First Bill Through Senate, More to Come
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.
TOWN HALL NOTES
We had a nice turnout of about 50 people for our Jan. 26 town hall at the George Reynolds branch of the Boulder Public Library, and the two pictures above were taken during the event. We ran out of time before we ran out of things to talk about, but we spent most of the meeting discussing education, public safety, transportation, social issues and the economy.
Education: School finance has been one of my major issues for years, and a group of civic leaders has been working on new ideas to revamp our school finance system for the past several years. In 2013, we expect to see a bill introduced in the near future that would propose an updated system. In my opinion, our current system is woefully underfunded and impractical, so I'm working and hoping for success on this front in 2013. As a member of the Senate Education committee, I'm also working on a number of other bills regarding K-12 and higher education this year.
Public Safety: The recent shocking mass shootings in Aurora and at Sandy Hook Elementary have helped make public safety one of the most publicized issues of the 2013 session. However, despite the horrific headlines about Aurora and Sandy Hook, many people also understand that the U.S. has averaged more than 10,000 gun murders per year for some time now, and we had more than 30,000 gun deaths last year when suicides and accidents were factored in. While nobody believes we will end violence in a year, inaction is no longer an option. The General Assembly recently introduced a package of public safety bills and proposals, and an overwhelming majority of people at this town hall favored taking action.
Transportation: In late 2012, I was named the new chair of the Senate Transportation Committee. As with education, we have challenges in funding the infrastructure improvements we need, but we've made some strides. Our Bridge Safety Enterprise has helped us shore up a number of our state's substandard bridges, the Colorado Department of Transportation has the authority to spend an additional $300 million per year on improvements for the next five years, and as local drivers know, the U.S. 36 construction project is underway. I intend to hold periodic transportation hearings at the Capitol between sessions, and I'm looking forward to making our transportation system as efficient as possible.
Social Issues: Attendees of this meeting were naturally interested in two hot-button issues from past sessions: civil unions for same-sex couples and college tuition equity for high school graduates of undocumented workers. Since the meeting, the civil unions bill SB-11 has passed the Senate, and the tuition bill SB-33 has passed the Senate Education committee. It seems quite possible that both bills will become law this year, and both will be true advances for civil rights in Colorado.
Economy: I am once again a member of the Senate Business, Labor and Technology committee in 2013. I'm also sponsoring several bills designed to stimulate our economy. During the meeting, we discussed HB 13-1001, which would create a fund for grants to qualifying firms in seven Advanced Industry sectors, such as bioscience, advanced manufacturing or information technology. This bill should have some impact in our local region, as Boulder and surrounding communities serve as a major hub for technological business activity in Colorado. HB-1001 has not yet passed the House as of Feb. 9, but I anticipate it will come over to the Senate in the near future.
All in all, it was a great meeting with many engaged and informed attendees. About half of the people in attendance took the opportunity to offer questions or comments, and people were still talking in small groups about the many important issues long after the meeting adjourned.