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Budget bill moves through House

The budget moved through the House this week with much less debate and controversy than in any of the three prior years. In a time of budget shortfalls, there’s little to discuss as most of the budget cuts from the past year need to remain in place for the upcoming year as well.

I voted no on some of the companion budget bills that had to do with the expansion of state programs because of the fiscal impacts of such expansions, but I voted for the budget bill itself since it’s necessary for essential state services like roads, driver’s license services and running our schools, courts and prison systems.

I sponsored an amendment to the budget bill to remove a potentially damaging reference to Fort Lewis College’s ability to manage its own affairs. I’m pleased that the amendment passed with significant bipartisan support and help from several legislators who are proud Fort Lewis alumni.

It’s been unfortunate to see the number of times Denver-based decisions reflect a lack of knowledge and respect for Fort Lewis’ history and wonderfully diverse student body and faculty. Yet, we’re getting the legislators familiar with our college by talking about it and increasing their awareness of its unique position in Colorado’s college system, as well as in the national college system.

I’d also like to recognize Fort Lewis College’s incredibly successful athletes in so many sports, including most recently the women’s basketball team, as well as the men’s soccer and cycling teams. I want you to know that you’re also wonderful and well known topics of discussion when I share stories about Fort Lewis College with my fellow legislators.

In another déjà vu moment this week, I was indirectly made aware of a press release from the Colorado Broadcasters Association that roughly says we in southwest Colorado don’t have a problem with getting Denver television broadcasts. Or, if we do have a problem, it’s not their fault or the fault of the FCC.

Gosh, I’m getting tired of hearing whose fault this isn’t and, if it was true that all of us could get Denver stations as we’d like, I wouldn’t care anymore about whose fault it was or why it had been a problem. But, unfortunately, that’s not the case.

I’d suggest that anyone who’s interested in this issue should provide the Colorado Broadcasters Association with the same disturbing input that I’ve received for my nearly four years as a legislator. The phone number for the CBA is (970) 547-1388. If stirring the pot results in action and another piece of legislation, whether at the state or federal level, is never needed again, count me as a happy camper.

With many of the session’s traditional milestones nearly completed, there’s talk that we may end the session early this year and that sounds good to me. I have a few bills still in the works over in the Senate and a couple of my bills that were passed out of their first committee back in January have yet to be heard in the House Appropriations Committee. However, they have been scheduled for this next week, so I should have more to report on these bills soon.

One of these is the bill idea brought to me by the United Way of Southwest Colorado and the Mile High United Way of Denver that would create a voluntary state income tax donation to support statewide 2-1-1 services. The second bill is a hospice and palliative care interim committee bill that requests the state to seek a federal waiver to allow Colorado to have more discretion regarding eligibility of Medicaid patients to receive hospice services.