Juvenile Justice, Porch Pirates, Catalytic Converters, and More This Legislative Session

This year’s legislative session includes bills on porch piracy prevention, youth criminal justice reform, school lunches, psychedelic mushrooms, and more. Photo by David Sabados

Keeping children out of the school to prison pipeline, stopping the black market sales of catalytic converter thefts, and reducing porch package thefts are just a few of the bills legislators are debating at the Capitol this session. With hundreds of bills flowing through the state legislature each year it can be hard to follow what could have an impact on your life, so we wanted to explain a few bills important to the North Denver community and reached out to our local legislators to get their thoughts on the bills they are sponsoring this year. Colorado’s legislature meets for 120 days at the start of each year, and is considered a part-time legislature, with most members maintaining other jobs as well.

Representative Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez

Representative Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez, who represents House District 4 in the NW corner of the city, highlighted two of her bills in an interview with The Denver North Star.

House Bill 22-1131, which has bipartisan sponsorship, removes minors who are 10, 11, and 12 from the juvenile court’s jurisdiction (with the exception of homicide cases). She hopes the bill will keep children who make a mistake from being stuck in the perpetual cycle of the criminal justice system for life. She said that before the 1990s, minor incidents like a child stealing a candy bar were more the purview of the parents, the store, and a community that allowed restorative justice rather than a criminal matter. By removing grade school aged children from the court, it helps put the focus on underlying issues. “Why were they stealing? What’s the root cause of that?”

Gonzales-Gutierrez, whose nonlegislative career includes nearly 20 years of experience in the juvenile justice and child welfare fields, said she has talked with the families of too many 15 and 16-year-olds who are already stuck in the criminal justice system and can’t get out, so she’s hoping to tackle the problem earlier.

Gonzales-Gutierrez is also sponsoring SB22-087, which reimburses local school districts for the cost of providing healthy meals to students, using federal funds the state is hoping to receive. The “Healthy Meals for All Public School Students” bill encourages more local school districts to provide meals for their students.

Marc Jacobson, CEO of Hunger Free Colorado, spoke at a press conference in support of the bill. “By providing healthy school meals free for all public school students, we will take away the stigma and embarrassment that has been a regular part of the school meals experience for kids from low income families. No eight-year-old, or kid of any age, should learn stigma from the lunch line.” 

Many schools have been providing free meals to all students during COVID, and schools realized more students were using the service than expected, also likely due to the economic impact COVID had on families.

Rep. Alex Valdez said he ordered his pirate hat and eye patch online and was thankful they weren’t stolen before he could wear them to the committee meeting. Photo by David Sabados

Representative Alex Valdez

Representative Alex Valdez, who represents House District 5, is tacking a different aspect of crime in one of his sponsored bills. House Bill 22-1030 creates a refundable state income tax credit of up to $75 for residents who have been the victim of theft to install anti-theft devices, or for companies who give them to customers. “At some point there is an industry that will rise up to solve this problem,” Valdez told The Denver North Star. He hopes the credit will spur more local businesses to create boxes that delivery companies can access but lock afterward and similar options that reduce package theft. Valdez, whose district currently includes Chaffee Park, Sunnyside, Highland, and Jefferson Park neighborhoods, said during his committee presentation that he’s well familiar with the problem, at one point having an average of a package a week stolen.

Valdez is also sponsoring HB22-1116, which creates a policy review panel for plant-based medicines. Denver may have decriminalized psilocybin mushrooms (hallucinogenic mushrooms sometimes called “magic mushrooms”), but this bill focuses on medical, not recreational uses, specifically for mental health. Valdez hopes it can help address the mental health crisis he sees both locally and nationally, noting that several other states across the country, including more conservative areas, have all introduced similar legislation.

Two Bills Focused on stopping Catalytic Converter Thefts

Catalytic converter thefts are one of the other most prevalent property crime issues in the city, especially in North Denver. Converters aren’t valuable themselves, but contain rare materials like rhodium. Converter thefts skyrocketed from 14 reported thefts across the city in 2019 to 2,671 in 2021 according to the Denver Police Department, with an average of 4 stolen per day in early January of this year. Adams County legislator Rep. Adrienne Benevidez is one of the sponsors of both SB22-009 and HB22-1217, which seek to make thefts less profitable in part by regulating the used converter market, requiring the devices to be registered, and requiring salvagers and recyclers to keep records of who sold them converters, which makes it hard to sell stolen devices. Converters’ major components would also be added to Colorado’s “chop shop” statute, and adds materials to the commodity theft task force, allowing more focus on converter thefts. Rep. Valdez called it “a great strategy” and said he looks forward to supporting the bill if it reaches the floor for a full vote. 

Note: Check back next month for our next legislative update featuring Senator Julie Gonzales

For more information on legislation impacting 65+ residents, check on this month’s Gray Zone.

Every legislator can introduce at least five bills in their chamber each session in addition to sponsoring bills from the other chamber. Not all bills have been introduced yet this session.

How to read a bill:

HB means the bill was first introduced in the House

SB means the bill was first introduced in the Senate

22 means it’s part of the 2022 legislative session

The last numbers are unique each year to identify the bill

Bills Your Legislators are Sponsoring So Far:

Representative Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez

HB22-1003: Creates a two year pilot grant program to fund projects aimed at reducing juvenile crime

HB22-1131: Changes the minimum age of a juvenile who is subject to the juvenile court’s jurisdiction from 10 to 13, except in homicide cases

HB22-1067: Clarifies the amount of time a defendant can be held in jail before a hearing in municipal court

SB22-023: Prohibits law enforcement officers from using deception to obtain a statement or admission from a juvenile

SB22-087: Reimburses local school districts for the cost of providing healthy meals to students using federal funds

SB22-095 Requires the department of public safety to provide more detailed reporting of missing persons information

Representative Alex Valdez

HB22-1030: Income Tax Credit for Package Anti-theft devices

HB22-1114: Authorizes a Transportation Network Company to Provide nonmedical transportation services to person who are enrolled in certain medicaid waiver programs

HB22-1116: Creation of a policy review panel to study plant-based medicines for mental health 

Senator Julie Gonzales

SB22-023: Prohibits law enforcement officers from using deception to obtain a statement or admission from a juvenile

SB22-094: Grants property and casualty insurance claimants a reimbursement for costs of an successful appeal 

SB22-103: Allows defendants who were not effectively advised of the immigration consequences of a guilty plea to petition the court for an order vacating the plea

HB22-1003: Creates a two year pilot grant program to fund projects aimed at reducing juvenile crime

HB22-1060: Creates contribution limits for school board candidates of $2,500 for individuals and $25,000 for small donor committees

HB22-1112: Extends the time requirements for reporting on-the-job injuries

HB22-1131: Changes the minimum age of a juvenile who is subject to the juvenile court’s jurisdiction from 10 to 13, except in homicide cases


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