All week my heart has been heavy with thoughts of Columbine. Our twins were in daycare only blocks away from the school, and our daughter at our neighborhood elementary school — all on lockdown. It was incomprehensible. And yet it has happened again, and again, and again.
The problems we face — including the staggering amount of gun violence in this country — are complicated and will not be solved by a single action. Grace and compassion will help us find our way.
Being focused on work that changes lives helps. But we all continue to carry the memory of Columbine and the precious souls we lost that day. It is always present; it has changed us. I will never forget.
And the work continues.
Last Thursday, on his 100th day in office, Governor Polis signed into law a $30.5 billion state budget for the 2019/2020 fiscal year. The budget includes $175 million for free full-day kindergarten throughout the state, and will ensure that tuition at Colorado’s public colleges and universities won’t rise in the 2019-2020 school year. There is a much needed extra transportation provision of $300 million to address Colorado’s crumbling infrastructure, in addition to a 3% pay hike for all state employees. This budget was the outcome of tireless work from a great number of state employees and legislators and I am encouraged by the way my colleagues stepped up and pulled together to create a budget that reflects our Colorado values.
I’m thrilled that Senator Pettersen is carrying my Media Literacy bill (HB19-1110) in the Senate. It passed third reading last Tuesday on the House floor, and is being debated this Thursday in the Senate Education committee. Additionally, HB19-1269, the Mental Health Parity Insurance Medicaid bill, was passed out of the House last Wednesday, was heard Friday in the Senate Health and Human Services committee, and advanced onto the Senate Appropriations committee. And finally, HB19-1277, the Computer Science Grant, and HB19-1237, Licensing Behavioural Health Entities, were both passed out of the House last Friday and are on the way to the Senate. After working so hard to develop and champion meaningful legislation, it is wonderful to see things moving along to the Senate and hopefully to the Governor to be signed into law.
The Lobbyist Transparency Act was heard last Wednesday in the Senate State, Veterans, and Military Affairs committee and referred onto the Senate Appropriations committee where it will be heard tomorrow. As we approach the end of the session, legislation is moving quickly through both chambers.
The Physician Assistant Supervision and Liability bill was heard last Thursday on the Senate floor and passed on third reading. This will be my second bill signing with Governor. It was one of my first bills, and one I proudly sponsored with my Republican colleague, Representative Lois Landgraff.
The Front Range Waste Diversion Enterprise Grant Program was passed through the Senate last week and heard in the House Finance Committee on Friday. This bill creates the Front Range Waste Diversion Enterprise in the Department of Public Health and Environment to promote waste diversion. The goal of this enterprise is to achieve municipal waste diversion goals within the front range, culminating in 51% diversion by 2036. Waste management and reduction is not only essential towards protecting Colorado’s resources and natural beauty, but also to achieving our climate change goals.
My bill Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP) has been introduced in the House and is being heard tomorrow in the Judiciary committee. SLAPPs are civil actions brought against a defendant to impede the exercise of their constitutional right of free speech or right of petition. SLAPPs are used to silence and harass critics by forcing them to spend money to defend these baseless suits, and are effective because even a meritless lawsuit can take years and many thousands of dollars to defend. This bill establishes an expedited process for a court to follow in cases where a SLAPP has been initiated against a person resulting from that person’s exercise of their right of petition or free speech. Under this bill, such a lawsuit may be subject to a special motion to dismiss. I am excited about this legislation because SLAPPS can have a chilling effect on free speech for both media and ordinary citizens, and are also a waste of taxpayer resources.
Prohibit Food Establishments' Use Of Polystyrene was introduced into the Senate last week and is being heard today in the Senate State, Veterans, and Military Affairs committee. I am so happy to see this bill being debated as it is an important step towards protecting our environment. Effective 2024, the bill prohibits a retail food establishment from distributing an expanded polystyrene product for use as a to-go container. I’m really happy to be a co-prime sponsor of this in the House, as I’m passionate about reducing waste and being respectful stewards of our planet. Prohibiting wasteful styrofoam containers that don't decompose is a step in the right direction.
The Colorado Avalanche are in the playoffs and in recognition of their achievement the state legislature has put their flag on the capitol to show our Colorado pride. We welcomed Bernie, the Avalanche mascot, to the House floor last Tuesday to sit on session and bring back our well wishes to the team. Good luck Avs!
Last Wednesday the Equal Pay For Equal Work Act was heard in the House Business Affairs and Labor committee and referred onto the Appropriations committee. SB 19-085 would prohibit a wage differential based on an employee’s sex. The bill also contains a salary history ban and pay transparency requirements. If passed, this would be among the most aggressive equal pay laws in the nation, stripping enforcement authority from the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment and instead allow for private right of action. This is a necessary and long overdue piece of legislation that will address unreasonable pay disparities based upon gender, and finally allow for recovery of back pay for violations of pay equality. I was proud to sponsor the House resolution on Equal Pay and I am proud to support the Equal Pay for Equal Work Act that will put Colorado at the forefront of the national equal pay movement.