About Sen. Rollie Heath

Stratton Rollins (Rollie) Heath Jr. was born in Baltimore, Maryland, and the Heath family moved to Wisconsin when Rollie was nine years old. Perhaps as an indicator of things to come, Rollie was the president of his high school student council, as well as the editor of his school newspaper, the captain of the golf team and a member of the varsity basketball team. He graduated in 1955.

Rollie received an in-state tuition scholarship to the University of Wisconsin. He earned a bachelor's degree in Business Administration in 1959, then entered law school and finished in two years to earn a Juris Doctor degree. He was active in student political life as a Badger, and was appointed to the student Senate.

While in Madison, Rollie served as a House Fellow in the dormitories, which offered the benefits of free room and board, tuition and books. He met and fell in love with a young woman named Josie Ward who was also a House Fellow, and the two were married in Forest Grove, Oregon in 1961. Rollie and Josie raised two sons - Stratton and Joel - and a daughter, Kristin (Heath) Colon. They also have seven grandchildren.

Rollie joined the military in 1961, after having been commissioned as an officer in the U.S. Army in 1959. He entered active duty as a First Lieutenant in the Judge Advocate General's Corps. He served in the Army for 23 years, with nine years of active duty and 14 years of reserve service.

The Heaths moved to West Germany in 1964, where Rollie worked, among other positions, as a legal liaison officer to the German government for the U.S. Army, while Josie taught English as a Second Language.

PRIVATE SECTOR CAREER HIGHLIGHTS

After his active tour of duty with the Army, Rollie began a career in private sector business affairs, and he eventually helped Colorado become a more significant part of the international business community.

Early in his private sector career, Rollie served as vice president for a division of Armco Steel, and was responsible for contract negotiations in Japan and Taiwan. He held a variety of executive positions with the multinational Johns Manville Corporation from 1973 to 1990, eventually serving as president of both its international and domestic companies. Rollie was responsible for more than $1 billion in sales and managing more than 10,000 employees with Johns Manville. In 1990, he co-founded Ponderosa Industries, a successful small business engaged in metal parts manufacturing.

Extensive exposure to other countries helped Rollie become a true leader in Colorado's international business pursuits. For example, Johns Manville and the government of Iceland were involved in a joint business venture. Rollie was the general manager of the firm's filtration and minerals division, and he co-chaired the business venture's board with the Prime Minister of Iceland.

Rollie became the founder and first chair of the Rocky Mountain World Trade Center in 1988. In recognition of his guidance as the WTC's first chair, he received the Colorado Governor's Award for Excellence in Exporting in 1997.

Speaking about HB 09-1001 in front of the Denver World Trade Center, May 4, 2009

He also had a broad vision of how building a new airport to replace Stapleton International Airport could improve a then-faltering Colorado economy, and became an important player in the development of Denver International Airport (DIA). Rollie was twice elected chairman of the Gateway Committee, a group that worked on educating the region about the economic significance of DIA and on convincing foreign airlines to fly directly to and from Denver. DIA opened for business in 1995.

Rollie served on economic and educational/workforce development committees for the Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry (CACI), and contributed to CACI's forward-looking "Blueprint for Colorado" strategic planning efforts. He was also a member of the Colorado Forum, a statewide CEO and professional strategic and policy organization, until his recent election to the Senate.

He was one of the founders of The NorthStone Group, a consulting firm that works with for-profit and nonprofit companies on issues such as leadership development and decision making. NorthStone forged a partnership with the University of Colorado's Leeds School of Business, and Rollie taught a course called "Humanizing the Negotiating Process" at CU-Boulder.

Rollie's commitment to Colorado was recognized when he was awarded the prestigious Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce's Del Hock Lifetime Award in September 2000. The Chamber spotlighted his key role in the development of DIA, and his co-founding and co-chairing of the Career Coach Program at Denver's Manual High School. Rollie's contributions to the Denver Chamber include more than 15 years in leadership on almost every Chamber council and committee, as well as serving for six years as a director.

EDUCATION AND WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT

Rollie developed an interest in sponsoring education and workforce development programs, which grew from his awareness, as a seasoned executive, that better jobs require specialized education and training. He focused his efforts on building programs to help two different groups: young people needing help in preparing to join the workforce, and adults who were already in the workforce but needed additional skills.

Presenting the Boulder County Youth Corps Corpsmember of the Year award to Alex Rupucci in 2009

Rollie co-chaired, with the DPS superintendent, the Denver School-to-Career Partnership. This was a coalition of business and community-based organizations committed to improving students' chances of success in college or training programs. As an outgrowth of that program, Rollie co-founded and co-chaired the Career Coach Program at Manual.

