On Wednesday, the second session of the 70th Colorado General Assembly will adjourn. As I write to you Sunday, we still have many bills to consider. But, I do want to tell you what we have accomplished through Friday by working across the aisle and listening to each other.
The Joint Budget Committee worked for months to present the General Assembly with our constitutionally required balanced budget. With very little breathing room, the committee passed a budget that managed to accomplish the following.
■ Increase K-12 per-pupil average spending by $112 to $7,425.
■ Avert a possible $20 million cut to higher education.
■ Set $150 million in transfers to the state’s highway fund.
■ Maintain the statutory 6.5 percent budget reserve.
■ Avoid cuts to payment rates for medical providers.
The budget was presented to the House, then deliberated in late March and passed in early April. Next, it went to the Senate for consideration.
On April 15, the Joint Budget Committee adopted a Senate amendment for suicide prevention funding while also preserving the Air Pollution Control Division’s ability to protect clean air in Colorado. The compromise included a much more moderate cut to the division at $111,652 instead of the originally proposed $8 million cut, which allows the division to continue protecting our air.
Also on April 15, the House passed the JBC Conference Committee Report on the budget, then we re-passed the bill with the bipartisan, compromise amendments, balancing the budget.
Gov. Hickenlooper signed the budget last week. I am proud we were able to cooperate across the aisle in both chambers to achieve a balanced budget within such limiting constraints, while still finding funding for much-needed programs that make life better for all Coloradans.
Here are a few examples of my bills either already signed into law or awaiting Gov. Hickenlooper’s signature:
HB1194 provides opportunities for beginning farmers/ranchers; HB1259 cuts red tape for local district colleges similar to Colorado Mountain College; HB1354 allows a new tool to school districts to help them avoid debt; SB145 clarifies statute for the Colorado River District in an effort to make the creation of sub-districts less bureaucratic; and SB21 creates an annual Colorado Public Lands Day.
For several years I have played a major cosponsor role with two bills that are critical for our district: HB 1336, a study to examine the impact of a state-wide risk pool on health insurance premiums and HB1109 to clarify Colorado Water Law in relation to permits in Federally managed lands. Both of these bills have passed.
I cosponsored bills to allow patients the ability to choose their pharmacy, fund emergency responses at abandoned hard rock mine sites that are polluting our waterways, correct an agency error that left off the tax checkoff for healthy rivers and a bill to allow residential rainwater collection.
Join me for a 2016 legislative wrap/review and community conversation from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Friday, May 13 at Butcherknife Brewing Company in Steamboat Springs.
I will give a legislative update on the 2016 General Assembly, take questions and discuss issues. Most of the time will be discussion and Q&A, so feel free to come and go as you need to. I am looking forward to seeing and listening to you.
State Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush represents Eagle County and Routt County in the Colorado House of Representatives where she is vice chair of the House Transportation/Energy Committee and serves on the House Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources Committee.