May 2nd, 2013
By Senator Gail Schwartz
Last week my column addressed child well-being and the legislation affecting the health and safety of our children. This week I would like to share why it is critically important to support and improve our schools. Each year that we do not fully invest in developing the minds of the next generation is maybe another year we are responsible for remediation, diminished earning potential, and the growth of public programs. School funding should be fully transparent and equitable for districts throughout the state; and we should target our dollars where they can make the biggest difference in closing the achievement gap and supporting under-resourced districts.
The Colorado General Assembly has approved SB13-213 to reform K-12 education in Colorado. The Future School Finance Act rewrites outdated school finance policy. This new policy addresses the distribution of state and local funds to our 178 school districts and charter schools. The bill establishes full-day kindergarten for all children and early childhood education for at-risk three and four year olds, both of which are critical to a child’s academic success, and school readiness. In addition, programs for at-risk students, online/ASCENT students, English language learners, special education, and gifted and talented education will also see increased funding. This bill offers additional state support for mill levy match, innovation, and teaching and leadership investment.
Given the diversity of Senate District 5, I am aware of constituents’ concerns about the financial burden some districts will experience; however, all districts should benefit from this new formula. Adequate funding must be available to all districts for competitive teacher salaries and costly expenses to ensure top performance. Districts in SD5 will see increased funding in key areas for at-risk students, English language learners, special education, and gifted and talented. Finally, SB13-213 introduces a first-of-its-kind website that will enable parents to view exactly how dollars are being spent in their children’s schools, ensuring your taxpayer dollars are spent on effective programs you support.
The second proposed school finance bill is the annual school finance appropriations bill, SB13-260, which passed the Senate on April 19. Addressing the funding needs of K-12 public schools in the 2013-2014 fiscal year, this bill increases the base per pupil funding, and adds 3,200 openings in the Colorado Preschool Program (CPP). The bill also secures $20 million more for special education. SB13-260 creates the Quality Teacher Recruitment Program, allowing the Colorado Department of Education to contract with vendors to assist in recruiting, training, and retaining highly qualified teachers in struggling school districts.
Related to school finance, this session I sponsored SB13-214, updating BEST Oversight and Funding, to ensure a promising future for the Building Excellent Schools Today (BEST) program by assigning responsible government oversight through the Capital Development Committee along with the BEST Board and State Board of Education. Since passing BEST in 2008, the program has funded 181 projects in more than 284 individual schools in 94 schools districts and 15 charter schools, benefitting more than 113,000 students across the state. BEST has continued to put Coloradans to work, creating, or saving, 17,000 jobs, and has helped address approximately $980 million in capital construction needs. BEST provided safe, high-quality learning environments that have greatly benefitted SD5 schools.
These bills strive to modernize Colorado education, and demonstrate an investment not only in our children today, but also for the future of Colorado. In order to help our students reach their full potential, the system needs to have the financial framework in place to ensure that all districts can sufficiently meet the needs of their pupils. I believe in the future of Colorado K-12 schools, and that our children’s academic success is vital. And I will continue to advocate for SD5 schools, families and communities.
March 25th, 2013
As the majority of Colorado citizens voted in support of recreational marijuana use, it is now time for the legislature to draft bills to implement the program based on the recommendations of the Governor’s A64 Taskforce. I have been appointed to the Joint Select Committee on the Implementation of Amendment 64, and we are focused on developing the necessary regulatory mechanisms. I intend to make sure any system ensures the safest production and access.
The excise tax revenue created under A64 protocols has been designated to fund the BEST rural school construction program that I helped create and SD5 has greatly benefited from the construction of 16 new schools as a result. This excise tax question will be put to the voters this fall.
I will also be introducing a bill on the production of industrial hemp, which can be developed as an agricultural crop that has many beneficial uses for production of food and fiber, and is a drought resistant crop.
