The 74th General Assembly of the Colorado legislature adjourned the 2023 legislative session on May 8, 2023.
Over the course of the 120 days of session, lawmakers introduced over 600 bills across a variety of policy areas. The top legislative issues at the capitol, based on lobbying expenses, were abortion and “gender affirming care,” affordable housing, gun control, and energy.
Throughout the session, there was considerable division between the majority and minority caucuses. The session was marked by long and tense debate, both in legislative committees and on the House and Senate floors. This prompted the House majority to invoke rule 14 several times. Rule 14 is a rarely used rule that allows the legislature, through a simple majority vote, to limit debate on the floor to no less than one hour. This undemocratic move was used on abortion legislation, limiting the minority’s ability to argue in defense of life. The legislature also worked several weekends in order to finish the calendar.
The Colorado Catholic Conference (CCC), which is the united voice of the four Colorado bishops in public policy, advocated for Catholic values at the State Capitol and ensured that the Church’s voice was present throughout the 120 days of session.
The top areas of focus for the CCC this session were:
- Sanctity of Life and Religious Liberty
- Marriage and Family
- Economic Justice: Childcare and Affordable Housing
- Restorative Justice
- Immigration (Language Accessibility)
The CCC’s highest priority this session was opposing renewed efforts by the majority to make Colorado the abortion destination of the United States with a package of bills entitled Safe Access for Protected Health Care or, “Reproductive Health Equity Act 2.0.” The package contained three bills:
SB23-190 Prohibiting Deceptive Practices at Anti-Abortion Centers
SB23-189 Increasing Access to Reproductive Health Care Services
SB23-188 Protecting Health Care Patients, Providers, and Assistors
The Colorado Catholic Conference, in conjunction with Pro-Life Colorado, led opposition efforts against these radical bills. Some examples of how the Pro-Life coalition fought this legislation included;
- Hosting the first ever Pregnancy Resource Center Day at the Capitol
- Rallying for Life on the west steps of the State Capitol on April 4th while the Senate was considering SB 190
- Organizing opposition testimony to all three bills in both the House and the Senate
Although these bills passed, despite bipartisan opposition, the fight against radical abortion policies continues. A lawsuit against SB 190 on behalf of Bella Health & Wellness is currently on hold, pending a ruling from the medical, nursing and pharmacy boards on the safety and efficacy of abortion pill reversal treatment.
While the radical and unprecedented abortion legislation was the most important battle this session, the General Assembly also considered bills that were consistent with Catholic social teaching, including bills on restorative justice, language inclusivity, and making affordable housing accessible to Coloradans. Below is a recap of the CCC’s 18 priority bills from the 2023 legislative session.
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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 31, 2023. Enacted means the bill was signed by the governor and became law.
HB 23-1004 Language Access in Insurance Documents – Enacted
As enacted, this law adds translation requirements for insurance documents, including requiring that insurers offer policy documents in the same language in which they are advertised. The Catholic Church supports inclusive measures that ensure foreign language speakers or English as a Second Language speakers are able to assimilate and be welcomed into society, and protect their families and belongings through insurance.
HB 23-1007 Higher Education Crisis and Suicide Prevention – Enacted
As enacted, this law requires colleges and universities in Colorado to print Colorado and national crisis and suicide prevention contact information on student identification cards. The Catholic Church supports efforts to ensure that the mental health and wellbeing of the vulnerable young adult population is supported through measures that give them information on how to receive necessary help.
HB 23-1037 Department of Corrections Earned Time for College Program Completion – Enacted
As enacted, HB 1037 allows nonviolent incarcerated persons to have time deducted from their sentence for meeting certain statutory requirements, including a degree or credential awarded by an accredited institution of higher education or trade school. This is a valuable restorative justice program to incentivize nonviolent incarcerated persons to better themselves, gain valuable knowledge, and better assimilate back into society.
HB 23-1091 Continuation of Child Care Contribution Tax Credit – Enacted
HB 1091 will renew the Child Care Contribution Tax Credit, which is an effective policy to help families by incentivizing philanthropic support. Church teaching emphasizes the need for public policy that supports the needs of families and children and encourages public-private partnerships to incentivize charitable giving.
HB 23-1112 Earned Income and Child Tax Credits – Passed
This proposed legislation, by increasing the earned income tax credit and expanding the age of eligibility of an eligible child, eases the tax burden of families. The Catholic Church supports policies that provide support to families in need.
HB 23-1184 Low-income Housing Property Tax Exemptions – Enacted
Affordable housing is a primary concern for Coloradans. HB 1184, as enacted, expands the current property tax exemption for property acquired by nonprofit housing providers. This is a commonsense policy that will increase the availability of low-income house in Colorado.
