Under The Dome, Week 8
Highlights of the Week
Two high priority bills for Democrats saw lengthy hearings this week and, in each case, moved ahead. SB19-085, Equal Pay for Equal Work Act, combines several policies from attempts in previous sessions to address the wage disparities based on sex. HB19-1177, Extreme Risk Protection Order, or the Red Flag bill, was heard in committee on Thursday late into the evening. The bill would create a temporary order to remove and restrict access to firearms for a person who is showing signs that they pose a threat to themselves or others.
SB19-085 was heard in Senate Judiciary on Wednesday and many people testified to share about instances of wage discrimination that they had experienced or about how the bill would fill gaps between the federal law regarding equal pay. Business groups shared their support for equal pay, but voiced concerns about how SB19-085 would be implemented in practice. The bill saw 7 substantive amendments and one technical amendment added in committee this week. The bill was amended so that:
- Differences of wage based on geographic location, education and training levels and for travel were added to the list of acceptable reasons for a wage differential.
- Nothing in the bill prohibits an employee bringing a wage discrimination complaint to the Civil Rights Division before going to court.
- Judges are prohibited from awarding damages when an employer is found not guilty and is found to have acted in good faith.
- The definition of substantially similar work was changed in the bill to work regardless of job title, based on a composite of skill, which may include consideration of shift work and responsibilities.
- The implementation date is January 1, 2021.
- The look back period was changed from 6 years to 3 years so that employees entitled to back pay could receive up to 3 years of back pay.
- A requirement to re-post a job opening with an adjusted salary range if there are negotiations out of the original posted salary range was removed.
Many of the concerns voiced by the business community were addressed through changes made to the bill on Wednesday. SB19-085 passed out of Senate Judiciary Committee by a 3-2 vote to the Appropriations Committee.
HB19-1177, Extreme Risk Protection Order, was presented by Majority Leader Garnett and Representative Sullivan on Thursday in the House Judiciary Committee. Individuals affected by gun violence from mass shootings or family/friends who had committed suicide with firearms gave emotional testimony. Gun owners and gun rights advocates testified as well, sharing due process concerns and an uneasiness over how the policy would be applied. This is a personal issue for bill sponsor Rep. Sullivan, whose son was murdered in the Aurora theater shooting. The Red Flag bill failed in the legislature last year, but this year is likely to pass. The bill would create a process to allow a family member or member of law enforcement to petition the court for a temporary order to remove the firearms from an individual who is showing signs that they could be a danger to themselves or others. If a judge grants the temporary order, a hearing must be held to determine if the order should be extended. The bill differs slightly from last year’s Red Flag bill in several ways. The maximum length of time of an extension of an extreme risk protection order would be 364 days, rather than 6 months, and the second hearing must be held within 14 days, rather than within 7 days. The bill also would require free counsel be provided to the respondent during the second hearing, a difference from other states with a similar Red Flag law. The bill was amended to ensure that the person submitting the petition for an ERPO has standing as a family member or household member, add reporting requirements, to ensure concealed carry permits are returned, and to require law enforcement to maintain seized firearms while in custody. HB19-1177 passed out of committee by a vote of 7-4 with Democrats supporting and Republicans opposing.
On Tuesday of this week, HB19-1120 was heard in the House Public Health Care and Human Services. The bill is intended to help youth in need to access mental health services. One of the bill sponsors, Representative Michaelson Jenet, has been advocating for reforms to ensure youth have access to mental health treatment for several legislative sessions. Students, social workers, and mental health professionals testified in support of the bill. As introduced, the bill would create a mental health resource bank for K-12 schools to access for mental health curricula and it would allow a minor between the ages of 12 and 14 to seek psychotherapy services without consent of their parents. The current age of consent to seek psychotherapy services without parental consent is 15. There were concerns from mental health providers that 12 may be too low for an age of consent. The providers worked extensively with Representative Michaelson Jenet to build in a few guardrails on lowering the age of consent. The bill was laid over for action only to allow for more time to work on the amendment.
DCBA Bill Tracker: https://statebillinfo.com/SBI/index.cfm?fuseaction=Public.Dossier&id=25593&pk=619&style=pinstripe