The Colorado General Assembly's Democratic women's caucus, 2022 By MARIANNE GOODLAND firstname.lastname@example.org The General Assembly's Democratic women's caucus on Wednesday rolled out its 2022 agenda, which features four bills the caucus says will benefit all Colorado women. State Rep. Lisa Cutter, a Littleton Democrat who co-chairs the caucus, said they will use their "collective power" to advance policies for women, regardless of socioeconomic background, race, disability, sexual identity, immigration status or zip code. The four bills, three of which have not yet been introduced, focus on reproductive health, eliminating sales tax on menstrual products and diapers, covering all Coloradans and another effort to pass the Protecting Opportunities And Workers' Rights Act. On reproductive health, Cutter said keeping abortion legal is necessary, but added legality is not enough. Despite the fact that Colorado was the first in the nation to legalize abortion in certain circumstances, there is no state law guaranteeing the right to abortion. House Majority Leader Daneya Esgar of Pueblo, one of the bill's sponsors, said that lawmakers never made abortion legal in state law because "we never felt like we had to." "We didn't fear losing those protections ... but with what's happening nationally, we're afraid if Roe V. Wade gets pulled we don't have protections," she said. It's currently legal in Colorado because of federal law, Esgar said. But she questioned how long that would last if the U.S. Supreme Court strikes down Roe v. Wade in June, which is possible. At the state level, challenges have come from ballot measures as well as bills at the General Assembly, she noted. Along with Esgar, Rep Meg Froelich of Greenwood Village and Sen. Julie Gonzales of Denver will sponsor the bill. The caucus is also seeking a measure to eliminate the state sales tax on diapers, both for babies and adults, as well as eliminating sales tax on menstrual hygiene products. "These items are medical necessities for women and should be taxed as such," Cutter said. The bill follows last year's law to provide free menstrual hygiene products to students who attend low-income area high schools and free diapers to low-income families, provided through the state Department of Human Services. The bill will be sponsored by Reps. Susan Lontine and Leslie Herod of Denver, and Sens. Sonya Jaquez Lewis of Longmont and Faith Winter of Westminster. The caucus is also sponsor a bill seeking to provide all pregnant women and children with health care coverage, regardless of immigration status. Rep. Monica Duran of Wheat Ridge, the other co-chair of the caucus, explained that by extending coverage to these families, "we can reduce health disparities and improve health outcomes for the next generation." Bill sponsor Rep. Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez said the bill would allow enrollment in CHP+, the Child Health Plan Plus program. Currently, the program is not available to undocumented residents. Along with Gonzales-Gutierrez, the bill will be sponsored by Rep. Julie McCluskie of Dillon. Likely the most controversial business bill of the 2021 session, the Protecting Opportunities And Workers' Rights Act seeks to update state law on harassment and discrimination, according to Duran. The biggest change in law sought by the 2021 version of the bill was to direct the Colorado Civil Rights Commission and Division of Civil Rights to include harassment as a basis for or description of discrimination. The 2021 version died in a House committee. According to a 2021 op-ed penned by Winter, current case law governing workplace conduct relies on a "severe or pervasive" standard for deciding what qualifies as harassment. That's meant that complaints filed by workers against employers on sexual assault, unwanted physical contact, verbal harassment or other forms of harassment have been adjudicated as not "severe or pervasive" enough, Winter wrote. The bill will be sponsored by Winter, Lontine, Rep. Matt Gray of Broomfield and Sen. Brittany Pettersen of Lakewood. Out of the 100 members of the General Assembly, 45 are women. There are 33 women lawmakers, including six Republicans, in the state House and 12, including one Republican, in the state Senate. Colorado is fifth in the nation for the highest percentage of women lawmakers in its legislative bodies, following Nevada, Oregon, Rhode Island and Maine.
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