A bill that aims to continue requiring private investigators in Colorado be licensed is likely to become law despite a possible funding shortfall and a state government agency recommending it be scrapped.
On Monday the state’s General Assembly Finance Committee kept the bill alive and voted to send it to the Appropriations Committee. But lawmakers expressed concern the $75,000 annual cost to regulate the industry might not be covered by licensing fees.
At the same time, a report released by the Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) said the Assembly should phase out the existing law because “disciplinary actions against licensed individuals are virtually nonexistent.”
“Prior to passage of the Act, it was believed that there may have been a slight chance that the public could be financially harmed by not regulating PIs (private investigators),” says the DORA report. “However, the data now verify that this harm does not occur.”
DORA says the argument often used to justify licensing private investigators is they gain access to sensitive personal information. However, DORA said most sensitive data are regulated and are accessible only to individuals who’ve been vetted by database operators.
The bill sponsor, Democratic Rep. Jovan Melton told Ross Investigators the reasoning for getting rid of the existing law was that there weren’t enough complaints.
“I think that’s actually a good thing,” Melton said, “It shows the right people are passing the test and projecting themselves as private investigators instead of this being the Wild West.”
During the committee hearing, Rep.Tracy Kraft-Tharp questioned the cost implications of the bill, pointing out the current annual $25,000 shortfall between the cost of regulating the industry and fees raised by granting licenses to private investigators.
“Is nobody else disturbed by this?” asked Representative Kraft-Tharp, a Democrat. “This is a program DORA is not recommending continuing. Let’s remember that. That’s the backdrop. But we have to make up the $25,000 some place. Is it going to be an increase in fees?”
The bill’s sponsors responded to the Rep. Kraft-Tharp’s concerns, saying they would look into the funding shortfall and determine if fees raised from previous years were held in reserve.
The bill (HB20-1207) – Sunset Regulation Of Private Investigators – continues the regulatory regime of private investigators for five years. It enjoys bipartisan support from sponsors Rep. James Wilson (Republican) and senators Mike Foote (Democrat) and John Cooke (Republican.)
Outside the state house, the bill is supported by the County Sheriffs of Colorado and the Professional Private Investigators Association of Colorado.
Since 2015, 77 complaint files were opened and only eight disciplinary actions taken. Of those, six were conditional licenses, issued to individuals because of behavior prior to being licensed, not after. Of the remaining actions, two were dispensed to one individual who was issued a letter of admonition as well as a practice stipulation for harassment against another private investigator.
No private investigator licenses have been revoked under the current law.
Private investigators have been regulated by DORA since 2011. Requirements to obtain a private investigator’s license include being at least 21 years old, submitting an application, passing a background check, passing a jurisprudence exam, posting a surety bond and paying fees.
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