Vail Daily column: Much was accomplished during legislative session

Diane Mitsch Bush
Diane Bush

Greetings to Vail Daily readers!

I wanted to provide you with a review and wrap up for our just completed 2014 Session of the Colorado General Assembly. I am honored and humbled to serve you!

The Second Session of the 69th Colorado General Assembly adjourned on May 7.

At 10:26 p.m. on May 7, Speaker of the Colorado House of Representatives Mark Ferrandino brought down the gavel on the 2014 Colorado legislative session. We worked effectively across the aisle to help build a better future for all Coloradans. In the House, 96 percent of bills passed with a bipartisan vote.

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A fiscally responsible budget

Our fiscal year 2014-15 budget is a blueprint for a better Colorado for all. To achieve the constitutionally required balanced budget, we in the Colorado House and Senate carefully weighed competing needs. Our priorities were education funding to provide opportunity for all our children, furthering economic revitalization with incentives for job creation and targeted job training, flood and wildfire relief and prevention of future disasters and building more economic security for all.

Most importantly, we increased our reserve from 5 to 6.5 percent without asking you for tax increases. Having a solid rainy day fund is critical when disaster strikes or if the economy worsens. I am very pleased that we were able to build up our reserve.

I am proud of the budget and of all our accomplishments this session to make Colorado more just, equitable, sustainable and prosperous for all!

Practical legislation

In 2014, some of the bills I supported provide for:

• Incentives for small business job creation and targeted job training to further revitalize our economy.

• Reduction in business personal property tax targeted for small businesses.

• Funding for tourism and creative industries.

• Extension of the ReHire Colorado program, providing on the job skills, training, and experience to build on successful job placement shown by this pilot program in 2013.

• Increased funding for all grades in our public education system.

• A 6 percent tuition cap at our public state colleges and universities, better targeted public college/university scholarships, more adequate higher education funding to make sure all our children have the opportunity to succeed.

• Services for veterans.

• Safety net for vulnerable, needy seniors.

• Protection of renewable energy standards and incentives that create rural jobs.

• Energy and water efficiency and conservation.

• Cleanup of contaminated soil and water and prevention of further contamination.

• Liability protection for agriculture tourism.

• Incentives for agriculture producers to donate food products to charities.

• Protecting our air, water, and wildlife habitat both for our quality of life and our economy.

• Wildfire preparedness.

• Rural broadband and a 21st century telecommunications infrastructure.

• Childcare tax credits and enhanced childcare program assistance.

• Affordable housing grants.

• Improving our criminal justice system, including a grant fellowship for new rural prosecutors.

• Rural family medicine residency programs.

• Creation of a Health Care Cost Commission to examine and make transparent the costs of health care in Colorado.

In future newsletters and on my webpage, I will detail these and other bills for you. I will also cover these at Town Halls during the summer and fall.

In 2014, all nine of my bills passed with bipartisan support and either have been signed or will soon be signed into law by Gov. Hickenlooper.

I am especially proud of two of my nine bills requested by constituents for which I pulled together diverse stakeholders and got bipartisan support:

My Safe Routes to School Funding bill (HB 14-1301) will keep this successful grant program funded. Investing in the SRTS program has a proven, significant return on investment for urban, suburban and rural Colorado. Over 700 schools, their students and surrounding communities throughout our state have benefitted since 2005 as shown by pretest/ post test results. The program is especially important for lower income students and schools.

Small Hydroelectric Generation Incentive (HB 1030): This bill streamlines and coordinates the complex permitting process for small hydroelectric facilities that produce 10 megawatts of energy or less. It cuts red tape and will stimulate small, rural, hydroelectric businesses and help creates rural jobs. I worked closely with my co-prime sponsor, Rep. Don Coram (R-Montrose) to gain bipartisan support. We worked with an inclusive, diverse group of stakeholders to build consensus. The governor will sign that bill on a hydro site in late May.

I will be holding an Eagle Valley Town Hall on Wednesday from 5-6:30 p.m. in the Eagle County Commissioners Room on the second floor of the Eagle County Building, located at 500 Broadway in Eagle.

I look forward to listening to you!

Diane Mitsch Bush is the state representative for House District 26, which is Eagle and Routt counties.

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