Sen. Heath and Rep. Singer talk with Channel 7 before the hearing on SB 15-048
Nearly one full month has passed in the 2015 legislative session, with mixed results to date, but hopes remaining for a productive session.
With split political control of our two legislative chambers, a fair number of bills are being approved or defeated on straight party-line votes. However, we are working on the broad issue of workforce development this year, which should be of bipartisan concern.
Unfortunately, a bill Rep. Jonathan Singer and I sponsored in the interest of child safety did not pass. SB 15-048 would have simply required criminal background checks for employees or volunteers with non-licensed private youth sports organizations, if they worked five days per month or more. Witnesses offered overwhelming support for the bill, but it was defeated in the Senate Judiciary Committee on a straight party-line vote.
The 2014 legislative session ended May 7, and 15 of the bills I sponsored during the session were signed into law. The following newsletter went out in mid-May, and it's got a lot of information about some of the key bills and topics we worked on in 2014. Also, you can read any bill that was introduced this year on the General Assembly Web site, www.leg.state.co.us.
A DOWN-TO-BUSINESS SESSION
It's hard to believe, but our 2014 regular legislative session is nearly over. On April 26, we held our last town hall meeting of the session at the Boulder Chamber of Commerce (pictured above), with Chamber President/CEO John Tayer facilitating an informative discussion with me and Rep. Dickey Lee Hullinghorst, Rep. KC Becker and about 50 attendees.
The actual session must end by May 7, and we will spend our last week hustling to get as much work on legislation done as possible. This year, I am the prime Senate sponsor of 17 bills, and as of April 29 nine of them have been signed into law or have passed both the House and Senate.
From last year's town hall meeting at the Boulder Chamber of Commerce
With the 2014 legislative session coming to a close, we will hold our final town hall of the session this Saturday, April 26. For the details:
WHEN: Saturday, April 26, 10:00 a.m. until noon
WHERE: Boulder Chamber of Commerce, 2440 Pearl Street (SW corner of Pearl and Folsom), Boulder, CO 80302
WHO: Senator Rollie Heath, Representative Dickey Lee Hullinghorst, Representative KC Becker
After speaking to a group of International Business students from Colorado Heights University, March 2014
As of Wednesday, April 2, the Colorado Senate was in the middle of "budget week." During this week, we evaluate and possibly offer amendments to the "Long Bill," (HB 14-1336) which will outline our state budget for FY 2014-15 when it is signed into law. Once the budget bill is complete and we have a clearer picture of which budget items can receive funding, we will then go to work on a list of bills that are still on the table.
To date, two bills that I am the prime Senate sponsor of have been signed into law. They are:
* HB 14-1293, which appropriates payments for expenses of the Colorado legislative department and the youth advisory council cash fund.
* HB 14-1163, which clarifies rules surrounding a $750,000 cap on enterprise zone tax credits that we adopted in 2013.
A busy week awaits, as we are basically at the midway point of our 2014 legislative session, and we have two town hall meetings scheduled.
The first meeting will be held March 11, and it should be an interesting political evening for the people of Lyons. Rep. Jonathan Singer and I will start the evening by talking about state issues, and our segment will be followed by a forum with Town of Lyons mayoral and Board of Trustees candidates. For the details:
WHEN: Tuesday, March 11, 6:00 p.m. until 9:00 p.m. (doors open at 5:30)
WHERE: Lyons High School Cafetorium, 100 McConnell Drive, Lyons, CO
The second meeting will be held March 15. Representatives Dickey Lee Hullinghorst and KC Becker will join me, so the people of Boulder will have the opportunity to meet with all legislators who represent parts or all of the City of Boulder. For the details:
WHEN: Saturday, March 15, 10:00 a.m. until noon
WHERE: Boulder City Council Chambers, 1777 Broadway, Boulder, CO
All of our town hall meetings are free and open to the public. Questions and comments from attendees are encouraged, and I hope to see you there!
I hope you can join us for our next town hall meeting in Boulder. For the details:
WHEN: Saturday, Feb. 22, from 10:00 a.m. until noon
WHERE: Boulder Chautauqua, 900 Baseline Road, in the Community House
WHAT: Town Hall Meeting covering relevant state issues from the 2014 legislative session
It's been an interesting session so far, so we should have a lot to talk about Saturday. All of our town hall meetings are free, nonpartisan, and open to the public.
