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CGA Judiciary Committee submits bill to change CHRO’s way of doing business
Posted on May 7, 2017

HB-7303
AN ACT CONCERNING THE ADMINISTRATION OF THE COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS AND OPPORTUNITIES AND THE RESOLUTION OF COMPLAINTS FILED WITH SAID COMMISSION
 
SUMMARY
 
This bill makes various changes affecting the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO). Among other things, the bill:
  1. prohibits the governor from reducing CHRO's budget allotments and requires the Office of Policy and Management (OPM) to recommend appropriations for CHRO that reflect the agency's estimates of spending needs (§ 2);
  2. sets an 18-month deadline for the presiding officer to render a final decision in discriminatory practice complaints that have proceeded to the public hearing phase, and requires the chief human rights referee to annually report on the number of cases that miss this deadline and the reasons why (§ 5(i));
  3. requires the chief court administrator to designate judge trial referees (JTRs) available to hear discriminatory practice complaints and certain other CHRO matters and allows CHRO's executive director to appoint a JTR if there is a specified backlog of pending cases (§ 5(j));
  4. allows the presiding officer to impose nonmonetary penalties on parties that do not comply with certain discovery orders (§ 5(h));
  5. allows CHRO's executive director to assign commission legal counsel to represent the state's interests in any proceeding in which civil or human rights are at issue (§ 1(c));
  6. allows the executive director, within available appropriations, to assign CHRO legal counsel to bring a civil action, instead of an administrative hearing, when doing so would be in the public interest (§ 1(d));
  7. eliminates the requirement that a respondent's answer to a complaint be filed under oath (§§ 3 & 5(f));
  8. modifies certain deadlines in the complaint process (§§ 4 - 6);
  9. expands the grounds upon which a CHRO case may be reopened to include a party's fraud or other misconduct (§ 6(d)); and
  10. makes minor and technical changes.
EFFECTIVE DATE: October 1, 2017, except the provisions on CHRO's budget are effective July 1, 2017.
 
Action:  Public hearing held March 27.  On April 7, the Judiciary Committee filed a substitute to the original language with the Legislative Commissioner’s Office.  It was reported out on April 25 and is now on the House calendar.
 
The Judiciary Committee voted 35 – 6 to approve the new language.  Arthur O'Neill (R 69), and Eric Berthel (R – S32) both voted in favor, while David Labriola (R – 131) and five other Republicans opposed the substitute.
 
Will it pass?  It came from the Judiciary Committee and is on the House calendar, which has a six vote Democratic majority.  The only no votes in committee were Republicans.  The changes were favored by business, and real-estate interests who seemed to have more influence on the JC than the lawyers and legal rights proponents.  If the bill does come up for a vote it’s anybody’s guess, but the Speaker of the House controls which bills come to the floor for a vote.
 
The Judiciary Report and the full text of the substitute bill are available upon request from communications@hvmaster.com.
 
 
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