Anti-Sanctuary Bills Pass in New York and Colorado: Future Uncertain
By David Jaroslav | April 27, 2018
Divided government often means sharply differing priorities. In two states where different parties control each side of the legislature, this past month has seen anti-sanctuary bills pass one chamber only to face an uncertain fate in the other.
The fate of any legislation to stem the tide of sanctuary cities popping up all over New York, and possibly even stopping the whole Empire State from becoming more of a sanctuary than it is already, currently hangs by a thread based on control of the State Senate.
The New York State Senate is currently, just barely, controlled by Republicans. From 2011 until very recently, they were joined by up to eight Democrats who called themselves the “Independent Democratic Conference” (IDC), to control the Senate jointly. But that arrangement ended on April 4th of this year and the IDC officially dissolved, with its members rejoining the rest of the Democrats. One remaining Democrat, Senator Simcha Felder of Brooklyn, was never a member of the IDC and still caucuses with the Republicans, as he has since 2013. This leaves the Republicans with only a 31-30 majority. The Senate also has two vacancies still to be filled by special elections that could decide control of the chamber and thus the last stopgap against one-party rule in Albany.
New York is one of just over half the states where legislation carries over from one session to the next of a two-year term. The Senate’s anti-sanctuary bill, Senate Bill (SB) 3698, was introduced by Senator Thomas Croci (R-Suffolk County) back in January 2017, and has moved intermittently through the Senate legislative process since. The bill would ban local governments from formally or informally “inhibiting” information-sharing with federal agencies or compliance with immigration detainers, and cut off state funds to any local government that does.
The Senate Veterans, Homeland Security and Military Affairs Committee, which is chaired by the bill’s sponsor, Senator Croci, heard and passed the bill twice over two years in both 2017 and 2018.
Unsurprisingly, the bill has already been declared “dead on arrival” by some members of the Assembly, which the Democrats control by a margin of 102-37. It is currently pending in the Assembly Committee on Governmental Operations, whose chairwoman, Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes (D-Buffalo), has not scheduled it for a hearing.
New York’s legislature is set to adjourn its regular session on June 30. The bill’s prospects going forward look dim, but at least by passing it the Senate has presented New Yorkers with a crystal-clear difference of priorities to choose from.
Colorado is a closely-divided state and, reflecting that, the Colorado state legislature is one of the most closely-divided in the country. Each major party controls one chamber by a narrow majority, and both chambers have now passed dueling bills reflecting their opposing priorities: In the Senate, a bill (SB 220) to eliminate sanctuary policies statewide, in the House, a bill (HB 1273) to make Colorado into a sanctuary state.
As Denver detective and police union president Nick Rogers testified before Congress in February, and has only become even more terrifyingly obvious since, sanctuary policies by Colorado cities and counties have contributed to a crime wave in the Centennial State that’s rapidly spiraling out of control.
Senator Tim Neville (R-Littleton) introduced the Senate’s anti-sanctuary bill on March 26. He couldn’t have made the bill’s intent any clearer: “Sanctuary cities are restricting the communication and cooperation between local law enforcement and federal law enforcement agencies, and that must stop.”
The bill was heard in the Senate Committee on State, Veterans, & Military Affairs on April 9, and passed on a party-line vote of 3-2.
Meanwhile in the House, the sanctuary state bill passed by a vote of 38-24 on the same day, April 18.
Colorado’s legislature is scheduled to adjourn its regular session on May 9. Movement on either bill between now and then seems unlikely, as it would require legislators in one chamber or the other to flip from their current positions. If either did pass, however, Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper—a supporter of dangerous sanctuary policies going back to his time as Mayor of Denver—would almost certainly veto the anti-sanctuary bill and probably sign the sanctuary bill. But he cannot run again due to term limits, and the race to succeed him in January of 2019 is, as usual in Colorado, a closely-watched toss-up, with Republican former Congressman and now-gubernatorial candidate Tom Tancredo promising to go to the voters with a ballot initiative on the issue if the legislature continues failing to act.
It remains an open question which direction Colorado will tilt in the future.