By Simon Crittle
The future of licensing for Colorado private investigators remains uncertain as a state government agency doubles down on its opposition to the licensing regime and the legislature runs short of time to pass the required legislation.
HB20-1207 – Sunset Regulation of Private Investigators – is currently stalled before the state’s House Appropriations Committee as the legislature was forced to lock down in March because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The current law will be repealed on Sept. 1 if no action is taken by the legislature.
However, the legislature will reconvene once the virus risk subsides with Monday, May 18, set down as a tentative return date. While nothing is certain, lawmakers and political commentators believe sunset bills will be given priority.
“It's hard to say anything with certainty at this point, other than we have to pass a budget and the School Finance Act,” Sen. Mike Foote, one of the bill’s sponsors, told this blog. “But the sunsets are important too, because otherwise the regulatory regime goes away.”
Foote, D-Lafayette, said discussions were ongoing about which bills needed to pass and which ones didn’t without resolution, and that the various sunset bills were part of those discussions.
John Frank, Colorado Sun state house reporter, told this blog he believed sunset bills will be given priority but Gov. Jared Polis might not sign the private investigator bill.
“Lawmakers have made clear that when they return May 18, sunset bills are a priority and they plan to finish them,” says Frank. “But yes, the other pressing priorities like the budget will dominate the conversation.”
Frank said the Polis administration also wanted to limit regulations on certain occupations and there was a chance the governor might not support the sunset bill.
“The governor vetoed a handful of licensing bills last session, so we'll see if he goes against his own agency.”
In the meantime, the Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA), which released a scathing report on the private eye law saying complaints about private investigators were “virtually nonexistent,” remains vehemently opposed to the sunset bill.
DORA legislative affairs director Michael Nicoletti said DORA stood by the report and the staff who wrote it and “devote immeasurable time and resources as well as conduct extensive outreach to come to their recommendations.”
“For this reason, DORA is in opposition to the current version of the bill since it does the opposite of our primary recommendation to allow the program to repeal. I understand there are lots of mixed feelings about this issue and I respect that.”
The Professional Private Investigators Association of Colorado, which supports the bill, did not return repeated requests for comment for this blog post.
Under the private eye law, 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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