We had a wonderful turnout of about 75 people for our first town hall meeting of the 2014 legislative session, held Jan. 25 at the Dairy Center for the Arts, with House Majority Leader Dickey Lee Hullinghorst and Rep. KC Becker joining me. Between the three legislators and our constituents, we held a lively and informative discussion, demonstrating once again that people living in or near Senate District 18 care deeply about the issues.
The three legislators opened the meeting with brief speeches about key issues facing us in 2014, along with new bills being proposed or pondered. For example, Boulder County residents know all too well that we faced devastating flooding in September, and the state put together a Flood Disaster Study Committee to discuss the issues and propose legislation. This year, our first six House bills (HBs 1001-1006) came from Flood Committee members, along with Senate Bill 14-007. We supplied a handout describing each bill, but in brief, many of the bills are geared toward helping individuals, utilities and local governments repair damaged property or infrastructure.
The legislators spoke for about 30 minutes, leaving the rest of the two-hour meeting for questions and comments from our constituents, including several questions about environmental issues.
The 2014 legislative session is well underway, and it's time for our first town hall meeting of the session. I am pleased to announce that Colorado Representative KC Becker and Colorado House Majority Leader Dickey Lee Hullinghorst, pictured below, will join me as featured speakers.
For the details on this free meeting:
WHEN: Saturday, Jan. 25, 10:00 a.m. until noon
WHERE: Dairy Center for the Arts, East Theater, 2590 Walnut St. in Boulder
WHO: Senate Majority Leader Rollie Heath, House Majority Leader Dickey Lee Hullinghorst, and Representative KC Becker.
In October 2013, I received the tremendous honor of being elected Senate Majority Leader for the upcoming legislative session. Sen. Morgan Carroll (pictured at left) was elected the new President-elect of the Senate on the same day. I look forward to working with Pres. Carroll on the many issues we will face in 2014, and hopefully for the next several years to come.
My responsibilities in the Senate have changed as a result of accepting the new leadership position. The Majority Leader is responsible for tasks such as determining the numbers of senators on each committee of reference, assigning members from the majority party to the most appropriate committees, making Senate bill and calendar management decisions, approving certain expenses and more. This year, I will not serve on the topical committees I have served on in the past, such as Education or Transportation, and I will not carry nearly as many bills as I have during each of my last five sessions.
The other Senate Majority leadership positions will stay the same in 2014 as they were in 2013. Sen. Lucia Guzman will remain Senate President Pro Tempore, Sen. Irene Aguilar will remain Assistant Senate Majority Leader, Sen. Jeanne Nicholson will remain Senate Majority Caucus Chair, and Sen. Gail Schwartz will remain Senate Majority Whip. I believe we have assembled a tremendous leadership team with a wide range of skill sets, and we will do our best for the people of Colorado in the upcoming session.
As we all know, large areas of Colorado, including but by no means limited to Boulder County, have suffered extreme damage as a result of our recent torrential rains. This event has been both tragic and heartbreaking on personal levels, with property and infrastructure damage reaching levels unheard of in Colorado. Please accept my heartfelt best wishes if you are among the people who have been impacted.
Below, please find a list of Web sites and phone numbers for sources of information and organizations that can provide assistance.
* www.disasterassistance.gov - Visit this FEMA Web site to apply for federal disaster assistance, or call (800) 621-3362
* www.fema.gov/disaster/4145 - Specific FEMA information about this natural disaster.
* www.boulderoem.com - Localized information from Boulder's Office of Emergency Management, or call (303) 413-7730 for the Emergency Operations Center.
* www.COemergency.com - Colorado Office of Emergency Management.
* Disaster Assistance Centers have opened in Boulder at 5495 Arapahoe Avenue, and in Longmont at the Twin Peaks Mall, 1250 South Hover Road.
* (303) 441-1880 - City of Boulder Planning and Development Services Center, for questions related to building repair and rebuilding.
* (303) 441-3930 - Boulder County information on building repair and rebuilding.
* www,HelpColoradoNow.org - A one-stop site for information on how best to help people who have suffered, including via donations or volunteer assistance.
* www.boulderfloodinfo.net - Localized information about the flood, and a place to sign up to receive regular updates.
* 911 - Of course, call 911 in case of emergency.
Thanks in advance for anything you can do to help out, and please stay safe!
The 2013 legislative session ended May 8, but Gov. John Hickenlooper had until June 7 to sign or veto bills that passed the House and Senate. Now that the Governor's deadline has passed, I'm proud to report that 22 of the bills I sponsored during the session have been signed into law, and roughly 440 total bills were signed this year.
