Friday, March 14, 2008


College Textbook Affordability

Act Clears Senate

DENVER—Today the Senate gave final approval to Senate Bill 73, sponsored by Senator Ron Tupa (D-Boulder) and Representative John Kefalas (D-Ft Collins), which would help lower the cost of textbooks in Colorado.

The College Textbook Affordability Act will prohibit college professors from ordering textbooks until they know how much the publisher is going to charge for those textbooks. The proposal also requires publishers to disclose changes made to each new edition of their textbooks. The bill will also prohibit publishers from bundling textbooks with additional materials such as CD-ROMs, as they are rarely used by instructors or students but significantly increase the price of textbooks.

“Passage of Senate Bill 73, the College Textbook Affordability Act, will save students and their parents hundreds of dollars a year in college expenses,” Tupa said. “This bill is an important piece of legislation that reduces the overall cost of higher education, by injecting competition into the otherwise “closed” college textbook market.”

Tupa represents Boulder, which has the highest student population in the state. Many of his constituents are already making enormous financial sacrifices to even enroll in colleges and universities.

The bill next heads to the Governor for signature.


DENVER—Today the full Senate gave final approval to HB08-1304, which would make it illegal to hunt, take, or illegally possess bald eagles in Colorado.

Sponsored by Senator Gail Schwartz (D-Snowmass), the bill would make each violation an unclassified misdemeanor that would carry a fine of $1,000 to $100,000, up to one year imprisonment in a county jail, or both. Additionally, a fine of 20 points could be assessed against a violator’s hunting license.

Although the bald eagle will continue to be protected under the federal “Bald Eagle Protection Act” and the “Migratory Bird Treaty Act,” once the bald eagle is not listed as threatened or endangered, the penalties for illegally taking or possessing bald eagles will drop significantly.

“The recovery of the bald eagle in America is a major conservation accomplishment,” said Schwartz. “It is imperative that Colorado maintain its aggressive protection of bald eagles so that future generations can enjoy these magnificent symbols of America.”

The bill next heads back to the House for concurrence.


Senator Completes

Hat Trick in Senate Ed

DENVER—Today Senator Bob Bacon (D-Fort Collins) successfully steered three bills through the Senate Education Committee. In a single afternoon, Bacon passed bills to allow more financial independence for schools, set parameters for charter school classification and clarify current education statutes.

“It was a good day to have three excellent successes and have in depth discussion on significant education issues,” Bacon said.

-HB08-1002 would grant investment authority and fiduciary responsibility to the Board of Trustees at Mesa State College and to the Board of Governors of the Colorado State University.

-HB08-1159 would establish good neighbor policies between the Charter School Institute and school districts to exchange information and create a process by which districts are granted and denied chartering authority. The bill would set guidelines on addressing interactions between a school district's local board of education, the State Board of Education, and the State Charter School Institute.

-HB08-1079 would amend Colorado statute by replacing the term “vocational education” with the term “career and technical education” to conform to federal law. The bill would amend money counted toward enterprise status for the Community College Board, and mitigate the likelihood of community colleges going in and out of enterprise status depending on the level of capital construction funding in any given fiscal year.

Bacon plans to spend his evening in an easy chair.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


DENVER—Today the Senate State Affairs Committee passed SB08-192, which would create guidelines for residential picketing.

Sponsored by Senator Suzanne Williams (D-Aurora), the bill would prohibit targeted residential picketing, establish restrictions on the size and number of signs that picketers can carry and specify the distance from a residence that picketers must remain.

“This bill is about peace and privacy for Colorado families,” said Williams. “The parameters created in this bill support and guide law enforcement in their efforts to keep our communities safe.”

Williams introduced a similar measure in 2001 that was killed by the Republican-controlled House. SB08-192 differs from the 2001 measure by providing additional clarification for law enforcement officers keeping the peace in residential areas. Violators could be charged with an unclassified misdemeanor and be subject to up to $5,000 in court fees.

The bill next heads to the full Senate for consideration.


Bill Could Help Keep Pharmaceuticals
Out of Colorado’s Drinking Water

DENVER—Today the Senate Health and Human Services Committee passed Senate Bill 190, which requires pharmacists to re-dispense certain unused medicines in licensed care centers.

