2022 Colorado Catholic Conference Legislative Recap

Colorado Catholic Conference 2022 Legislative Recap

On May 11, 2022, the 73rd General Assembly adjourned. Over 650 bills were introduced this session, many bills upheld Catholic social teaching by protecting the most vulnerable members of our community and ensuring nonprofits, such as the Catholic Church, have resources to stop hate crimes, while other bills violated Church teaching by disregarding the sanctity of human life and encroaching on religious liberty.

The Colorado Catholic Conference (CCC), as the united voice of the four Colorado bishops, advocated for Catholic values at the State Capitol and ensured that the Church’s voice was heard in the shaping of policy.

The 2022 Reproductive Health Equity Act (RHEA) was introduced in the Colorado General Assembly on March 3, 2022 and signed into law by Governor Jared Polis on April 4. The bill was rushed through the legislative process in order to suppress the voices of millions of Coloradans. Yet, within three weeks, nearly 600 Coloradans came to the hearing to testify against the bill, pro-life lawmakers filibustered in both houses, and nearly one thousand Coloradans rallied against the bill on the steps of the Capitol on March 12.

The Reproductive Health Equity Act (RHEA) was passed and enacted to ensure that Colorado remains an extreme abortion state, even if Roe v. Wade (1973) and Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992) are overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, anticipated for the end of June 2022. RHEA:

  • Allows on-demand abortion for the full 40 weeks of pregnancy;
  • Discriminates based on sex, race, or disability;
  • Could remove the parent notification requirement if their minor has an abortion;
  • Enshrines in law that “a fertilized egg, embryo, or fetus does not have independent or derivative rights under” state law;
  • Prohibits regulation of abortion based on the health of the woman or her baby.

Pro-abortion sponsors of RHEA also plan to push a 2024 ballot proposal that would allow Colorado tax-payer dollars to fund abortions in an effort to make Colorado a “safe haven” for abortion for out-of-state women living in states that protect life.

In response to RHEA, 21 pro-life non-profits, including the Colorado Catholic Conference and diocesan Respect Life offices, joined together as the Pro-Life Colorado coalition to continue to fight RHEA, prepare for the 2024 ballot battle, and promote legislation that values the sanctity of life.

Although RHEA was by far the most important and disappointing legislation this session, the General Assembly also considered bills that were consistent with Catholic social teaching, including bills on public safety, affordable housing, and providing economic relief to Coloradans. Below is a recap of the CCC’s 18 priority bills from the 2022 legislative session.

For regular updates and other information, please sign-up for the CCC legislative network here. 

Nine Bills the CCC Supported That Were Either Passed or Enacted

Note: Passed means the bill was approved by both chambers of the legislature and is pending the governor’s signature as of May 17, 2022. Enacted means the bill was signed by the governor and became law.

1. HB22-1077 Colorado Nonprofit Security Grant Program ­– Passed

If enacted, the Colorado Nonprofit Security Grant Program will provide monetary support to religious and charitable organizations that are facing threats of violence and vandalism to increase their security infrastructure.

2, HB22-1083 Colorado Homeless Contribution Tax Credit – Passed

If enacted, this bill will expand a tax credit available for contributions to organizations that serve the population of individuals experiencing homelessness. This will assist these organizations, which include Catholic Charities in all three dioceses, with carrying out their mission of serving the poor and homeless across our state.

3. HB22-1289 Health Benefits for Colorado Children and Pregnant Persons Passed

If enacted, 1289 will expand health care coverage for low-income undocumented pregnant women and children under Medicaid and the children’s basic health plan for those who would otherwise be eligible for coverage if not for their immigration status. The Church did not support eliminating the reference to “women” and replacing it with “pregnant person,” but the policy change to help women and children in need is consistent with Church teaching.

4. SB22-050 Work Opportunities for Offenders in Department of Correction – Enacted

As enacted, this bill promotes restorative justice by clarifying the ways by which offenders can participate in work opportunities that promote rehabilitation, reentry, and reintegration into the community.

5. SB22-053 Health Facility Visitation During Pandemic Passed

If enacted, this bill will ensure that a hospital patient or a nursing or assisted living facility resident has at least one visitor during a pandemic. This includes “compassionate care visits,” which can be clergy.

6. SB22-115 Clarifying Terms Related to Landowner Liability – Enacted

This bill clarified current law on the liability of land owners when a third-party causes harm on their property. This is an important clarification to ensure that landowners are not held liable when unforeseen criminal activity occurs on their property, which may be a concern for the Church if such activity happens on Church property.

