Guest Column

Finding middle ground at the midpoint

By state Rep. Daniel Kagan
Posted

Anger, suspicion, finger-pointing and gridlock; these are the ways of Washington, D.C.

When I ran for re-election, I promised to do everything within my power to keep Washington-style politics from infesting Colorado. Now that we're halfway through the session, it's a good time to reflect and ask: can we reach consensus in the state's capitol in a way that the federal government seems to find impossible?

Thus far this session the answer is a resounding yes! On a whole range of important concerns, wildfire and flood recovery, economic security, creating jobs, properly funding education, increasing access to justice, keeping marijuana out of the hands of children and criminals, protection from cyber-attacks, and more, we have been working together to make significant progress.

Take marijuana, for example. I heard from constituents who wanted us to do more to make sure that this newly legalized substance was kept away from children. I am sponsoring a bill that would make the packaging of marijuana-infused brownies and candies opaque, so young children can't see what's inside. It also requires the packaging to be childproof, like medicine bottles, so that curious toddlers can't get into the package even if they try.

The bill, which respects Coloradans' wishes that marijuana be regulated like alcohol, stipulates that anyone under 21, who tries to use a fake ID to buy marijuana will be subject to having the ID seized and the police alerted, as is currently the case with alcohol. Licensed pot retailers who sell to under-age people will face increased penalties, the same as liquor stores, up to a possible 18 months in jail.

After lengthy discussions with marijuana advocates and opponents, and with legislators from both sides of the aisle, these measures passed the House unanimously. Try doing that in Washington, D.C.

Many of my bills this session have passed the House with unanimous support including an increase in the number of judges serving my judicial district, the 18th. This ensures that people in Arapahoe, Douglas, Lincoln and Elbert counties won't have to wait so long for their day in court.

I have also worked closely with my Republican colleague, Bob Gardner (R-Colorado Springs), to strengthen Colorado's ability to respond to the increasing number of cyber-attacks on the state's computer networks, which number in the thousands every day. Our bill gives the Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI) the authority to investigate these cyber-attacks. Previously, only the FBI, which often declined to investigate, or local law enforcement, who frequently found themselves ill-equipped to deal with this increasingly complex problem, had authority over cyber-attacks. The people of Colorado will be better protected against cyber criminals and court delays because of these bipartisan efforts.

For more than a year, I have been working with a group of legislators and stakeholders to make sure that more children from low-income families have access to a lawyer when facing delinquency proceedings. Our initial proposals met opposition, but we've worked with all the critics to address those concerns and I'm pleased to report that my amended House Bill 1032 ("Defense Counsel for Juvenile Offenders") passed unanimously out of the House Judiciary Committee, which I chair, and awaits further action in the Appropriations Committee.

If the bill becomes law, the 45 percent of juveniles who currently go through the delinquency process without a lawyer will have better access to an attorney, another important step to increasing justice across Colorado and protecting every child's right to fair treatment in our courts.

I am honored to serve in the capitol on your behalf, finding common ground on issues like these and am committed to continuing to move Colorado forward this session. I always benefit from hearing from constituents, so please don't hesitate to contact my office at 303-866-2921 or repkagan@gmail.com.

State Rep. Daniel Kagan, a Democrat, serves House District 3, which includes Englewood, Sheridan, Greenwood Village, Cherry Hills Village and parts of Littleton and unincorporated Arapahoe County.