February 09, 2006

Shield from lawsuits targeted

Rocky Mountain News

By Jean Torkelson, Rocky Mountain News
February 9, 2006
Two Republican lawmakers said Wednesday that they would be willing to co-sponsor a bill to eliminate "sovereign immunity" for public schools in sexual-abuse cases against children.
State Sen. Shawn Mitchell, R-Broomfield, and state Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Yuma, said they would back a late bill if it could be added to the docket.

But that would require the permission from one of two Democrats, Senate President Joan Fitz-Gerald or House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, which is considered a significant hurdle for Republican lawmakers.

Fitz-Gerald said late Wednesday that she would have to think long and hard before she would consider late-bill status for the immunity proposal.

"I think there was a reason we had sovereign immunity because it was taxpayer dollars and you can't bankrupt (public institutions)," she said.

If the late-bill strategy doesn't work, Gardner said he has drafted an amendment to a sexual abuse bill already in the process that would allow its scope to include public entities and lifting the "governmental immunity" provisions.

Romanoff said late Wednesday he would prefer to consider the proposal via the amendment route, although he wouldn't rule out late-bill status because legislative leaders shouldn't "make the calendar the enemy of good policy."

The Colorado Catholic Conference, the lobbying arm of the Catholic Church, also is seeking late bill support.

"This crosses party lines," Gardner said. "If our intent is truly to protect children, then we shouldn't be treating public and private entities differently."

Posted by kshaw at February 9, 2006 07:28 AM