I would like to thank all of you that made it out to my recent town halls and legislative breakfasts. Listening to your feedback is the most important part of my job, and I will remember these discussions as I face many difficult decisions this legislative session. I intend to be a strong voice for Southern Colorado, and I hope you continue to share your ideas and concerns with me in the years ahead.
As Coloradans we all know that we must work hard and continue on the road of economic recovery to create more jobs and opportunities for generations to come. We have many bills addressing economic development this year, and the first five bills proposed in the House are targeted towards supporting Colorado companies and workers. HB13-1001 is the Advanced Industries Acceleration Act and will encourage growth in advance industries through public-private partnerships, early capital, and a strong infrastructure to support these businesses. HB13-1002 provides direct support to new business owners through Colorado’s network of Small Business Development Centers. SBDCs are a proven success, creating almost 2,000 jobs in 2012 alone with very little investment money.
I’m particularly excited about my “Economic Gardening” bill HB13-1003. I sponsored this bill to help second-stage businesses grow and expand to create more jobs by streamlining their business strategies. Small businesses drive our economic prosperity, and this bill is another way we can encourage growth.
The last two of our top five jobs bills, HB13-1004 and HB13-1005 help equip our fellow Coloradans with the skills they need to find jobs that are currently available. HB13-1004 helps direct jobs training programs towards industries that need more trained workers. HB13-1005 will focus on the 360,000 adults who don’t have a high school diploma by creating pilot programs with career and technical education certificate courses.
These are all common-sense ideas to create jobs in Colorado, and I am proud to support these bills that are good for Colorado businesses and workers.
I am working on a bipartisan bill, HB13-1194, with Rep. Justin Everett, that will expand in-state college tuition rates to more of our military veterans and their dependents. Anything we can do to promote education for those who have bravely sacrificed for us, we must. This is a great bill that will help our men and women when they return from service.
Another important issue that has come to my attention is the repurposing of the Fort Lyon facility in Bent County. I am working together with Rep. Tim Dore on this bill which will designate a portion of the Fort Lyon property as a transitional residential community for the homeless, military veterans, and many other citizens. The program will provide substance abuse treatment, medical care, job training, and skill development for the residents. Rather than having this significant state asset sit vacant, the state will be able to use the facility to benefit many of our struggling fellow citizens.
We’ve had meetings with Gov. Hickenlooper’s office and the initial meetings have been promising toward finding a new purpose for this Fort Lyon facility
You’ve probably seen the news that the Colorado House of Representatives debated and passed a package of gun safety bills over the last couple weeks. The events in Aurora and Newtown made us all think about what can be done to reduce these horrible acts of violence while protecting the rights of responsible gun owners. Listening to the debate and feedback from the people of my district, I was able to support one of the proposed bills while opposing the three others.
One common-sense bill was proposed to require background checks for all gun sales to keep guns out of the hands of criminals, domestic violence offenders, and the seriously mentally ill. Background checks are already performed by licensed gun dealers but private sellers and internet sellers make up approximately 40 percent of all gun sales and currently do not conduct these checks. I carefully weighed the issue and decided that keeping guns away from dangerous people does not hurt the rights of law-abiding gun owners.
But there have been some other gun safety bills that are not supported by Southern Colorado, as I learned from many conversations, emails, postcards, letters, and voicemails. I stood by my constituents and voted against the three other bills. As new ideas come forward, I will always look first to the people of my district to make my decisions.
I have heard your concerns regarding cleaning up the blighted property at 4th & Elizabeth. Soon, the Colorado State Board and I will be working together to demolish the old building and clean up the property. I will do my best to ensure that this property and other eye sores in Pueblo County will be cleaned up in a timely and efficient manner. Cleaning up these areas of blighted property help raise our property values and highlight how beautiful our community truly is.
The Naval Reserve Building at Northern and Acero is scheduled to begin demolition on May 31, 2013. The cost to demolish the property is approximately $350K - $400K, which is being paid for by CDPHE, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment through grants. Another $50K is being funded by the Department of Agriculture.
There are currently two other bills in the State House that were passed by the State Senate that I’m proud to support. The first is SB13-011, the Civil Unions bill. I believe all committed couples deserve equal protection under the law and am honored to be a co-sponsor on Speaker Mark Ferrandino’s legislation that provides Colorado’s loving families with simple protections like emergency medical care and visitation, end-of-life care, access to health, life, and property insurance policies, and adoption rights.
The second of these is SB13-033, the Colorado “ASSET” bill, of which I am a co-sponsor. This bill will allow all Colorado high school graduates to attend colleges and universities in Colorado at the in-state tuition price. This will allow those students, who are Coloradans in every way except on paper, to have access to a quality higher education. This bill is a great investment for Colorado and its promising minds that have called Colorado home forever and have come to the United States through no fault of their own. We want to keep our best and brightest minds in Colorado, studying at our schools and preparing to give back to our economy.
HB13-1003 Economic Gardening
This bill passed the House Business Committee and now awaits approval from the House Appropriations Committee, which if passed will be referred to the entire House of Representatives.
HB13-1063 Critical Care Paramedics
This bill has passed the House of Representatives unanimously, and my colleague Sen. Angela Giron successfully passed the bill through the State Senate. The bill was signed into law by Gov. Hickenlooper on March 8.
I would like to invite all who are available to a town hall I’m hosting on Saturday March 23 at the Pueblo’s Rawlings Branch Library from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. The library is located at 100 E. Abriendo Ave. I will be talking to you about many bills I’m supporting and listening to you about how they will affect our community. I will post information on Facebook, Twitter and my website blog. Please check those sites for town hall updates and other important events.
The Greater Pueblo Chamber of Commerce hosts legislative breakfasts where citizens have the opportunity to visit and speak with their legislators. I have all these legislative events in my personal calendar and plan on attending. The next legislative breakfast is March 16 at 8:00 a.m. at the Pueblo Convention Center. If you cannot make that one there will be another one on April 13, same time and place.
Another important event that I would like to invite you to is the Democrat’s St. Patrick’s Day Dinner on March 16. Tickets can be bought for $25 per person. The reception will be held at 5:30 p.m. with dinner to follow at 6:30 p.m. This will be at the Pueblo Union Depot in Pueblo, Colorado. The keynote speaker will be my friend and colleague Speaker Mark Ferrandino. To purchase a ticket please call Debbie Duran at 719.252.1892, or contact the Pueblo Democratic Party at 719.546.2745. Please leave a message if no one is available to take your call.
State Capitol Building #271
200 E. Colfax Ave. Denver, CO 80203.