It's hard to believe, but we're down to our last three working days of the 2013 legislative session. Over the past few weeks, three of the bills I sponsored have been signed into law, and I'm hoping to be at many more ceremonies before Governor John Hickenlooper's deadline to sign or veto bills.
On April 19, Gov. Hickenlooper signed Senate Bill 13-192 into law (pictured above, at left). The bill allows governmental entities to extend the amount of time needed to act on the results of criminal background checks, especially in the case of unforseen delays or backlogs. Rep. Max Tyler, pictured to the right of the Governor, was the House sponsor of this bill. I was pleased to have Tom Roberts, a Fairview High School student who was "shadowing" me for the day, join us for the ceremony. Tom is pictured at the left.
On April 26, the Governor signed SB-157 into law (pictured above, at right). This bill extends the Colorado Work Share Program indefinitely, which was important since the program was to have ended on July 1, 2013. The Work Share Program allows employees who might be in danger of being completely laid off to accept partial work and partial unemployment benefits. I sponsored SB 10-028 in 2010 to put the program into motion, and the fiscal note for SB 13-157 notes that the program has saved our unemployment trust fun just less than $650,000 since being created. Rep. Tracy Kraft-Tharp, pictured to the left of Gov. Hickenlooper, was the House sponsor of SB 13-157.
We held a town hall meeting at the Boulder Chamber of Commerce on Saturday, April 20, and I was pleased to see more than 50 people in attendance. Holding a meeting devoted to issues surrounding jobs and the economy also gave me a chance to tell my story about economic issues we've tackled during my five sessions as a senator.
However, it takes more than economic legislation to foster a healthy economy. I have long been a strong education supporter, partially because it takes educated and skilled people to run a successful established or innovative business. Also, I am the chair of this year's Senate Transportation committee. Transportation is obviously important to the economy in a number of ways. It's how we move hard goods, tourists, employees and customers. It is also a major job provider and source of economic activity when we are able to do construction projects, and we handed out literature at Saturday's meeting from CDOT regarding summer and ongoing projects. This year, about 50 projects in the metro area and along I-70 will account for about $940 million worth of new construction.
During Saturday's meeting, at least 20 attendees took the opportunity to ask questions or offer comments. Topics included fracking, water conservation, new marijuana laws, election reform, TABOR, health care, FasTracks, mental health and more. We had a lively discussion on some very important issues, and as always the people of Senate District 18 demonstrated how informed and engaged they are when it comes to civic affairs.
For those who care about jobs and the economy in Colorado, I hope you will consider attending our next town hall meeting. It will be held this Saturday, April 20 from 10:00 a.m. until noon, at the Boulder Chamber of Commerce, 2440 Pearl Street. We will have plenty to talk about, including legislation we've addressed this year directly pertaining to economic issues, and topics that tend to tie into economic performance, such as education and transportation. John Tayer, the new President/CEO of the Boulder Chamber, will be in attendance for introductions and to help provide local perspective. The meeting is free and open to the public, and I hope to see you there!
The area in front of Gov. John Hickenlooper's office has been a busy place lately, as legislators and citizens have been gathering there while waiting to attend bill-signing ceremonies. I was proud to have been part of the crowd twice in late March, as two of my sponsored bills were signed into law.
Gov. Hickenlooper signed SB 13-012 into law on March 22 (pictured above at left, with House sponsor Rep. Jonathan Singer behind the Governor), and the idea for this bill truly came from within Senate District 18. Michelle Peterson (upper right), a local child abuse expert, approached me last summer and let me know that while officials of public sports teams are required to report suspected child abuse or neglect, officials from private teams were not required to be "mandatory reporters." Peterson deserves a great deal of credit for her work on the bill, and we all had fun at the signing ceremony with the young hockey player Ben Davis in attendance.
The mood was unfortunately much heavier on March 20, when Gov. Hickenlooper signed HB 13-1228 into law (pictured at right, with House sponsor Rep. Lois Court at left). The bill created a fee structure for background checks on firearm purchases, and Gov. Hickenlooper signed two other public safety bills (HBs 1224 and 1229) into law that morning. The three bills were part of a package designed to help reduce the likelihood and/or magnitude of firearm-related death in Colorado. However, the ceremony was dampened by the news that Tom Clements, the state's Director of Corrections, had been shot to death at his home the night before.
At the midway point of our 2013 legislative session, activity has really picked up so there's rarely a dull moment. On Friday, March 15, I attended my first bill signing ceremony of the session, as Governor John Hickenlooper signed House Bill 13-1043, sponsored in the House by first-year Represenative Mike Foote (pictured above at left).
On Saturday, we held a town hall meeting at City Council Chambers in Boulder (pictured above at right). About 45 people attended the event, and we had a lively discussion about education and other key issues. Dr. Bruce Messinger, Superintendent of Boulder Valley School District, was on hand as our featured guest speaker, which was appropriate since the General Assembly is about to begin formal deliberations on Senate Bill 13-213, a proposed major update to our system of K-12 school finance.