Remote testimony gives Routt County more voice in state legislation. Up next, special education and corpse abuse bills | SteamboatToday.com

Remote testimony gives Routt County more voice in state legislation. Up next, special education and corpse abuse bills

A new remote testimony system, initiated by Colorado Rep. Dylan Roberts, allows Routt County residents to more conveniently weigh in on state legislation. Rather than traveling to Denver, the public may offer testimony during scheduled meetings at Colorado Mountain College Steamboat Springs.
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STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — An expanded remote testimony service allows Routt County residents to weigh in on state legislation without having to drive all the way to Denver. 

In Steamboat, hearings take place at Colorado Mountain College Steamboat Springs. The next hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 4, at 1:30 p.m.

The public will have a chance to discuss two starkly different bills: one that would expand training on special education for school employees and another that would make it a felony to abuse a corpse.

A constitutional amendment mandates that every bill introduced in the Colorado General Assembly undergo a public committee hearing. Until this year, the closest location to offer remote testimony was Grand Junction, which takes almost as long to reach as Denver. 

Rep. Dylan Roberts, who represents Routt and Eagle counties, helped to add remote testimony locations in Steamboat and Edwards. 

In a state as large as Colorado, Roberts said many people in rural areas have felt their views are not being adequately represented during legislative discussions. 

“It is really hard for people to be able to make it to the Capitol to testify,” he said.

The expanded remote testimony is a way to change that.

If you go

What: Remote testimony hearing on state legislation
Where: Colorado Mountain College Steamboat Springs, 1275 Crawford Ave.
When: 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 4

*The public must sign up ahead of time to participate. Visit leg.colorado.gov/remote-testimony.

The first bill on Tuesday’s agenda would expand training for educators, including teachers, principals, special service providers and administrators, on the education of students with disabilities in the classroom. 

Brian Hoza, president of Northwest Board of Cooperative Educational Services — BOCES — a cooperative service agency that provides special education to districts in the region, including the Steamboat Springs School District, said the bill is the latest in a continuum of better education practices for schools. 

“It’s a constant attempt to improve services that are provided to special needs students,” Hoza said.

The second bill would make it a felony to move any corpse from a grave or other resting place without consent of the family. Under current laws, the offense is a misdemeanor. 

The proposed legislation arose after a funeral home in Montrose was accused of harvesting and selling bodies for profit without permission from families. In 2018, the FBI raided the Sunset Mesa Funeral Directors, shortly after Reuters interviewed several former employees of the business.

The owner of the funeral home, Megan Hess, has been accused of returning fake remains to families instead of their loved ones. In one instance, she even embalmed a body without the family’s permission, according to a report from the Grand Junction Sentinel. Federal investigators have told families that body parts have been shipped to faraway countries like Saudi Arabia.

“We’re hearing from enough constituents that have been victims of that atrocity that they wanted to see something, not just in white collar crime, but that highlighted increasing the penalty,” State Rep. Matt Soper, who introduced the bill, told the Montrose Daily Press

The public must sign up in advance to participate in remote testimony. To do so, visit leg.colorado.gov/remote-testimony. People also can call 303-866-5849 or email remote.testimony.ga@state.co.us.

The website warns that bill hearings often are delayed or rescheduled. When a bill is being discussed, people could be called to testify at any time during the hearing.

To reach Derek Maiolo, call 970-871-4247, email dmaiolo@SteamboatPilot.com or follow him on Twitter @derek_maiolo.


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