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A busy week with water, agriculture and funding

It’s been an extremely busy week. I had the honor of speaking at the Colorado Water Congress annual legislative breakfast. I joined many representatives from the House but was the only Senator in attendance.

This was not a surprise, since I have already been labeled the “water guy” in the Senate. As the “water guy” I’ve been working on several water bills this session, including a bill that will require large water providers to annually report on water use, including estimates of conservation, to the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

As is true with many bills, there are some that disagree with the concept, so at my request, the State Affairs Committee of the Colorado Water Congress created a subcommittee to discuss the merits of the bill. To dispel any concerns, there are no plans for mandated amounts or percentages for conservation measures based on collected data. The bill merely establishes a tool to better evaluate water conservation in our state. With Colorado’s population expected to double by 2050 and its water use will increase significantly, this bill will help the state in evaluating the long term water supplies.

I’m glad to report that a bill I am working on with the Department of Agriculture was heard in the Ag and Natural Resource Committee this week. Senate Bill 34 addresses recent changes in the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and will give the State of Colorado the authority to inspect pesticide establishments that refill pesticide containers and ensure they are in compliance with the federal residue removal requirements. My bill aligns state law with the new federal regulations.

I’m continuing to work with the Department of Higher Education and governor’s office to secure fair and equitable funding for Fort Lewis College. The bill sponsor withdrew House Bill 1067, but hard feelings in our community remain, rooted in misconceptions about the bill from the beginning. Allow me to clarify that Rep. Middleton never intended the bill to be an attack on Native American students. As legislators, we have a responsibility to keep the budget balanced and support the economic vitality of our state. HB-1067 proposed unpopular cuts, but cuts to other programs are occurring all around the state. We are charged with balancing the state budget, just as you need to live within your budget at home. Rep. Middleton was only doing her job as a legislator during difficult economic times.

As you are probably aware, we have been discussing some very important bills in the Senate recently. Senate Bill 001, better known as the PERA bill, made it through committee and we debated the bill on the Senate floor Friday. I have received many letters and e-mails about PERA from people in our district. Current employees and retired stakeholders are rightfully concerned about the future of the state’s retirement fund. The fact of the matter remains that, without immediate action from this Legislature, PERA may not have a future in 25 years. We must protect the solvency of PERA and secure its long-term stability for our beneficiaries and current employees.

I’ll close with a note about our men and women in service. Monday was Military Day at the Capitol, and the day was filled with military proceedings, tributes, and anthems. We were able to reflect on the sacrifices made by our service members and we honored our veterans and current soldiers. We owe our men and women in uniform an incredible debt of gratitude, and I hope that one day their service will only be needed for peaceful purposes. To our service members currently abroad, thank you for your service and sacrifices. We pray for your safe and speedy return home.