Colorado bill felonizes free speech…again, this time to “protect elected officials”

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Have you ever made a rude or unsavory comment to your mayor or Governor, whether written or spoken? Have you called your lawmaker more than once? If so, you could become a felon if you continue that behavior. Colorado’s Retaliation Against An Elected Official, SB21-064, makes “harassment” of an elected official a felony.

“Under current law, there is a crime of retaliation against a judge if an individual makes a credible threat or commits an act of harassment or an act of harm or injury upon a person or property as retaliation or retribution against a judge. The crime is a class 4 felony. The bill adds elected officials and their families to the crime.”

Kyle Mullica, right, one of the bill’s sponsors

The bill is sponsored by Senator Leroy Garcia, Senator John Cooke, and Representative Kyle Mullica, responsible for mandatory school entry vaccinations in Colorado. Mullica is known as a more hardened Democrat, especially during COVID-19, and he often imposes his moral and medical beliefs on Coloradoans through his bills. This bill, however, is an outright assault on free speech.

Under Colorado Revised Statute § 18-9-111, harassment occurs when:

(1) A person commits harassment if, with intent to harass, annoy, or alarm another person, he or she: (a) Strikes, shoves, kicks, or otherwise touches a person or subjects him to physical contact; or (b) In a public place directs obscene language or makes an obscene gesture to or at another person; or (c) Follows a person in or about a public place; or (d) Repealed. (e) Directly or indirectly initiates communication with a person or directs language toward another person, anonymously or otherwise, by telephone, telephone network, data network, text message, instant message, computer, computer network, computer system, or other interactive electronic medium in a manner intended to harass or threaten bodily injury or property damage, or makes any comment, request, suggestion, or proposal by telephone, computer, computer network, computer system, or other interactive electronic medium that is obscene; or(f) Makes a telephone call or causes a telephone to ring repeatedly, whether or not a conversation ensues, with no purpose of legitimate conversation; or(g) Makes repeated communications at inconvenient hours that invade the privacy of another and interfere in the use and enjoyment of another’s home or private residence or other private property; or (h) Repeatedly insults, taunts, challenges, or makes communications in offensively coarse language to, another in a manner likely to provoke a violent or disorderly response.”

The bill is incorrectly named “Retaliation against an elected official.” Using the statute at play for not the retaliation section of the bill, but for the harassment section, almost anyone can be arrested at any time for vehemently disagreeing with an elected official or voicing disgust with a bill, law, or process.

The assault on free speech is reminiscent of Kerry Donovan’s “Digital Communications Regulation,” or SB21-132. That bill makes it mandatory for any communications platform “with customers in Colorado” to register with the state, pay a fee, and then be subjected to the state comission’s opinions about what constitutes hate speech, disinformation, fake news, election undermining, or anything the state of Colorado determines to be adversive. Penalties include misdemeanor criminal charges and a $5,000 per day fine. SB21-132 curiously picked up a sponsor, Brianna Titone, and is still alive and well.

While Colorado legislators are busy building fences around the Denver and Washington, D.C. Capitol buildings and making infinitely more laws to protect themselves and the ideas they hold dearly, they forgot whom they are to be protecting, and whose ideas they should hold dearly-their constituents’ ideas, above their own. It also seems they must have forgotten whom they work for and whom they’re elected to make laws for each day while doing the people’s business, not their own.

Not one Coloradoan, fraught with economic distress, endless mandates, and lingering questions about public health versus individual liberties, woke up this morning and said to himself, “I know we have never had special protections for lawmakers, but Gee…I sure do hope that my Senator makes a law today to protect himself from my written or spoken words.”

Not one person.

Colorado legislators must remember that they won’t legislate forever. Someday, whether it’s tomorrow or in several decades, every lawmaker becomes a normal Joe. And when that day comes, maybe those out of touch elected officials will look back on the laws they’ve passed with some amount of regret and embarrassment.

The bill is not only embarrassing, but it’s redundant. If a victim is harassed, then a legal remedy already exists for such a charge. Prescribing an entirely new category for protected elected officials and calling the action a felony reeks of privilege and frivolous lawmaking.

Former Senator Cory Gardner, an Average Joe today, had better not get too heated in any political exchanges. Now that he’s an average citizen, he could be charged with a felony for certain antics. So could any one of Colorado’s Senators, who passed this bill, on the day they lose their protected status-their elected “privilege.”

SB21-064 passed the Senate with bipartisan support today; it’ll now make its way to the House very soon, where hopefully at least a few state representatives are able to see the destruction of free speech by over zealous lawmakers in Colorado and vote no.

The Colorado Herald