He developed a friendship with the then-principal of Manual, Nancy Sutton, and asked her what he could do to best help her students. Sutton identified a major problem in that many students had relatively poor home life situations, including growing up in single-parent families, and said the students needed another adult in their lives. So, the Career Coach team recruited 250 adults to go into the school, sit down and talk with small groups of students, and help them understand what was possible in life - if they stayed in school and earned a diploma.

Rollie took his local experience and put it to work statewide as a board member of the Public Education and Business Coalition. PEBC is a partnership of leaders from education, business and community sectors that fosters continual improvement in K-12 public schools, to ensure a world-class work force and an educated citizenry.

He served with a PEBC group called the Coalition for a High-Performance Education System in the late 1990s, made up of members from chambers of commerce, school boards, the teachers' union and executives. PEBC named Rollie as one of its 25 Champions of Education in 2008, in honor of his volunteer work in schools and for his leadership of the Manual Career Coach Program.

Rollie also made time to devote attention to members of the workforce. He chaired the City of Denver's first Workforce Summit in 1998, and chaired the Denver Workforce Development Board for the Mayor's Office of Workforce Development. He also co-founded the Rocky Mountain Manufacturing Academy at the HEAT Center at Lowry after the closing of the Rocky Flats facility. The Academy received a grant to move $13 million worth of equipment from Rocky Flats to Lowry, and the Academy was set up to train people to use equipment and become skilled workers.

Rollie was also a trustee and past chair of the University of Colorado's nationally recognized Student Leadership Institute; a trustee of the University of Wisconsin Business School and of the University of Colorado-Denver Business School; and an adjunct professor in International Trade at the University of Denver.

POLITICAL AND CIVIC LIFE

Rollie gained valuable experience in the political arena through participation in his wife Josie Heath's campaigns for political office. She ran for the Colorado Senate in 1976; the U.S. Senate in 1990 and 1992; and was elected to serve as a Boulder County Commissioner from 1982 until 1990. Since then, Rollie has been involved in a number of political and civic activities.

Rollie's first bill signing, on March 24, 2009. Gov. Ritter signs HB-1052, with House sponsor Rep. Mark Waller and his children pictured at left.

He co-founded the Democratic Business Coalition in 1991, to increase the voice of the business community and to create a vehicle to discuss business issues within the Democratic Party. The Coalition still exists today.

While Rollie spent a great deal of time in the 1990s on family, business and education, he stayed connected to the political world as he and Josie hosted events at their home. He realized that the state was not serving the majority of young people well in terms of K-12 education, that the state was underfunding higher education, and that it was becoming increasingly difficult for businesses to provide health care for their employees - so he decided to take action.

Rollie announced his candidacy for Governor of Colorado in November 2001. Democrats Stan Matsunaka and Bob Hagedorn also launched early candidacies, but both dropped out and Rollie became the party's nominee. The incumbent Governor, Republican Bill Owens, won the 2002 general election, but Rollie treasured the experience. He debated Owens 11 times, gained an enhanced appreciation for the wonders of Colorado during his travels, and had the chance to discuss issues that were important to him.

And he didn't give up on politics. In 2004, Rollie chaired the Democratic Party's Platform Committee. The committee received input on the platform from every county in the state, then held several days of discussion, and presented a proposed platform at the state convention. He also became a delegate to the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston.

Republicans dominated Colorado's political landscape in the early part of the decade following the turn of the century. Rollie understood that part of the reason was because conservatives did a better job of organizing and presenting a unified political message. In response, he became the founding chair of the Rocky Mountain Progressive Network, currently known as ProgressNow.

Today, ProgressNow leads the way in making sure that the progressive voice is heard on issues such as health care, renewable energy, the environment and other topics. The organization's Web site is a virtual center that helps people find progressive groups in which to participate, or events to attend. ProgressNow also spreads the word via many forms of media - including Web sites and links, print, blogging, audio and video.

ROLLIE HEATH TAKES OFFICE

The former Senator from District 18, Ron Tupa, would be unable to run again in 2008 due to term limits. After talking to many people, Rollie launched a campaign for the Senate seat in November 2007. He realized that his run for Governor had given him tremendous familiarity with the state's major issues, and decided that it would be a waste to not put the knowledge to use.

He would face strong opposition for the Democratic Party's nomination in Cindy Carlisle, a then-member of the CU Board of Regents and a former Boulder City Council member. But Heath beat Carlisle in the August 12 primary election by about 56 to 44 percent, which in essence won him the Senate seat. No Republican or member of any other political party ran in the general election, and Rollie won his first four-year term.

