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News from the ‘mobile legislative unit’

I write this column as I sit in what I fondly refer to as my “mobile legislative unit,” otherwise known as my car.

The state doesn’t provide us with an office or equipment, so legislators must make do with what we have.

Since I live out of town, I try to make use of the time in between meetings. Luckily, with the technology we now have, I can get my laptop up and running wherever I find myself, which is often in my “mobile unit.” I move my car when spotted by those looking for parking permits or more coins for the meter. Don’t let anyone tell you that the state legislator’s life is luxurious!

I recently read a library book about the life of Betty Pellet, a southwestern Colorado state Representative from Rico back in the mid-1900s, and she, too, writes about spending a lot of time on the road attending meetings and making do with little resources. I’m not sure what Representative Pellet would think of email or our current legislative schedules, but it was interesting to read what her life in the legislature was like 50 years ago.

October was a busy month with the final meeting for the hospice and palliative care interim committee that I was on. I’ll be carrying three bills resulting from the work of that committee which focused on identifying and reducing the barriers to access to hospice and palliative care in Colorado. Many groups have been involved in the development of these bills and I’ve gained an even deeper appreciation for the wonderful work being done by those in this field.

On Halloween, I flew to Denver for the second annual meeting of the Colorado Youth Advisory Council (COYAC). You may remember that COYAC was created by a bill I carried two years ago that was largely drafted by two dozen students from this corner of the state. Some of those students came to the Capitol to testify on behalf of the bill.

COYAC is a legislative advisory group of 40 youths from around the state. They choose what issues they’ll work on during the year and they come to the Capitol at least twice during our legislative session to learn more about the democratic process, to attend committee hearings and to meet their legislators.

The council has staggered terms for members, so, at the annual meeting, there was a mix of new and returning students. I was very impressed by how quickly the group moved into the work of considering their policy priorities for the next year and how well they worked together as a new group. Legislators could certainly learn something from them in that regard.

The issues identified by this year’s council include a broad range of topics, such as education and economic opportunities for youth. It was pointed out that there are fewer jobs for young people as those who are older and with more skills now crowd the job market. These are tough times and the students are very aware of that.

I’ve been the legislator co-chair of COYAC for the past year, but much of the hard work of organizing and planning from the adult side has come from the Colorado Civic Canopy, a Denver based non-profit that focuses on civic engagement. I’m very grateful for the help they’ve given COYAC and me.

COYAC is working on a stand alone website for the group to help facilitate their work in between the four meetings they have each year and to help strengthen the network of youth organizations across Colorado.

Politics at times can be a bit discouraging, especially given the difficult economic times that we’re in. Spending even just a day with this group of committed and enthusiastic young people, though, is incredibly rewarding and I feel confident that, through COYAC, we’re growing a great group of new leaders for Colorado each and every year.