Sponsored by Senator Lois Tochtrop (D-Thornton), the bill requires pharmacists, including those who are Medicaid providers, to re-dispense Medicaid medications that are returned and meet certain criteria related to packaging, proper storage, and expiration dates. Currently, pharmacists are not required by law to re-dispense returned medications.

“This bill will go a long way to alleviate some of the concerns about pharmaceuticals in Colorado’s drinking water,” Tochtrop said. “When pharmacists re-dispense unused drugs it saves taxpayer dollars in Medicaid costs and reduces the amount of pharmaceuticals going out in the garbage.”

The bill comes amid concerns that pharmaceuticals — including antibiotics, anti-convulsants, mood stabilizers and sex hormones — have been found in the drinking-water supplies of at least 41 million Americans.

The bill next heads to the Senate Appropriations Committee for consideration.


Draft Bill Open for Comments, Criticism

DENVER—Today Senator Chris Romer (D-Denver) announced that he has posted a draft of the bill that will give every Coloradan the historic opportunity to help craft legislation to ease weekend traffic on Interstate 70.

Last month Romer launched an online forum to gather suggestions, comments and criticism on his proposal. Some of the bill’s provisions are a direct result of the information collected from citizens.

"We expect a certain amount of pushback from the trucking industry," Romer said. "Though small, this group has a powerful voice at the state Capitol, and it's time for the public to have their say."

Log on to view and comment on the Wiki-Bill at:


DENVER—Today the full Senate gave initial approval to SB08-130. Sponsored by Senate President Peter Groff (D-Denver), the bill would allow schools and school districts to innovate in their approach to improving student performance by creating Zones of Innovative Performance (ZIPs).

If schools’ applications are approved by their local board of education, they could be granted the power to control budgets, hiring, curriculum, length of the school day and teacher compensation, for example. Upon local board approval, these schools would submit the innovation plan to the State Board of Education for designation as an innovative school or zone of innovation.

The bill serves as a tool to allow schools to assess their particular needs and to remove barriers by implementing strategies based on individual school assessments.

“A status quo approach is no longer working and in fact is hindering our ability to graduate our students with the skills they need to succeed in a global economy,” said Groff. “With passage of this bill, we have new tools to improve student performance and close the achievement gap by allowing more innovation in the way we educate our kids.”

The bill will next be considered by the Senate on third and final reading.


Bill Repeals State Tax Aircraft
Manufactured in Colorado

DENVER—Today the Senate Finance Committee passed HB08-1261, sponsored by Senator Bob Bacon (D-Fort Collins) to repeal state sales tax on an aircraft manufactured in Colorado and sold to buyers outside the state.

Colorado was formerly a leader in the aerospace industry, but in recent years aircraft manufacturers and their high-paying high-tech jobs have left the state in search of more favorable business environments.

“We want to reverse that trend in Colorado by creating incentives for the aerospace industry to grow,” Bacon said. “This bill is part of a package of bills aimed at revitalizing this sector of our economy.”

Currently, a newly-manufactured aircraft is subject to both sales and use taxes in Colorado. To avoid paying sales tax, some sellers would fly new planes out of Colorado to sell them, which proved too costly and cumbersome for aircraft manufacturers.

The bill next moves to the full Senate next for consideration.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


DENVER Chosen from a national pool of state legislators, Senator Moe Keller (D-Wheat Ridge) was named by the American Psychological Association (APA) Practice Organization as 2008 State Legislator of the Year.

Keller will be presented with an award by the organization on March 10 at the State Leadership Conference in Washington D.C. Keller is recognized for her leadership in successful legislation related to mental health equality and sponsorship of several bills directly benefiting citizens and consumers of psychological services in Colorado.

“Even though we have made a lot of progress in Colorado, there is still a lot of work to be done,” Keller said. “I would like to expand community based mental health treatment for individuals and their families and implement a triage program to handle the mentally ill taken to hospital emergency rooms.”

In 2007 Keller passed an extension of mental health parity coverage in Colorado to include nine additional mental disorders: PTSD, drug and alcohol disorders, dysthymia, cyclothymia, social phobia, agoraphobia with panic disorder, general anxiety disorder, anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa.