Rollie was chosen as a freshman to serve on three Senate committees. In 2009, he was the vice-chair of the Business, Labor and Technology committee, and was a member of the Education and Finance committees. He was invited to serve on a new interim Joint Select Committee on Job Creation and Economic Growth, a committee that was formed to help Colorado weather the rough economic climate of 2008-09. Gov. Bill Ritter also appointed Rollie to a seat on the Colorado Municipal Bond Advisory Board in early 2009.

By June 5, 2009, Gov. Ritter had signed 17 bills that Rollie was the prime Senate sponsor of into law. Beyond his time during the 2009 session on the Senate floor and in committees, he met with countless Coloradans formally or informally, and he was at the center of peer discussions on constitutional, fiscal and educational reform.

After the 2009 session, Rollie won several awards honoring his work on economic improvement. The Economic Development Council of Colorado named him their Legislator of the Year; the Independent Bankers of Colorado honored him as a Champion for Small Business; and the Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation gave him their 2009 Chairs' Award.

During the 2009 session, Rollie was named as the chair of an interim (between sessions) Long-Term Fiscal Stability Commission. The 16-member FSC was charged with studying all matters relating to the fiscal stability of the state, along with developing a strategic plan for long-term stability. Democratic and Republican leadership selected a diverse set of FSC members, and the commission held 11 meetings between July and November of 2009.

The FSC recommended five pieces of legislation, and they were formally introduced to the General Assembly in 2010. Rollie sponsored a resolution that would have led to the formation of Constitutional Review Commissions, and its members would have studied broad areas of the Constitution and offered ballot measures to amend the Constitution. The FSC also approved legislation that would authorize a comprehensive state tax policy study; create a new mechanism for a state "rainy day" fund; authorize state public-private partnerships with nonprofits; and grant forms of operational flexibility to institutions of higher education. Three of the FSC recommendations passed - Rollie's tax study resolution (SCR-002), the public-private partnership bill (HB-1010) and the higher education flexibility bill (SB-003).

The 2010 session began on an interesting note. Gov. Ritter announced that he would not run for re-election about a week before the session was to begin. However, then-Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper announced on Jan. 12 that he would seek the Democratic Party's nomination.

For the 2010 session, Rollie was selected to chair the Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs committee. He also once again served as a member of the Senate Education committee, and was named a member of the Senate Appropriations committee.

By June, Gov. Ritter had signed another 21 bills that Rollie sponsored in 2010 into law, while the General Assembly approved five of his sponsored resolutions. Key pieces of legislation included SB-028, which created a new WorkShare program designed to prevent certain Coloradans from being laid off; HBs 1189-1200, which suspended a small percentage of Colorado's tax credits or exemptions and will prevent some General Fund budget cuts; and SB-156, which created new rights for mobile home owners and new responsibilities for mobile home park owners.

Gov. Ritter signs SB 10-156 into law during a ceremony in Boulder. Standing with Sen. Heath are a number of Boulder-area residents who worked to get the bill passed.

The 2010 election and other events changed Colorado's political landscape to a certain extent. Rollie did not need to run since he was in the middle of his term, which helped give him the opportunity to help with candidate races and ballot initiative campaigns. Hickenlooper won the Governor's race and Democrats maintained a 20-15 majority in the Senate, but the Republicans captured the state House majority by a 33-32 margin.

In 2011, Rollie again chaired the State, Veterans and Military Affairs committee, and served on the Education and Appropriations committees. With the new split legislature, it became more difficult for Democrats to pass bills, but Rollie was able to earn Gov. Hickenlooper's signature on several pieces of legislation. Notably, SB 11-047 identified a future funding stream for commercialization efforts in the bioscience and clean technology sectors, while SB 11-052 will make part of the future funding structure for public institutions of higher education based on fulfilling goals set in performance contracts.

Also, he was named the co-chair of the state's bipartisan Joint Select Committee on (congressional) Redistricting. Rollie and Committee members toured the state during the 2011 session, holding at least one public meeting in every congressional district, and took a great deal of testimony from Coloradans of all stripes. However, the Committee was unable to agree on a preferred map, and the congressional district boundaries for the next 10 years were once again decided in the courts.

In Feb. 2011, Rollie learned that a state budget proposal included significant cuts to both K-12 and higher education, which was unacceptable to him. He submitted several citizen initiatives that would have increased state income and sales/use tax rates to better fund public education, and supporters of his Initiative 25 got the measure on the 2011 ballot by collecting more than 142,000 petition signatures within about two and a half months.

After the Initiative 25 petition was deemed valid, the measure became known as Proposition 103. The campaign team for 103 spent the time leading up to the Nov. 1 election speaking or writing to voters about the importance of adequate education funding, and Rollie spoke to numerous groups while also appearing frequently in the media - TV, radio, print and digital sources. The measure was defeated by 63.5 to 36.4 percent, but the 103 campaign spread the message about the state's levels of education funding to many thousands of Coloradans.

