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Politics and Government

Colorado’s tribal youth haven’t been included in the state’s teen lawmaking council — until now

Gov. Jared Polis on Wednesday signed into law his first bill of 2020, which added two tribal youth positions to the Colorado Youth Advisory Council

Gov. Jared Polis speaks to supporters of House Bill 1021 before signing the measure in his Capitol office on Feb. 26, 2020. (Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun)
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The youth advisory council helping Colorado lawmakers draft bills at the state Capitol will soon include tribal representation — a dozen years after the group was first formed.

That’s thanks to House Bill 1021, which Gov. Jared Polis signed into law Wednesday. It was the first bill he signed from the 2020 Colorado legislative session, a symbol, he says, of his administration’s work to ensure that the state’s tribes are part of his plans for the future.

The law adds two more members to the Colorado Youth Advisory Council to be filled by youth from Colorado’s two recognized tribes: the Southern Ute and the Ute Mountain Ute.

“Our young people grow up and become the leaders for Colorado,” Polis said during a news conference. “This is one step on the path towards strengthening the relationship between our tribes and the state of Colorado.”

Formed in 2008, the Colorado Youth Advisory Council has been made up of 40 young people from across the state — 35 representing each state Senate district and five holding at-large seats. Now, two of those at-large members will be replaced by tribal members, one from each tribe.

“It’s a long time coming,” LaTitia Taylor, director of education for the Southern Ute Tribe, said before the the bill was signed.

LaTitia Taylor, director of education for the Southern Ute tribe, speaks at a news conference before the signing of House Bill 1021. (Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun)

Throughout their two-year appointment, youth members between the age of 14 and 19 years old meet with top legislators and learn about how public policy and state government work. Members also present policy recommendations to legislators and post their recommendation on the council’s website.

“Finally, we did what we should have done many years ago,” said Sen. Don Coram, a Montrose Republican who championed the bipartisan bill. 

The other prime sponsors of the measure were Sen. Nancy Todd, an Aurora Democrat, Rep. Hugh McKean, a Loveland Republican, and Rep. Bri Buentello, a Pueblo Democrat.