DENVER–A pair of Colorado lawmakers are making another attempt at sanctioning what are sometimes referred to as “safe injection sites” for illegal drug users, despite their own Democrat colleagues killing off a similar effort during last year’s legislative session.
House Bill 24-1028, titled Overdose Prevention Centers, allows Colorado municipalities (cities, towns, as well as a city and county) to authorize “A space for individuals to use previously obtained controlled substances in a monitored setting under the supervision of health care professionals or other trained staff for the purpose of providing life-saving treatment on the event of a potential overdose.” The bill also allows for such things as distribution of clean needles and fentanyl testing supplies, counseling, and other undefined “harm reduction services.”
A legislative interim committee in late 2013 voted against advancing such a bill for the ongoing 2024 legislative session, citing a veto threat from Governor Polis.
Democrats have a 46-19 super-majority in the Colorado House of Representatives, and hold a commanding 23-12 majority in the Senate. But even if proponents convince a majority in the legislature to back the effort, overcoming a Polis veto would be a tall order. But even getting to that point appears highly unlikely.
The bill’s sponsors are State Representative Elisabeth Epps and State Senator Kevin Priola. Epps, a Denver Democrat, was recently reprimanded by party leadership for anti-Semitic outbursts on the House floor, as well as being removed from her position on the House Judiciary Committee. Priola is a former Republican lawmaker who switched his affiliation to Democrat in 2022, just before becoming the representative to the GOP-dominated Senate District 13 due to redistricting.
Epps and Priola were prime sponsors on a nearly identical effort in 2023. That bill was killed off in a Democrat-controlled Senate committee after having passed out of the House. The big difference being that while the 2023 bill enjoyed the backing of over 30 House and Senate co-sponsors, Epps and Priola are the only names on the 2024 effort thus far.
Prior to that, in 2019, then State Senator Brittany Pettersen (now representative for Colorado’s 7th Congressional District) floated the idea of injections sites in Denver, but quickly abandoned the idea, due in part to a lack of support from fellow Democrats.
HB 1028 has been assigned to the House Health and Human Services Committee for its first hearing, and includes what is know as the “safety clause,” a declaration that claims the bill is vital to the preservation of “public peace, health or safety” and which puts the bill off limits to a citizen-led referendum should it pass.
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