2015 Session: It's a Wrap
The 2015 legislative session is now history, and the numbers show that it was at least somewhat productive. Legislators introduced 682 bills this year, and 364 became law. Personally, I was a prime Senate sponsor of 18 bills, and nine of them were signed into law. More importantly, the General Assembly worked together to craft a fair amount of successful legislation, on key issues such as K-12 school testing, workforce education and training, law enforcement relations with communities, and more. It wasn't all positive, but we got quite a bit accomplished.
The newsletter to follow was sent out in late May of 2015, and it provides a brief account of some of the highlights and lowlights of the session.
2015 SESSION: IN REVIEW
Our 2015 legislative session ended on May 6, with mixed overall results but some sense of accomplishment. This year, we had a split legislature, since Democrats controlled the House while Republicans controlled the Senate. Conventional wisdom in January suggested it might be a non-productive session characterized by partisan gridlock, and many bills certainly died on party-line votes. However, we worked well together on a number of key issues, and 364 bills became law this year.
This newsletter will touch on some of the highlights and lowlights from the session. Since it's impossible to squeeze everything from a 120-day session into a short letter, you can read any of the 682 bills introduced this year at www.leg.state.co.us.
K-12 TESTING REDUCED
One of our biggest successes this year was the passage of HB 15-1323, a bill that will reduce the amount of K-12 standardized testing and improve our overall assessment system. Concerns about the amount of testing led the General Assembly to form a Standards and Assessments Task Force in 2014, and parts of HB-1323 were derived from Task Force recommendations. To me, this bill provided a great example of how government ought to work over an extended period of time. HB-1323 won't satisfy everyone, but I believe it addressed many of the issues the Task Force identified, and will help us reduce testing while keeping performance and accountability at high levels.
WORKFORCE PACKAGE GETS THROUGH
Colorado has done a great job in bouncing back from the Great Recession. Our unemployment rate is at the lowest point it's been since before the recession, and average personal income has increased. But we know we can do better. This year, we introduced a package of job training and career education bills known as "Colorado Ready to Work," and eight bills from the package passed, including:
All things considered, this package should help many Coloradans compete for better jobs, and boost the overall talent level of our state's workforce. We had very good bipartisan support for these bills, and I count Colorado Ready to Work as one of our top accomplishments of 2015.
EDUCATION IN GENERAL
The overall Colorado economy has definitely improved in recent years, which means more state funding has been available for education. In short, we were able to add just less than $200 million to the state K-12 education budget, which includes $25 million for ongoing funding to address cuts made during the recession. If voters pass a ballot measure on recreational marijuana taxation in November, we will have another $40 million for K-12 facility construction. Also, this year's budget boosted higher education funding by roughly $100 million. This is good news, but education in Colorado remains seriously underfunded, and it's an area we can't neglect if we hope to remain competitive as a state.
A VERY DIFFERENT YEAR IN THE SENATE
With a new majority in the Senate this year, a number of bills I could not support passed the Senate - bills that would have failed last year. Fortunately, these bills were defeated in the House. For just a few examples:
TWO MORE BIG ISSUES FOR THE FUTURE
NEXT YEAR: MY LAST SESSION
It hardly seems possible, but the 2016 session will be my last as a Senator thanks to term limits. This means I will have one more chance to hopefully positively impact the future of this great state.
I have always deeply appreciated the privilege of serving you, my constituents. Over the past seven years, proposals from the people of Senate District 18 have become law, while others have helped us make good bills better with amendments. Please don't hesitate to contact me over the summer with your thoughts, and we'll see what we can accomplish together for Colorado's future.