7. SB22-139 Juneteenth New State HolidayEnacted

SB 139 established Juneteenth as a state holiday after Congress made it a federal holiday in 2021. This is a necessary and overdue action to honor the day slavery ended in the United States of America.  On June 19, 1865, Major General Gordon Granger issued a general order in Galveston, Texas to free all remaining slaves in the state, based on President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation of January 1, 1863.

8. SB22-145 Resources to Increase Community Safety – Passed

If enacted, SB 145 establishes three grant programs for law enforcement. Amid the rising tide of crime in Colorado, this bill is an important investment to promote law enforcement in our state.

9. SB22-196 Health Needs Of Persons In Criminal Justice System – Passed

If enacted, SB 196 will create the early intervention, deflection, and redirection from the criminal justice system grant program which will provide much-needed funding toward directing individuals struggling with mental and substance abuse disorders away from the criminal justice system and towards places where they can receive proper treatment.

Three Bills the CCC Opposed that Were Passed

1. HB22-1008 Implementation of Fertility Coverage – Enacted

HB 1008 requires large employers in Colorado to defray the costs of fertility services in their insurance policies. This bill carries religious liberty and sanctity of life concerns for both nonprofit and for-profit businesses and business owners. While there is a religious exemption clause, it does not protect private individuals for whom providing in vitro fertilization (IVF) coverage would violate their moral convictions regarding IVF.

2. HB22-1269 Health-care Sharing Plan Reporting Requirements – Passed  

If enacted, this bill will require health-care sharing plans to report certain information to the state commissioner of insurance. While it does not directly impact the Catholic Church’s insurance plans, the bill has religious liberty concerns for other Christian health sharing plans that provide coverage to individuals seeking a moral alternative to health insurance plans that cover procedures such as abortions or gender transition surgeries.

3. HB22-1279 Reproductive Health Equity Act Enacted

HB22-1279 made Colorado one of the most extreme abortion states in the country. As enacted, it allows abortion up-to-the moment of birth for any reason and enshrines in law that “a fertilized egg, embryo, or fetus does not have independent or derivative rights under the laws” of Colorado. It was enacted to preemptively respond to the expected decision in the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson, which is expected this summer.

Five Bills the CCC Supported That Failed

1. HB22-1019 Modifications to Qualified State Tuition Programs – Failed

HB 1019 would have allowed families to save for K-12 private school tuition using a tax-exempt 529 savings plan, currently used for college expenses. In 2018, the federal government enacted the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act which allowed 529 account savings to be used for K-12 tuition, but because state policies and investment options are central components of 529 plans, states must revise their rules to allow parents to save and use 529 funds for K-12 education. Colorado lawmakers continue to block families from having this education opportunity for their children.

2. HB22-1047 Protect Human Life at Conception – Failed

HB 1047 would have prohibited terminating the life of a preborn child and made a violation a class 1 felony. By killing the bill, pro-abortion lawmakers denied the dignity of preborn children.

3. HB22-1075 Induced Termination of Pregnancy State Registrar – Failed

HB 1075 would have required providers that perform induced abortions, often late-term abortions, to report specified information to the state registrar and the registrar

would then create a summary for the public. None of this information would violate the privacy of a woman seeking an abortion; it merely would provide Coloradans with accurate information about the prevalence of abortion in Colorado. According to the Guttmacher Institute (a policy organization formerly owned by Planned Parenthood), abortion figures for Colorado are 40 percent higher than data provided by the Colorado Department of Public Health. Yet, pro-abortion Colorado lawmakers defeat this crucial bill each year.

4. HB22-1136 Ultrasound Video Demonstration in Sex Education – Failed

HB 1136 would have added a requirement that a high-definition ultrasound video showing each stage of human development be shown as part of comprehensive human sexuality education.

5. SB22-039 Funding for Educational Opportunities – Failed

SB 39 would have created a Hope Scholarship Program to empower families with the ability to pursue the education options best suited for their childrens’ individual learning needs and aspirations. The scholarship would have been delivered to eligible families through a state-supervised spending account with which families can fully customize their child’s education. Think of this as an education-version of a Health Savings Account, where families are put in charge of some of the funds allocated for their child’s public education through their family’s tax dollars. With the Hope scholarship, families could have used their childrens’ scholarship toward online learning, private tutoring, physical and occupational therapy, private school tuition, before and after school programs, summer school, and other allowable uses.

