Despite the pandemic, the Colorado Women’s Bar Association was able to check some big items off its policy wish list in 2020.
In April, the governor signed a bill that requires health insurance plans issued in the state to cover infertility treatments. And in November, voters passed a ballot measure for paid family leave, a program the CWBA had championed for years.
Looking ahead to 2021, CWBA public policy committee co-chairs Meagan Moodie and Alison Connaughty said the organization will be watching a number of bills while helping with implementation of laws passed in previous legislative sessions.
One potential piece of legislation on the CWBA’s radar, according to Connaughty, is a bill that would codify best practices for surrogacy and ensure legal recognition for parents of children born from surrogates. “It also prevents judges from denying a gay couple parental rights and declaring them human traffickers,” she added, noting that a same-sex couple faced a similar scenario in Wisconsin a few years ago.
Lawmakers introduced a bill on surrogacy agreements last session. That bill had the support of the CWBA and unanimously passed a House committee but later died due to COVID. Connaughty said she has yet to see a draft of this year’s bill, but the CWBA has heard the bill will be reintroduced “in the same format.” “If that ends up being the case,” she added, “then the CWBA will be interested in backing the bill again this year.
Moodie said the CWBA will be looking to weigh in on a few other issues, depending on the language of the bills. One such topic is the destruction of rape kit evidence, which was the focus of a bill introduced last session and, according to Moodie, is likely to be reintroduced this year. She added that the CWBA is particularly interested in requirements for notifying victims if their rape kits are going to be destroyed and time requirements for agencies to hold on to rape kit evidence.
Additionally, Moodie said, CWBA lobbyists have been contacted about potentially supporting a bill to recognize Canadian protection orders in Colorado so a petitioner would not need to seek a new protection order in the state. Another bill the organization will watch and possibly support has to do with the statute of limitations for sexual assault.
The CWBA also plans to facilitate the implementation of some of the laws it has supported in past sessions, including the Equal Pay for Equal Work Act, which took effect Jan. 1, and the paid family leave program, which will start paying benefits in 2024. The CWBA, Women’s Foundation of Colorado and the Collaborative Healing Initiative within Communities will hold a free training webinar Jan. 29 to educate employees about EPEWA, and the CWBA has also held employer-focused training sessions on the new equal pay law.
Last year’s legislative session was abruptly interrupted by the pandemic, and when lawmakers reconvened in late spring, little time meant that few bills would make it to the governor’s desk. “We were told there is no chance of anything remotely controversial getting through,” Moodie said, and anything with a big price tag or fiscal note attached had little chance of surviving the latter half of the session, which was focused on COVID-related legislation.
Moodie said she’s hopeful this session will be different but added it’s possible a surge in cases could lead to another interruption or require funds to be redirected toward COVID relief efforts.
She expects the big obstacles this session to be pandemic-related, rather than partisan, noting that “things generally have been running fairly smoothly” since the legislative chambers and governor are “all kind of on the same side.”
“The blocks that I see would probably have to do with COVID, as opposed to the House or the Senate or the governor’s office blocking something.”