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Introducing bills into the legislative process

A routine is slowly developing around the Capitol as committees meet and legislators’ bills are introduced into the legislative process. I have a heavy committee schedule, sitting on three regularly meeting committees, health and human services, judiciary and local government and energy.

This many committee assignments for a senator is unusual, but given the small number of Western Slope legislators in the Senate, I’m not asking for a lighter workload as it’s important that we have as much representation on the various committees as possible.

Rural Colorado presents a much different landscape, figuratively and literally, and I’ve noticed from my time in the House that different questions are on my mind when I hear the bills and testimony being presented than the questions asked by my urban colleagues.

Last week, I wrote about a bill of mine that aims to stop the raiding of the severance tax cash funds intended for mitigating impacts on local communities and for water storage projects. There’s also a component that would stop the taking of the federal mineral lease money that’s supposed to be used to fund higher education.

Unfortunately, the bill’s been assigned to the State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee. One might reasonably ask what does the bill have to do with those areas of state government? The answer is none. But, the committee’s also known as the “kill committee” which means the Senate President really doesn’t want us to talk about the bill, let alone have it advance to the Senate floor.

This is more than unfortunate because we aren’t doing ourselves any favors when we deny the state’s fiscal situation by raiding cash funds to balance the budget. Yet, I take heart in knowing that the same bill has also been introduced in the House and will get at least a more complete hearing there and may be coming over to the Senate for a second bite at the apple. I am working with State Representative Don Coram, from Montrose, on these bills and he knows as well as I do the importance of this budget conversation that we must face.

I’ve also introduced a senate joint resolution that makes clear the Colorado legislature’s commitment to not pass unfunded mandates down to local governments. It’s also a message to Washington, D.C., to stop the practice of passing unfunded mandates on to state governments. The resolution, too, has been assigned to State Affairs, another perplexing assignment since it is clearly a non-partisan issue that we should be prepared to address head on. Clearly, I have my work cut out for me, but I don’t give up easily.

A very bright spot in the upcoming week is that the Colorado Youth Advisory Council, now in its third year of existence since I carried the bill creating it, will be at the Capitol to observe and participate in their government. Several youth from southwest Colorado are on the council and I really look forward to their enthusiasm, ideas and interest in Colorado’s future.