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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirMay 11, 20173min483

One of the more controversial tools that law enforcement agencies have acquired in the era of the war on drugs — seizing cash and property they believe to be associated with a crime — will have to better account for itself under bipartisan legislation now on its way to Gov. John Hickenlooper for his signature.

House Bill 1313 got final approval from the legislature on Wednesday, the last day of the 2017 session.

Billed as “civil forfeiture reform,” HB 1313 requires all state law enforcement agencies to report to the Department of Local Affairs on all cases of civil asset forfeiture. The department is charged with aggregating and displaying the data on its website in an easily searchable format.

The database will disclose the reason for contact with law enforcement that led to the seizure, the status of any pending investigation into a suspected crime, a description of assets seized, and for what the proceeds are being used.

That particular provision — getting on the record law enforcement’s eventual use of the property or cash it seizes  — addresses long-standing concerns about the extent to which law enforcement has come to view civil-asset forfeiture as a cash cow. A range of civil-liberties advocacy groups spanning the political spectrum, from the American Civil Liberties Union on the left to the Cato Institute on the right, have called for reform and even repeal of law enforcement’s power to seize the assets of mere suspects in crimes.

HB 1313 doesn’t go nearly so far; it does, however, add a degree of accountability that is arguably absent from the process in Colorado.

By the way, the legislation also limits local law enforcement from sharing funds from forfeitures in multi-jurisdictional operations; proceeds only can be shared in cases that involve a seizure that’s $50,000 or more in value, requiring forfeitures under that amount to follow state forfeiture procedures.

The broad-based philosophical appeal of the reform is reflected in the bill’s wide-ranging sponsorship: Reps. Leslie Herod, D-Denver, and Stephen Humphrey, R-Severance, and Sens. Tim Neville, R-Littleton, and Daniel Kagan, D-Cherry Hills Village.

A press statement issued by the Senate GOP Wednesday quotes Neville:

“Colorado’s men and women in blue take on a tremendous responsibility in their service to our state, and we should lend them every tool in our arsenal to ensure that they are able to continue to perform their duties and keep our communities safe. … Whenever we can come together in a bipartisan fashion to strengthen constitutional rights for Coloradans and increase transparency and accountability in government, we are achieving exactly what Coloradans have tasked us with as public servants.”


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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirMarch 8, 20172min325

Gov. John Hickenlooper soon could ink legislation to help combine overlapping services — like schools, restaurants, parks and shops— that are provided at military bases and by the local communities that host them. House Bill 1054, which was OK’d unanimously by the state Senate, was touted today in a press release by the Senate Democrats as “creating a closer community with Colorado civilians and our men and women in uniform.” HB 1054 was previously approved overwhelmingly in the House.

The bipartisan measure is sponsored by Democratic Sen. Nancy Todd of Aurora in the upper chamber and was introduced earlier in the House by Republican Reps. Terri Carver and Dan Nordberg of Colorado Springs. Both communities are home to military installations — Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora and the Army’s Fort Carson, the U.S. Air Force Academy and Peterson Air Force Base, among others, in Colorado Springs.

The measure’s focus on eliminating costly duplication and fostering closer links between the installations and their surrounding communities is intended to “cut costs and increase efficiencies in providing governmental services,” according to the bill’s official summary. The bill “directs the department of local affairs to support cooperative intergovernmental agreements between military installations and local governments.”

In a statement issued by the Senate Democratic press office, Todd said:

“We need to support and make sure our service members feel welcomed to our community. With all the responsibilities our men and women in uniform face protecting our country, we need to make sure we provide a supportive environment. And when they become veterans, hopefully they will choose to continue to call their host community home.”

 

 


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Ernest LuningErnest LuningFebruary 8, 201721min443

“We know historic preservation has a positive economic impact to our state,” Steve Turner, the state historic preservation officer and executive director of History Colorado, told the several hundred preservation experts, community leaders and property owners gathered on Friday at the Colorado Convention Center for the Saving Places Conference. Then, pointing to preservation projects across the state, he added, “We can look at these case examples and see it has a positive impact on the quality of life in our communities, too.”