A bill extending the statute of limitations to prosecute those who fail to report child sexual abuse to the proper authorities is now in the hands of Gov. Jared Polis.
Colorado’s House of Representatives unanimously approved Senate Bill 49 Wednesday morning on a third and final vote, sending the measure to Polis’ desk.
Representatives at the governor’s office couldn’t immediately be reached regarding whether he supports the bill, though the proposal was brought forth by fellow Democrats and has enjoyed bipartisan support.
The Senate approved the bill in early February.
Mandatory reporters like teachers, doctors and social workers are legally obligated to contact police, the Colorado Department of Human Services or the state child abuse hotline when presented with allegations of abuse. Failure to do so is a misdemeanor, currently prosecutable for 18 months.
The bill, first proposed by Sen. Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora, and sponsored in the House by Rep. Dafna Michaelson Jenet, D-Commerce City, would extend that statute of limitations to three years.
“Abusers who get away with abusing children and don’t face consequences continue to abuse children,” Michaelson Jenet told the House Tuesday. “And the sooner we take abusers out of the picture, the sooner we can save more children, and the mandatory reporter is our key to that problem.”
Previous pushes to expand the statute of limitations even further have failed. One sought a 10-year limit, and this bill’s original language asked for five years before compromising on three.
Mandatory reporters play a substantial role in preventing abuse because predators rarely target just one child or commit only one act of abuse, Rep. Terri Carver, R-Colorado Springs, noted in a committee hearing last week.
Prosecuting those who fail to fulfill their responsibilities is necessary, and expanding the statute of limitations would make that prosecution more practical, Carver and others said.
Opponents of the bill, however, said an extended statute of limitations would be out of place for the level of crime, a misdemeanor. The longer investigations last, the harder they become, several said.
Once Polis is presented with the bill, he’ll have 10 days to sign or veto the measure.