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“Felons” bill passes after key change

The Senate has given initial approval to House Bill 11-1121, the measure intended to standardize state law on employment of people with criminal records in non-licensed school jobs.

In other action, the proposal to allow tax credits for private school tuition died in committee Tuesday, and the House voted initial approval for the higher education financial flexibility bill.

While state law bans people with a variety of criminal convictions from teaching and other licensed positions, school boards have had some flexibility in hiring other personnel for non-teaching jobs.

Republicans have unsuccessfully pushed the idea in the past, but this year’s much-amended bill has moved further in the legislative process.

Senate majority Democrats succeeded in passing another key amendment Tuesday, giving school boards some discretion in hiring of people with drug and domestic violence records. (An amendment approved Monday would have given districts even broader discretion – essentially leaving state law where it is now – but that change was rescinded as part of Tuesday’s action.)

As passed by the House, the bill would bar employment of people convicted of violent crimes and sexual felonies. It also includes drug and domestic violence offenses, but there’s a five-year “statute of limitations” on those. The drug-crime provision also applies to teachers and other licensed staff.

Senate Republicans argued strenuously against the amendment but lost the vote.

The disagreement over the bill hasn’t particularly involved education groups but instead has been between Republican lawmakers who want a zero-tolerance policy and Democrats who are concerned that too tough a law would make it even harder for felons to find work once they re-enter society.

A polite end for tax-credit effort

Rep. Spencer Swalm’s crusade to given parents and scholarship donors tax credits for money paid to private schools died by mutual consent Tuesday morning in the House Appropriations Committee.

The Centennial Republican’s House Bill 11-1048 has faced headwinds from the start, including from a few Republicans, and wouldn’t have survived in the Democratic-controlled Senate if it had gotten out of the House. Swalm and other advocates of credits are convinced it would save the state money, but opponents questioned that and were fearful of the impact on school districts. Swalm also felt the legislative staff fiscal analysis wasn’t accurate.

Swalm told the committee he wants to retool the idea for a bill next year and agreed to have the measure laid over until after adjournment, a polite way of killing a bill. But, panel Republicans voted against that motion in a symbolic show of support for the idea. Now, the measure will just “die on the calendar” after lawmakers go home, an even politer way of killing a bill.

Compromise smooths way for higher ed flex bill

The full House Tuesday gave preliminary approval to House Bill 11-1301, a grab-gag measure that would give state college and universities additional management flexibility in a variety of areas, including handling of student fees, setting up non-profit auxiliaries, hiring, technology management and construction.

The one provision that caused a little heartburn was a proposal to lift the current requirement that colleges buy office furniture from the state’s prison industries program. Higher ed is the major customer for that program, and some lawmakers feared the bill would gut prison industries and eliminate the jobs it provides for inmates.

The House approved an amendment that requires colleges to include prison industries when they put furniture contracts out to bid and allows colleges that don’t want to go through a bidding process to stay with the prison program.

Bullying bill delayed

The Senate spent some time Tuesday debating House Bill 11-1254, which would expand the legal definition of bullying, require districts to update bullying policies and create a donation-funded voluntary grant program for which districts could apply to get help with anti-bullying measures.

Debate was broken off so the Senate could finish other business, and the bill is expected to come up again Wednesday.

Use the Education Bill Tracker for links to bill texts and status information

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