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Red flag and police records advance in the Legislature, oil and gas next 

Bills, bills, bills

click to enlarge Police often deny requests for internal affairs files. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Police often deny requests for internal affairs files.
If you’re having trouble keeping up with the furious pace of the state Legislature these days, you surely aren’t alone. Here’s a look at the recent progress on three of the bills we’re watching closely. All are sponsored by Democrats. Statuses are current as of the morning of April 2.
House Bill 1119

“Peace Officer Internal Investigation Open Records,” if signed by the governor, would require law enforcement agencies to disclose internal affairs files — police disciplinary records — after investigations are complete. That might include, say, reports of when an officer drew a gun without cause, or improperly attacked a citizen. The bill cleared its final legislative hurdle on March 27 and awaits Gov. Jared Polis’ signature.

Many agencies, including the Colorado Springs Police Department and El Paso County Sheriff’s Office, routinely deny record requests for IA files, saying disclosure would be contrary to the public interest and have a chilling effect on an investigation if police, and even witnesses, know their words might be quoted in news reports.

The Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition says the bill, if signed into law, would bring Colorado in line with 14 other states. Besides the CFOIC, supporters include the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado, the Colorado Press Association, the Colorado Broadcasters Association, Common Cause of Colorado and the Independence Institute. The Fraternal Order of Police of Colorado and the county sheriffs’ association opposed the bill.

Mayor John Suthers has said, “Whatever the law is, I assure you, as long as I’m mayor of Colorado Springs, we will comply with it.”

But the bill doesn’t require agencies to release IA files of cases that arose before the effective date of the bill, meaning any past IAs will remain under wraps.
House Bill 1177

A bill that’s divided Coloradans on either side of the gun debate was approved by the House and Senate, and is headed to Polis’ desk.

“Extreme Risk Protection Orders” — better known as the “red-flag bill” — passed the Colorado Senate on March 28 on a vote of 18-17, with Senate President Leroy Garcia of Pueblo the lone Democrat opposed. The House voted 38-25 in an initial vote March 4, and approved the Senate’s amendments April 1.

If signed by the governor, the bill will give judges the power to remove firearms from a person who “poses a significant risk to self or others,” within two days of a household member or law enforcement officer petitioning the court.

Opponents argue that risk protection orders don’t provide due process and jeopardize Second Amendment rights, and around 30 Republican-majority counties (including El Paso) have issued resolutions opposing the bill. It’s cited as a reason for pending attempted recalls of several Dems.

At a press conference March 26, Polis said counties had the right to exercise discretion over how to enforce the law, The Colorado Sun reported.

Senate Bill 181

“Protect Public Welfare Oil And Gas Operations” is another divisive bill that’s almost cleared the Legislature. It grants local governments broad powers to regulate oil and gas operations, including to “zone land use for mineral resource development, to site, monitor, and inspect oil and gas facilities, and to impose fees and fines,” according the bill’s fiscal note.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission would move from “fostering” the oil and gas industry to “regulating” it, and would need to add new rules aimed at protecting health and the environment. The latest version of the bill would make that a full-time, seven-member board appointed by the governor with the Senate’s approval. Only one board member could hail from the oil and gas industry.

The bill first passed the Senate on March 13 with a vote of 19-15, and passed the House on March 29 with several amendments, one of which requires that local regulations are “reasonable” in scope. A final Senate vote was scheduled for April 3.

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