We got a lot done | VailDaily.com

We got a lot done

I am proud to have served you in the Colorado House of Representatives in the 2013 Colorado General Assembly, one of the most productive legislative sessions in recent memory.

I promised to get things done to improve the lives of all Coloradans, and I kept that promise. Even though muchof the media coverage focused on partisan divisions and contentious issues, more than 90 percent of the bills we passed had bipartisan support. Here are some highlights, starting with the budget.

We passed a fiscally sound, balanced budget that makes prudent, responsible use of one-time resources and increases Colorado’s reserve by 25 percent to build our rainy day fund, protecting Colorado’s critical services from future economic downturns. It pays off loans and buys down debt obligations, preventing our children from being saddled with our debt in the future.

The budget includes:

• Economic development funds to help rural communities and small businesses

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• Tourism funds to continue to grow Colorado’s second biggest industry. Visitor spending in Colorado climbed to $15.9 billion in 2011, vacationers contributed $879 million in state and local taxes in 2011, and that spending supported 141,000 workers who earned $4.1 billion. To continue this growth, the budget added a $2 million investment in tourism promotion.

• Funding for construction and maintenance projects to create thousands jobs throughout the state and improve our infrastructure.

The key to a robust 21st century economy is a well-educated and well-trained workforce. This year’s budget increases K-12 funding by $127.1 million and puts more resources into higher education for the first time in four years by adding $36 million to its budget.

The budget prioritizes investment in our mental health and child welfare systems to ensure the safety of our children and Colorado’s most vulnerable citizens with over $19 million in Colorado’s mental health system for improved access to mental health services. Funding will be directed to expanding hospital capacity, enhancing Colorado’s crisis response system, establishing a single statewide mental health crisis hotline and improving community care services and our child welfare system.

We passed several important health care and wellness bills, including Medicaid expansion that will cover many Coloradans who do not have health care insurance or access. The Colorado Health Foundation estimates it will lead to the creation of more than 22,000 jobs in Colorado, increase economic activity in the state by $4.4 billion over 10 years and increase Coloradans’ average household income by more than $600.

Election reform will simplify and standardize the voting process for voters across Colorado, save counties at least $9.5 million per year in election expenses, increase voting options and access and prevent fraud to ensure the integrity of the democratic process.

The school finance reform act included input from business and education groups throughout the state. The bill, if approved by the taxpayers, would make our school finance system more equitable, transparent and accountable. It strategically invests in all our children to help them succeed.

We tackled many other important policy issues, including small-business centers, workforce training, expanding educational opportunities, accelerating high tech industries, civil unions, civil rights, reforming education funding, protecting crime victims, reducing gun violence, wildfire preparedness and response, protecting agricultural water rights, water conservation, energy efficiency in buildings and transportation, renewable energy, protection of water and many other public policy innovations. I developed amendments to and co-sponsored several of these bills. I would love to share these and more with you.

All four of my bills had bipartisan support and passed both houses:

House Bill HB 1057 Preservation of Colorado Avalanche Information Center in the Department of Natural Resources. This was the first bill of the session signed into law by Gov. Hickenlooper in January.

House Bill HB 1132 Vehicle Weight Limit Reforms to Preserve $45 million in Federal Transportation Funding, House co-sponsored with Rep Ray Scott, (R-Grand Junction). The governor signed this bill in March.

House sponsor for Sen. Frank Brophy’s Senate Bill SB 223 Continue Statewide Noxious Weed Advisory Board. This bill will be signed before June 7.

House Bill HB1278 Concerning the Reporting of Oil and Gas Spills. This common sense, practical bill was the product of an inclusive stakeholder process to help prevent water contamination from oil spills by rapid, cooperative response. I worked with industry, conservation and agency stakeholders to develop this bill. The governor came to Routt County to sign this bill at the historic Carpenter Ranch on the Yampa River near Hayden on May 11.

I am honored to be your state Representative.

I look forward to sharing more about the 2013 session and listening to you this summer in Eagle County and Routt County. Please contact me at repdianehd26@gmail.com.

Diane Mitsch Bush represents Eagle and Routt counties in the state House of Representatives.

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