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Monthly Archives: April 2014

Now that SB-133 is on its way to the Colorado House of Representatives, I’m wondering where the primary opponents stand on the bill in its current form.

In a recent email sent to Senator Linda Newell by Rick Johnson (President of CSPI), there was an indication that he and his group might be warming up to the idea of mandatory licensing, or at least considering support of the original bill introduced in February:  In his 3/18/14 letter to Senator Newell, Johnson wrote:

For what’s it worth I think CSPI members and I might be able to go along with the level 1 and level 2 private investigator concept. A background, jurisprudence test and bond we might be able to live with. We do not, under any circumstances go along with the hours or years requirement of our profession to be determined after the bill becomes law. This makes absolutely no sense, and smells of a back room deal already made. 

The “back room deal” that he refers to is an amendment that happened at the end of the Senate Judiciary Committee that changed the bill to a measure that looked nothing like the original bill.  Since none of that amendment’s language was discussed during the stakeholders meetings (which Johnson and others from his group participated in), I have to agree with him that it indeed smelled of special interests.  

But that amendment was stripped at the very next committee (Senate Finance). PPIAC Chairman Chris Bray recently posted on their website that PPIAC did not favor the amendment, and gave kudos to Senator Newell for returning the bill to its original form.

On the heels of the return to the original bill, coupled with the letter to Senator Newell, I wonder if the two sides have found something they can agree upon.  Obviously, both sides saw the danger in the “agency amendment”.  Obviously, both sides had concern with language that threatened to keep newer investigators out of the industry.

Johnson did give himself an “out” in the letter to Senator Newell by using the word “might” on two occasions, and Johnson is well known for having taken both sides on the issue of mandatory licensing.  He once was a champion of mandatory licensing (before and during his tenure as President of PPIAC).  But after he left PPIAC and formed CSPI, he suddenly became a staunch and vocal opponent.

Before I make my final comment, let me bring up a bit of history.  If you step back and look at the numerous attempts to bring licensing back to Colorado (since it was struck down in the mid-70s), no PPIAC-led initiative has even made it through the first committee without being killed. In my opinion, PPIAC never had the political clout or willpower to do what it took to be successful.  But in the past five years, the momentum has definitely shifted. Not only did PPIAC get their Voluntary bill past the first committee (a surprise to many)..they actually got the thing all the way through the General Assembly and signed by the governor!  And last year, PPIAC got a mandatory bill all the way to the last days of the General Session before a surprise vote killed it in a committee that would have sent it to the House for a final vote.  So opponents of mandatory licensing dodged a huge bullet there, as a bill to create mandatory regulation (which they had no say in) was looming large.

But now, here we are. Johnson and his group have indicated that he might be able to support the original language. And PPIAC has certainly made it clear that they support the original language.  Seems to me that together, they could probably control the direction of mandatory regulation and hold the state accountable for introducing rules that harm small business.  They also have the opportunity to work together and urge the state to adopt rules that would benefit the industry. If they could only quit butting heads long enough to let the dizziness subside and think clearly.

Or will Johnson and others just return to their standard position of “oppose, oppose, oppose”.  I guess we’ll see.

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Well, it looks as if the bill to license PIs is back on track after a lot of wrangling in the Senate and is on its way to the House in much the same form as it was introduced in February.  The “agency” language was stripped (along with the higher fees, increased oversight by DORA and the language that threatened to keep new PIs out of the profession).

There was a comment on an earlier post of mine (by Rick Johnson) that the agency language was just another example of how PPIAC likes to dangle carrots and then switch.  Its my understanding that it was PPIAC took the lead in opposing the agency language and returning the bill to its original form.  If that’s the case, I think PPIAC leadership should be congratulated on sticking to their guns and making sure the bill that was introduced into the Senate is what will be sent to the House…and hopefully the Governor.  Instead of accusing PPIAC of a bait and switch, there should have been an extreme amount of outcry over how special interest groups and individuals were hijacking this bill to fit their own situation.

Let’s face it – that agency amendment was just a result of someone’s (or a small group’s) personal agenda.  But the net result of that amendment was was extremely threatening to not only agencies, but to single operators as well.  As I said in an earlier post, it would have given DORA the authority to mandate how you supervised employees and it would have kept a lot of people from being in business, since DORA had the authority to decide who could or couldn’t be “an agency”.  Kudos to those that listened to the small operator and returned the bill to its original form.

I watched the debate on the Senate floor online.  It absolutely kills me how Senator Balmer and others seem to get their facts wrong.  Senator Balmer was going on about how “ten or so” private investigators we re pushing this bill, and that they represent 1% of the total PIs in Colorado.  Simple math says that he believes, then, that there are 1,000 PIs is Colorado.  And that the VAST MAJORITY of PIs in Colorado are ex-law enforcement and military. But what really got me was the fact that he voted in favor of mandatory licensing last year.  Kinda reminds me of someone else that championed mandatory regulation in years past, but suddenly is against.

So I return to a position of support for the bill.  I was leaning no with that agency BS.  I had even sent an email to my senator expressing concern.  But getting back to the original bill is a good thing and I think it returns to addressing the issue of protecting the public without too much regulation. It keeps the criminals out and requires that you pass a test to make sure everyone understands the laws with respect to operating as a PI.  There is a lot being said by opponents about how we don’t need regulation to “protect the public”, and opponents say there are criminal laws and civil remedies to answer that issue.  But we pass laws all the time to not only address what has happened…but also as to what is possible or probable.  Inexperienced PIs that think its a good idea to track their subjects using GPS devices are (I believe) just ignorant to the law.  Requiring them to pass a test that demonstrates they know it’s illegal to do so (in most cases) will prevent incidents (like the one in Weld County a couple of years ago) from happening in the first place. Lets assume that the guy that did that just didn’t understand the legalities.  Had he been aware, he probably would have avoided the criminal charges that were filed against him.  So a bill that requires a test is a good thing, especially for those that are new to the profession.

I don’t know for sure who was leading the fight to get the bill back to what was introduced.  I suspect it was probably PPIAC Chairman Chris Bray and President Steve Davis, but I have no direct knowledge. They’re a logical choice since they are at the top of the PPIAC. But regardless of who was responsible, they have my thanks for leading the fight to keep the fees reasonable, championing the little guy, and doing the hard work of bringing mandatory regulation to Colorado.

F.S.