Under the Dome: Thoughts after Senate sessions
Well, one of the most contentious sessions in the history of the Colorado Legislature has come to a close, not with a bang but almost a whimper and we were all headed home before midnight on the last day. I’m not sure whether to report on the bad, the good or the just plain ugly moments.
I’ll start with some of the best. My high school interns from Glenwood Springs, under their teacher Christine Smalley, wrote me letters every Friday and visited the Capitol. Thanks to Ashley Urrutia, Ashley Weir, Hannah Worline, Isabelle Lorah, Linnaea Petterson, and Mariana Ruiz, I felt like I was in touch with the people I attempt to represent in Denver.
I moved to the Senate in January after going to work in November on the Joint Budget Committee as a representative. Since I was able to become the Senate member of the JBC, my committee role didn’t change that much, but I started to work with a great group of senators and become part of their team.
Under very trying circumstances as the minority, I know that we did an exceptional job of standing up for the people who elected us. And we all worked hard. I got home one morning at 5:30 after an all-night session and Joyce was already up drinking coffee.
But I don’t want to dwell on the negatives. Plenty of news reporters were around to capture our differences. Instead, I would like to report on some bipartisan efforts that I worked on, and that resulted in new laws to help rural Colorado and the Western Slope. Since I’m the only JBC member from rural or western parts of the state, I have a special obligation to stand up for us in committee and on the floor of the Senate and to work hard on these issues.
First on my list of really good bills, amid turmoil, is a bill to enact a reinsurance program that will finally give some relief to families that must purchase their health insurance. Reinsurance insures the insurance carrier against very high-cost claims. With the help of both parties and both houses and the governor’s office as well as the Colorado Hospital Association, we were able to find a way to fund the program.
A special shout-out to Representative Julie McCloskey whose district overlaps mine and for her work on this one. If all goes well with federal approvals, we’ll see about a 30% cost reduction for premiums on the western slope starting next January.
My second whoopie is the READ Act, revisited. This bill updates a bill first passed in 2012 to ensure that our kids can read proficiently at the third grade. We weren’t making progress but saw that some of our schools and other states know how to use the science of reading instruction to help every child.
This turned out to be an awe-inspiring collaboration of almost every education advocacy group in the state. It passed both houses with a unanimous vote, a welcome outcome for everyone. We do agree on some things.
I was also privileged to carry several bills on behalf of the Joint Budget Committee including funding for water projects and transportation. The JBC recommended, and the legislature approved, funding for full-day kindergarten and more funding for K12 and higher education. We are concerned about longer term sustainability and the impact of even a mild recession.
I’m enjoying the new role as your state senator, and I’m honored to be representing so much of our beautiful state. If you’re reading my column for the first time, let me know your reactions and tell me what I can do to be more effective as your senator.