Hijacking “Erin’s Law”–What’s Going On Here?

WEDNESDAY UPDATE #2: FOX 31's Eli Stokols:

After a couple weeks of speculation that Republicans, who control the committee, were considering an amendment that would have rolled back the comprehensive sex education program Democrats enacted last year — effectively daring Democrats to vote against their own bill aimed at helping victims of child sexual abuse in order to preserve sex ed — the committee took up the bill again on Wednesday.

After one amendment, drafted by Sen. Laura Woods, R-Arvada, along with the bill sponsor, Sen. Linda Newell, D-Littleton, the committee quickly voted S.B. 20 on to the Senate Judiciary Committee on a unanimous vote.

“I thought we were going to have my bill hijacked,” said Newell, who fought back tears as she expressed her relief after the vote. “It’s a great day for victims and survivors of child sexual abuse.” [Pols emphasis]

Newell also thanked Republicans for allowing the bill to move forward without any “poison pill” amendments.


WEDNESDAY UPDATE: Anticlimactic end today–Republicans reportedly abandon attempt to "hijack" Erin's Law, the bill passes to Senate Judiciary unamended. Says one Gold Dome source:

The public shaming worked.

We've heard from two sources now that Sen. Owen Hill, chair of the Education Committee, is the one who decided to pull the plug on this attempted hijacking. There is some question as to when he made this decision, but two weeks ago, he was clearly on board with delaying the bill to entertain Laura Woods' amendment. It's possible that the full story of this little controversy will entitle Sen. Hill to a thanking and a spanking? We'll update as we learn more. Original post follows.


From top: Sens. Owen Hill, Vicki Marble, Tim Neville, Laura Woods, Chris Holbert.

From top: Sens. Owen Hill, Vicki Marble, Tim Neville, Laura Woods, Chris Holbert.

On January 29th, the Republican-controlled Senate Education Committee heard testimony on a bill known as "Erin's Law." Senate Bill 15-020, sponsored by Democratic Sen. Linda Newell and Rep. Beth McCann, would create new educational materials to raise awareness about childhood sexual assault. A press release from the Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault explains more about this bill's provisions:

The Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault (CCASA) urges Coloradans to support the passage of SB 20—Colorado’s Version of Erin’s Law, which is in its first hearing in the Senate Education Committee this Thursday, January 29th. Erin Merryn, for whom the law is named, is a child sexual abuse survivor and activist who has been instrumental in passing similar legislation in 19 other states. Erin’s Law is designed to assist schools with education and response to child sexual abuse.

The key components of the Colorado’s SB 20 include:

1. Requiring the Colorado School Safety Resource Center to hire a new staff member. This person’s specific role will be to provide curricula recommendations and training for school personnel, youth, and parents on child sexual abuse prevention, awareness, and intervention.

2. Encouraging school districts and charter schools to adopt a child sexual abuse prevention plan, which includes comprehensive age-and developmentally-appropriate curricula for kindergarten through 12th grade students on child sexual abuse awareness and prevention.

3. Encouraging school districts and charter schools to provide professional development opportunities for school personnel in preventing, identifying, and responding to child sexual abuse and assault.

On its face, this seems like the kind of legislation that should pass 100-0 in the Colorado General Assembly and be swiftly signed into law by Gov. John Hickenlooper. Integrating awareness about sexual assault into existing sex ed and other education programs seems like an ideal way to combat the problem. In testimony in favor of the bill (see video of Erin Merryn's testimony before Senate Education after the jump), supporters explained how children often don't have the frame of reference to understand that what's being done to them is a crime–and others have no idea who to turn to when they are assaulted. That's why this law has passed uncontroversially in 19 other states.

During the bill's hearing on January 29th, Education Committee Republicans repeatedly made reference to "amendments" they wanted to introduce, and announced their intention to lay Senate Bill 20 over to an unspecified date in the future just as testimony was getting under way. Democratic Sen. Andy Kerr objected to this, calling attention to the many witnesses testifying in favor of the bill who deserved action. Those objections were overruled–and after Sen. Vicki Marble assured those present that they "would not be disappointed" by the unknown amendment in question, the bill was laid over.

Until tomorrow. Erin's Law is back on the Education Committee calendar for Wednesday at 1:30PM. We don't know much about the amendment Republicans are rumored to be dropping tomorrow, but we've heard that it may involve drastic changes to sexual education in the state–changes that have little to do with the intent of Erin's Law. There is a possibility that Republicans will attempt to repeal in whole or part or otherwise compromise the 2013 comprehensive update of sex ed curriculum, which updated a decades old "abstinence centric" model and better accommodated LGBT students.

Bottom line: Education Committee Republicans may be about to twist Erin's Law into something the witnesses who testified in support of Erin's Law would never support. We'll find out tomorrow.


13 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. FrankUnderwood says:

    Everyone take a deep breathe.  Now another one.  Okay, at the end of the day, after the Education Committee passes Erin's Law as amended by Marbles Amendment, it will pass the Senate on 18 to17 vote.  It will then go to the House which will amend it back to the original bill introduced by Newell and McCann.  At that point, the Newell-McCann will pass, go back to the Senate (which will not concur in the amendment), then go to a conference committee and not be seen again until 2017.

    • bullshit! says:

      In other words, the GOP is going to kill Erin's Law. Prolly oughtta let Erin know in that case.

    • Gilpin Guy says:

      And Frank, they are going to think that they are damn clever putting a poison amendment that will render it unpassable but give them ads to run regarding how dastardly the Dems are to not support Erin's Law.  It gets down to crude propaganda create for the purpose of propaganda without any regard for doing the work of the people.

      • BlueCat says:

        If they try that and Dems let them get away with it without speaking out loud and clear about any GOTP poison pills and why they wouldn't vote for them then Dems deserve it. I'm sick of poor victimized Dems who can't figure out a way to counter the all powerful (according to cowering Dem pols) GOTP message machine. I'm sick of the groveling.

        The  Colorado Dems blew the recall elections through cowardice and ceding the message to Rs. Instead of explaining why they voted for measures, such as expanded background checks that their constituents actually polled for, they begged voters not to be one issue and like them anyway.  They lost countless congressional races all over the country, including here in Colorado, for the same reason.

        Watching the recalls and then the 2014 Dem campaigns was like watching the 2014/15 Nuggets. Both the Dem Party and the Nuggets need major tear down and rebuilding.  Which is why the prospect of HRC as our future national leader excites me about as much as the prospect of sticking with Coach Shaw.

  2. Progressicat says:

    Probably amending it to forbid any mention of the unregistered sex offender at Randy Baumgartner's place.

  3. Gilpin Guy says:

    Maybe this reign of ideological idiocy has run it's course over the last month and the fever has broke.  Can pragmatic legislating be far behind.

    I guess you have to thank Republicans for not mucking this bill up.

  4. FrankUnderwood says:

    There has to be some reason they did this other than being shamed. Look at the pix of the folks on that committee. They are beyond ever being shamed……..

    • Davie says:

      Agreed, "shame" is giving them too much credit.  More likely, they realized their stunt wouldn't work and the blowback would cost them more than this retreat will.  They can pretend they never were going to amend it in the first place — you know play dumb — it's easy for them.

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