Criminal justice bills will become law without Hickenlooper's signature; 'budget transparency' cited

Criminal justice bills will become law without Hickenlooper's signature; 'budget transparency' cited
Posted at 3:32 PM, Jun 06, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-06 17:32:30-04

DENVER – Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper will allow two criminal justice reform bills passed by the state Legislature to become law without his signature, saying he had “concerns that the bill’s full and true impact on the state budget was not fully transparent.”

Hickenlooper sent letters to the Republican-controlled Senate Tuesday informing them Senate Bill 12 and Senate Bill 19 would become law on June 10 without his signature. Friday, June 9 is the last day for Hickenlooper to sign or veto bills lest they become law without his signature.

He said specifically in his letters that he was “pleased” with Senate Bill 19’s “statutory changes and its support for Coloradans with mental illnesses,” but that he was not supportive of last-minute efforts to get around budget constraints to fund the changes in the bills, calling them “tactics that may veil a bill’s true cost to the taxpayers.”

Senate Bill 19 aims to make fixes to the mental health reporting and medication systems within both adult and juvenile correctional facilities in Colorado, and to implement more coordination between providers and corrections officials overseeing medication and treatment programs.

Senate Bill 12 will amend the process for both the adult and juvenile criminal justice systems in the way that people are found competent or incompetent to face charges because of mental illnesses.

And while Hickenlooper voiced few concerns about the aim of the bills, he didn’t want to attach his name to them because of the last-minute changes made to both bills after fiscal impact notes and additional staff analysis had been completed.

“[I]n the final week of the 2017 legislative session, amendments were added delaying several of the bill’s implementation dates beyond Fiscal Year 2017-2018,” Hickenlooper wrote to the Senate. “Furthermore, language was inserted making most of the bill’s requirements voluntary, subject to out-year budgeting, and legislating future budget requests by the Administration to prioritize funds to accomplish the bill’s tasks.”

“Legislation should not contain ‘work-around’ language to the annual process – whether by delays of implementation dates several years out, use of optional permissive bill language, or other tactics that may veil a bill’s true cost to the taxpayers,” he continued.

Hickenlooper also noted that he often faces criticism over his budget decisions and use of taxpayer money to summarize his letter.

“[W]e expect legislation to be more transparent on its impact on taxpayer funds,” he wrote. “Given that we are frequently accused of not correctly prioritizing our resources or not making tough choices, the strategy in this bill merits highlighting.”