SB 23-001 Authority of Public-private Collaboration Unit for Housing – Enacted
If enacted, this legislation would expand the use of public-private collaborations for public projects that provide housing, offering an innovative step to provide affordable housing, which is a chief concern for many Coloradans.
SB 23-039 Reduce Child and Incarcerated Parent Separation – Enacted
As enacted, this proposed legislation will ensure that families remain unified through the incarceration of a parent. The Catholic Church teaches that the relationship between parent and child is a fundamental building block of society and that the roles and responsibilities of a parent are irreplaceable. While acknowledging the right of the state to incarcerate those who are guilty of a crime, more ought to be done to allow for communication between incarcerated parents and their children.
SB 23-067 Participant Facilitated Recidivism Reduction Program – Passed
SB 067 begins the process of creating a pilot program to reduce recidivism in the Department of Corrections. The program would support inmates’ rehabilitation by promoting self-responsibility and civic duty. The Catholic Church teaches that the criminal justice system should offer offenders the opportunity for rehabilitation and aide in reintegration into society.
Three Bills the CCC Opposed that Were Passed
SB 23-188 Protections for Accessing Reproductive Health Care – Enacted
As enacted, SB 188 violates the First Amendment rights of medical professionals and medical centers/hospitals that do not provide abortion-related services or “gender-affirming care;” violates the First Amendment rights of employers who do not provide abortion-related services or “gender-affirming care” in their insurance plan; and restricts legal action against Colorado from states with pro-life laws.
SB 23-189 Increasing Access to Reproductive Health Care – Enacted
As enacted, SB 189 circumvents Colorado’s constitutional prohibition against public funding of abortion by requiring insurance providers to cover the full cost of abortion, and increases access to contraception and abortion referrals to minors under 19 years of age and remove the parental notification requirement. It is likely unconstitutional and will face legal challenges.
SB 23-190 Reproductive Health Equity Act – Enacted
SB 190 eliminates a woman’s choice to sustain her pregnancy and save her child’s life through Abortion Pill Reversal (APR)by effectively banning the treatment, and restricts and censors the good work Pregnancy Resource Centers do for our community. The bill is currently facing a lawsuit, pending the rulings of the medical, nursing and pharmacy boards.
Six Bills the CCC Supported That Failed
HB 23-1019 Prohibit COVID-19 Vaccine To Minor Without Consent – Failed
HB 1019 would have prohibited administration of a COVID-19 vaccine to a minor without parental consent and prohibited discrimination of a minor based on their vaccine status for their participation in extracurricular activities, nonpublic home-based education, or any other form of discrimination from a public or private entity. If HB 1019 had passed, it would have protected the rights of parents and ensured that children were not discriminated against in their participation in public or private extracurricular activities.
HB 23-1097 Painkiller Administration Prior to Abortion – Failed
HB 1097 would have required that an abortion provider administer a painkiller to the child., prior to performing an abortion of a preborn child of 20 weeks or older. This proposal both recognized the humanity of the preborn child in an abortion and ensured that he or she is protected from the pain of an abortion. While the legislation would have allowed the evil of abortion to exist, it recognized the human dignity of the child and increased public awareness on the humanity of the preborn child.
HB 23-1098 Women’s Rights in Athletics – Failed
The proposed legislation would have protected women’s sports by requiring that participation in male, female, and coeducational sports is determined by one’s biological sex at birth. This proposal supported Catholic teaching on human sexuality, and sought to protect the integrity of women’s sports.
HB 23-1128 Income Tax Credits and Deductions Married Taxpayers – Failed
This proposed legislation would have expanded tax credits for married individuals who file jointly in order to eliminate barriers to certain tax credits and deductions that are available for married individuals who file separately. This change would have created a more equitable tax code and stopped punishing married individuals who decide to file a joint tax return.
HB 23-1150 Provide Information on Abortion Pill Reversal – Failed
This legislation would have required that medical providers give information on the abortion pill reversal to any woman who seeks an abortion via an abortion-inducing drug. The increase in chemical abortions, which now account for 44 percent of reported abortions in the U.S, has been accompanied by an increase in the women who change their mind after taking the pill and wish to stop the abortion. The abortion pill reversal offers women a safe and effective choice to reverse the effects of a chemical abortion. This legislation would have saved preborn babies’ lives and offered women true choice – unfortunately, the legislature decided to go the opposite direction and pass legislation to ban APR treatment.
SB 23-080 Tax Credit Parental Engagement In Schools – Failed
SB 80 would have created a tax credit available to parents who volunteer at their children’s school. Parental engagement in a child’s education affirms the parents’ role as primary educators of their children, as affirmed by Church teaching. This legislation would have incentivized more parents to volunteer at schools and, in doing so, become more active in their children’s education.
While the legislature has adjourned the 2023 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.