In late Nov. 2011, Rollie announced that he would seek a second term in the Senate. In Dec. 2011, the courts announced approval of new state House and Senate districts for the next 10 years. Senate District 18 expanded geographically to include a large portion of western Boulder County. In short, it will include the City of Boulder, areas of unincorporated Boulder County to the east of Boulder and surrounding the City of Longmont, along with the towns of Lyons, Nederland, Jamestown, Niwot and Allenspark and unincorporated areas surrounding the towns. 

Before the 2012 session opened, Rollie won the "Legislative Excellence Award" from the Colorado Association of School Boards (CASB). When the session commenced, he was once again the chair of the State, Veterans and Military Affairs committee, as well as a member of the Education and Appropriations committees. In March 2012, he won the "Nonprofit Impact Award" from the Colorado Nonprofit Association for his work on Proposition 103.

The legislature was once again split in 2012, but Rollie was able to carry six bills that became law. The highlights included SB 12-164, a bill designed to integrate data and oversight of Colorado's private institutions of higher education. The bill was eventually passed as part of HB 12-1155, and it established new procedures for authorization and revocations of institutions, along with new standards for record keeping and rules regarding what happens if an institution ceases operations. Also, Rollie's HB 12-1241 authorized a new task force to study Colorado's enterprise zone system and report findings to the General Assembly. Rollie continued to work collaboratively on bills he didn't carry, and his work on HB 12-1238, a K-3 literacy bill, helped produce an amended bill that was lauded by diverse stakeholders during a well-attended signing ceremony in May. 

In 2012, Gov. Hickenlooper called for Colorado's first legislative special session since 2006. Just before the end of the 2012 regular session, House leadership reached an impasse regarding SB 12-002, which would have authorized civil unions in Colorado. The bill was not given a reading on the House floor by the deadline, despite having passed the Senate and three House committees, so it could not go forward to a vote of the entire House. Along with SB 12-002, nearly 30 other bills were also held up, so Gov. Hickenlooper launched a three-day special session in mid-May. The civil unions bill once again did not reach the House floor, but the General Assembly did pass three bills during the special session. 

After the 2012 sessions ended, Rollie was able to focus on his re-election campaign, but also found time to meet with constituents, tour local businesses and attend ceremonies. He won the Boulder County Democratic Party's "Give 'Em Hell, Harry" award in August for his achievements with the Democratic Party, and was named a co-recipient with Sen. Bob Bacon of the "Friend of Higher Education" award by the American Association of University Professors, Colorado Conference, for his work on Proposition 103 and other higher education-related issues. 

ROLLIE HEATH WINS A SECOND TERM

Rollie won his 2012 race for a second term in Senate District 18, defeating Republican Barry Thoma by roughly 78.3-21.7 percent. The 2012 election cycle was generally positive for the Democratic Party across the state, as Democrats maintained a 20-15 majority in the Senate and gained back the majority in the House, with a 37-28 edge going into the 2013 session. In December, Rollie was named the new chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, and he was also named a member of the Senate Education, Senate Business, Labor and Technology, and Senate Appropriations committees. He also celebrated the birth of his seventh grandchild in December. 

However, the issues of firearms and violence would dominate the headlines during the 2013 session. In July 2012, a gunman equipped with a rifle and a 100-round magazine (among other types of guns and ammunition) opened fire in the Century 16 movie theater in Aurora. During the horrifying incident, 12 people were killed and 58 were wounded. Also, a police officer was shot and killed near the Capitol in Civic Center Park during a summer 2012 jazz festival. In December, another gunman killed his mother, took a number of her weapons and went to Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, where he killed 20 kids and six adults before taking his own life. In round numbers, the U.S. was at this time suffering roughly 10,000 gun murders per year, with another 20,000 killed in suicides or accidents and 70,000 wounded.

In 2013, the General Assembly passed several bills with the objective of minimizing the likelihood of further harm. HB 13-1229 called for requiring background checks for private firearm sales, with the intent of making it tougher for dangerous criminals to purchase weapons. HB-1228 instituted a fee for the background checks so taxpayers would not have to foot the bill. HB-1224 created magazine size limits for future ammunition sales, with the intent of minimizing the likely numbers of people killed or wounded in mass shootings. Gov. Hickenlooper signed the three bills into law on the morning after the late Colorado Director of Corrections Tom Clements was shot to death in his own home. Firearms advocates held vigorous protests at or near the Capitol, but most Democratic legislators supported most of the proposed bills in the name of public safety.

