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Why the governor says the 'secret prisons' bill didn't get a public signing

"If I disapprove of a bill, just so we're clear, I don't sign it. I can let it go unsigned into law. When I sign bills, it means I approve them."
Credit: Rodriguez, Jacob

Signing bills into law is a delicate dance of convenience, availability and equity.

Gov. John Hickenlooper is taking heat from Democrats and Republicans and victims of crimes for not publicly signing a bill to stop the secret transfer of prisoners in Colorado.

Victims have expressed the desire to know where their perpetrators are serving time. Most inmates incarcerated in the Colorado Department of Corrections are easily found on-line. Over the nearly two years that 9Wants to Know has been covering this issue, numerous victims publicly spoke about the pain of not knowing where the killers of their children were serving time and called on the governor to change a decade-long practice.

The four sponsors of the bill found out about the bill signing from 9Wants to Know phone calls.

"There are 500 bills we're going to sign and we can't get to all of them," said Hickenlooper, when asked why it wasn't signed publicly. "Often times it's just who's in the building. Or who's asked. Who hasn't had a bill before, and you fill up the amount of time you've got and sometimes the bill doesn't get on there."

One of the bills that received a public bill signing on Monday was HB18-1242, "Change Salary Categorizations for Certain Counties," which increases the salaries for elected county leaders in four counties in Colorado.

That bill was sponsored by House Majority Leader Rep. K.C. Becker, D-Boulder.

"Why did you find that one important to sign publicly, but not the prisons bill?" 9NEWS reporter Marshall Zelinger asked Hickenlooper.

"You have to talk to staff. When we go through these, I go in, I sign bills, people come in, that's not a decision that comes up to my level," said Hickenlooper.

We checked with his staff and was told this received a public signing to thank her for all her hard work this session.

Becker told 9NEWS this was her third public bill signing this year.

The prisons bill was sponsored by:

- Sen. John Cooke, R-Greeley

- Sen. Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora

- Rep. Cole Wist, R-Centennial

- Rep. Leslie Herod, D-Denver

According to Cooke, he has had four or five bills signed publicly this year. Fields said she had two. Wist and Herod have yet to have a bill signed publicly, but Wist is expecting two public signings on Wednesday.

"I, as a victim, am satisfied that our voices were heard and a wrong has been righted, but I'm equally disappointed that the governor chose to sign this bill in private. This was a chance to come out of the shadows and know that we were heard," said Tom Sullivan, father of Aurora Theater shooting victim Alex Sullivan.

"If I disapprove of a bill, just so we're clear, I don't sign it. I can let it go unsigned into law. When I sign bills, it means I approve them," said Hickenlooper.

"It would have been nice if we were there. If he made a big deal about it. If we would’ve gotten pens like they get at bill signings," said Christine Ridgeway, grandmother of Jessica Ridgeway.

At public bill signings, the Governor frequently signs his name with multiple pens and gives the pens as souvenirs.

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