We had a very productive session, but the number of bills signed is secondary to the scope and quality of the legislation when it comes to judging productivity. The picture above is from the bill signing ceremony for one bill of tremendous scope and quality, Senate Bill 13-213, which would result in a major revamp of the state's School Finance structure if voters approve a ballot measure to fund the improvements.
To learn more about my involvement in the session, I'd highly recommend clicking this link to download my end-of-session newsletter. Or, visit the "Rollie's Bills" section of this Web site. Also, all bills introduced during the session can be read in full on the Colorado General Assembly Web site, www.leg.state.co.us.
As always, thanks for your involvement and interest in our system of government. Now that this session is over, preparation for the next session begins. Please feel free to pass along your thoughts and ideas for creating a better Colorado, and I hope you have a wonderful summer!
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.
Our next town hall meeting will be held this Saturday, March 16 from 10 a.m. until noon, in the Boulder City Council Chambers, 1777 Broadway. Dr. Bruce Messinger, Superintendent of the Boulder Valley School District (BVSD, pictured at left), will be our featured guest speaker. Education will naturally be one of the main topics Saturday, and it's timely since the General Assembly is about to begin formal deliberations on Senate Bill 13-213, the Public School Finance Act. The bill, if adopted, would lead to a major update in the state's system of school finance. It's a voluminous bill, and we expect people with an interest in K-12 education to have comments or questions. Dr. Messinger and I have both spent many hours on the bill process, and we're looking forward to discussing the bill with the residents of BVSD and Senate District 18.
While education will be a major meeting topic, the 2013 legislative session is basically at its midway point and we have a lot to talk about. We've introduced or discussed bills pertaining to topics such as jobs and the economy, transportation, public safety, the environment and energy, natural resources and more. We'll have informed speakers and handouts at the meeting, but part of the legislative process is listening to input from our consituents. Saturday's meeting is free and open to the public, and I'm hoping to see you there!
With about one full month completed in the 2013 legislative session, my first sponsored bill has passed through the Senate and has been introduced in the House. Senate Bill 13-012 would add officials from private sports clubs, such as paid coaches and assistant coaches, to a list of "mandatory reporters," or people who must report suspected child abuse or neglect to authorities.
The idea for this bill came to me over the summer from Michelle Peterson, who is shown speaking to a crowd at my Jan. 26 town hall in the picture above at the right. Michelle had learned that officials of public sports teams, such as school athletic programs, already must report abuse or neglect, but there was no similar Colorado law regarding private clubs. A bill was drafted, and Michelle was involved enough to not only speak about it at my town hall, but also at the bill's first hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Jan. 30. Thanks to her testimony and statements from a number of other supporters, the bill passed committee by 4-1, and the full Senate by 24-10 with one member excused.
The success to date of this bill has been another wonderful reminder that non-elected Coloradans can get positive things accomplished through their state government. Rep. Jonathan Singer is carrying SB-12 in the House, and I believe it has a good chance of becoming law this year.
Jan. 7 press conference on HB 13-1001, with Sen. Rollie Heath at left, Rep. Dave Young at center-left, Speaker of the House Mark Ferrandino at the podium, and Rep. Cheri Gerou at right. Reps. Young and Gerou are House co-sponsors of the bill.
The 2013 legislative session kicked off on January 9, and we're already working on new legislation. We held a well-attended press conference on Jan. 7 to announce and explain House Bill 13-1001, the Advanced Industries Acceleration Act. The bill would create a new Advanced Industries Acceleration Fund, and monies would be used to fund grants for qualifying companies in the following industry sectors: advanced manufacturing, aerospace, bioscience, electronics, energy and natural resources, infrastructure engineering, and information technology. I am a Senate co-sponsor of the bill, and I was proud to speak at the press conference (pictured above) about my reasons to support HB-1001.
I will also speak about HB-1001 and other issues at our first town hall meeting of the 2013 session. It will be held Saturday, January 26 from 10:15 a.m. until noon, at the George Reynolds Branch of the Boulder Public Library, 3595 Table Mesa Drive. Our town hall meetings are always free and open to the public, and they provide a great opportunity for us to meet or exchange ideas in person.
NEW START-OF-SESSION NEWSLETTER
Our new session brings with it many new issues, new faces, and new members of leadership in the General Assembly. To read more, just click here to access our first newsletter of the 2013 session. It includes updates about key legislative topics, new Senate District 18 boundaries, upcoming bills, and links to other sources of information. We will continue to send newsletters to people on our e-mail list as the session progresses. If you're not on the list, just send an e-mail with your contact information to email@example.com.