But beyond the gun bills, the 2013 General Assembly passed 441 total bills, with many of great significance. SB-011 finally authorized civil unions in Colorado, just months after an impasse over civil unions in 2012 led Gov. Hickenlooper to call a special session. SB-033 allowed undocumented high school graduates who attended Colorado schools to enroll in state colleges at in-state tuition rates. SB-252 increased the renewable energy standard for rural electric associations, and allowed burning coal bed methane to count toward the standard. The first five House bills, HBs 1001-1005, were all designed to boost state employment or economic growth. And thanks to the continuation of a slow, steady economic recovery, the FY 2013-14 budget allowed for increases in education and transportation funding.

Rollie sponsored 29 bills in 2013, and 22 of them were signed into law. He co-sponsored SB-213 with Sen. Michael Johnston, which was a massive rewrite of the state's School Finance Act - although implementation was dependent on voter approval of revenue to pay for the improvements. His SB-161 updated key licensing standards for architects, engineers and surveyors. He worked with Boulder County child safety specialist Michelle Peterson to pass SB-012, which required paid athletic officials from private sports programs to report suspected cases of child abuse and neglect to authorities.

On the economic front, Rollie's HB-1142 reformed the state's Enterprise Zone system by, in part, putting caps on credits to large businesses while increasing credits for items such as job training investments. SB-157 extended the Colorado Work Share Program, created in a bill he sponsored in 2010, while HB-1287 extended the Job Growth Incentive program he carried in 2009. He was a co-prime sponsor of HB-1001, which continued his work on commercialization of tech-based businesses by setting up a grant funding mechanism for firms in "key industries" such as aerospace or bioscience.

New awards kept rolling in. The Family, Career and Community Leaders of America honored him in the spring for Outstanding Legislative Support. In September, the University of Colorado named him a CU Legislative Champion. The Family Learning Center of Boulder gave Rollie its Penfield Tate Humanitarian Award in October. In November, he won the Legislative Service Award from the American Institute of Architects for his work on SB-161. Finally, the Colorado Cleantech Industry Association named him Legislator of the Year in December for his continued support of cleantech commercialization.

But despite the awards and the legislative success during the 2013 session that ended in May, the rest of the year was generally rough for Colorado Democrats and areas in and around Boulder County. In the late spring of 2013, firearms advocates launched recall campaigns against four legislators for their support of the gun laws, and both Senate President John Morse of Colorado Springs and Sen. Angela Giron of Pueblo were recalled on Sept. 10. Republican Bernie Herpin replaced Morse while Republican George Rivera replaced Giron, so the Democratic Senate Majority decreased from 20-15 to 18-17.

During the week of Sept. 10, heavy rains started falling in Boulder County and vast portions of Colorado. By the end of the week, nearly 18 inches had fallen in parts of Boulder, with a foot or more commonly reported elsewhere. This led to severe flooding that killed nine Coloradans, destroyed 1,882 homes and 202 commercial buildings, washed out hundreds of miles of roads and highways, left many people homeless or stranded, and led to hundreds of millions of dollars in damage and economic losses. In Boulder County, towns including Lyons, Jamestown and Salina suffered extreme property damage, while Longmont had extensive parts of the city impacted by the flood and many property owners in the City of Boulder had flooded basements or worse.

The massive rescue and recovery effort included representation from federal, state and local governments, along with efforts from volunteers, nonprofit and for-profit businesses, public safety officials and more. Rollie and other legislators spent a great deal of time helping impacted individuals and communities find the assistance they needed. The General Assembly set up a Flood Disaster Study Committee to review what happened and to investigate possible flood-related legislation for the upcoming session.

While the General Assembly adopted the new SB-213 School Finance Act formula in May, state voters had to approve a tax increase before it could go into effect. Rollie and other supporters spent the summer and fall touring the state in support of Amendment 66, the ballot measure that would have provided new revenue to pay for the education system improvements. However, A-66 was defeated by a wide margin in November, meaning the formula in SB-213 could not be immediately implemented and Colorado's school system would once again not receive the hoped-for boost in funding.

ROLLIE HEATH ELECTED SENATE MAJORITY LEADER

Since President Morse was recalled in September, the Senate Majority needed to elect a new President. The former Senate Majority Leader Morgan Carroll was elected the next President in October, and Rollie was elected the new Majority Leader. Recognizing his decades of leadership in the private sector and his initiative as a Senator, his peers in the Senate Majority elected him by acclamation. His new responsibilities include making committee appointments, making scheduling and calendar placement decisions, and being a key figure during legislative strategy discussions.

