Romer: Mountain chambers support House Bill 1155
Recently, the chambers of commerce across Colorado’s intermountain region are beginning to work collaboratively to speak more forcefully — with one voice — to advance public policy goals that enhance the economic vitality and oppose those that negatively impact communities and businesses across Colorado’s mountain region. This includes Aspen Chamber Resort Association, Basalt Chamber of Commerce, Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association, Steamboat Springs Chamber, Summit Chamber, and Vail Valley Partnership.
Those of us who live in mountain communities understand the great challenges most full-time residents and business owners must surmount to survive. Moving to the mountains often starts with a fanciful dream but staying here requires gritty resourcefulness and an eagerness to cooperate to solve problems.
Working in the shadows of awe-inspiring vistas are thousands of smart, creative individuals determined to carve out sustainable businesses for their families and their employees. These are the people and the businesses that make Colorado’s multi-billion-dollar tourism industry possible, and the last thing they need is arcane state laws that clumsily prohibit opportunities to train a local workforce.
Today, we are putting our collective weight behind House Bill 22-1155, which would allow all high school and GED graduates in Colorado to enroll in Colorado’s public universities, community colleges, and trade schools at affordable, in-state rates.
In 2013, after nearly a decade of failed attempts, the Colorado General Assembly passed Senate Bill 13-133, generally referred to as the “ASSET” bill. This legislation authorized thousands of undocumented high school graduates, often called “dreamers,” to qualify for in-state tuition benefits.
This bill was strongly supported by the business communities across Colorado for the very positive impacts it had on Colorado’s workforce. And yet, over the years since its passage, many of us have seen that state law still restricts thousands of high school and GED graduates from training for jobs in our state.
This year, Reps. Julie McCluskie (D-Dillon) and Perry Will (R-New Castle) joined Sen. Julie Gonzales (D-Denver) to introduce House Bill 22-1155, which will iron out several of the remaining restrictions in state law and allow thousands of high school graduates to continue to train for jobs in our state. The bill aligns tuition classification for all students equally. All would be subject to a 12-month residency requirement and no students would lose eligibility as long as they remain in the state.
Regardless of where one stands on the nation’s immigration laws, we can all agree that businesses can only survive if they have access to essential resources such as capital and a workforce.
If these critical inputs are unavailable, a business will fold. It’s just that simple. And yet, we can help our businesses find and retain talented employees who already live in their communities by simply giving all high school graduates a chance to train for jobs in our communities. House Bill 1155 does this. It is not only the right thing to do ethically, it’s the right thing to help our businesses and mountain communities thrive.
We commend Reps. McCluskie and Will and Sen. Gonzales for putting the interests of the business community above partisan politics and advancing House Bill 1155.
On behalf of the hundreds of businesses that comprise the largest sector of Colorado’s economy and enable millions of individuals to enjoy the splendor of our state’s High Country, our organizations strongly endorse House Bill 22-1155, and we hope that all chambers of commerce from across Colorado and all legislators who believe in providing good jobs in their communities will join us in our support of this bill.
Chris Romer is president and CEO of Vail Valley Partnership, the regional chamber of commerce. Learn more at VailValleyPartnership.com.