Follow the select committee proceedings at goo.gl/pUXa8
March 25th, 2013
SB13-175 Wildlife Habitat Stamp Renewal (Passed Senate)
· This bill renews one of the state’s most important conservation programs. The bill funds projects to preserve agricultural ranchland with public access for hunting, big game winter range for deer, elk, pronghorn, bighorn sheep, and sagebrush-related species.
· Habitat Stamp has helped:
· Conserve nearly 174,000 acres of key wildlife habitat
· Secured over 78,000 acres of new public access
· Opened more than 25 miles of new fishing access
· Protected over 100,000 acres of big game winter range and migration corridors.
· A few success stories from this program in SD5 include Chubb Park Ranch in Chaffee County, Miller Ranch in Gunnison County, and Moyer 45 Bar Ranch in Lake County.
SB13-188 Landowner Preference Wildlife Hunting License (Passed Senate)
· The Department of Natural Resources’ Landowner Preference program allocates big game hunting licenses to agricultural landowners through a system of transferable vouchers.
· The program encourages landowners to view wildlife as an asset through tangible benefits.
· The program leads to more permits by increasing landowner tolerance for big game.
· The higher populations mean more opportunities for public hunters on public and private lands.
SB13-169 Black-Footed Ferret Recovery Program (Passed Senate)
· This legislation, supported by the Colorado Cattleman’s Association, creates a voluntary program on private lands to reintroduce the black-footed ferret in Colorado. By introducing the black-footed ferret, landowners can naturally manage the prairie dog population.
· Landowners are afforded the benefits of U.S. Fish and Wildlife safe harbor program which protects them from potential restrictions associated with the Endangered Species Act.
SB13-181 CWCB Projects Bill – Protecting Water Resources (Passed Senate)
· This bill, which passed the Senate unanimously, designates more than $70 million in water projects throughout Colorado without taking from the General Fund.
· These projects help to protect water rights, the environment and create new jobs.
· The funds come from the Construction Fund and the Severance Tax Trust Fund Perpetual Base Account, both of which include sustainable revolving loan programs.
SB13-19 Agricultural Water Efficiency (Passed Senate)
· Faced with drought, this bill protects Western Slope farmers’ and ranchers’ water rights when conserving water and leaving water for our streams to benefit the environment and communities.
February 14th, 2013
Sen. Schwartz and Sen. Kerr participate in an electronic recycling drive at the Capitol by Electronic Recyclers International.
February 12th, 2013
Sen. Nicholson and Sen. Schwartz watch as Gov. Hickenlooper signs the Executive Orders
DENVER — Today, Governor Hickenlooper issued two Executive Orders to protect wildland-urban interface areas and protect forest health.
Sen. Jeanne Nicholson (D-Gilpin County) and Sen. Gail Schwartz (D-Snowmass), who represent areas most impacted by forest health, applauded the governor’s efforts. Both Senators are committed to protecting our forest landscapes. Sen. Nicholson served on the Lower North Fork Fire Commission throughout the interim and is sponsoring four significant forest health bills this session, including:
- Financial Incentives for Wildfire Mitigation (HB 1012): The bill continues income tax deductions for landowners who perform wildfire mitigation measures.
- All Hazards Resource Mobilization (HB 1031): The bill clarifies the duties of the Office of Emergency Management in developing a statewide all-hazards resource mobilization plan.
- Colorado Prescribed Burn Act (SB 083): The bill requires the Division of Fire Prevention and Control to implement a prescribed burning program.
- Creation of Permanent Interim Wildfire Committee (SB 082): The bill creates a permanent interim committee to review and propose legislation or other policy changes to wildfire prevention and mitigation.
“Coloradans need to adapt to the increasingly dry climate and mitigate the risk of forest fires. Nobody wants to repeat what we saw last year with the Lower North Fork Fire, High Park Fire, Waldo Fire, and so many other fires. Governor Hickenlooper’s Executive Orders will help us to prepare for, and hopefully avoid, the worst. I am committed to doing everything I can at the legislature to protect Colorado from catastrophic wildfires,” said Sen. Jeanne Nicholson.