Carroll and Heath%2C November 2013

Senate President Morgan Carroll and Senate Majority Leader Rollie Heath, Oct. 2013

As the new leadership discussions were taking place, firearms advocates were in the process of attempting to recall Sen. Evie Hudak of Westminster for her votes on the gun legislation. Sen. Hudak decided to resign on Nov. 27, which allowed a Democratic Party vacancy committee to elect her replacement, former Arvada Mayor Pro Tem Rachel Zenzinger. On December 13, the date of Zenzinger's swearing-in ceremony and one day after the one-year anniversary of Sandy Hook, a student at Arapahoe High School in Centennial critically wounded a young girl before killing himself. The girl who was shot, 17-year-old Claire Davis, was at first hospitalized in a coma but died about a week after the shooting.  

In January, the new Senate Majority went into the 2014 session with three main objectives: 1) building economic opportunity; 2) rebuilding after the recent flooding and wildfires; and 3) providing quality education for all.

Rollie once again sponsored bills with jobs and/or the economy in mind, including several to enhance or extend legislation that Rollie had worked on in prior sessions. HB 14-1014 made modifications to the Job Growth Incentive Tax Credit Program established in 2009 with HB 09-1001, including extending the allowable claim period for credits. HB 14-1011 would accelerate funding for Advanced Industries grants established in 2013 with HB 13-1001, and decisions made during the 2014 budget process allocated significant new money for Advanced Industries economic development grants.

In late May 2014, statistics were available showing that Colorado's continued efforts to build its economy were paying off. For example, Colorado's total nonfarm employment numbers were finally larger than the 2008 pre-recession peak. The state's official unemployment rate had declined to 6.0%, far beneath the worst recessionary measure of 9.1% in 2010.

Members of the Flood Disaster Study Committee and other legislators sponsored at least 10 flood-related bills during 2014. Highlights included HB 14-1001, granting income tax credits to qualifying owners of destroyed property; SB 14-007, allowing county governments to use General Fund money for emergency-related road and bridge repair; and HB 14-1002, creating a grant program for destroyed or damaged drinking water or wastewater infrastructure. Flood-impacted areas continued rebuilding, and the town of Lyons in Senate District 18 won an award in 2014 for its successes in the process of getting its downtown business community back to normal.

The state also had an interim Wildfire Matters Review Committee, and its members along with other legislators sponsored at least 12 wildfire-related bills in 2014. Highlights included SB-164, authorizing the formation of a state aerial firefighting fleet, with the state appropriating roughly $20 million toward the effort; HB 14-1210, requiring state agencies owning wildlands to enter into fire management agreements with the counties in which the land is located, SB 14-046, creating a grant program for local fire departments to invest in equipment and training; and SB 14-154, a transfer of money to a state Wildfire Preparedness Fund, to be used on items such as fire engine upgrades, technical assistance for wildfire preparedness, equipment needs, training and more.

Thanks to the gradually improving state economy, Colorado was able to boost education funding in 2014. The Senate made the College Affordability Act its first bill of the session, with top objectives including helping students of moderate or low financial means afford higher education. SB 14-001 boosted funding to the state's institutions of higher education by about $100 million, with about $40 million devoted to student financial aid. Also, it capped tuition increases at 6% yearly, potentially helping minimize the student loan debt levels of Colorado's future graduates.

Colorado's K-12 system also received funding increases of more than $400 million in 2014. Between the Student Success Act, HB 14-1292, and the yearly School Finance Act bill, HB 14-1298, the state will be able to directly reduce some of the recession-era budget cuts, address needs in early literacy and instruction for English Language Learners, boost enrollment in preschool or full-day kindergarten, increase base per-pupil funding, and more.  

While Rollie didn't sponsor as many bills in 2014 as he had in past years due to his new Majority Leader responsibilities, several of his bills were significant. SB 14-011 provided funding to the Colorado Energy Research Collaboratory, a unique partnership made up of researchers from CU-Boulder, CSU, School of Mines and National Renewable Energy Laboratory. SB 14-049 updated laws and penalties for the crime of metal theft at public utility facilities, with "endangering utility transmission" becoming a class 3 felony. SB 14-174 created a new rural prosecutor fellowship program, as qualifying graduates of CU or University of Denver law schools would be able to gain paid professional experience at District Attorney's offices in rural Colorado.

All in all, the 2014 General Assembly deliberated on roughly 700 pieces of legislation, between bills, resolutions and memorials. The legislature passed 425 bills, although Gov. John Hickenlooper vetoed five of them. Personally, 15 bills that Rollie sponsored were signed into law in 2014.