“Considering her long-standing efforts to improve the mental health system in Colorado, I believe that she is an outstanding candidate for this distinguished award,” said John Mahalik, Ph.D., M.P.A., legislative committee chair & board member-at-large for the Colorado Psychological Association (CPA). “In addition to her legislative efforts towards updating and expanding mental health parity, Sen. Keller has demonstrated a passion for recognizing and improving human services in Colorado.”

Last year, Keller was presented an award by the APA as the 2007 CPA State Legislator of the Year.


Major Economic Development
Package Clears Committee

DENVER—Today the Senate Business, Labor and Technology Committee approved HB08-1001, which would extend the Bioscience Research Grant Program to make $26.5 million available to universities and start-up companies to energize one of Colorado’s most promising industries.

Sponsored by Senator Bob Bacon (D-Ft Collins) and Representative Jim Riesberg (D-Greeley), the bill would build on the award-winning grant program created in 2006 and re-authorized last year. The bill could provide as much as $150,000 per project to Colorado research institutions, accelerating the development of new technologies and new Colorado-based companies. It will also make up to $250,000 available to startup companies in Colorado.

“Passing this bill today means great progress for economic development in Colorado,” Bacon said. “Fort Collins is one of the top cities in the nation recognized for its strides in improving entrepreneurship development, which is a key part in retaining and growing local bioscience companies.”

The grant program is a major part of the economic development package announced last fall. A key economic driver for Colorado, estimates suggest the biosciences industry already contributes $415 million in state revenues each year. To date, the program has provided funding for 27 projects at institutions across the state, including CU, CSU, UNC, National Jewish Medical & Research Center and the University of Denver.

Research from the program has led to potential new treatments for schizophrenia, HIV, cancer, lung disease, and technologies that can be applied to environmental pollution, gait problems from chronic illness, optical microscopy and several other diagnostic tools and medical devices.

HB08-1001 next heads to the Senate Finance Committee for consideration.

Facts: Colorado Bioscience Companies

  • Bioscience Companies: 380
  • Number of Bioscience Jobs: 16,000
  • Indirectly Supported Jobs: 20,204
  • Average Employee Salary: $63,000
  • Total Taxes Generated: $415.7 million
Source: Colorado BioScience Association

Monday, March 10, 2008


Workplace Breastfeeding
Measure Clears Committee

DENVER—Today the Senate Business, Labor and Technology Committee passed HB08-1276, which would make it easier for mothers to continue breast-feeding when they go back to work.

Sponsored by Senator Dan Gibbs (D-Silverthorne), the bill would establish a standard that employers provide basic accommodations for their breastfeeding employees. This would include providing reasonable break time for employees who are breastfeeding to express milk, and to make reasonable efforts to provide those mothers with a private location in which to express milk.

“This is about families, first and foremost,” Gibbs said. “Employees are more productive when they feel they can balance their work and family responsibilities. This bill is pro-family, pro-working mothers, and pro-business.”

According to the National Association of Working Women, women with infants and toddlers are the fastest growing sector of today’s labor force, with at least 70% working full-time. One-third of American mothers return to work within three months of giving birth, and two-thirds are back at work within six months.

The bill next heads to the full Senate for consideration.


Mid-Session Report Shows Great Progress
Made & More Challenges to Overcome

DENVER—Today Senate Democrats released their mid-session legislative update, showing major progress made in the first half of the legislative session and a snapshot of the work yet to be done in the coming months.

“On opening day we talked about the mountainous challenges facing our state,” said Senate President Peter Groff (D-Denver). “We have made historic strides up those mountains this year, and I’m excited to continue our work to improve our state’s economy, healthcare and education, as we press on to move Colorado forward.”

Economic Development & Renewable Energy

Bioscience Grants (Bacon) – Extends the grant program to make $26.5 million available to universities and start-up companies to energize one of Colorado’s most promising industries. HB08-1001 has passed the House and is currently before the Senate Business, Labor and Technology Committee.

