Thursday, March 27, 2008


Senator Tells Front Range Lawmakers to Legislate in Their Own Backyards

DENVER—Today Senator Dan Gibbs (D-Silverthorne) and Representative Christine Scanlan (D-Dillon) ripped into proposals to toll along the I-70 mountain corridor.

Gibbs and Scanlan held a rally with mountain and Front Range community leaders in advance of hearings by the Senate Transportation Committee to consider two bills—one by Senator Chris Romer (D-Denver) and another by Senator Andy McElhany (R-Colorado Springs)—that would impose tolls on the interstate leading through mountain communities to Colorado’s ski resorts.

Romer’s proposal includes using tolls to encourage carpooling and decrease traffic during peak travel times and to add bus service. McElhany’s would charge a $5 toll each way to raise money to widen the highway.

Legislators that represent the areas that would be affected were outraged at not having been consulted about the proposals by the bills’ sponsors.

“Both of these proposals were rushed through the process without any analysis on the environmental, economic and community impacts that would result from tolling I-70,” Scanlan said. “This is not the right way to serve the people of Colorado.”

“The communities in the mountains and foothills that I represent won’t stand for these toll proposals,” said Gibbs. “Our state and federal tax dollars pay for I-70, and it amounts to double taxation for these Front Range legislators to stick their hands in our pockets too. The senators pushing these tolls want an easier cruise up to the mountains to go skiing on the weekends. The folks that will be hit hardest here are the people that actually live and work along this artery and depend on it to move goods and to go about their daily lives.”

Romer’s bill was killed on a 5-2 committee vote, but McElhany’s was approved 5-2 and now advances to the Senate Appropriations Committee.


DENVER—Today Senator Bob Hagedorn (D-Aurora) announced the introduction of Centennial Care Choices, a landmark proposal that would lay the foundation for implementing the recommendations of the Governor’s Health Care Reform Commission.

The measure aims to decrease Colorado’s uninsured population by helping individuals and businesses obtain affordable health insurance through balanced public-private partnerships.

The proposal includes:
A request for health insurers to create a menu of “Value Benefit Plans” (VBPs) that would be evaluated and endorsed by the state and would be made available to all Coloradans.
Assistance to low income individuals and employees of businesses through a state subsidy of a portion of the VBP premium for those who do not qualify for government programs and cannot afford health insurance.
Assurance that this program builds upon the existing employer-based health insurance system, does not encourage businesses currently offering coverage to discontinue it, and promotes administrative efficiencies.

“Centennial Care Choices is about doing what we can right now,” said Hagedorn. “It presents innovative ideas, maintains the assurance model, and offers the health care choices people demand.”

Hagedorn's proposal is supported by Representative Anne McGihon (D-Denver), Senator Steve Johnson (R-Ft Collins), Representative Tom Massey (R-Poncha Springs) and Representative Ellen Roberts (R-Durango).

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


DENVER—Today the Senate Education Committee unanimously passed HB08-1335, which would address health and safety issues by providing funds to rebuild, repair or replace our most dangerous and most needy K-12 facilities.

Sponsored by Senate President Peter Groff (D-Denver) and Senator Gail Schwartz (D-Snowmass), the bill calls for a statewide needs assessment for the selection of schools and projects, and leverages as much as $1 billion in funds while keeping within our balanced budget.

“It’s time the state steps up to address the condition of our schools, especially those in our rural districts,” Schwartz said. “We included measures in this bill to give schools a fighting chance to teach their children in safe environments.”

Colorado's public school buildings across the state are aging. Hazards include failing roofs, structural problems, inadequate fire safety, faulty and dangerous boilers, asbestos and carbon monoxide contamination.

“By investing in school safety we are also investing in the overall education of Colorado students,” Groff said. “This bill not only offers a solution to crumbling schools, but it does it in way that is fiscally reasonable.”

The plan will leverage $30-40 million of revenue annually from the School Trust Lands to raise up to $500 million in capital. Local matching could raise another $400-500 million, bringing the total to nearly one billion dollars, enough to repair hundreds of existing schools or to build scores of new ones.
The School Trust Lands are property the federal government granted to the state in 1876 for the benefit of Colorado’s schoolchildren.

HB08-1335 next heads to the Senate Appropriations Committee for consideration.


Funding for Seniors’
Fund Clears Committee

DENVER—Today the Senate Finance Committee approved HB08-1108, which would provide vital assistance to some of Colorado’s most vulnerable citizens.

Sponsored by Senator John Morse (D-Colorado Springs), the bill increases funding to the Older
Coloradans Cash Fund from receipts collected from the state sales and use tax.

“This bill is so important not only because it makes fiscal sense, but also because it is just the right thing to do—keeping seniors in their own homes make the most sense for the seniors, their families and the taxpayers,” said Morse. “I was speechless at the votes against funding this measure, and apparently so were the Republican members of the committee. I didn’t hear a single argument from them as to why our senior citizens aren’t worth the funding in this bill.”
The Older Coloradans Cash Fund was established in 2000 and is administered by 16 statewide Area Agencies on Aging. Program services include personal care, assisted transportation, congregate meals, home-delivered meals, homemaker services, adult day care, transportation, and legal assistance.

HB08-1108 next heads to the Senate Appropriations Committee for consideration.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


Senator Warns of Critical Wildfire
Risk in Colorado’s High Country

DENVER—Today the Senate Finance Committee approved HB08-1269, which would help reduce the threat of devastating wildfires in Colorado’s forests by providing incentives for products that use timber killed by the bark beetle infestation.

Sponsored by Senator Dan Gibbs (D-Silverthorne), the bill would provide an exemption from sales and use tax for sales, storage, and use of wood products, such as lumber, furniture, or wood chips that use wood from salvaged trees killed in Colorado by bark beetles. The bill would also provide cities and counties the option of exempting such sales from taxation.

“Colorado’s forests and watersheds are among our most critical resources and we must do all we can to protect them,” said Gibbs. “It’s heartbreaking to see the extent of the devastation in our mountain forests. With passage of this bill we’re tackling this crisis head-on; removing all that dead timber will greatly reduce the threat of catastrophic wildfires and will help protect our forests, our water, and our way of life.”

Gibbs is a Type II Wildland Firefighter and last year crafted and passed the 2007 Colorado Forest Restoration Act, which also dealt with the bark beetle epidemic in Colorado’s high country.

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


DENVER—Today the full Senate gave final approval to SB08-192, which would create guidelines for residential picketing.

Sponsored by Sen. 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 House for consideration.


Bill to Offer Duel Enrollment
for Ute Students Moves Forward

DENVER—Today the full Senate gave final approval to SB08-20, sponsored by Sen. Suzanne Williams (D-Aurora), which would extend the “Fast College, Fast Jobs” pilot program to include American Indian students who live on Colorado’s Indian reservations.

The bill would open program eligibility for the Fast College, Fast Jobs pilot program by adding school districts and high schools that serve those students.

“We need to make sure that the programs that are offered through the educational system that provides optimal educational opportunities are inclusive to all students wishing to participate,” Williams said.

Fast college, Fast jobs allows enrolled students to receive a high school diploma and an associate’s degree or a career and technical education certificate within five years. Students take a mix of high school and higher education courses and must maintain at least a 2.0 grade point average during four years of high school.

Currently, 23 school districts and 62 target schools are eligible to participate in the program.

The bill next heads to the House for consideration.