Lawmaker Threats Bill Tripped Up Over Punishment, Free Speech Concerns

State Capitol Preview
Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Colorado’s state Capitol building was quiet New Year’s Eve except for scattered tour groups, selfie-snapping visitors and a few staffers preparing for House members to return.

The sponsors of a bill that would have increased the penalty for threatening or harassing a state lawmaker have withdrawn it. 

Democratic Rep. Kyle Mullica of Thornton said he pulled the plug on HB20-1121 because too many people had concerns about the punishment for a threat to a lawmaker becoming a felony. Right now it’s a misdemeanor.

“I think that people are concerned [about] making sure that we're not stifling 1st Amendment, our political speech, and obviously that was never the goal of any legislation.” 

Mullica’s goal was to prevent the influence of threats over legislation and intimidation of lawmakers. A number of legislators, including Mullica, have faced threats in recent years because of measures they support. 

“I think we were willing to take a step back to go try to make sure that we are drafting a policy that obviously accomplished our goals to try to stop that type of behavior,” he said. “But also address the concerns that we were hearing too.” 

The Colorado ACLU had come out in opposition to the measure and said there were already adequate laws in place. “Rendering these crimes as felonies versus misdemeanors for this category of individuals will not deter such assaults and threats,” Denise Maes, the ACLU’s public policy director in Colorado told CPR earlier this week. She worried the bill would end up imprisoning people who don’t pose an actual threat.

For his part, Mullica said he and Republican sponsor Rep. Matt Soper plan to keep working on the issue.