Business Personal Property Tax (Williams) – Raises the business personal property tax (BPPT) exemption from $2,500 to $7,000. This will give 30,400 businesses much needed relief so they can invest more in their business. HB08-1225 is currently before the House Appropriations Committee.

Single Factor Tax (Shaffer) – Cuts bureaucratic red-tape for business owners by moving to one consistent tax. This bill has yet to be introduced.

Eliminate the “Fly-Away” Tax (Bacon) – Encourages aircraft manufacturers to come to Colorado by eliminating the sales tax imposed on airplanes manufactured in the state. HB08-1261 has passed the House and is currently before the Senate Finance Committee.

Homegrown Power (Shaffer & Isgar) – Promotes energy independence for agricultural producers and rural communities statewide by allowing the extra energy they generate to be credited back. HB08-1160 has passed the House and is before the full Senate.

Forest Restoration Act (Gibbs) – Continues to address the devastation of Colorado’s forests by the bark beetle epidemic and spearheads forest restoration projects to protect water supplies. SB08-71 is currently before the Senate Appropriations Committee.


Covering Colorado Kids (Hagedorn) – Will provide access to more than 50,000 Colorado kids who are currently uninsured. SB08-160 is currently before the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Health Care for Kids (Boyd) – Extends health care eligibility standards for people applying for Medicaid and CHP+. SB08-161 is currently before the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Alzheimer’s Council (Boyd) – Creates a council to assess the current and future impact of Alzheimer's disease in Colorado, and to develop a state plan to address the impacts of the disease. SB08-58 has passed the Senate and is currently before the full House.

Autism Commission (Shaffer) – Creates an Autism Commission to study spectrum disorders, identify existing services and gaps in services for people with autism, and identify best practices in providing services. SB08-163 has passed the Senate and is currently before the House Health and Human Services Committee.

Funding for Developmental Disabilities (Keller & Morse) – The JBC has approved $6.8 million to fund services to the developmentally disabled. With federal matching funds, the state could add as much as $14.7 million to services provided to some of our most vulnerable citizens.


Building Excellent Schools Today (Schwartz & Groff) – Makes as much as $1 billion available to repair and rebuild Colorado’s crumbling schools. HB08-1335 is currently before the House Appropriations Committee.

Innovative Schools Act (Groff) – Encourages schools and school districts to innovate to improve student performance by creating Zones of Innovative Performance (ZIPs) free of certain district and state regulations. SB08-130 is currently before the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Teach for Colorado (Shaffer) – Provides scholarship incentives for college students to pursue careers in mathematics, science, and other high-demand teaching areas in Colorado. SB08-133 is currently before the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Early Intervention Services (Williams) – Provides early intervention services to children who are not yet identified with a disability, but need additional academic and behavioral support. SB08-89 has passed the Senate and is before the House Education Committee.

Streamlining Rural Education (Schwartz) – Streamlines the delivery of administration programs and services in rural school districts. Expands regional service areas throughout the state, leverages resources and encourages collaboration locally to meet varying needs and priorities. SB08-38 is currently before the Senate Appropriations Committee.

College Textbook Affordability Act (Tupa) - Prohibits professors from ordering textbooks until they know textbook prices, requires publishers to disclose changes made to each new edition of books, and prohibits publishers from bundling textbooks with additional materials. SB08-73 has passed the Senate and is currently before the House Education Committee.


Turtle Thrilled at Opportunity
to Serve Colorado

DENVER—Today the Senate gave initial approval to HB08-1017, sponsored by Senator Jennifer Veiga (D-Denver), which would designate the Western Painted Turtle as the Colorado state reptile.

“I was so impressed to see the students from Skyline Vista Elementary School engaged in the legislative process to bring this idea forward,” remarked Veiga. “It was great to see the kids talking and the Senators listening. I’m delighted that Colorado now has an official state reptile.”

The Western Painted Turtle is the largest of the four species of painted turtles is marked with red, yellow and olive designs on its shell. The turtle is unique to North America, Canada and Northern Mexico and lives in ponds, lakes, marshes, and in slow-moving rivers that have soft, muddy bottoms.

Though thrilled at the opportunity to serve, the turtle declined to comment further on the appointment.

The bill will next be considered by the Senate on third and final reading.