State Rep. Joe Salazar, D-District 31, said he was floored when members of the American Civil Liberties Union approached him late last year and told him courts were throwing impoverished people in jail for failing to pay fines for minor …
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State Rep. Joe Salazar, D-District 31, said he was floored when members of the American Civil Liberties Union approached him late last year and told him courts were throwing impoverished people in jail for failing to pay fines for minor violations.
“They showed me the numbers,” he said. “This is the 21st century, there is no way in the world we should tolerate this.”
Salazar, a constitutional attorney, said this practice violates the Colorado Constitution that states “no person shall be imprisoned for debt” and a 1987 ruling by the state’s Supreme Court that said courts should not jail indigent defendants for failure to pay.
During this legislative session, Salazar introduced House Bill 14-1061 that provides that when the court imposes a monetary payment as part of the sentence, the defendant has the chance to prove they are indigent. If the court finds the defendant cannot pay the fine, the court can then offer a payment plan or have the defendant do community service.
This bill is still being discussed on the House side.
Another bill that Salazar is the prime sponsor of this year is HB 14-1124, which would allow a student who is a member of a federally recognized American Indian tribe with historical ties to Colorado to be classified as “in-state” for tuition purposes. This would make that student eligible for state financial aid and the college opportunity fund stipend.
“This could increase the number of American Indians we have going to state colleges and universities,” Salazar said. “It’s a good policy decision. We are going to support those kids who we forcibly removed from Colorado.”
He pointed out that the state already has exemptions to the requirements for in-state tuition — an Olympic athlete may be considered a resident, as well as Canadian military and Chinese and Russian students.
This bill also is still working its way through the House.
A bill that will standardize the fee that governments in Colorado can charge for public records has passed out of the House and is in the Senate. Salazar said HB 14-1193 has bipartisan support.
Salazar’s bill caps the research cost to $30 an hour with the first hour free under the current proposal.
Salazar said that he’s seen some governments charge nothing, while others charge as much as $170. This bill, he said, allows for governmental transparency for those doing CORA (Colorado Open Records Act) requests.
The bill has passed its second reading in the Senate Monday.
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