My staff and I have been getting very busy here at the Capitol. Session has picked up and it shows no signs of slowing down. It has been great to roll up my sleeves and get to work with my colleagues in the House and Senate. This week I presented three bills before committees–rail barrels, unaccompanied homeless youth in-state tuition, and rail safety–and I am pleased to report that each bill was approved by their committees and will soon be heard by the House of Representatives for further consideration. I have more details about each of those bills below.
I have been incredibly lucky this session as I have had many groups from the Pueblo community come to visit me at the Capitol. From constituent meetings to school groups to community advocates I’ve happily hosted a great variety of my constituents and community members. Being based in Denver for the week, I can never get my fill of people from home coming to visit me. Do you want to be a part of the mix and see what I’m working on? Shoot me an email or call my office and my staff and I would love to plan a visit with you.
Bringing the People to the People’s House
We’ve had quite a few visitors joining us at the Capitol in Denver. We hosted a gifted and talented student, Victoria, an eighth grader from Strasburg. She was able to sit on the floor with me as well as attend a few committee hearings. It was great to chat with her about life working at the Capitol! I loved sharing my day with her and the gifted and talented students, they are going to change the world!
We also hosted a group from Leadership Pueblo, a program for people interested in developing their community leadership skills. The Leadership Class of 2016 sat on the floor of both chambers, as well as had lunch with Rep. Navarro, Secretary of State Wayne Williams, and me which was my favorite part of the day. These leaders are incredibly bright and motivated, and it was an honor to host them and get to know them better.
A few representatives from the Pueblo Community Health Center came up to see some of their elected officials as well which I very much enjoyed. I am passionate about accessible health care so the work they do in our community brings me a lot of pride. I hope to see more Puebloans at the Capitol soon!
Early this week I was joined by a motivated group of Puebloans who came to take part in LGBT Lobby Day at the Capitol! They spent the day speaking with their legislators and urging them to support bills that respect and support the LGBT community in Colorado.
Rail Safety Bill up for Consideration in the House
One of the three bills of mine that moved along in the legislative process this week was HB16-1136, a rail safety bill. Growing up in Pueblo, I have been fascinated with the trains that move through our state since I was young. Under the bill I’ve presented, freight train operators will have to maintain a crew of at least two members while the train is in motion. This bill improves the safety of both Colorado railroads as well as the communities located nearby. Crew members will be better able to look after each other and the beautiful Colorado scenery they pass through. We were so honored to welcome a large group of rail roaders in the committee hearing, their support and testimony was undoubtedly a catalyst for the bill’s successful move out of committee. I’m proud to announce that this bill passed the House on March 4. It’s on its way to the Senate, so your continued support is powerful and very appreciated.
In-State Tuition for Unaccompanied Homeless Youth
Homeless youth are one of the most vulnerable populations in our state. Those who attempt to access higher education are being charged the same rates as their out-of-state counterparts despite being residents in our state for more than a year. The costs of higher education at an out-of-state rate are unattainable for homeless youth which is especially saddening when you consider that these students already qualify for federal aid. Access to higher education is needed to break the cycle of poverty and homelessness, those with a college degree are more likely to be employed and earn a living wage. They are then more likely to be able to afford permanent housing and not need public assistance. For those who want to improve their lives with an education we need to be facilitators, not a hindrance. This policy that I am working on with Rep. Brittany Pettersen (D-Jefferson County) would ensure that these students are able to gain residency like almost every other group of students is currently able to under state law.
Legalizing Residential Rain Barrels
Allowing Colorado residents to collect residential rainwater will bring the state’s water laws to the 21st century. Colorado is the only state in the nation that prohibits its residents from collecting rain water. A household can collect up to 110 gallons of water under this bill, the collected rainwater can be used for outdoor purposes like watering a flower garden or your lawn. This bill increases public knowledge about water conservation, which we will need when addressing Colorado’s long-term water issues. This bill has received support from over 30 organizations state wide as well as popular support from citizens as shown by the Denver Post poll shown above. I am excited to announce that my colleagues in the House passed this bill with overwhelming bipartisan support 61-3!
My First Bill of the Year is Headed to the Governor’s Desk!
Having our state agencies run more efficiently helps make Colorado a better place to live. Under this bill, the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing is able to streamline for efficiency and better report their work to Colorado citizens. This bill passed the both chambers unanimously, which exemplifies the bipartisan effort that went into its creation. It is now heading to Gov. Hickenlooper’s desk!
Supporting Coloradans Ready for Work
We recently announced the 2016 Colorado Ready to Work package, which helps make Colorado a better place for both employees and employers. HB16-1289 will provide incentives for our high schools to have career preparation services for their students, especially in high-demand industries like computer science. This bill will help to ensure that Colorado students are learning workplace-specific skills. Our goal is to prepare Coloradans for the jobs of the future and create a skilled workforce for our innovative employers to draw from.
I am also a sponsor of HB16-1290 which extends the ReHire Colorado program. This is a proven program that provides job training to give participants the opportunity to go from welfare to work. ReHire Colorado focuses their work on assisting veterans, seniors, and non-custodial parents to obtain long-term employment. It’s no wonder why this program was praised in Gov. Hickenlooper’s State of the State address, to date more than 1,000 Coloradan have been ReHired through this program. All of the “Ready for Work” bills in this package are bipartisan efforts, including members of leadership from both parties.
My statement on EVRAZ’ Idling of Pueblo Pipe Unit
Steel mill jobs built Pueblo and I owe everything to this town, so I am deeply saddened to hear about the loss of 70 more jobs. Both of my grandfathers were steel workers, and that foundation was what allowed my family to have a good life here in Pueblo. This comes at a tough time for the industry and is in part due to unfairly traded and subsidized steel imports–which shows how important it is for us to buy what America makes. I will continue to be a champion for the steel workers here and in Colorado and fight for better jobs, better education, and policies at the state house that work for all families.