ROLLIE HEATH ELECTED ASSISTANT MINORITY LEADER

The 2014 election was generally rough on the Democratic Party across the nation, although in Colorado, Gov. Hickenlooper won a second four-year term and Democrats retained a majority in the state House of Representatives. However, Republicans flipped control of the State Senate from the 18-17 majority Democrats enjoyed in 2014 to an 18-17 Republican edge for the next General Assembly. A number of Senate races in the 2014 election were quite close, and the outcome of the SD-24 contest was not known until roughly three days after Election Day - partially because of a tight race and partially due to the need for manual processing of ballots.

In mid-November, Rollie was elected Assistant Minority Leader, and President Carroll was elected Minority Leader on the same day. Sen. Bill Cadman (R-Colorado Springs) was elected to become the new President during the 2015 session, and Sen. Mark Scheffel (R-Parker) became the new Majority Leader. The new Democratic leadership team included Sen. Jessie Ulibarri (D-Commerce City) as Caucus Chair, Sen. Matt Jones (D-Louisville) as Minority Whip, and Sen. Pat Steadman (D-Denver) stayed on as a member of the Joint Budget Committee.

In 2014, Rollie did not serve on topical committees of reference because of his duties as Majority Leader. In 2015, he was named the ranking Democratic member of the Senate Business, Labor, and Technology Committee, and a member of the Senate Appropriations committee. From his post on Business, Labor, and Technology, he was able to lend an experienced business voice to committee proceedings, and he worked with other legislators to establish a package of new bills designed to boost workforce preparedness.

With split legislative chambers, bills with strong partisan leanings were likely to die in one chamber or the other. However, the workforce package bills generally had bipartisan sponsorship and bipartisan support. Rollie was a Senate prime sponsor of six bills from the "Colorado Ready to Work" package, and four of them were signed into law. His HB-1230 supported business hiring of apprentices and paid interns; HB-1275 allowed apprenticeships to become part of concurrent enrollment education programs; HB-1170 created a program to boost workforce and postsecondary education readiness in high schools; and HB-1276 supported skilled worker training programs. In total, eight package bills passed the House and Senate.

Rollie personally sponsored 18 bills during the session, and nine were signed into law, including the four workforce bills listed above. Also, Gov. Hickenlooper signed HB-1180, continuing investments in clean tech and medical research devices, and HB-1348, which amended state laws regarding urban renewal authorities and the use of tax-increment financing (TIF).

The issue of standardized testing in K-12 schools was at the forefront in 2015. In recent years prior, many Coloradans raised concerns about the sheer amount of time spent in testing and preparing for the tests, along with other related issues. The 2014 legislature authorized a Standards and Assessments Task Force, charged with gathering input, studying the issue, and providing recommendations for future action. The Task Force released its final report in January 2015, and the legislature spent a great deal of time deliberating on bills to address Task Force recommendations throughout the rest of the session.

One bill, HB-1323, eventually emerged as the testing reform bill that would be signed into law, but that outcome didn't always seem obvious. Rollie, along with legislators from both parties and both chambers, worked long hours hashing out the details and proposed amendments, with the long hours turning into long weeks near the end of the session. The final bill reduced classroom hours spent in testing by more than 25 percent, created a pilot program for alternative assessment programs, and helped kids with limited computer skills take tests using pencil and paper. Sen. Andy Kerr, the prime Democratic Senate bill sponsor, read off a checklist of Task Force recommendations met as the Senate was about to approve HB-1323, and Colorado's system of assessments would still provide sufficient data to evaluate school performance even after reducing the testing burden.

A number of other big issues surfaced in 2015. The General Assembly passed several bills regarding relationships between law enforcement officials and the communities they serve, including bills on officers wearing body cameras and on citizen recording of officers' actions. The passage of HB-1043 created a felony offense for a person's fourth DUI. The legislature referred a measure to the 2015 state ballot which would have allowed the state to retain about $58 million in already-collected retail marijuana tax revenue, and the measure passed by a wide margin in November. SB-214 created a new interim legislative committee to study violence in schools and offer recommendations for future action. All in all, 364 bills became law in 2015, out of the 682 introduced.

Between legislative sessions, Rollie continued working on issues related to Colorado's workforce. He was chosen as a keynote speaker for the BizWest "Bixpo" economic forum in Loveland, and traveled to New York City to present and learn relevant workforce issues at a National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) summit. He also won an "Advocate of the Year" award from the Colorado Technology Association, and won an award for his work from the Colorado Women's Chamber of Commerce.

Rollie was again chosen to serve as Assistant Minority Leader for the 2016 session, and stayed on the Senate Business, Labor, and Technology Committee as well. Sen. Carroll stepped down from her Minority Leader post so she would have time for her race for the CD-6 seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, but stayed on as a state Senator for the last year of her term. Sen. Lucia Guzman, D-Denver, became the new Minority Leader in late 2015. She is a former minister and small business owner, who also served two terms on the Denver Public Schools Board of Education before being elected to her first term in the Senate.