Sen. Schwartz is working this session to achieve greater forest health through efforts with biomass energy.
“Governor Hickenlooper’s Executive Orders set a roadmap to address the serious fire risk to our communities and watersheds while creating jobs and supporting our forest product industry. This significant step to improve forest health will help create value for dead and dying timber, protect our homes in forested areas, and improve the health of our forests,” said Sen. Gail Schwartz.
Executive Order B 2013-002 establishes the Task Force on Wildfire Insurance and Forest Health. The task force will examine how to best protect people, property, and the general environment in wildland-urban interface areas.
Executive Order B 2013-001 establishes the Wildland Prescribed Fire Advisory Committee. The committee will examine wildfire preparedness, responses, suppression, coordination, management, and prescribed fire, and advise the Director of the Division of Fire Prevention and Control.
ABOUT SEN. NICHOLSON
Sen. Nicolson serves Senate District 16, which spans Gilpin County, a small section of Southwest Denver, and parts of Boulder and Jefferson Counties from Conifer to Superior. Sen. Nicholson is the Democratic Caucus Chair for the Senate Majority. She is also the chair of the Local Government Committee and a member of the Health and Human Services Committee.
ABOUT SEN. SCHWARTZ
Senator Schwartz serves Senate District 5, which spans Chaffee, Delta, Eagle, Gunnison, Hinsdale, Lake, and Pitkin counties. Sen. Schwartz is the Senate Majority Whip. She is the Chair of the Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Energy Committee. She also serves on the Senate Local Government, and is the vice-chair of the Capital Development Committee.
December 21st, 2012
This package of bills is designed to help develop a clean energy economy in Colorado by offering financial resources to support new technologies, commercial and residential construction, and energy efficiency.
- Renewable Thermal Standard (RTS)
- Architecture 2030
- Alternative Fuels for State Fleets
- Water Agriculture Efficiency
- Methane Capture
Additional Legislative Priorities
- Rural Broadband Infrastructure
- Cottage Foods Update
- Renewal of the Habitat Stamp
- New Judges for SD 5 & 9
- Benefit Corporation
- BEST Renewal
December 21st, 2012
Since the legislative session ended in May, I’ve kept a full schedule with many visits to my district, interim committee work, legislative conferences, and some wonderful family time. While it’s been a bittersweet transition from serving the San Luis Valley to now having the privilege of serving Eagle and Lake Counties, I am energized by the people I’ve met and look forward to serving all SD5’s interests in the upcoming session. I had the opportunity this summer to help celebrate the six newest Building Excellent Schools Today (BEST) school openings – rural schools that now have modern and energy-efficient buildings that match their commitment to innovation and leadership in academic achievement. Congratulations to the Center Consolidated School, Monte Vista’s newest elementary and high school, Cedaredge elementary school, Salida’s newest high school and Crestone’s new K-12 charter school.
We are already hard at work on my legislative agenda for this session, and my priority will continue to be rural economic development with a focus on broadband, forest health, and a clean & diverse energy economy. I’m pleased to welcome my new legislative aide, Andrew Sand. Andrew has a MPA from University of Colorado Denver, where he concentrated on environmental policy, management, and law. Andrew joins our staff after completing a natural resources graduate internship with Senator Udall’s office – we’re glad to have him leading the team. Also, we say farewell to Amy Steinhoff, who has served our district as my aide for the past two years. We are very grateful to her for her hard work and will miss her. We are actively seeking interns for this upcoming session. Please contact us if you are interested.
As always, I’m committed to maintain an open and thoughtful conversation with my constituents. Please join the Senate District 5 conversation on Facebook, Twitter, the website, via phone, email, or in person. Our door is always open. Please take time to stay engaged and have your perspective heard – I work for you!
State Senator Gail Schwartz
Senate District 5