Organ donations get a boost in Colorado from under-the-radar bill

Author: Joey Bunch - June 7, 2017 - Updated: June 7, 2017

Organ donations
Gov. John Hickenlooper presents the pen he used to sign the state’s organ donation law to Rep. Janet Buckner, the wife of one of its namesakes, as Rep. Bob Gardner, another of the bill’s sponsors, looks on. (Photo courtesy of the Donor Alliance)


A below-the-radar bill that passed the legislature without a no vote was signed into law by the governor this week, and it definitely will save lives by supporting organ donations.

Each year Coloradans donate about $445,000 when they obtain or renew a driver’s license and the Department of Motor Vehicles asks if they would like to donate a $1 or more to support the Donor Alliance.

House Bill 1027 improves that program in so many ways, here’s a list:

  • Erases a July 18 expiration date for the program.
  • Adds the name of late, well-respected state legislator to the name, the Emily Keyes – John W. Buckner Organ and Tissue Donation Awareness Fund
  • Clarifies that self-designation as an organ and tissue donor on a driver license, training permit or ID card remains valid until the applicant removes it. Information can be updated on the Donate Life Colorado website.
  • Provides the DMV $33,750 from the fund to make that change in its databases.
  • Requires the Donor Alliance to provide the Department of Revenue an annual report detailing the specific uses of all the money it receives from the fund.

Emily Keyes, the fund’s original lone namesake, was shot and killed during a hostage taking at Platte Canyon High School in Bailey in 2006. She was a corneal donor. She became the namesake of the transplant fund in 2007.

Rep. John Buckner, a former Aurora school principal and a legislative leader on educational issues, died in 2015. He was an organ and tissue donor. He was replaced in the House by his wife, Janet Buckner, D-Aurora, who co-sponsored the bill.

“Ten years ago this fund was named for Emily Keyes, a young woman whose life was taken too early, to honor her memory and her desire to give the gift of life,” Buckner said. “I’m so honored that my husband’s name will now join hers, and that both of their legacies as extraordinary people who made extraordinary contributions to help others thrive will continue.

“I am hopeful that the memory of their contributions will encourage more people to become organ and tissue donors and give the gift of life.”

The bill was also sponsored by Rep. Jon Becker, R-Fort Morgan; Sen. Bob Gardner, R-Colorado Springs; and Sen. Leroy Garcia, D-Pueblo.

The program started a decade ago, and the Donor Alliance says the state has signed up 7.7 million donors, which is pretty amazing for a state of 5.4 million people, though you have to account for people moving in and out and some donors passing away.

Nonetheless, Colorado has accounted for 5,192 transplants in the last decade, according to the Donor Alliance, a federally designated nonprofit to create public awareness and support for transplants.

The alliance was formed in 1997 from the merger of the Colorado Organ Recovery Systems and the Mile High Transplant Bank to serve all of Colorado and part of Wyoming.

The law takes effect Sept. 15.

Speaking of Donate Life Colorado, its website has an excellent page of frequently asked questions about organ donation. Give it a read.

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch is the senior political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has a 31-year career in journalism, including the last 15 in Colorado. He was part of the Denver Post team that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2013 and is a two-time Pulitzer finalist. His resume includes covering high school sports, the environment, the casino industry and civil rights in the South, as well as a short stint at CNN.


  • Jeffrey

    June 7, 2017 at 1:46 pm

    Is this news or commentary?

  • Anastasia Darwish

    June 7, 2017 at 4:05 pm

    And, very importantly, it includes “living organ donation” in the text of the bill, as advocated by the American Transplant Foundation and supported by Donor Alliance.

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