Measure to reauthorize Colorado Civil Rights Division introduced

DENVER – Colorado’s House Judiciary Committee voted Tuesday to official introduce the measure to reauthorize the state’s civil rights division and commission after Democrats voted down several attempts by Republicans to change the commission’s makeup.

The committee voted 10-1 to introduce the bill in a procedural vote, with three Republicans voting for a clean reauthorization of the committee tasked with protecting Coloradans from discrimination.

“The strong bipartisan support that the Civil Rights Division received today shows that protecting Coloradans from discrimination should not be a partisan issue,” said Rep. Leslie Herod, D-Denver, who voted for the introduction.

Republicans on the state Joint Budget Committee blocked the funding reauthorization earlier this month, saying that they wanted to see the reauthorization bill in the legislature before they blindly voted to fund it again.

Some had also pointed out that the commission is at the heart of the Masterpiece Cakeshop case, which the U.S. Supreme Court heard in December and is expected to issue a decision on later this year.

In Wednesday’s committee hearing, Republicans tried to introduce changes to the legislation that would have required half the commission be either lawyers or former judges, and another that would have allowed legislative leadership and the state supreme court’s chief justice to appoint commissioners, as the governor can currently.

And in a nod to the Masterpiece case, whose first decision was made by the civil rights division, another proposal would have nullified the commission’s ability to be a judicial authority in cases.

But the Democrats on the committee rejected those proposals on party-line votes, saying they were unfair to prospective commissioners and the division and commission as a whole.

The same committee will hold the first hearing on the measure, which is sponsored by House Speaker Crisanta Duran, D-Denver, who warned that “the funding fight” was “not over.”

“Now that we are moving forward to reauthorize the division with strong bipartisan support, I would expect the Republicans to join with the Democrats in supporting funding for the office.”

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