The 2013 legislative session begins on January 9, and I was pleased to be named Chair of the Senate Transportation Committee for the upcoming session. Maintaining safe and functional infrastructure is certainly one of the most important things we do as a state, and I fully appreciate how much we depend on our transportation system for everyday life.
Transportation is an economic issue, as we depend on our system to get to work or school, to move goods, and to make sure employees and customers can reach places of business. It's an environmental issue, since we must make wise decisions about topics such as modes of transportation and how to minimize congestion. It's a safety issue, since we must make sure our roads and bridges are well-maintained, free of snow and ice, and we must manage the potential for natural hazards such as avalanches or rockslides. It's also a quality of life issue, as we need a well-managed system to efficiently access recreational areas, entertainment venues, and the homes of friends and relatives.
Most Election Night results are in, and I won the Senate District 18 race with about 79 percent support. I offer my deepest appreciation to everyone who supported me, and to everyone who worked so hard to get out the vote. I am looking forward to serving as your senator for the next four years, and as always, I believe we can accomplish great things if we work together with positive goals in mind.
Senate District 18 has expanded to include almost all of western Boulder County, and with that in mind, I've made some enjoyable visits to the mountains over the past few weeks. On Sept. 28, I went out to meet the people of Lyons during an event at The Stone Cup coffee house (pictured at left). On October 18, I spoke with folks in Nederland at Salto Coffee Works (pictured at right).
With the 2012 political campaigns on everybody's minds, the people who attended gatherings in Nederland and Lyons were interested, engaged and polite. We had lively discussions on issues directly affecting their local areas, but also touched on broader topics such as education, the environment and the economy. I had the chance to meet a few dozen people between the two events, and I am looking forward to meeting more mountain residents of western Boulder County in the future.
Kathy Gebhardt (right) and Rich Gebhardt (center), last year's "Give 'Em Hell Harry" award winners, offered kind words of introduction for me at the Truman Dinner.
The annual Boulder County Democratic Party Truman Dinner is always a wonderful event, as we get the chance to socialize and get fired up for the political contests that lie ahead. But this year's Truman Dinner (Aug. 24 in Longmont) was a special one for me, as the BCDP honored me with their "Give 'Em Hell Harry" award for outstanding service to the Democratic Party.
While this award was given to me as an individual, I couldn't help but notice how many people were in the crowd who have helped make my accomplishments possible. On Aug. 24, I let the crowd know that so much of what I try to do is filtered through the question of "What kind of state, what kind of nation do you want to live in?" As a proud member of the BCDP, it heartens me to know that so many people in Boulder County seek some of the same solutions to our challenges of the future that I do.
My congratulations go out to the other BCDP award winners: Richard Garcia, winner of the Tom Mayer Award for Community Service, and Rebecca Browning, winner of the Jack Major Award for Outstanding Volunteer. Both Richard and Rebecca have been active in the party and their communities for years, and they'll continue to be involved long after earning their well-deserved recognition.
Also, in June of 2012, I was the co-recipient of the "Friend of Higher Education Award" from the American Association of University Professors, Colorado Conference, with my friend and colleague Sen. Bob Bacon of Ft. Collins. The award is given to legislators whose "legislative work and public service has significantly advanced civic understanding and public support of higher education in the State of Colorado." This was another special award since higher education is so important to me and our society. I've supported our colleges and universities for decades, and I'll continue to keep working in any way I can to make sure our state supports the best system possible.
Photo of smoke from the Flagstaff fire, courtesy of Shawn Collins, Boulder, Colorado
We've all seen and heard the news about wildfires in Colorado this summer, both large and small. But for me, the fire danger hit much closer to home on June 26, as we learned about the Flagstaff fire burning west of the City of Boulder. Thanks to the efforts of firefighters, a small amount of rain and perhaps some luck, we're still in our home as of Wednesday evening. But others around our state have not been as lucky, so I'd like to ask everyone to consider two things.
First, displaced residents and emergency organizations need help. Please consider visiting the Help Colorado Now Web site, http://www.helpcoloradonow.org to learn more about how and where to donate. Second, please respect all restrictions on burning and use of fireworks. We can't prevent lightning from starting a fire, but we can practice extra responsibility to make sure the next fire isn't caused by humans.
Gov. John Hickenlooper's June 8 bill signing deadline has passed, and six pieces of legislation that I was the prime Senate sponsor of in 2012 earned the Governor's approval. They were Senate Bills 164 and 155, along with House Bills 1162, 1292, 1241 and 1270.
