12 May 2010

Colorado's Legislative Session Ends

Today is the last day of the 2010 regular session of the Colorado legislature. Laws not passed by today will have to wait until next year (barring an extraordinary session, which is a rare occurrence).

One of the last bills remaining in the session is a teacher tenure bill which would make it easier to fire teachers whose students aren't showing appropriate improvement compared to prior years in their CSAP scores (the state's main standardized test). The bill is headed to the Senate for a final vote this afternoon, where it is expected to pass, and Governor Ritter has said that he will sign the bill.

The bill is a defeat for teacher's unions, passed with both Democrats and Republicans supporting it, but the fact that it is linked to student improvement in, rather than absolute student performance, on standardized tests, and an exception for a select group of teachers where improved standardized test scores may not be the main focus of their instruction, like students in segregated special education classrooms, has limited opposition to the proposal.

Colorado law relating to the termination of life support, and "living wills" declaration one's intentions regarding termination of life support have been overhauled, with particular attention given to the way it relates to Colorado's "Designated Beneficiary Agreement Act," which gives unmarried couples (particularly same sex couples) a way to enjoy many (but not all) of the legal benefits of marriage. The law continues Colorado's fine tradition of having some of the most inclusive and well drafted laws concerning probate and incapacity in the United States. The Bill was H.R. 10-1025 (a companion bill revising the safe harbor statutory form was also adopted).

H.R. 1025 doesn't dramatically change the substantive law, but it does add clarity regarding the right course of action to the picture that wasn't present in the statutory scheme when my legal duties included helping a hospital client deal with situations when a termination of life support was the appropriate course of action for a patient.

H.R. 10-1201, establishing standards more rigorous than those required by the U.S. Constitution for "consent searches" based on the concern that supposedly voluntary searches made without probable cause are often, in reality, involuntary, is an innovative advance for civil liberties in the criminal justice system.

SB 10-63 creates "tort reform" limitations similar to those found in medical malpractice cases for criminal defense lawyers appointed by the government in lieu of public defenders.

The session while making some positive changes to the law was not an ambitious one, in part because of a key issue looming over much of the legislative activity, deep budget cuts resulting from the recession. Several bills passed this session did nothing more ambitious than change the sections numbers and make purely stylistic grammatical changes to existing laws.

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