Other Significant Legislation from the Session

1. HB22-1326 Fentanyl Accountability And Prevention – Passed

To combat the fentanyl crisis that has spread across the state, lawmakers passed HB 1326 after considerable debate. The bill, among other things, makes the possession of one to four grams of a substance that contains any amount fentanyl, a felony. It also included appropriations to give authorities the necessary resources to combat the crisis and educate the public on the dangers of fentanyl.

While the legislature has adjourned the 2022 legislative session, there is still the possibility that they will reconvene later this year. To stay up-to-date on Colorado legislative issues and their impact on the Catholic Church in Colorado, be sure to sign up for the CCC legislative network HERE. 

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Most Reverend Stephen J. Berg

Bishop of the Diocese of Pueblo

Most Reverend Stephen Berg is a native of Miles City, Montana. He is the son of Connie and Jeanne Berg and the oldest of 10 children. He attended Catholic schools in Miles City, graduating from Sacred Heart High School in 1969. He earned a Bachelor of Music in Piano Performance from the University of Colorado, Boulder in 1973 and a Master of Music from Eastern New Mexico University in Portales in 1975. Upon graduation, Bishop-designate Berg taught music at Tarrant County College in Fort Worth. Subsequently, he worked 14 years in the retail nursery industry as vice president or general manager for divisions of Sunbelt Nursery, Inc. in Fort Worth, Southern California, Phoenix and Atlanta.

Bishop-designate Berg entered Assumption Seminary in San Antonio in 1993 where he received a Master of Divinity degree from Oblate School of Theology in 1999. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1999 by his maternal uncle Bishop Joseph L. Charron, C.PP.S, S.T.D, now the Bishop Emeritus of Des Moines. After his ordination, Bishop-designate Berg served as parochial vicar of St. Michael Catholic Church in Bedford, Texas from 1999 to 2001. In 2001, he became parochial vicar of St. John the Apostle Catholic Church in North Richland Hills, Texas. From 2002 to 2008, he was pastor of four rural parishes: St. Mary in Henrietta, St. Jerome in Bowie, St. William in Montague and St. Joseph in Nocona. In 2008, Bishop Kevin Vann appointed him vicar general of the Diocese of Fort Worth and concurrently he served as pastor of St. Peter the Apostle Catholic Church. In 2010, he became the Moderator of the Curia for the Diocese under Bishop Vann and also served as administrator of Holy Name of Jesus parish. Upon Bishop Vann’s installation as Bishop of Orange, then Monsignor Berg was elected diocesan administrator in December 2012 by the College of Consultors for the Diocese. Bishop Berg was ordained and installed as Bishop of Pueblo on February 27, 2014, by Denver Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila at a Mass in Pueblo.

Most Reverend James R. Golka

Bishop of the Diocese of Colorado Springs

Bishop Golka is the fourth of ten children born September 22, 1966, to Robert and Patricia Golka. He was born and raised in Grand Island, NE. He graduated from Grand Island Central Catholic High School in 1985. He graduated from Creighton University in 1989 with degrees in Philosophy and Theology. He then spent one year as a Jesuit lay missionary volunteer at Red Cloud Indian School on the Native American Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.

After applying as a seminarian for his home diocese of Grand Island, Bishop Golka enjoyed seminary formation at the St. Paul Seminary, School of Divinity, of the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN, where he received both a Masters of Divinity degree and a Masters of Arts degree in Sacramental Theology.

He was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Grand Island on June 3, 1994. He has served as a Parochial Vicar and Pastor in various parishes. He has served the diocese in various capacities including Director of Ongoing Formation of Clergy, Chair of the Personnel Board, member of the Diocesan Finance Council, the Presbyteral Council, and as a member of the Diocesan College of Consultors. At the time of his election, he was serving as Rector of the Cathedral of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Grand Island, NE. He was also serving as the Vicar General for the Diocese of Grand Island.

Bishop Golka says that he greatly enjoys the pastoral ministry which is provided in a parish setting. Working with people at all stages of life and allowing the gift of our Catholic faith to provide direction, support and new life is greatly rewarding. He also enjoys helping to provide ongoing formation events for the clergy of the diocese to care for the wellbeing of his brother priests.

