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  • Writer's pictureVoces Unidas Action Fund

300+ rally at Capitol to urge lawmakers to support Latino 2023 policy priorities

More than 300 Coloradans concluded the 17th Annual Latino Advocacy Day today with a rally at the State Capitol to urge lawmakers to pass legislation addressing their rights and interests around Reproductive Health Justice, Environmental Justice, Language Justice, and Economic & Housing Justice.


“As more than one-fifth of Colorado’s population, the Latino community is critical to our democracy through voting, running for office, and advocating for policy,” said Dusti Gurule, President and CEO of Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR). “Since launching LAD 17 years ago, we've seen tremendous growth in our Latino electeds and in advancing good policy, but we're not done and are still fighting many of the same fights. We need to stand strong in our values and continue pushing forward.”


Colorado Latino Advocacy Day was conceived in 2006 as a response to restrictive anti-immigrant policies including federal and state legislative proposals to ban public services and classify millions of undocumented immigrants as felons. In the 17 years since bringing Latinos to the table to oppose those policies, LAD has deepened the connection between elected officials and the community, bringing lawmakers and families together to share stories, increase awareness, and advocate for issues facing Colorado’s Latino communities.


“I’ve been fortunate to participate in LAD Denver since its inception, and I’ve witnessed its impact as more and more of our community sees a place for themselves, their families, and their voice in politics,” said Alex Sánchez, President and CEO of Voces Unidas de las Montañas. “Through organizing, increased awareness, and involvement in the process, we have shifted the narrative to a point where Latinos have become leaders in civic engagement and integral participants in the decisions that impact our state.”


Just past the halfway point for the 2023 legislative session, LAD participants took advantage of the opportunity to hear from several elected officials before carrying their own messages to the Capitol.


Lawmakers in attendance over the weekend included Colorado Speaker of the House Julie McCluskie (HD-13). Gov. Jared Polis addressed participants Monday morning.


Other legislators who joined the event included Reps. Javier Mabrey (HD1), Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez (HD4), Alex Valdez (HD5), Said Sharbini (HD31), Lorena Garcia(HD35), David Ortiz (HD38), Matthew Martinez (HD62), and Latino Caucus Co-Chair Elizabeth Velasco (HD-57), who reaffirmed their commitment to Latino/a issues at Monday’s rally on the Capitol steps.


“I would like to thank everyone for coming here today, because we need your advocacy, we need your voices, and we need your leadership because we are stronger together,” Rep.Velasco told attendees.


Commenting on the importance of LAD and electing more Latinos and Latinas to office, Rep. Martinez said: “When there are more of us, we are really going to be a force to be reckoned with. We already are now, but we can continue to make progress and continue to push at making sure that Colorado is well served.”


Building on strong turnout from the post-pandemic event in 2022, more than 300 people attended LAD this year — including a record turnout from Colorado’s Western Slope. Over half the participants came from outside the Denver-metro area.


“Latinos from all four corners of the state understand that we cannot continue letting policy happen to us,” said Beatriz Soto, Director of Protégete for Conservation Colorado. “Whether it’s the fight for clean air, water, affordable housing, or health justice, we have to be here leading, advocating, challenging, and electing decision-makers to establish policy that works for us.”


For many, LAD served as an introduction to advocacy and the legislative process. But since 2021, both new and experienced advocates alike have been guided by the annual Colorado Latino Policy Agenda survey and report to help direct lawmakers toward key areas of change through policies that affect the daily lives of community members across the state.


The data collected directly from communities through this statewide grassroots effort has helped shape priorities for LAD. That included urging lawmakers to support bills across these primary topic areas: Reproductive Health Justice, Environmental Justice, Language Justice, and Economic & Housing Justice (see additional details, below)


This year’s LAD was convened by Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR), Voces Unidas de las Montañas, and Protégete. As nonpartisan, nonprofit organizations, LAD Co-conveners do not support or endorse any candidates for elected office or any political parties.


Bills that 2023 LAD participants are urging lawmakers to support, include:


ECONOMIC AND HOUSING JUSTICE


Support HB 1115 – Repeal Prohibition Local Residential Rent Control Housing stability is the foundation for healthy and thriving communities, yet the increasing cost of rents has far outpaced wages, creating a nearly insurmountable gap in affordability for renters across Colorado. State law prohibits local governments from determining the best housing solutions for our communities.The increased financial pressure has led to a 266% increase in chronic homelessness over the past 15 years in Colorado, the largest increase of any state in the nation.


