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Working to make college more affordable

I had a few visitors from people in our district this week.

These visits are always welcome since it is difficult being so far from family and friends in southwest Colorado. These constituents were local Fort Lewis College students.

On Wednesday, hundreds of college students marched to the Capitol to protest state cuts to higher education. I met with students from our district to talk about the problem of education funding in our state. There is no easy solution to this problem, but I believe tuition increases should not be the only consideration. We should be working to make college more affordable for our students and families, particularly in this economy. The governor established a commission to study higher education funding and it will return with recommendations on how we can better fund our schools.

House Bill 1001 (raising Colorado’s Renewable Energy Standard) passed on third reading Friday, advancing our state’s renowned reputation as a national leader in renewable energy. I have already written at length about this bill and will only add one more thing: This week VoteSolar and Environment Colorado released a report estimating HB 1001 will create more than 23,000 jobs, generate enough local electricity to power more than 100,000 homes and generates billions in revenue for our economy while also reducing emissions. We owe this bill to future generations of Coloradans and I am proud to sponsor such important legislation.

While on the note of clean energy, I will also sponsor legislation that will encourage the use of natural gas. Our state has the third largest reserves and is currently the seventh largest producer of natural gas. Supporting greater development of natural gas will allow Colorado to lead the nation in cutting down air pollution, creating jobs and increasing the use of cleaner energy sources.

This week, the Senate passed a bill that will help Coloradans keep their jobs. Senate Bill 28 will prevent layoffs by providing an option of spreading work hour reductions over a group of workers. Workers whose hours are reduced will be compensated with Work Share Benefits from the unemployment insurance fund. This bill helps employers, employees and our economy by helping businesses retain good workers and reduce payroll costs, and by allowing workers to keep their jobs, healthcare, and retirement benefits. It will also save $2 million in unemployment expenses. The bill is now headed to the House.

I have agreed to be the Senate sponsor with Rep. Ellen Roberts on a resolution supporting federal legislation to provide in-state television programming to southwest Colorado. We live in Colorado and should have access to our own state’s television programming. This point was never more evident than when I visited with a group of students recently. I asked if any students knew who the governor is and one young man confidently proclaimed “Bill Richardson!” Our district is frustrated by the lack of access to Colorado programming and it is unacceptable that we receive programming primarily from New Mexico. This resolution will encourage our federal legislators to continue the work they are currently doing to address this problem. As Colorado citizens, we deserve access to television programming from the state we live in.

Not too long ago, the Senate passed a resolution reinforcing rules for decorum on the Senate floor. As legislators we represent the people of Colorado and work for the constituents in our districts. Although discussions can get heated on the floor, we should never result to insults or name-calling. I feel that I owe it to my constituents and to the people in Colorado to maintain civility both on and off the floor. I will continue to do so as long as I serve you in the Senate. Thanks for reading.