It wasn't always easy to get bills passed this year, but Gov. Hickenlooper signed 305 bills this year, and I believe the session was productive. For more information about my perspective on the session, click here to read my 2012 end-of-session newsletter.
Supporters of civil unions gather at the Capitol for a rally on May 8, 2012
The results of our 2012 special legislative session weren't exactly what many people had hoped for, but we finished our business in three days and passed some important legislation. Gov. John Hickenlooper called the session on May 10, noting that House leadership did not bring SB-002 (authorizing civil unions) and nearly 30 other bills to the House floor on May 8 for a fair and full hearing. As a result, SB-002 and most of the other bills died as time ran out on the regular session, unless bills could be combined into other pieces of legislation.
We started the special session on the morning of May 14 as planned, but it soon became obvious that the new civil unions bill, HB S12-1005, would not pass either. Speaker of the House Frank McNulty assigned the bill to a committee with membership that would certainly defeat the bill, and it died on a 5-4 straight party-line vote - once again not advancing to a vote of the entire House. While the defeat of civil unions legislation was again incredibly disappointing, we did pass three key bills through the House and Senate during this special session, although Gov. Hickenlooper had not yet signed them into law as of May 17.
Legislators and citizen supporters of SB-002 gather on the West Steps of the Capitol on May 8, 2012
The final 24-hour period of the 2012 legislative session will be remembered for years to come. In a nutshell, supporters of SB-002, a bill that would have authorized civil unions for same-sex couples in Colorado, hoped to see the bill go to a second-reading vote of the entire House of Representatives on Tuesday, May 8. The last day of our regular session was May 9, and the House would have needed to pass the bill on second reading on May 8 for it to face the third-reading vote that would be necessary for passage on May 9.
Unfortunately, despite the fact that SB-002 had already passed three House committees, Speaker of the House Frank McNulty did not allow the bill to be heard on the House floor on May 8. Also, roughly 25 other bills on a variety of topics were not heard on May 8, which meant in essence that the bills as written would not go forward during this regular session. Click here for a Denver Post/Associated Press account of Tuesday's House session, and click here for a Post editorial regarding Speaker McNulty's course of action.
Needless to say, supporters of civil unions were extremely disappointed, but they weren't the only ones. Many people contacted Gov. John Hickenlooper's office, asking him to call a special session so a bill on civil unions could be given a full and fair hearing, and on Wednesday, Gov. Hickenlooper obliged. Certain details about the special session weren't clear as of the late afternoon of May 9, including when it would start and a full list of topics to be addressed, but Gov. Hickenlooper was clear that the issue of civil unions would be on the agenda.
The seconds are ticking away in the 2012 legislative session, as we must complete our business in the House and Senate by the end of Wednesday, May 9. As of Tuesday afternoon, one of the bills I sponsored has been signed into law while six others have a chance of earning Governor John Hickenlooper's signature. Click the link below to learn more about the bills and the bill status for each of them.
The pace here at the Capitol has been unbelievable between committee hearings, work on the floor and negotiations regarding the finer points of legislation. Still, it's been enjoyable and I believe we'll pass some good bills by Wednesday evening. Thanks to everyone who participated in this year's legislative process, and I'm looking forward to what the summer has in store!
On Thursday, May 3, Governor John Hickenlooper signed House Bill 12-1162 into law during a signing ceremony in the Governor's office. The bill authorizes the creation of special license plates for veterans of Operations Desert Storm or Desert Shield. As a veteran and the chair of the Senate State, Veterans, and Military Affairs committee, I was proud to be the Senate sponsor of this bill, and to share this bill signing with House sponsor Rep. Nancy Todd and the Governor.
During Thursday's ceremony, Gov. Hickenlooper also signed HB 12-1063 into law. The bill established the Homelake Military Veterans Cemetery, which will consist of the existing cemetery at the Colorado State Veterans Center in Homelake (Monte Vista, CO) along with an adjacent portion of land available for cemetery expansion. Rep. Robert Ramirez and Sen. Gail Schwartz were the prime sponsors of HB-1063.
Lee Kemp (left) and John Tayer of the RTD Board of Directors talk about FasTracks at Saturday's town hall meeting.
