By Paul Simon
Denver Private Investigator Blogger
DENVER – A Senate committee Wednesday advanced a revamped bill requiring all private investigators in Colorado to obtain licenses, voting 3-2 along party lines after a contentious 3 ½-hour hearing pitting those who believe licensing will better protect consumers against others who see it as a boondoggle designed to kill small businesses and eliminate part-time investigators.
The revised bill that now moves to the Senate Finance Committee contains two licensing levels, one requiring an as yet-undetermined minimum level of experience and a second requiring that investigators working for firms register with the state. Private investigators working for a firm who register wouldn’t be held to the qualification standards that would apply to firm owners and any investigator operating as a sole-proprietorship.
Solo private investigators seeking to avoid the presumably larger fee and experience requirements would have to join a firm to do so. All private investigators would be required to pass a jurisprudence exam about their knowledge of the law, and pass fingerprint and background checks.
About all the nearly two dozen people who spoke at Wednesday’s hearing by the Senate Judiciary Committee agreed on was that the volunteer licensing program in place since the middle of 2012 is a failure. Fees began at $340 annually, climbed to $644 and then to $1,094 this year, with the result that fewer private investigators are participating. The program handled by the Department of Regulatory Agencies is self-funded, so fewer participants means higher fees to cover operational costs.
“We’ve been raising the flag about a problem” with financing the voluntary licensing program, state regulator Dino Ioannides said, adding that he was disappointed that the legislature hadn’t resolved the problem.
The cost of a license under a mandatory licensing program was just as much a touchpoint during the hearing as whether any licensing is needed.