Senate gives initial OK to Colorado carbon monoxide bill |

Senate gives initial OK to Colorado carbon monoxide bill

Colleen Slevin
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

DENVER ” Don Johnson’s 23-year-old daughter, Lauren, died of carbon monoxide poisoning on Jan. 5. Eight days later, he brought an urn holding her ashes to the state Capitol and urged legislators to require carbon monoxide detectors in homes.

That bill now appears headed toward passage, largely because of the advocacy of Johnson and relatives of a Denver family killed near Aspen by carbon monoxide.

Johnson and his wife, Carol, watched Thursday as the full Senate gave initial backing to the measure (House Bill 1091). No “no’s” were heard in a voice vote in the unusually quiet chamber, suggesting that the bill should easily pass a recorded vote as soon as Friday.

“I’m not embarrassed or ashamed of my emotions at all. We loved Lauren very much. She would want us here. That’s why we’re here,” Johnson said after the vote.

The measure would require all homes and apartment buildings up for sale to have carbon monoxide detectors near bedrooms. Homeowners and apartment owners also would have to install detectors if they do any major renovations or additions.

The bill must pass another vote before it can be sent back to the House for approval.

Last year, the Senate rejected a similar measure partly because some members thought it was largely being pushed by manufacturers. Others dismissed it as a “nanny state” bill. There also were concerns that homebuilders and apartment owners could be held responsible if the equipment failed. This year’s bill would not hold them liable.

Last year’s “no” vote included Sen. Chris Romer, D-Denver, the sponsor of this year’s bill. His district includes the apartment near the University of Denver where Lauren Johnson died. Carbon monoxide had escaped through a faulty vent cap in the building’s boiler.

Romer also represented Parker and Caroline Lofgren of Denver and their two children, who were found dead Nov. 28 in an Aspen-area home containing high levels of carbon monoxide.

Sen. Bill Cadman, R-Colorado Springs, said he was inclined to vote “no” again this year because he generally thinks people have a personal responsibility to take care of such things. But he said Johnson’s testimony during a hearing on Wednesday got him wondering about the condition of his own home’s detectors. He sent his wife an e-mail during the hearing asking her how many they had and where they were. When she said she wasn’t sure if it was in the basement, Cadman said he rethought his position.

“In good conscience, I couldn’t vote against a bill that was going to pass after I used your story to make sure my own family was safe,” Cadman said to the Johnsons.

If the bill passes another vote in the Senate, it will be sent back to the House to approve naming the bill in honor of both the Johnson and Lofgren families. It was drafted before Johnson’s death and originally only named in honor of the Lofrgens.

If both chambers sign off, Romer said it could be signed into law within two weeks. After weeks of advocating for the bill immediately following Lauren’s death, the Johnsons plan to take some time off. But they assured Romer they would find a way to be back for any bill signing.

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