Vail Daily column: Building a better Colorado for all
June greetings to everyone in Eagle County and Routt County!
On May 6, the first session of the 70th Colorado General Assembly adjourned. Even with split chamber control, when we worked together, putting aside petty, partisan politics, we were able to pass some bills that will improve life for all Coloradans. We balanced our budget as required by law, while adding $613 million to our reserve, rainy day fund, and funding services and infrastructure to invest in a brighter future for all Coloradans.
I co-sponsored bipartisan bills to build a better Colorado for all, including workforce development, improved storm water rules, veterans services, incentives for precipitation harvesting, increased opportunities for renewables, rural economic development, protecting the office of consumer counsel, disaster prediction tools, wildfire reduction grants, energy efficiency, felony DUI, conservation easements, cottage foods, increase in the Medicaid provider fee and, via a complicated, delicate negotiation process, a bipartisan reduction in student testing.
Some evidence-based bills that would have helped build a better future for all Coloradans passed the House with a bipartisan vote and were killed in the Senate on partisan votes. These included bills to make transparent all tax credits, allow rain barrels for home use, fund teen pregnancy prevention via long-acting reversible contraception and protect seniors from elder abuse.
Six of my eight House bills passed both houses and will become law, but two with bipartisan support in the House were killed in the Senate. I believe in bringing together representatives of all the groups that will be affected by any issue that I’m working on before I ever introduce a bill. This is my stakeholder process, which enables us to find practical, evidence-based solutions that work for everyone. We first try to find solutions within existing laws and regulations, but that is sometimes not possible. In such cases, new legislation is needed.
House Bill 1252, my bipartisan bill to renew the Healthy Rivers voluntary tax check-off, passed the House 60-4 and the Senate 32-3. Without this bill, the Healthy Rivers Fund would have ended.
Three of my bills were aimed at reducing red tape and were the products of months-long stakeholder processes. All three had both Republican and Democratic sponsors in the Senate. All three passed unanimously out of both the House and Senate because we worked together: House Bill 1224, to clarify funding and accounting rules and remove red tape for Colorado Mountain College; House Bill 1228, to reduce red tape and improper taxation for consumers of propane; and House Bill 1364, which reduces red tape and specifies inspections for small hydroelectric projects.
Due to rampant misinformation and Washington-style politics in the Senate, House Bill 1173, co-primed with Republican Rep. Bob Rankin, to clarify Interstate 70 winter traction requirements, was amended on the Senate floor to be another study of the problem. Gov. Hickenlooper signed the study bill on May 13. I had worked for seven months with 20 groups, including businesses, I-70 nonprofits, local governments, Colorado State Patrol and CDOT for an evidence-based, practical consensus to lessen winter closures, so this partisanship was disappointing. I will continue to work on evidence-based, bipartisan solutions.
Please visit my website homepage and newsletters for more details on my bills at http://www.dianeforcolorado.com.
Two of my bipartisan, evidence-based bills passed out of the House and were then killed on party line votes in Senate Committees:
House Bill 1003, Safe Routes to School Funding, co-prime sponsored with Rep. Max Tyler (D-Lakewood), was killed in Senate State Affairs Committee on a party line vote.
House Bill 1234, a tax deduction to help beginning farmers and ranchers, passed with strong bipartisan support out of the House. It was the product of months of stakeholder meetings. Chair of the Senate Ag Committee Jerry Sonnenberg (R-Sterling) was the Senate sponsor. Senate Finance Committee killed it on a party line vote with no reason given and no opposition testimony.
From July-November, I will again represent you on two interim, joint House/Senate committees: Water Resources Review and Transportation Legislation Review. Both deal with critical issues for our district. Please see my website at http://www.dianeforcolorado.com for more information. The Water Committee will meet July 22 in Craig and Aug. 19 in Vail.
I will be visiting with local governments, nonprofits, businesses and constituents throughout the summer and fall to listen and understand your concerns and priorities. Please do email me with your questions, concerns and ideas at repdianehd firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks to everyone who attended my Eagle Valley and Yampa Valley legislative wrap ups on May 7 and May 8. We had great discussions, and I learned from you.
I will continue to work across the aisle and with all stakeholders for practical, evidence-based policies that build a better future for all! I am honored and humbled to represent our beautiful, headwaters district!
Diane Mitsch Bush, of Steamboat Springs, represents Eagle and Routt counties in the State House of Representatives.
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