DENVER — On one side: segments of Colorado’s hemp and marijuana industry, claiming a bill that won final approval in the House Thursday will benefit just one company and could carry a rash of unintended consequences.
A bipartisan bill filed in the Colorado House last week would make it harder for drug abusers to forge or duplicate prescriptions on paper to steal opioids, and it's kind of simple: prescribers and pharmacies should close the loop online.
Makes-you-wonder-department: Rep. Jim Wilson, Capitol M’s go-to for many things humorous, has struck again. He threatened recently to filibuster bills in the House until he got enough bids for three bags of flour donated by the Colorado Wheat Growers Association earlier in the week. The threat worked. Lawmakers, eager to get out for the […]
The Black Democratic Legislative Caucus of Colorado held its annual opening reception this week. Also celebrated as the Historic Eight, this delegation is made up of six House and two Senate members working collectively to create and track legislation focused on Coloradans of color.
The intimate event took place at the Blair Caldwell African American Research Library in Denver’s historic Five Points neighborhood, rightfully so. Five Points is nostalgically known as the “Harlem of the West,” once serving as the epicenter of Denver’s thriving black business and social scenes.
Legislators, community members and supporters packed the third floor of the library to hear about the concerted effort the BDLC is putting toward policy during this session.
“I know this Black Caucus and, particularly, Janet Buckner, and all of them are actively trying to be sure that our K-12 system is the best it can be for the students they represent,” said Rep. Dave Young, D-Greeley.
Sen. Rhonda Fields of Aurora is also working on legislation aimed at helping Colorado kids get access to reduced copay lunches. The Expand Child Nutrition School Lunch Protection Act would, “allow school districts to increase access to a healthy meal during school hours for 1.4 million more students. Because hunger knows no age.”
Healthcare, housing, business and technology are also among the issues the BDLC are tackling this session.
“These are people who have their ear to the ground…listening to what people are saying and what they need. Because of that, they have special expertise to devise policy that is cost effective and can really make a difference in the community. That benefits everybody in Colorado. ” said Aaron Harber, host of “The Aaron Harber Show.”
Members of the BDLC are Sens. Angela Williams (chair)of Denver and Fields, as well as Reps. James Coleman of Denver, Leslie Herod of Denver, Tony Exum Sr. of Colorado Springs, Janet Buckner of Aurora, Dominique Jackson on Denver and Jovan Melton (vice chair) of Aurora.
As the legislative session started Wednesday you could feel the excitement and anxiety in both chambers. Priorities were laid out for the next 119 days, including working to improve Colorado’s roads, addressing a projected shortfall in state employees’ pension system, expanding rural broadband accessibility, tackling energy, solving the state’s opioid crisis and ensuring men and women who work at the Capitol feel protected and feel heard amid looming allegations of sexual misconduct.
Simultaneously, the Black Democratic Legislative Caucus, known as the “Historic Eight,” the largest number of black legislators to serve in Colorado at once, is also working on policy more specifically aimed at the advancement of people of color. The contingent is prioritizing education, small business creation, housing affordability and the criminal justice system.
“This legislative session will be pivotal to Colorado’s future as we believe what we do in the general assembly will have impacts on this year’s election,” said Rep. Jovan Melton, D-Aurora, the vice chairman of the caucus. “It’s important that the issues plaguing African-Americans across our state are not ignored and that our vote is not taken for granted.”
While they make up 8 percent of the legislature, black Coloradans are a mere 4.5 percent of the population, and voter turnout for this demographic has been consistently low in recent elections.
Sen. Angela Williams, D-Denver, who chairs the BDLC, said the group has hired a staff member to aid them in introducing policy and to “keep an eye out for legislation that might appear to be inequitable to our communities of color.”
Specific legislation details are expected to be rolled out in the in the coming days, as lawmakers formally introduce bills.
The BDLC’s annual legislative preview will take place on Jan. 22 on the third floor of the Blair Caldwell African American Research Library in Denver’s Five Points neighborhood.
Besides Melton and Williams. the caucus includes Sens. Rhonda Fields of Aurora and Reps. James Coleman of Denver, Leslie Herod of Denver, Tony Exum Sr. of Colorado Springs, Janet Buckner of Aurora and Dominique Jackson of Denver.
(Editor’s note: This story was corrected to reflect that Jovan Melton is from Aurora.)