We held our last town hall meeting of the 2012 session on Saturday, April 28, and attendees were treated to discussions of some very big issues facing us at this point in time. The first topic up for the 40 or more attendees was the RTD FasTracks mass transit project, along with its Northwest Rail (NWR) component that would eventually connect Longmont and Denver through Boulder. RTD Board of Directors members Lee Kemp (Chair) and John Tayer (First Vice Chair) were on hand, as was RTD's Assistant Manager of Communications Scott Reed. Reed led the crowd through a presentation about highlights and challenges of the FasTracks project to date.
After the RTD segment, I had the chance to bring up some equally big state issues. For starters, we recently worked on the $19 billion "Long Bill" (HB 12-1335), or our annual budget bill. We also talked about HB-1238, a bill designed to make sure that Colorado's young students are able to read at grade level.
It's hard to believe, but we have just slightly more than two weeks left in our 2012 legislative session, and it's almost time for my final town hall meeting before the session ends. The meeting will be held Saturday, April 28 from 10:00 a.m. until noon, in the City Council Chambers of the Boulder Municipal Building, 1777 Broadway. We'll have Lee Kemp and John Tayer, respectively the Chair and First Vice Chair of the RTD Board of Directors, on hand as guest speakers for this free meeting.
Also, as of April 26, six bills that I am the prime Senate sponsor of have passed through the House, the Senate or both chambers. Bills that pass both the House and Senate by May 9 will be sent to the Governor's desk, where he can decide to sign them into law or veto them. Just click the "Read more" link below to learn more about the six bills and their status, or you can read more about any state bill on the General Assembly Web site, www.leg.state.co.us.
Receiving the Nonprofit Impact Award from Bruce Atchison, co-chair of the Colorado Nonprofit Association's Public Policy Committee. (Photo courtesy of the Colorado Nonprofit Association)
I recently received a tremendous honor, as the Colorado Nonprofit Association named me as the recipient of its Nonprofit Impact Award during its well-attended annual Awards Luncheon at the Marriott City Center in downtown Denver.
The CNA honored me for my work on Proposition 103, a 2011 ballot initiative that would have helped the state better fund public education. While I certainly did lots of work on 103, the CNA also lent invaluable support to our campaign. Its assistance helped spread the word about the value of education in 2011, and I valued our partnership immensely.
It's not surprising that we had a great turnout for our March 10 town hall on education, since so many people from Senate District 18 agree on the importance of learning. About 45 people attended the meeting, and we were blessed with three quality speakers who added a lot to the meeting.
Morgan Selby (pictured at right), a fifth-grade student at Bear Creek Elementary, spent March 5 with me as part of "Girls with Goals Day" at the Capitol. Bruce Messinger (center) is the Superintendent of the Boulder Valley School District. Lisa Weil (left) is the Director of Policy and Communications for Great Education Colorado. Together, the three speakers helped Saturday's attendees learn more about education and legislation on a number of levels.
The political agenda for this week also includes the Tuesday, March 6 Democratic Party precinct caucuses (the Colorado Republicans already held their caucuses on Feb. 7). I strongly encourage those who are interested in the party political process to attend, as it is a true opportunity for people to get involved at the grassroots level. Registration starts at 6:15 p.m., and the caucuses run until 9:00 p.m. You don't need to be a registered Democrat to attend, but you do need to be a registered Democrat to vote or become a delegate. Visit www.bocodems.org to find out where your precinct caucus meeting will be held.
Jobs and the economy have been two of the most important issues facing Colorado since I took office in 2009, and I've sponsored a number of bills regarding economic issues since then. In 2012, two of the economic bills I'm sponsoring have passed at least one committee, and I'm hoping they will be signed into law so they can help us build a more prosperous future.
Senate Bill 12-058, also known as the Colorado Entrepreneur Act, passed a Senate third reading on Feb. 17. In short, the bill would authorize the establishment of a state Venture Capital Advisory Board, which would be charged with studying venture capital in Colorado and finding ways that we can increase its availability. Senate Bill 12-144, the Key Industries bill, passed the Senate Business, Labor and Technology committee on Feb. 13. The bill would authorize the state's Office of Economic Development and International Trade to establish strategies that would foster growth in a number of Colorado's top industry sectors, such as bioscience and clean technology.
Jobs and the economy are among the top issues in modern American political discourse, and with that in mind, we'll talk about economic issues at our next town hall meeting. It will be held this Saturday, Feb. 11, from 10 a.m. until noon, in the Boulder City Council Chambers at the Boulder Municipal Building, 1777 Broadway.
I'm excited to announce that our guest speakers will be Susan Graf (pictured here), President and CEO of the Boulder Chamber of Commerce, and Clif Harald, Executive Director of the Boulder Economic Council. Feel free to contact the office if you have any questions, and I hope to see you Saturday!
