Bill that would add requirements for coroner candidates clears committee in the state legislature Tuesday

Posted at 9:41 AM, Feb 14, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-14 15:46:16-05

DENVER — A state bill that would add requirements for candidates running for county coroner in larger counties passed its first committee hearing Tuesday.

Currently, just about anyone can run for county coroner. The requirements under state law include being registered to vote in the county, having a high school diploma/GED and not having any felonies.

Coroners are responsible for determining the cause and manner of death for people who have died unexpectedly.

Under the bill, coroner candidates would need to either need to be a certified death investigator through the American Board of Medicolegal Death Investigators (ABMDI) or a board-certified forensic pathologist.

"You can't run for DA and not already be an attorney. You actually can't even serve as a county surveyor. You can't even get on the ballot as a county surveyor without being a licensed surveyor," State Rep. Stephanie Vigil, D-Colorado Springs, said. Vigil is sponsoring the bill to make changes to state law.

The new requirement would apply to coroners running in counties with a population of more than 150,000 people.


Five forensic pathologists are working in the El Paso County Coroner's office, the county not only performs autopsies for El Paso County but for more than 20 other surrounding counties.

"That's arguably one of the most important safety nets for public health and safety is make sure that the people who are in charge of these offices, that are investigating these tragic, horrible situations actually have the qualifications to do so," Dr. Leon Kelly, the El Paso County Coroner said.

The bill passed the House Transportation, Housing, and Local Government committee on 9-2 vote, with one Republican lawmaker, Rep. Lisa Frizell (R-Douglas County) voting in favor of the bill.

Rep. Don Wilson, R-Monument, voted against it. He said he believes voters should make the call on whether or not a coroner is qualified.

"I think the voters of El Paso County understand that and see that, and that's why their vote went the way it did. That's why we have Doctor Kelly as our coroner. He's a great coroner with a great background," Rep. Wilson said.

Garfield County Coroner Rob Glassmire also testified at the capitol Tuesday. His concern with the bill is that it doesn't go far enough. His county, with a population of about 60,000 would not be subject to the requirements of the bill.

"I think it should go a little bit farther to incorporate all county coroners, which would include all 5.8 million citizens of Colorado. Death investigation is really important, and it should include all coroners," Rep. Glassmire said.

The bill would allow smaller counties to include these requirements by a vote of their county commissioners.

Of the 11 counties subject to the requirements of the bill, Dr. Kelly said only two of the coroners do not currently meet the qualifications. One of those coroners is Stephen Hanks from Larimer County. He testified at Tuesday's hearing and said he is in the process of becoming certified.

The bill will now move forward for a full vote in the House.

Proposed bill would add requirements for County Coroner candidates