Legislative session moves at ‘warp speed’

We’re in the final stages of the legislative session and the pace of the bills moving through is at warp speed.

This is in part due to the budget finally getting worked through both the House and Senate and the bills with a new fiscal impact that were held up until the budget was completed are now breaking loose.

A few of my bills are still in the process. Most are ones that I’ve carried with Sen. Isgar and they involve funding for small water projects, funding for agricultural renewable energy start-ups and the regional health program for the San Luis Valley to cover more of the uninsured workers there. None of these bills actually cost the state new money, but they were delayed along with the other bills with budgeting issues.

If you consider that there are 100 legislators and, if each of us has a few bills like these, you can see why we’re now in the phase of the legislature that resembles a snake eating its prey. That’s as far as I’ll go with that visual image. What it means to the legislators is we have to stay on top of things, now more than ever. This is hard as we’re operating on less sleep as we spend more time in debates on the floor and committees run late into the evening again.

This year, we also have a lot of bills just being introduced, even at this late stage. That troubles me because a number of these bills are not small potatoes, but tackle difficult topics that often have many consequences. There’s not space in this column to go into each one, but there’s much still going on, despite our required May 6 date of adjournment.

I’ve had the chance to visit with several former legislators in the past few weeks, a couple of them who went on to be governor as well, and it’s been helpful to hear their individual perspectives on the times we’re in. With term limits, we no longer have the benefit of the experience and ideas of the legislators who have been through similar times. And, as I like to remind my young adult children, there really is some wisdom gained from experience.

As we move toward the end of the session, we begin to consider the work that we’ll be doing during the interim. I’m really pleased to report that a bill I am cosponsoring creating an interim committee to study hospice and palliative care in Colorado passed last week. Each year, a few legislative study committees are established, with the charge of the committee set up by the bill requesting it.

In this case, we’ve asked for a committee to look into the barriers and opportunities to improve access to health care for the most sick among us. Whether the patient is someone struggling with chronic disease management or a terminal illness, we know that we can do better in this area of healthcare and exploring those issues will be the task of the interim committee.

In addition to this committee, I’ll continue on the Colorado Criminal and Juvenile Justice Commission as we work toward further improvements in our criminal justice system. Besides K-12 education, health care and criminal justice are the two biggest areas of state spending, so we need to do our best to see that the dollars are well spent, especially in these challenging economic times. While we’ve managed to balance the budget this year, we’ll face the same struggle next year, with even less revenue than we had this year.

In addition to working on these committees, in a few weeks, I’ll be back home in the district and plan to be meeting with groups and individuals to discuss their concerns and questions. Please get in touch with me if you’d like to set up a time to do that.