Vail Daily column: Legislative successes
On May 11, the second session of the 70th Colorado General Assembly adjourned sine die. Due to the split chamber and budgetary problems, we faced challenges, but when we worked together, putting aside petty partisan politics, we passed legislation to enhance economic and educational opportunities for all, strengthen our communities and safeguard our environment.
The Joint Budget Committee worked for months to present the General Assembly with our constitutionally required balanced budget. With very little breathing room, the committee passed a budget that managed to:
• Increase K-12 per-pupil average spending by $112 to $7,425.
• Avert a possible $20 million cut to higher education.
• Set $150 million in transfers to the state’s highway fund.
• Maintain the statutory 6.5 percent budget reserve.
• Avoid cuts to payment rates for medical providers.
• Fund suicide prevention programs.
• Protect funding for air quality programs.
I am proud that we were able to cooperate across the aisle in both chambers to achieve a balanced budget within such limiting constraints while still finding funding for much-needed programs that make life better for all Coloradans.
Several of my bills are either already signed into law or will be this week:
• HB1194 with Rep. Jon Becker (R-Fort Morgan) provides opportunities for beginning farmers and ranchers.
• HB1259 with Rep. Jim Wilson (R-Salida) cuts red tape for local district colleges like CMC.
• HB1354 with Rep. Jon Becker (R-Fort Morgan) allows a new tool to school districts to help them avoid debt.
• SB145 with Rep. Yeulin Willet (R-Mesa County) clarifies statute for the Colorado River District in an effort to make the creation of sub-districts less bureaucratic.
• SB21 creates an annual Colorado Public Lands Day to celebrate our magnificent public lands and was introduced in the Senate by Senator Kerry Donovan (D-Vail).
For several years, I have played a major co-sponsor role on two bipartisan bills that are critical for our district: HB 1336, created a study to examine the potential impact of a state wide risk pool on health insurance premiums across the state, and HB1109 to clarify Colorado Water Law permits in federally managed lands. This year, both of these bills finally passed both houses.
I also co-sponsored bills to allow patients the ability to choose their pharmacy; fund emergency responses at abandoned hard rock mine sites that are polluting our waterways; correct an agency error that left off the Healthy Rivers tax check off; extend the ReHire Colorado program, which provides job training focused on veterans, seniors and non-custodial parents to secure long-term employment; extend Colorado’s successful Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program until 2019; establish a first time homebuyer mortgage savings program; provide an income tax credit to qualified Colorado businesses that integrate quality apprenticeships into their workplaces; secure funds for community wildfire mitigation and prevention; and a bill to allow residential rainwater collection.
Three of my bipartisan, evidence-based bills passed with wide support in the House, but were killed in the Senate: HB1039, HB1067 and HB1437
HB1039 with Rep. Bob Rankin (R-Carbondale) would have reduced road closures and delays on the Interstate 70 corridor by requiring passenger vehicles to have adequate tires, chains or alternate traction devices from Oct. 1 to May 15 between Dotsero and Morrison.
HB1067 sought to allow Regional Transportation Authorities, such as the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority, to ask their voters to extend the Mill Levy sunset from 2019 to 2029.
HB1437 with Rep. Jim Wilson (R-Salida) would have strengthened enforcement of school bus stop arm violations.
I will once again serve on two interim committees: The Water Resources Review Committee and the Transportation Legislation Review Committee.
I will continue to work across the aisle to make life better for all Coloradans. I am honored and humbled to work with you and for everyone in our beautiful headwaters district.
State Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush represents Eagle County and Routt County in the Colorado House of Representatives.