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October 14, 2022

JOINT RELEASE: Legislation to Foster New Careers in Wildfire Mitigation, Reform Judiciary to be Introduced Next Session

DENVER, CO – The Legislative Council of the Colorado General Assembly today approved several interim committee bills to be introduced in the upcoming 2023 legislative session, including bills to create new career pathways for fire mitigation work and reform the state’s judicial discipline process.

“We’ve passed a number of new laws to significantly expand wildfire mitigation, prevention and response efforts in Colorado, and I’m excited for this work to continue next session,” said Wildfire Matters Review Committee Member Rep. Lisa Cutter, D-Jefferson County “The bill approved today will boost our wildfire mitigation workforce and make it easier for Coloradans who want to work in wildfire mitigation to build their careers and enter this critical field. Advancing this legislation will also help employers find the workers they need and increase the availability of wildfire mitigation options for homeowners.”

“Wildfires are now a part of Colorado's challenges. We need to be as prepared as possible when an emergency strikes, which is why we made a historic investment in wildfire mitigation this year to better equip our communities to handle future disasters," said Senator Sonya Jaquez Lewis, D-Boulder County. “Now, with this legislation, we will be able to create a robust wildfire mitigation workforce to help protect Colorado communities from the growing threat of wildfires."

The committee unanimously approved Bill A from the Wildfire Matters Review Committee, which will foster internships and other career opportunities for workers who want to enter the wildfire mitigation field. The bill will be sponsored by Representatives Lisa Cutter and Perry Will as well as Senator Sonya Jaquez Lewis. It directs the state forest service to develop educational materials for students, authorizes the expansion and creation of forestry programs at Colorado community colleges, and directs the state board for community colleges to recruit wildland fire prevention and mitigation educators for the new forestry programs.

Last session, Colorado Democrats passed several new laws to fund wildfire mitigation and prevention efforts including HB22-1011 which created a $10 million matching grant program to help local governments develop and fund sustainable forest management and wildfire mitigation efforts. Democrats also created a new income tax credit for wildfire mitigation, improved wildfire insurance coverage, provided $35 million to help communities recover and rebuild following disaster emergencies, and invested $15 million to prevent and better prepare for wildfires.

The Legislative Council also unanimously approved Bills A and B from the Legislative Interim Committee on Judicial Discipline. Both bills will be sponsored by Representaitves Mike Weissman and Mike Lynch as well as Senators Julie Gonzales and Bob Gardner.

Bill A is a concurrent resolution that refers a constitutional amendment to voters that would create an independent judicial discipline adjudicative board. It also sets standards for judicial review of a discipline case. It would vastly increase transparency by allowing judicial discipline matters to be made public once formal proceedings commence against a judge or justice, and the new independent adjudicative board would act as a “court” for formal judicial discipline proceedings and determine appropriate sanctions. It also creates a clear, alternative appellate process for instances in which Supreme Court justices are implicated in disciplinary proceedings.

Bill B would put these new changes into effect and enhance reporting by the Commission on Judicial Discipline to the legislature and the public. It would allow confidential and anonymous judicial discipline complaints and require the commission to update complainants throughout the process. These provisions will increase the information available to the public about judicial discipline matters.

“Coloradans should be able to trust that our judges are being held to the highest ethical standards and that the judicial discipline process is effective, transparent and responsive to complaints,” said Rep. Mike Weissman, chair of the House Judiciary Committee and Chair of the Interim Committee on Judicial Discipline. “This Constitutional Amendment will create a new, transparent and accountable process to ensure that complaints against judges in Colorado are investigated and adjudicated through processes free from undue influence by the judicial branch of government in which they work.”

"Public confidence in our judicial system is foundational to a functioning democracy and to safe communities, and for our system to work Colorado judges must be held to the highest standards of accountability," said Senator Julie Gonzales, D-Denver. "The courts belong to all of us, and these measures will improve integrity and bolster confidence that judges will act with the public good and the rule of law as their highest goals, and help ensure our judicial system remains honest, fair, ethical, and just."

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