The General Assembly was split again in 2016, with Republicans controlling the Senate and Democrats holding a majority in the House. Conventional wisdom suggests that when the legislature is split, bills with strong partisan leanings generally die in one chamber or the other. Rollie was the prime sponsor of 20 bills in 2016, and 14 of the bills were signed into law, several of which were pertinent to concerns of the residents of SD-18.

For example, certain Boulder County residents were still recovering from the devastating floods of 2013. Rollie’s SB 16-012 allowed county assessors to grant owners of property destroyed in a natural disaster more time to redevelop - under a lower property tax rate.  HB 16-1008 allowed buses to legally operate on roadway shoulders if traffic is stalled, which can help move people on roadways such as the newly completed US 36/Boulder Turnpike project. SB 16-173 allowed motorized golf carts to legally cross state highways at designated crossing areas, with approval from local governments such as the Town of Nederland.

Rollie’s HB 16-1182 extended the life of the Commodity Metals Task Force until 2025, allowing it to work on strategies to fight the problem of metal theft. His SB 16-134 allowed specified state departments to consider a person’s relevant training while serving in the military, and credit it toward licenses or certifications if the experience is deemed sufficient. Also, his HB 16-1129 strengthened the Colorado Attorney General’s ability to enforce Colorado’s laws against charitable fraud and deceptive solicitations. 

The 2016 session included a few legislative disappointments. Rollie attempted twice to make progress toward equal pay for equal work, and his SB 16-096 would have re-created a Pay Equity Commission to study the issue and recommend improvements, but the bill was defeated. His HB 16-1156 would have extended pay transparency to all workers, and this bill passed the House and Senate committees – but was defeated on the Senate floor with no apparent Republican opposition before the final vote. Also, Rollie attempted once again to improve the rate of background checks for youth sports coaches working for private organizations, but HB 16-1443 was defeated in committee despite that it simply would have required organizations to notify parents about whether or not it required background checks. 

In April 2016, Rollie received the Cal Frazier Investing in Education Award from the Public Education Business Coalition (PEBC). For 15 years, Cal Frazier served as the commissioner for the Colorado Department of Education and was a driving force in attracting qualified teachers into Colorado’s public schools. He devoted his life to improving both the Colorado and national education system and is remembered as a “leader of leaders” in public education.

On May 11, the last day of the 2016 session, Rollie and eight other outgoing Senators were honored on the Senate floor. Senators spoke at great length with fondness about their departing colleagues, and Rollie was honored for such qualities as his commitment to education, his contributions to Colorado’s economy, and for his work with legislators from both sides of the aisle. The other outgoing Senators included President Bill Cadman, former President Morgan Carroll, Majority Leader Mark Scheffel, former Joint Budget Committee chairs Pat Steadman and Mary Hodge, Michael Johnston, Linda Newell, and Jessie Ulibarri.

On May 19, the Democratic Women of Boulder County honored Rollie and Speaker of the House Dickey Lee Hullinghorst for their eight years of outstanding legislative leadership. It was also announced that Governor John Hickenlooper signed a proclamation establishing May 19 as Senator Heath and Speaker Hullinghorst Day.

Rollie’s alma mater, Horlick High School in Racine, Wisconsin, named him a Horlick High School Graduate of Distinction in the summer of 2016. Both Rollie and Josie became national delegates for Secretary Hillary Clinton in 2016, and both attended the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia that year. Rollie also served as an Electoral College elector, delivering his Electoral College vote to Hillary after her heartbreaking loss to Donald Trump in the general election.

Despite being term-limited as a Senator, Rollie intended to stay involved in civic matters to the best of his ability. He applied for and was appointed as a member to the nine-member State Board for Community Colleges and Occupational Education (SBCCOE). The Board has responsibility for both secondary and post-secondary career and technical education and community college governance, and Rollie earned a four-year term beginning in early 2017. Steve Fenberg, the former executive director of the youth voting advocacy organization New Era Colorado, was elected in 2016 to take Rollie’s seat, and was sworn in as a Senator in January 2017.

Over the course of his eight years in office, Rollie was a prime sponsor of 150 bills, and 110 of them were signed into law. He also sponsored 14 resolutions that the General Assembly approved. He will be remembered for his lifetime of work, including his years with the military, his decades in the private sector, his volunteer hours, his educational experience, his political activism, his leadership in the Senate, and his willingness to consult with people of all stripes to help them develop their fullest potential.

 

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