School funding among measures to advance

DENVER — From a new public school funding formula to diversion programs for adult offenders, the Colorado Legislature approved or gave preliminary approval to a slew of measures on Tuesday.

At the same time, lawmakers introduced a few more measures into this year’s session.

The Colorado Senate began the day approving, on a 20-15 party-line vote, a measure to revamp how the state funds public schools.

Under SB213, the state’s 178 school districts would receive increased state aid based on some of the same criteria used now, but with different priorities.

The bill, which now heads to the Colorado House for more debate, would be contingent on a proposed $1.1 billion measure to raise income taxes, which is to be placed on this year’s ballot.

Meanwhile, the House gave preliminary approval to a bill that establishes a limit for motorists to be too stoned to drive.

The measure, HB1114, sets a standard of five or more nanograms of the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana in a driver’s blood before being considered too stoned to operated a motorized vehicle, similar to the 0.08 blood-alcohol level set for being too drunk to drive.

The bill requires a final House vote before Sen. Steve King, R-Grand Junction, can shepherd it through the Senate.

The House also gave preliminary approval to a measure that would allow district attorneys to place would-be defendants in adult diversion programs for up to two years.

The program, one of which is already operated by the Mesa County District Attorney’s Office, allows defendants to avoid prosecution if they obey certain rules, such as staying clear of alcohol or drugs. The program is not available except under strict circumstances to those facing domestic violence and sex offenses.

The measure, HB1156, requires a final House vote before heading to the Senate.

District attorneys who already are operating their own diversion programs are not required to follow the provisions of the measure if they so choose, said the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Claire Levy, D-Boulder.

“This creates a template for diversion programs that would be available throughout Colorado,” Levy said. “It will allow certain offenders to have the opportunity to essentially be placed on the equivalent of probation.”

The new measures introduced into the Legislature include a measure introduced by King to build the state’s own forest firefighting air corps, and a bill to create regulations overseeing growing hemp, which was allowed under Amendment 64, which legalized the recreational use of marijuana.

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