Reading Colorado Public Radio’s review of significant new state laws from the 2017 legislative session (Herald, Jan. 3), two shared characteristics stand out.
The first is the amount of clear bipartisan support for the bills behind the new laws, and the second is their commonsense nature.
In stark contrast to the partisan circus that characterized the U.S. Congress in 2017, these laws provide adequate answers to legitimate problems worked out by legislators from both parties. They are not onerous, secretive or unnecessary measures motivated by partisan zeal.
A good example is a new law limiting the number of marijuana plants a medical marijuana patient (or a caregiver) can grow at home. The previous limit of 99 was excessive, and law enforcement officials were concerned that plants were being diverted for illegal sales. House Bill 17-1220, sponsored by Democrats Rep. KC Becker and Sen. Rhonda Fields, and by Republicans Rep. Cole Wist and Sen. Bob Gardner, provides a solution. The new limit of 12 plants, with an exception of up to 24 for seriously ill patients, addresses the diversion threat while preserving the right to grow at home.
Others include the Transparency in Health Care Prices Act (Senate Bill 17-65, sponsored by Democrat Rep. Susan Lontine and Republican Sen. Kevin Lundberg), a law requiring health care providers to publish price estimates for common procedures so patients can get a clearer idea of the expenses they may incur in dealing with an illness, and a bipartisan law (from House Bill 1338) ensuring timely court hearings for defendants held in local jails on less serious charges who are unable to afford bail. Under the new law, defendants who do not pose a public safety threat must be brought to court within two calendar days after a judge is informed of their detention, eliminating long, unjustified stays in jail.
Notably, the Juvenile Sexting Crime law, HB-1302, resolves an issue that has proven difficult over the last five legislative sessions, providing a degree of flexibility in dealing with the problem of teens sending nude photos of themselves or other teens via cellphones or other electronic devices.
Previously, such cases were dealt with by a single, serious charge: sexual exploitation of a child (a Class 3 or Class 6 felony). For minor offenders, the charge carried adult consequences including jail time and permanent listing on a sex offender registry. As a result, many district attorneys declined to press charges, alarming victim advocates, parents and school officials.
The new law provides more flexibility, acknowledging the difference between an adolescent sending a nude image of himself or herself to a boyfriend or girlfriend, and a case where that boyfriend or girlfriend shares that image with others without his or her consent after the relationship ends, motivated perhaps by revenge.
Common sense has prevailed: appropriate punishment can more aptly fit the offense, and the age of the offender, and one rash act will not ruin a young person’s future.
As the 71st Colorado General Assembly opens the 2018 session today – with Republicans holding a slim 18-17 lead in the Senate, and Democrats in possession of a 37-28 advantage in the House – we are hoping a similar atmosphere of cooperation prevails.
May more common-sense solutions to the state’s pressing problems emerge.