We held our first town hall meeting of the 2012 session on Jan. 14, and I was pleased to have about 50 people spend part of their Saturday morning with me. Since I was elected in 2008, one of my most fundamental questions as a legislator has been "What is the role of government in our society?" I led off Saturday's discussion with that very question, and noted that there are strong differences between those who believe there should only be a few legitimate core functions of government and those who think the public sector should play a robust role.
Pete Leibig, President and CEO of Clinica Family Health Services, spoke about the numerous modern accomplishments of an organization that has grown from very humble beginnings in the 1970s. Our next speaker was Elise Jones, Executive Director of the Colorado Environmental Coalition, who spoke about a very current concern - hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking."
With every new year comes a new legislative session, and we will kick off the 2012 session this Wednesday, Jan. 11. It should be 120 very exciting days at the Capitol, as we wrestle with any number of challenges - jobs and the economy, education, energy and the environment, public health and safety, election issues, civil rights and more. For a preview of some of what's to come, just click here to read my 2012 presession newsletter.
Also, I hope you'll be able to join me on Saturday, Jan. 14 at 10:15 a.m. for our first town hall meeting of the session. The meeting will be held at the Meadows Branch of the Boulder Public Library, 4800 Baseline Road, and I'll start by talking about key issues and bills I'll be sponsoring in 2012. Health care will be one of the key issues, so I've invited Pete Leibig, President and CEO of Clinica Health Services, to be our guest speaker.
The Colorado Supreme Court recently affirmed new state House and Senate district boundaries for the next 10 years. As a result, our Senate District 18 will expand greatly in geographic area, with most of the expansion in western Boulder County.
The "old" District 18 basically included the City of Boulder, the towns of Niwot and Hygiene, and areas of unincorporated Boulder County to the east and north of Boulder and to the west and north of Longmont. As you can see, the new district will expand to the western and northern boundaries of Boulder County, including the towns of Lyons, Nederland, Allenspark, Jamestown and Ward.
It's official. I've decided to run for another four-year term in the Colorado Senate, and I will stand for reelection as your senator from District 18 in 2012. I've loved living in the area that is now District 18 for more than 40 years, and I care deeply about Colorado and its future. I believe my record shows that I'm willing and able to make a difference as a legislator, and I'm looking forward to hopefully earning four more years in the Senate so I can continue working with constituents and colleagues on the issues that matter to all of us.
You might have noticed that the economy has been in the news a bit lately, so let's do something about it! On Tuesday, Aug. 23, we will be holding a forum on Small Business Growth - from 7:30 a.m. until 9:00 a.m. at the Boulder Chamber of Commerce, 2440 Pearl in Boulder. One of the top goals for this forum is to help ensure that local small business owners know the various resources that are available to them.
I hope you can join me for my last town hall meeting of the 2011 legislative session. It will be held this Saturday, May 7, from 10 a.m. until noon in the Community House of the Boulder Chautauqua, 900 Baseline Road in Boulder. Just click here for a map of the Chautauqua grounds.
The meeting will be at least partially a 2011 session wrapup, since the session ends May 11. I'll talk about some of the key bills and issues from this session, and I anticipate no shortage of issues to touch on. One of the most prominent and contentious topics of 2011 has been congressional redistricting, and I expect to have some fresh information about where we are in the process come Saturday.
I've had the pleasure of attending a number of signing ceremonies for bills I've sponsored, but the April 13 signing ceremony for HB-1130 was my first with Gov. John Hickenlooper holding the pen.
HB-1130, in short, strengthened regulations designed to deter the practice of stealing and selling "commodity metals," such as brass or copper. Metal theft is already illegal, but it's been a real problem at construction sites and other locations in recent years, and I believe this bill will make it more difficult for people to make money off of this dishonest practice.
The bill will require purchasers of commodity metals to sign up with the "Scrap Metal Theft Alert System," which lets purchasers know about metal thefts in their areas. Purchasers will be required to maintain documentation showing that they educate their employees about metal theft. They will be required to pay sellers with a check, not cash, for transactions of $300 or more, unless a picture of the seller is taken and kept on file.
Colorado's education budget proposals have been in the news a lot this year, so it was only fitting to use our April town hall meeting for an "Education Budget Breakdown" session. About 30 people attended, and we took this opportunity to look at the education budget both by the numbers and as a values-based discussion.
