Capitol Report: Bill aims to stop most scanner encryption

Cellphone use while driving may see complete ban


As more law enforcement and fire agencies across the state encrypt or consider encrypting their dispatch radio traffic, a bill was introduced March 12 that seeks to halt the trend.

Blocking the public and news organizations from listening to scanner communications has spurred debate in recent months between media analysts, who say the information is necessary for government transparency, and public-safety leaders, who argue encryption can keep personnel safer.

House Bill 19-1235 would require most entities of the state government and of cities, counties and special districts to allow their dispatch radio communications to be heard by the public on radio, scanners or online. The bill excepts “tactical” and investigative communications if necessary for safety.

State Rep. Kevin Van Winkle, R-Highlands Ranch, is the bill’s sponsor.

Here’s a look at some of the other bills drawing attention this legislative session, the four-month part of the year when state lawmakers pass bills, which ends May 3.

Death penalty could end

Colorado’s criminal justice world could see a symbolic shift if Democrats succeed in ending the death penalty.

Lawmakers have tried before to repeal Colorado’s death penalty, which has been applied just twice since 1967, the Associated Press reported. The bill would apply to offenses charged on or after July 1, 2019.

The bill’s sponsors, all Democrats, are state Sens. Angela Williams and Julie Gonzales, both of Denver; and state Reps. Jeni Arndt, of Fort Collins, and Adrienne Benavidez, of Adams County.

Senate Bill 19-182 passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on a 3-2 vote and awaited further consideration by the full Senate as of March 14.

Family, medical leave on table

A bill to allow workers up to 12 weeks of paid family leave — to care for a sick family member, tend to a personal medical issue or take care of a new child — advanced in its early stages in the Senate.

The bill’s sponsors, all Democrats, are state Sen. Faith Winter, of Westminster; Williams; and state Reps. Matt Gray, of Broomfield, and Monica Duran, of Wheat Ridge.

Senate Bill 19-188 passed the Senate Business, Labor and Technology Committee on a 3-2 vote March 13 and moves to the Finance Committee before eventual consideration by the full Senate.

Hanging up the phone

One recent bill that passed the Senate with some bipartisan support would ban use of all mobile electronic devices while driving. It was approved 26-9 on March 15 and moved to the House for consideration.

Senate Bill 19-012 would make use of cellphones while driving — except with a hands-free device — illegal for everyone. Currently, state law bars anyone under 18 from using cellphones while driving.

The bill is sponsored by state Sen. Lois Court, D-Denver, and state Rep. Jovan Melton, D-Aurora.


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