State Affairs Celebrates War Heroes, Fights Housing Discrimination

DENVER, CO– The House State, Civic, Military & Veterans Affairs Committee today advanced two bills to grant free access to state parks to Purple Heart recipients and to remove a requirement to verify lawful presence in the United States for someone applying for state public housing assistance. 

HB21-1116, a bipartisan bill sponsored by combat veteran and Purple Heart recipient Representative David Ortiz and Representative Richard Holtorf, would allow veterans displaying a Purple Heart special license plate to access any state park or recreation area free of charge. Any Purple Heart recipient who is a resident of Colorado could also obtain a free state parks pass from a Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) office. The bill passed committee by a vote of 11-0.

“Like me, so many of my brothers and sisters who served have found a permanent home in Colorado because of its stunning outdoor recreation opportunities and vibrant veterans community,” said Rep. David Ortiz (D-Littleton). “I’m proud that today we took the first step towards extending a small sign of gratitude for those who were wounded and received the Purple Heart, so that they may now enjoy our state parks free of charge. They have more than earned this small token, and we believe Purple Heart recipients could benefit enormously from the mental wellness effects that outdoor recreation provides. I consider all of Colorado’s veterans to be my extended family, and I intend to look after them and represent them with honor throughout my time in the legislature.”

Current law requires that individuals show proof of lawful presence in the United States to receive state public housing assistance. HB21-1054, sponsored by Representative Dominique Jackson, removes this requirement and allows more families to secure an affordable place to live. In 2016, undocumented immigrants comprised 5 percent of the Colorado workforce and paid an estimated $272.8 million in federal taxes and $156.5 million in state and local taxes in 2018. As housing costs continue to rise across the state, this bill will help stabilize our local economies by ensuring essential workers can afford to live in the communities where they work. The bill passed committee by a vote of 7-4.

“With so many families struggling to keep a roof over their heads, it’s more important than ever that we extend affordable housing benefits to as many people as possible,” said Rep. Dominique Jackson (D-Aurora). “I refuse to allow immigration status to be what prevents a mother in Colorado from accessing the housing that will keep her family safe and stable. This bill removes a barrier that currently keeps taxpaying immigrant families from accessing housing, while also supporting our local economies, landlords, and employers by ensuring workers can find affordable places to live near their places of work.”

The committee also passed HB21-1075, Rep. Susan Lontine’s bill to replace the term “illegal alien” with the term “worker without authorization” in Colorado’s statutes, and adds a definition of the term “worker without authorization.”

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