An update from the Capitol about upcoming legislation.
There are 26 days left in the legislative session and there is still a lot of work to be done. We are continuing to work on issues such as school finance, jobs and election reform. This has been a busy session so far and will continue to be until the last day.
Please stay in touch with me throughout these final days of the Legislative Session with your thoughts about the issues mentioned here. It is important to hear from you as I work hard to represent your best interest.
Iâ€™ll be developing my summer outreach schedule so please advise me about events or activities going on in HD 61 that would be good for me to add to my calendar.
This year, there are two school finance bills that have been introduced. SB 13-260, Funding of Public Schools, is the traditional school finance bill that is introduced every session. The bill allocates state funding to each of Coloradoâ€™s 178 school districts for the 2013-2014 school year. As chairwoman of the House Education Committee, I am sponsoring this bill. Coloradoâ€™s public schools are funded through a combination of federal, state and local funds. Coloradoâ€™s recession led to significant cuts to the state share of this funding, and though weâ€™re not out of the woods yet, the increased revenues this year have allowed us to finally start reinvesting in our kids and our schools.
However, even as we begin restoring school funding, we need to improve the outdated formula used to determine how much money goes to each district. The second school finance bill Iâ€™m carrying this year is SB 13-213, the Future School Finance Act. This bill will modernize the funding formula, increase investments in proven programs like full-day kindergarten and early childhood education, add important accountability and transparency reforms, and provide new support for historically underfunded districts â€“ especially rural and high-poverty districts. The bill has passed out of the Senate and was passed earlier this week in the House Education Committee. This legislation will only go into effect if voters approve a ballot initiative to increase revenues to support the implementation of the legislation.
Coloradoâ€™s election system has received a lot of attention in recent years because of the concerns about the failure to send mail ballots to â€œinactiveâ€ voters. Weâ€™ve also seen that many eligible voters face challenges to voting, largely because of the complexity of the system. HB 13-1303, the Colorado Voter Access & Modernized Elections Act, passed out of the House State, Military & Veterans Affairs Committee on Monday night. This piece of legislation is focused on expanding access to voting for all Coloradans while connecting all vote centers to a central database to keep accurate voting records in real-time, protecting the integrity of our voting system. The bill standardizes the voting process in Colorado, reduces expenses for the counties by $9.5 million, increases voting options and access, and maintains the integrity of our process by preventing fraud.
A few of the changes in this bill are:
Â· Delivering Mail Ballots to all registered voters
Â· Making voter registration will be available to all individuals who have been residents 22 days before Election Day
Â· Offering online voter registration up until 8 days before Election Day
Â· Allowing residents to register, with proper identification, to vote at Clerk and Recorders offices up until and including Election Day
Colorado State Budget
The House recently passed a balanced budget for 2013-14 â€“ one that prioritizes economic development, job creation, education (both K-12 and higher education), mental health and child welfare. This budget makes responsible use of one-time revenues, as well as increases the stateâ€™s reserve by 25%, protecting Coloradoâ€™s critical services from future economic downturns. This is truly a budget that reflects Colorado values.
One piece of the budget that I am excited about that $2 million more dollars are going to promote tourism in Colorado. As a member of the Colorado Tourism Board, I believe that it is essential for our economy to promote Colorado Tourism especially in the Western Slope area. In 2011, tourists contributed $879 million in state and local taxes, and that spending supported 141,000 Colorado workers. Every year we see tourismâ€”Coloradoâ€™s second largest industryâ€”grow, and Iâ€™m glad weâ€™re investing in the industry to continue that trend. For our mountain and rural communities tourism is vital.
Education funding is critical for our economy. In this yearâ€™s budget, there is an additional $127 million for K-12 education as well as an increase to higher education. This is the first time in four years we have been able to give more money to higher education.
The budget will also invest over $19 million in Coloradoâ€™s mental health system to improve access to mental health services. It will expand hospital capacity, enhance our crisis response system, establish a single statewide crisis helpline, and improve community care services. With these programs, we will be able to address the growing mental health issues we are seeing around us.
Many of my bills have been signed into law by the Governor already. These bills are: HB 13-1022, 13-1035, 13-1058, 13-1219, SB 13-002, 13-015 and 13-053.
I still have several pieces of legislation making its way through the process including SB 13-213 and SB 13-260 mentioned above. Along with these bills below if a description of bills I am still working on.
HB 1117 will align child development programs under the Colorado Department of Human Services. This bill will simplify the process for parents and children. This bill has passed out of the House and is being considered by the Senate.
HB 1252 creates the petroleum clean up and redevelopment fund. $5 million of this funding from this bill will be used for a fire suppression system in the Eisenhower-Johnson Tunnel. This bill has passed out of the House and is being considered in the Senate.
HB 1257 deals with teacher evaluations at the district level. If a district creates their own evaluation system and does not use the State model, then they must work with Superintendents and Teachers organizations. This bill passed out of the House Education committee on a 8-5 vote.
SB 161 is a sunset review of the licensure of Architects, Professional Engineers and Professional Land Surveyors. This bill passed out of the House Business, Labor, Economic & Workforce Development committee 11-0.
SB 175 continues the Wildlife Habitat Stamp Committee. The Wildlife Habitat Stamp creates funds to conserve and protect winter range and vital habitat areas. It also improves access for hunting, fishing and wildlife related recreation. This bill passed out of the House Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources committee 9-4.
SB 178 allows Red Rocks Community College to continue providing its physician assistant studies program. It also allows for the college to give a graduates degree for students who complete the program. This bill will be heard on Seconds soon.
SB 224, creates the Protect our Rivers license plate. A person is eligible to receive this plate if they donate $25 to Trout Unlimited. This bill is still being considered by the Senate.
SB 273 creates incentives to use forest biomass energy generation and livestock. This bill is being considered by the Senate.
Join me for a Town Hall with Sen. Gail Schwartz in Aspen on April 27.
When: April 27, 2013 from 1:00 to 2 p.m.
Where: Aspen Library
120 N Mill St
Aspen CO, 81611
Thank you for joining me at my Town Halls throughout the district this session.