At Colorado’s Capitol, prosecutors no longer rule the roost
Good read on CO DA and Lobbyist working toghether. Read the full article here: https://www.denverpost.com/2021/06/20/colorado-prosecutors-police-influence-legislature/
Tom Raynes has helmed the Colorado District Attorneys’ Council for a decade. It used to have a lot more power, he said, recalling a talk he had years ago with his predecessor.
“He said, ‘In my day, I’d pick up the phone and call the Senate majority leader and say this or that needs to happen and it would happen,” Raynes said.
Raynes, a Republican and a former DA, said that now, “by no means do the seas part when we enter the building. Trust me. Some of the recent reform stuff has been personally frustrating.”
Compared to previous decades, state lawmakers today are more willing to sponsor and pass bills without the blessing of district attorneys, the most potent group in the law enforcement lobby. There is a crop of representatives and senators today who regularly put forth bills that prompt debate about the intersection of class and race with policing, incarceration and courts.
“Really difficult, very toxic”
Raynes believes that today there is no more influential force at the Colorado Capitol in this area of policy than the ACLU of Colorado. The organization has pushed or supported a wide range of jail and prison reforms, led the charge to abolish the death penalty and wrote large swaths of the policing bill passed during the protests. They were behind SB21-273, too, and are hoping to end cash bail in Colorado in the coming years.
The ACLU has had this run in large part because the legislature is now dominated by Democrats and has more members of color than at any time in state history. Republicans are also increasingly open to limiting the power of the law, endorsing some reform bills on policing, sentencing and limits on court fines and fees.
Raynes said the district attorneys’ relationship with legislators “has been at many times strained and contentious.” Herod said conversations this session on criminal justice and policing were “really difficult, very toxic.”
“Not having a partner in law enforcement at the table was difficult, not being able to work with them proactively,” Herod said.
Lawmakers told The Denver Post they’ll keep pressing.
“Do I listen to my DA? Well, I respectfully talk to him,” said Sen. Pete Lee, a Colorado Springs Democrat who chairs the House Judiciary Committee and led the charge on SB21-273 and lots of other law enforcement bills during his tenure. “I have absolutely no reluctance to propose policies that they disagree with.”
But lawmakers still at times show a deference to law enforcement that is rarely afforded to other groups in the lobby. The bill to lessen penalties for some people convicted of felony murder and another bill concerning record-sealing were amended to cool law enforcement opposition. Facing strong pushback from district attorneys, lawmakers also gutted a bill to overhaul the state’s Sex Offender Management Board. And a bill to restrict police directing use of ketamine and other drugs on so-called hysterical subjects passed only after being watered down.
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