Wednesday, March 19, 2008


Senator Passes Four
Bills in One Afternoon

DENVER—Today Senator Brandon Shaffer (D-Longmont) successfully pushed four pieces of legislation through two different Senate committees.

In a single afternoon, Shaffer faced the Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee and the Health and Human Services Committee, where he won approval for four bills that address major issues for our military communities and for public health.

Tuition Assistance for Colorado National Guards—HB-1252 allows a member of the Colorado National Guard to receive tuition assistance when enrolled at a private institution of higher education in a certificate or degree program in homeland security.

Benefits for Military Spouses—HB-1180 extends unemployment insurance benefits to spouses of military personnel who are transferred as part of their military responsibilities.

Dental Assistance Programs for Seniors—HB-1116 requires the State Board of Health to set reimbursement levels for medical providers participating in the Dental Assistance Program.

Wastewater Exemption—HB-1073 allows the Water and Wastewater Facility Operators Certification Board to exempt certain facilities from the requirement to operate under the supervision of a certified operator.

In addition to successfully passing four bills, Shaffer also chaired the Judiciary Committee.


DENVER—On Thursday, Senate President Peter Groff (D-Denver) will travel to New York City, where he will be honored with the Education Warrior Award by Democrats for Education Reform.

In addition to Groff, honorees will include New York Governor David Paterson and former NBA star Kevin Johnson, a charter school founder and candidate for mayor of Sacramento.

“These are transformational times in America,” said Groff. “The education reforms we are proposing in our state this year have the potential to transform the educational landscape in Colorado and be a model for the rest of the country. I look forward to working with education leaders across the nation as we continue to revitalize our education systems and move our states and our country forward.”

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


Major Economic Development
Package Clears Committee

DENVER—Today the Senate Finance Committee unanimously 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), 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 Appropriations Committee for consideration.

Monday, March 17, 2008


DENVER—Today the full Senate gave final and unanimous 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 next moves to the House for consideration.