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Working hard to pass bills before session end

The session is coming to a close. As with most things in life, time passes much quicker than you expect. I cannot help but reflect on my experience and accomplishments in my first year as your state Senator. I’ll save those sentiments for next week’s column, which will be my final update on legislation since we will end on Wednesday, May 12.

I am working hard to help pass late bills that will create jobs and improve the lives of Coloradans long after the legislative session has ended. Some of the bills I introduced will help address some of the issues you have contacted me about and that are important to you.

Senate Bill 202, the Life-long Learning and Jobs Retraining Act, is a bill I am sponsoring to help workers continue their education and training. This bill will create tax deductible savings accounts for employees that can be matched by their employers. A similar bill was initiated by Representative Andy Kerr (D-Lakewood) earlier in the session. It was killed in House committee because of the fiscal note included in the bill. I worked on a solution where money will be transferred from the sale of student loans as required by the federal government. These loans were previously administered by CollegeInvest and a portion of funds generated by the sale will be used to get this program started. I am glad I was able bring this bill back and give this opportunity to workers interested in furthering their education or training.

House Bill 1403 is another bill I am working on in the last days of the session in order to save the state money. This bill will modernize the way the Colorado Secretary of State Department does business and sends out notifications. It will allow the Secretary of State’s office to use e-mail as an official form of communication. The move from traditional mail to e-mail will save hundreds of thousands of dollars each year in postage, postcards and letters. It will be heard on the floor next week.

Senate Bill 198 is a late bill I introduced to address the issue of late fines for trailers. The legislature approved a similar measure recently in House Bill 1211, but it only reduced late fines for trailers under 2,000 pounds. The bill I introduced will cover the remaining trailers including stock trailers, campers and multipurpose trailers over 2,000 pounds but less than 16,000 pounds. Many of you contacted me to express your frustration with added fees for late registration of vehicles. The added fine for trailers was particularly unpopular because most of us use our trailers infrequently. This bill will reduce that late fine to a flat fee of $10 rather than the maximum $100 charge. It passed the Senate on third reading Friday and awaits approval from the House.

I also sponsored House Bill 1398, which will allocate reserved funds into the Species Conservation Trust Fund. This bill diverts money annually for programs to preserve native species deemed endangered or threatened by either state or federal law. It is important that we protect our unique wildlife in Colorado and fund programs that ensure the continued survival of threatened species. The money for this fund will allow us to prevent more species from being added to the federal government list of endangered species. The bill passed unanimously.

On Thursday we honored the service of Senators who will not be returning to the Legislature next year. I had the privilege of working with these fine people, both Democrat and Republican alike, on various bills throughout the session. In a time when bipartisanship seems more like a philosophy, we put it into practice in the Colorado legislature. I have great respect and admiration for their commitment to the citizens of Colorado. Lastly, I’d like to thank the Colorado West Christian School in Montrose for visiting on Wednesday. In the hustle and bustle of the end of the session, it was nice to visit with some people from home.