Don Haddad, superintendent of the St. Vrain Valley School District (SVVSD), was on hand as our guest speaker. The state could adopt a budget for FY 2011-12 that would cut K-12 by about $250 million, and Haddad said SVVSD might lose about $9 million in funding. Also, he said the district could face a $14 million gap due to the combination of decreased state funding and increases in expenses. Meanwhile, SVVSD communities are growing, with steady growth in Longmont and significant development in towns such as Erie and Mead.
It's the first full week in April, and it's also "Budget Week" in the Senate. We anticipate spending most of this week attempting to adopt a state budget bill for FY 2011-12, which will be challenging, to say the least.
Meanwhile, seven bills that I'm the prime Senate sponsor of have passed through at least one committee in 2011. Short descriptions of the bills follow, but for more information, bill texts and summaries are available on the General Assembly Web site, www.leg.state.co.us.
In my experience, I've found that we all reach points in life at which taking action is no longer optional. I reached that point in late February when I read a budget proposal for FY 2011-12 that included a $375 million cut to Colorado's K-12 education budget and a $36 million cut to higher education. The legislature is attempting to find other options, but it's likely that we'll pass a budget with deep cuts to education this year, and I cannot idly sit back and watch the same thing happen in the years to come.
So, I decided to file an initiative that will be on the 2011 ballot, assuming we gather enough petition signatures. It would simply help prevent future education cuts by allowing Colorado's state sales and income taxes to revert back to the rates we had in 1999. Sales and use tax would increase from 2.9 percent to 3.0, and income tax would increase from 4.63 percent to 5.0. All new revenue would be used to fund K-12 and higher education, and the rates would apply from Jan. 1, 2012 until Dec. 31, 2014.
I hope you'll be able to join me at two upcoming meetings. First, my next town hall meeting will be held Saturday, Feb. 12, from 10 a.m. until noon, in room 1B-88 of the Visual Arts Complex on the CU-Boulder campus. Click here if you need to check the campus map for directions. State Reps. Dickey Lee Hullinghorst, Deb Gardner and Claire Levy will also be there to speak, and we'll all be discussing key state issues - one full month into the 2011 session.
We held our first Boulder town hall meeting of the session Saturday, Jan. 22, and it was a valuable two-way conversation in which I spoke to my constituents and they spoke to me.
I started the morning by describing some of the key issues and concepts for 2011, including bipartisanship. The GOP took control of the state House in 2010, while Democrats held control of the Senate. Therefore, we will need at least some bipartisan support for any legislation to pass, and I let meeting attendees know that I intend to seek bipartisan sponsorship for the bills I will carry this year.
Also, I spoke about my recent appointment as co-chair of the state's bipartisan Joint Select Committee on Congressional Redistricting. Our team of five Ds and five Rs will attempt to craft new boundaries for Colorado's seven congressional districts before the end of the 2011 legislative session. We'll also hold at least one public meeting in each district, and we have tentatively scheduled a Boulder meeting for CD-2 on March 15 from 6-9 p.m., in Room 235 of the University Memorial Center (UMC) on the CU-Boulder campus.
Fiscal issues have always been of primary importance to me, and I spoke on Saturday about the impending release of Colorado's first comprehensive tax study in more than 50 years. The University of Denver tax study report should be out by mid-February, which will give citizens and legislators alike a great deal of information that could guide the potential ballot measures of coming years.
At the Meadows Branch Library in Boulder, January 22, 2011
The 68th General Assembly will convene on Jan. 12, 2011. It's the beginning of my third year as the senator from District 18, and I'm excited to see what we can accomplish. The Senate convenes on Jan. 12 at 10 a.m., on a day that will feature swearing-in ceremonies for new legislators and speeches from legislative leaders. It's a public meeting in the Senate Chambers, and I'd love to see residents of District 18 attend if able.
It was a great honor to learn that I will co-chair a recently appointed Joint Select Committee on Congressional Redistricting. States must review their congressional and state legislative district boundaries once every ten years, after each U.S. Census, and it could be necessary to redraw districts as population distribution and other factors change over time.
Our bipartisan committee roster will be: Sen. Rollie Heath, D-Boulder (co-chair); Rep. David Balmer, R-Centennial (co-chair); Sen. Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass Village; Rep. B.J. Nikkel, R-Loveland; Sen. Greg Brophy, R-Wray; Rep. Ed Vigil, D-Fort Garland; Sen. Mark Scheffel, R-Parker; Rep.-Elect Dan Pabon, D-Denver; Sen. Morgan Carroll, D-Aurora; and Rep.-Elect Don Coram, R-Montrose.