASING FAIRNESS & EQUALITY

 

Civil Unions (SB 011) – Reps. Ferrandino & Schafer

SB 011 allows all couples – gay, lesbian, or straight – to enter into civil unions, which provide important benefits, protections and responsibilities to all loving, committed families in Colorado, including legal rights for medical care and hospital visitation, the ability to adopt a partner’s child, and eligibility for family leave benefits.

 

Voter Access and Modernized Elections Act (HB 1303) – Reps. Hullinghorst & Pabon

HB 1303 will simplify and standardize the voting process across Colorado, save counties at least $9.5 million per year in election expenses, increase voting options and access, and prevent fraud, ensuring the integrity of the democratic process. This bill will remove the confusing active/inactive voter designation and ensure that all voters receive a mail ballot, allow qualified citizens to register to vote on election day, reduce the residency time requirement for registration, and modernize the elections communications and voter verification sytems.

 

Job Protection Civil Rights Enforcement Act (HB 1136) – Reps. Levy & Salazar

HB 1136 helps ensure that all Coloradans have recourse for workplace discrimination. The bill updates Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act, allowing employees to seek compensatory and/or punitive damages and attorney’s fees to be awarded in cases of intentional discrimination or harassment for factors including race, gender and sexual orientation.

 

Home Loan Modification Protections (HB 1017) – Rep. Lebsock

Homeowners in Colorado have been struggling in the aftermath of the recession, and many have turned to home loan modifications to avoid falling behind on their payments. This bill requires that the terms of an approved modification agreement be honored when a new servicer takes over the loan, ensuring that homeowners are treated fairly by their banks.

 

 

(8) EXPANDING ACCESS TO QUALITY HEALTHCARE

 

Reforming Our Mental Health System

Three in ten Coloradans are in need of behavioral health services. SB 266 (Reps. Kraft-Tharp & Young) directs the Department of Human Services to create a coordinated behavioral health crisis response system for individuals who are experiencing significant mental health crises, and the budget allocates $20 million to expand these services. HB 1296 (Reps. McCann & Kraft-Tharp) creates a task force to review our mental health system and suggest ways to improve efficiency and provide better services for individuals who are facing civil commitments.

 

 

 

 

Repurposing Fort Lyon (Amendment to SB 210) – Reps. Garcia & Dore (amendment); Duran (bill sponsor)

This bill designates a portion of the historic but recently mothballed Fort Lyon facility as a transitional residential community to provide substance abuse treatment, medical care, job training, and skills development for the homeless, including military veterans, and to drive new jobs and economic activity in Bent County.

 

Rural Family Medicine Residency Programs (SB 264) – Reps. McLachlan & Vigil

20% of Coloradans live in rural areas, but only 9% of physicians practice there. SB 264 directs the Commission on Family Medicine to support the development of rural family medicine residency programs, which will help retain and recruit doctors to rural areas to address a critical need.

 

Medicaid Expansion (SB 200) – Rep. Ferrandino

Under the current health care system, people who can’t afford insurance will often wait to deal with health issues until they require emergency care, causing unnecessary strain on hospital ERs and ultimately raising costs for the entire health care system. SB 200 will make approximately 249,000 more individuals eligible for Medicaid, cut state spending on uncompensated care by 12.5-25%, create 22,000 new jobs and boost Colorado’s economy by making our workforce healthier.

 

Eliminate Waiting Period For CHP+ (SB 008) – Rep. McCann

When families apply for the Children’s Basic Health Plan (CHP+) for their children, they often face a three-month waiting period for coverage. This bill modifies eligibility for the CHP+ by eliminating the waiting period for certain clients, so that children get the health care coverage that they need.

 

Keeping Guns Away from Domestic Abusers

Panel Also Tightens Concealed-Carry Rules; Gun Safety Package Falling Into Place

(March 28) – The House Judiciary Committee approved two Senate bills to reduce gun violence today.

SB13-197, sponsored in the House by Reps. Beth McCann (D-Denver) and Rhonda Fields (D-Aurora), clarifies that people who have domestic violence convictions, or domestic violence restraining orders against them, are ineligible to buy or own firearms, and creates an enforceable mechanism for such people to sell or temporarily surrender their guns. It passed on a 7-4 vote on its way to the Appropriations Committee.

“Senate Bill 197 has the promise to make sure that we’re safeguarding families when they are torn apart by domestic violence,” Rep. Fields told the committee.

Rep. McCann recited a litany of statistics showing the strong connection between guns and deadly domestic violence.

“Guns and domestic violence really should not mix,” she said. “We are trying to provide a level of safety and comfort to those who live in the terror of domestic violence.”

Also passing the Judiciary Committee today was SB13-195, sponsored in the House by Rep. Jenise May (D-Aurora). It mandates that at least part of the training class for concealed-carry permits be conducted in person, not online. The bill passed on a bipartisan 8-3 vote and heads to the House floor.

“This is a public safety bill that requires the applicant to show competency with their weapon before a CWP is issued,” Rep. May said.

Gun Policy Legislation Press Conference

Today, join me as well as Senate President John Morse, House Speaker Mark Ferrandino and other Democratic legislators will be joined by family members of Aurora and Columbine victims to unveil a comprehensive gun safety plan.

WHAT:Press conference on a comprehensive gun safety plan. The plan will address possible contributing factors to gun violence such as mental health, background checks, and other Colorado specific safety issues

WHO:Family members of Aurora and Columbine victimsPresident John MorseSpeaker Mark FerrandinoRep. Rhonda Fieldsand other Democratic legislators

WHEN:Today, Tuesday, Feb. 5 at 10:30 a.m.

WHERE:Capitol, West Foyer