Recognizing that local elected officials are most closely connected to the needs of the community and are uniquely positioned to set policy benefiting that community, this bill is sponsored by Reps. Mabrey, Velasco and Sen. Robert Rodriguez (with 25 co-sponsors) repeals statutory provisions prohibiting counties and municipalities from enacting any ordinance or resolution that would control rent on private residential property or a private residential housing unit.


Support Protecting Water Quality in Colorado’s Mobile Home Parks Concerns by residents of mobile home parks over their water quality – including foul taste, odor, color, and more – have gone unresolved for years. In Colorado, water contamination is primarily found in counties with high Latino populations and the 2022 Colorado Latino Policy Agenda survey found that nearly 40% of Latino residents in mobile home parks do not believe their water is safe for drinking. Due to the complexity of water sources, property ownership, and lease arrangements, upgrading infrastructure is challenging and most parks do not qualify for publicly funded grants or loans. In some circumstances major investments from park owners may be required, however costs for infrastructure upgrades should not be passed on to residents.


A draft bill sponsored by Reps. Andrew Boesenecker and Velasco seeks to resolve this issue by establishing a water-testing program for mobile home parks; setting prioritization criteria for mobile home park water to be tested; ensuring public communications related to testing and results are available in English, Spanish and other languages; identifying funding sources for remediation; having CDPHE’s environmental justice ombudsperson represent park residents in water quality issues; and developing standards for action plans to address water-quality issues, including environmental-justice principles.


ENVIRONMENTAL AND CLIMATE JUSTICE


Support Protecting Communities from Air Pollution Ozone levels have worsened in recent years from pollution sources like oil and gas operations, highways, refineries, and factories, made worse by climate change and rising summer temperatures. Due to systemic inequities, Latino communities, other communities of color, and low-income populations in Colorado are located closer to sources of pollution and are disproportionately impacted by poor air quality, leading to increased health risks, higher healthcare costs, and missed school days for children. The disproportionate impact of ozone pollution on these communities cannot be ignored.


Legislation drafted by Reps. Jennifer Bacon and Jenny Wilford will protect communities by increasing air quality analysis in state permitting processes; increasing coordination between state agencies responsible for issuing permits to address the cumulative impacts of ozone in the permitting process; enhancing public complaint processes and increasing opportunities for public enforcement. These are common-sense policies in line with a number of states across the nation and will allow our air quality regulators to better protect all Coloradans.


Support Equitable and Sustainable Housing Policy High housing costs are forcing people out of their communities and harming those who have historically suffered the most barriers to accessing housing, including Latinos, low-income people, people of color, and people with disabilities. Combined with poor planning, the affordable housing shortage has led to sprawling development patterns that force people to drive long distances to get where they need to go. We need action at a state level to create more diverse, affordable housing options located close to jobs, schools, grocery stores, parks, transit stations, and other services.


The Polis administration is supporting legislation that will build more housing in more sustainable locations. This bill must protect communities by increasing housing choice and attainability by providing more homes of all shapes and sizes; decreasing the amount that people must drive to get where they need to go, leading to less toxic pollution from cars and trucks in Latino communities; creating additional affordable housing for those with the greatest need; and ensuring that existing residents and local small businesses are not pushed out of their neighborhoods by rising land value and rents.


REPRODUCTIVE JUSTICE


Support SB190 — Deceptive Trade Practice Pregnancy-Related Service We have made tremendous gains in Colorado to eliminate barriers to health care services and protect the right to abortion. Yet people of color, low-income folks, young people, LGBTQIA+ communities, and immigrants still struggle to obtain the care they need due to misinformation and other systemic barriers to care. The use of deceptive advertising by anti-abortion clinics to intercept patients seeking abortion care is well documented as a barrier that prevents patients from being able to access their right to receive reproductive health care that is accurate, transparent, and protected.


Sponsored by Sens. Faith Winter and Janice Marchman and Reps. Karen McCormick and Elisabeth Epps, this bill is one of three in the Safe Access to Protected Health Care Bill Package (also SB 188 and SB 189) that builds on Colorado's ability to strengthen protections for bodily autonomy and abortion care. The bill will prohibit the use of deceptive advertising by anti-abortion centers; prohibit advertising for abortion pill reversal as a deceptive trade practice; make the prescribing, offering or facilitation of abortion pill reversal unprofessional conduct for licensed, registered or certified health care providers. Deceptive commercial speech is not protected under the First Amendment and therefore, subject to regulation.


LANGUAGE JUSTICE


Support HB 1237 — Inclusive Language Emergency Situations Sponsored by Rep. Elizabeth Velasco, this bill requires emergency management officials to determine the areas of the state that need to provide emergency alerts in Spanish and provide live interpretation during a 911 call, a necessary and long-overdue public safety measure.




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