Bills would invest in wildfire mitigation efforts and provide grants to enhance security at institutions facing increasing threats
DENVER, CO – The House moved a trio of bills today to build a safer Colorado. Two bills, HB22-1012 and SB22-002, invest in wildfire mitigation and prevention efforts. HB22-1077 provides grant funding to ramp up security at faith-based institutions facing increasing threats, including synagogues and mosques.
“Wildfires are happening at almost any time of the year, and this session, we are moving forward several pieces of legislation to prevent and reduce the risk of wildfires,” said Rep. Lisa Cutter, D-Littleton, sponsor of HB22-1012 and SB22-002. “The two bills we took action on today will support our volunteer firefighters who step up to protect our communities and will help our state better manage our forests to prevent fires and remove carbon, which is responsible for much of our changing climate.”
“Our forests play an important role in reducing the risk of wildfire,” said Rep. Donald Valdez, D-La Jara, sponsor of HB22-1012. “We’ve seen how fast wildfires can spread in forested areas and how quickly a small fire can grow to one of the largest we’ve ever seen. This bill will improve forest management practices to mitigate the risks of wildfire and help combat climate change.”
“Antisemitic incidents reported in Colorado grew by 53 percent in 2021 and reached the highest level nationwide in more than a decade – we need to secure funding now to protect our communities from violence,” said Rep. Dafna Michaelson Jenet, D-Commerce City, sponsor of HB22-1077. “I am worried about the safety of my community and this bill provides grant funding so faith-based institutions can improve their security. I am proud to stand behind this legislation that will make Colorado communities safer by ramping up security measures at sacred spaces, including synagogues, churches, temples and mosques.”
“With this bill, we’re prioritizing the safety and well-being of Colorado’s minority communities who continue to experience threats and acts of violence at their places of worship,” said Rep. Iman Jodeh, D-Aurora, sponsor of HB22-1077. “Coloradans deserve to feel safe in their houses of worship, community centers, schools and community spaces and this bill provides grant funding to boost security on hallowed ground. The time is now to provide places of worship in Aurora and around the state with the security resources they need to protect their communities.”
Wildfire Mitigation and Recovery: HB22-1012, sponsored by Representatives Lisa Cutter and Donald Valdez, passed by a vote of 45 to 19. This bill improves forest management to mitigate wildfire risks and increase the state’s carbon inventory – the capacity of plants and trees in the state to remove carbon from the air. The bill creates a framework to link forest management and wildfire mitigation goals with efforts to decarbonize the air through healthy forests.
Resources For Volunteer Firefighters: SB22-002, sponsored by Representative Lisa Cutter and Perry Will advanced the House on a preliminary vote and would invest $1 million to better prepare local fire departments and their firefighters for wildfires. Specifically, this bill would make local volunteer fire departments eligible for reimbursement for wildland fire suppression activities, including equipment costs and volunteer firefighter recruitment, training and retention. Local fire departments will also be able to use funds from the Local Firefighter Safety and Disease Prevention Grant Program for the replacement or disposal of damaged or obsolete equipment. The bill also creates the Firefighter Behavioral Health Benefits Trust to provide behavioral health care services to firefighters and paid for by public employers.
Colorado Nonprofit Security Grant Program: HB22-1077, sponsored by Representatives Dafna Michaelson Jenet and Iman Jodeh passed by a vote of 46 to 18. This bill would create the Colorado Nonprofit Security Grant Program in the Colorado Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. The program would offer grants to eligible entities to enhance the physical security of Colorado’s faith-based and charitable organizations. Currently, the federal government provides grants for this purpose through the Department of Homeland Security, however the increase in threats combined with not enough funding has led to unmet security needs for Colorado-based organizations. As drafted, the bill would provide $1.5 million for these grants with a maximum award of $50,000, allowing nearly 30 additional Colorado organizations to complete critical security upgrades for their facilities.
Minority communities are facing a growing threat from violent extremists who are targeting sacred spaces such as mosques, temples and synagogues. In Colorado, there has been an increase in violent rhetoric and threats. In 2019, there was an attempted bombing at a synagogue in Pueblo and an individual was recently arrested after threatening congregants with a weapon outside of the Downtown Denver Islamic Center.