Thank you for visiting my website. I am honored to represent HD 61 including Summit, Lake, Pitkin, Unison and Delta counties. In my second term I have been working hard on issues that are important to you, my constituents.
There are 26 days left in the legislative session and there is still a lot of work to be done. We are continuing to work on issues such as school finance, jobs and election reform. This has been a busy session so far and will continue to be until the last day.
Please stay in touch with me throughout these final days of the Legislative Session with your thoughts about the issues mentioned here. It is important to hear from you as I work hard to represent your best interest.
I’ll be developing my summer outreach schedule so please advise me about events or activities going on in HD 61 that would be good for me to add to my calendar.
This year, there are two school finance bills that have been introduced. SB 13-260, Funding of Public Schools, is the traditional school finance bill that is introduced every session. The bill allocates state funding to each of Colorado’s 178 school districts for the 2013-2014 school year. As chairwoman of the House Education Committee, I am sponsoring this bill. Colorado’s public schools are funded through a combination of federal, state and local funds. Colorado’s recession led to significant cuts to the state share of this funding, and though we’re not out of the woods yet, the increased revenues this year have allowed us to finally start reinvesting in our kids and our schools.
However, even as we begin restoring school funding, we need to improve the outdated formula used to determine how much money goes to each district. The second school finance bill I’m carrying this year is SB 13-213, the Future School Finance Act. This bill will modernize the funding formula, increase investments in proven programs like full-day kindergarten and early childhood education, add important accountability and transparency reforms, and provide new support for historically underfunded districts – especially rural and high-poverty districts. The bill has passed out of the Senate and was passed earlier this week in the House Education Committee. This legislation will only go into effect if voters approve a ballot initiative to increase revenues to support the implementation of the legislation.
Colorado’s election system has received a lot of attention in recent years because of the concerns about the failure to send mail ballots to “inactive” voters. We’ve also seen that many eligible voters face challenges to voting, largely because of the complexity of the system. HB 13-1303, the Colorado Voter Access & Modernized Elections Act, passed out of the House State, Military & Veterans Affairs Committee on Monday night. This piece of legislation is focused on expanding access to voting for all Coloradans while connecting all vote centers to a central database to keep accurate voting records in real-time, protecting the integrity of our voting system. The bill standardizes the voting process in Colorado, reduces expenses for the counties by $9.5 million, increases voting options and access, and maintains the integrity of our process by preventing fraud.
A few of the changes in this bill are:
- Delivering Mail Ballots to all registered voters
- Making voter registration will be available to all individuals who have been residents 22 days before Election Day
- Offering online voter registration up until 8 days before Election Day
- Allowing residents to register, with proper identification, to vote at Clerk and Recorders offices up until and including Election Day
Colorado State Budget
The House recently passed a balanced budget for 2013-14 – one that prioritizes economic development, job creation, education (both K-12 and higher education), mental health and child welfare. This budget makes responsible use of one-time revenues, as well as increases the state’s reserve by 25%, protecting Colorado’s critical services from future economic downturns. This is truly a budget that reflects Colorado values.
One piece of the budget that I am excited about that $2 million more dollars are going to promote tourism in Colorado. As a member of the Colorado Tourism Board, I believe that it is essential for our economy to promote Colorado Tourism especially in the Western Slope area. In 2011, tourists contributed $879 million in state and local taxes, and that spending supported 141,000 Colorado workers. Every year we see tourism—Colorado’s second largest industry—grow, and I’m glad we’re investing in the industry to continue that trend. For our mountain and rural communities tourism is vital.
Education funding is critical for our economy. In this year’s budget, there is an additional $127 million for K-12 education as well as an increase to higher education. This is the first time in four years we have been able to give more money to higher education.
The budget will also invest over $19 million in Colorado’s mental health system to improve access to mental health services. It will expand hospital capacity, enhance our crisis response system, establish a single statewide crisis helpline, and improve community care services. With these programs, we will be able to address the growing mental health issues we are seeing around us.