Bishop Golka has worked with national consultants to better help parishes develop stewardship as a way of life. He has offered numerous retreats across the country preaching the blessings of ordering our lives in recognition that all we are and all we have is a gift from God. A guiding scripture passage is Psalm 116:12 which proclaims: “How can I repay the LORD for all the great good done for me?”

Bishop Golka was Ordained a Bishop in Colorado Springs on June 29, 2021. The Diocese of Colorado Springs has approximately 183,150 Catholics in 39 parishes and missions. The diocese has 82 priests, 85 Deacons and 15 men in seminary formation. The diocese and its parishes provide religious education and formation to more than 9,000 students. There is one private Catholic high school in the diocese that currently serves approximately 254 students, while an additional 1,325 students receive instruction through five parish-based elementary schools. In total, there are more than 5,414 Catholic youths under religious instruction in the Diocese of Colorado Springs.

Bishop Golka looks forward to continued growth and expansion in the diocese. With God’s grace and with the support of the faithful, the Diocese of Colorado Springs will know many more years of serving the mission of the Church in Colorado.

Most Reverend Bishop Jorge H. Rodríguez

Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Denver

Bishop Rodriguez was born March 22, 1955, in Merida, Mexico, located in the state of Yucatan. He is the son of Nery Maria Novelo and Ramon Rodriguez (deceased), and he has one brother and four sisters, who live in Merida. In Merida he attended a primary school run by the Maryknoll Sisters, and then secondary and preparatory schools run by the Marist Brothers. When he finished high school, he joined the Legionaries of Christ to study and become a priest. He was ordained Dec. 24, 1987.

He was awarded a Doctorate in Sacred Theology by the Gregorian in Rome in 1994. He also has a licentiate in philosophy from the same pontifical university, and a diploma in Mariology from the Marianum in Rome.

He was the dean of the Theology Department of the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum in Rome (1994-1997). He has taught theology at the Pontifical Lateran University, at the Pontifical Institute Regina Mundi and at the Institute for Religious Sciences at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.

In 1999, he was invited by then Archbishop Charles Chaput to teach in the newly launched St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver, and to serve as Associate Pastor of St. Therese Parish in Aurora.
In 2002, he returned to Rome to serve as Associate Pastor of Stella Maris Parish in the Diocese of Rome, but then returned to Denver in 2006 to be a professor at St. John Vianney.

From 2007-2014, Father Rodriguez served as vice-rector of St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver. He was incardinated as a priest of the Archdiocese of Denver in 2008.

Since 2014, he has served as pastor of Holy Cross Parish in Thornton, Colorado, and he continues to teach the seminarians as well as the permanent diaconate candidates. In addition to his role as Auxiliary Bishop, Bishop Rodriguez serves as Pastor of St. Joseph Catholic Church in Downtown Denver.

He speaks Spanish, English and Italian, and reads French, and is the author of various theological publications.

Most Reverend Samuel J. Aquila

Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Denver

Samuel J. Aquila was born on September 24, 1950, in Burbank, California. He was ordained to the priesthood in Denver, Colorado, on June 5, 1976, and served in parish ministry for 11 years. In 1987, he began graduate studies at San Anselmo University in Rome, earning a Licentiate in Sacramental Theology in 1990.

He served as Director for the Office of Liturgy and Master of Ceremonies in the Archdiocese of Denver from 1990 until 1995. He served the archdiocese as Co-director for Continuing Education for Priests, as an advisor to the Bishop’s Committee on the Liturgy, and as Assistant Secretary for Catholic Education before being named Secretary for Catholic Education, a position he held from 1995 until 1999.

From 1999-2001, he served as the first Rector of St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver and Chief Executive Officer of Our Lady of the New Advent Theological Institute. In 2000, he was named a Prelate of Honor by Pope John Paul II, receiving the honorary title of Monsignor.

He was appointed Coadjutor Bishop of Fargo on June 12, 2001, and his Episcopal Ordination Mass was celebrated at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Fargo on August 24, 2001. On March 18, 2002, he became bishop of Fargo, upon the retirement of Bishop James Sullivan. On February 24, 2005, he was also named Interim Administrator for the Diocese of Sioux Falls. He served in this position until Most Rev. Paul J. Swain was ordained as the new bishop of the Diocese of Sioux Falls on October 26, 2006.

Archbishop Aquila serves on the Bishops’ Advisory Council for the Institute for Priestly Formation. He is a member of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, in which he has served as a member of various committees.