By Senator Gail Schwartz April is child abuse prevention month, and it reminds me that our communities are next in line after families in protecting children and ensuring they have the best start in life. The 2013 report called Kids Count in Colorado provides vital statistics regarding the well-being of our children. This type of…Read More »
By Sen. Gail Schwartz [SD-5] This Monday, our nation celebrates Memorial Day, the historic celebration and remembrance of those who gave their lives in service to this country. My position on the frontlines of statewide policymaking has given me a special appreciation for our freedom in a democratic republic. As a result, I have a…Read More »
By MARCI KRIVONEN http://www.aspenpublicradio.org/post/gypsum-biomass-plant-first-its-kind-state Colorado’s first woody biomass power plant is nearly complete. Senator Mark Udall and State Senator Gail Schwartz toured the facility in Gypsum on Friday, where wood cuttings from beetle kill trees will be turned into electricity. Aspen Public Radio’s Marci Krivonen explains. Heavy machinery is moving dirt around at a construction site…Read More »
On May 14th, Governor Hickenlooper signed an executive order directing the development of the first long-term State Water Plan by and for Coloradans. The “gap” between our water supply and demand is of critical concern today and in the future. This planning process will be the foundation of a larger discussion about water needs and…Read More »
A national research firm recently presented the findings of a study examining the Colorado prison system to a legislative panel. The study specifically focused on the ability to meet correctional housing needs in the near future. This study is important for rural communities like Delta and Buena Vista because shifting prison populations have the potential to impact corrections employees and neighboring communities.
Colorado has followed a national trend of falling prison populations for roughly the past five years. This decrease is due, in part, to statutory reform, fewer arrests and lower crime rates. The shrinking population left prisons with more vacant beds than was expected just a few years ago. Some observers expressed concern that these vacancies could lead to prison closures or layoffs for employees. As of 2012, Colorado employed just over 3,700 correctional staff employees. Since many of our state’s correctional facilities are in rural areas, any layoffs have the potential for a disproportionate negative impact upon small communities.
The state commissioned a national research firm, CNA Analysis & Solutions, to study Colorado’s prison system. The study’s researchers recommended that all of the nearly twenty five facilities continue to operate at current capacity. The research indicates that the recent decrease in inmates will slow down. While projections vary, the consensus opinion is that inmate populations will not only level off but likely increase slightly over the next five years due to Colorado’s increasing population. However, the study’s prediction of a modest inmate rise is not a result of higher crime rates. As our state continues to grow, we should expect our need for correctional housing to follow suit.
This spells good news for Senate District 5 communities like Delta and Buena Vista. The facilities in those communities, Delta Correctional Facility and Buena Vista Correctional Complex, are among others in a category called Tier 2. The research found that these facilities are among the best suited to meet the projected increase in housing needs. One projection even calls for reopening 350 beds in Buena Vista by 2018. Both Delta and Buena Vista facilities jointly employ about 275 people and are excellent candidates for potential expansion. At this time, the system is stable and no immediate changes are planned.
Correctional facilities function as an key economic pillar in our rural communities. Inmates serve an important role in local industries such as agriculture and firefighting, and inmates also benefit from the dedication of the community at the prison facility. I truly understand the deep impact that job security has on each and every employee’s family, friends and local economy. That is why I am encouraged by the study findings that show facilities like Delta and Buena Vista are not in jeopardy of closing; instead, they are likely to serve an even bigger role in the near future. This spells a bright forecast for our rural economies– and families. I will continue to vigilantly monitor any proposed prison changes and vigorously fight to protect the interests of all SD-5 residents.
DENVER, August 16, 2013 – Colorado Renewable Energy Society (CRES) is celebrating its 17th year of supporting a sustainable energy future with a full day conference, auction fundraiser, and annual awards on September 6th at the University of Denver Sturm School of Law. Speakers will include industry experts, technology professionals, and policymakers including the director of the Colorado Energy Office, Jeff Ackermann. Representative Max Tyler will accept the Larson-Notari award, in recognition of his clean energy contributions to the state, and Senator Gail Schwartz will accept the newly instituted Randy Udall Award for leadership in energy and climate change policy.
RANDY UDALL is a personal hero of mine and it is humbling to be receiving an award in his memory this evening.
I believe, Randy’s life goal was to impart a sense of personal responsibility for the environment in each of us. Yet, he was realistic in the sense he understood that his individual impact would have limitations, and he had to inspire an army of folks to accomplish his mission. One of the more remarkable facets of his nature was to envision multiple paths to an end goal and embrace strange “bedfellows” along the way. This is a lesson for all of us!
One tool for building his army of superheroes was through his prolific writings and speaking. He was a great teacher and father who instilled in young people his vision for a better world by giving his time so generously. What a terrific communicator he was, putting complicated concepts into such attainable terms! We all can recall a “Randyism’. Like:
“You know what fries my bacon? In 2011, Germany installed more solar power in one year than Americans have in 50. If it were just the industrious Germans, I could probably handle it. But the laid-back, Fiat-driving Italians did the same thing. The Italians!”
“Given climate realities, we desperately need a rapid energy transformation, but wishing can’t make it so. As a Vulcan might say, what is desirable is not necessarily probable..” and goes on to say ” Unless saving energy quickly becomes the nation’s focus, we already have the answer: “Beam me up, Scotty, there’s no intelligent life down here.”
Randy also wrote about, “My daughter Ren celebrated her 25th birthday last summer. She’s a member of what I call Generation B, where B stands for “bonfire.” Since her birth, more than half of all the fossil fuel consumed in human history has been burned, and more than half the greenhouse gas emissions humans have ever produced has gone skyward. As it steadily accumulates in the atmosphere, this enormous plume, now measuring 30 billion tons each year, is enough to melt glaciers, strand polar bears on sea ice, shrink the Colorado River, and alter the climate on which life depends.”
Over the past several years, as you are aware, Randy and I worked together on the “Eligible Resource of Methane” in the RES. A highly successful and unlikely collaboration between coal mines, the environmental community, a aspen ski area and DMEA and Holy Cross rural electric utilities. Randy taught us an important lesson, the ability to identify mutual areas of interest by understanding those on the opposite side of an issue in order to achieve a common goal. It is not the norm to embrace climate deniers to attain climate benefits of mitigating the hazardous methane gas from coal mines, but we now know that it can be done, while saving trees, water, wildlife habitat, snowpack, jobs, and industry.
I joined you earlier today for the remarks of Jeff Ackerman, Director of the Colorado Energy Office. He gave an inspiring perspective on what Colorado has achieved over the past several decades to become one of the nation’s leading states in renewable energy. We have developed a strong RES for IOUs and REAs, built strong legislative incentives for adoption of new technologies, and are identifying new challenges moving forward.
Jeff cleverly defined a “disease” from which I also suffer, along with many of you in this room, no doubt: “Advocacy”, which is characterized by suffering from passion, unease and vision. As advocates, I believe that we have a mandate to complete Colorado’s energy picture by moving to a broader framework of carbon and climate. Replacing KWH of electricity with BTUs of energy so we can incorporate all renewables into our incentive structure while preserving our climate as a whole.
We can move beyond the constraints of focusing on “30% of 30%” of the electric generation sector, and make a commitment to the other 70% of energy consumption–the transportation sector uses 30% of our energy. And then move on to the new frontier of the built environment that consumes 42% of our energy resources. The time is now for real action around climate and efficiency (as Amory would say the “Negawatt”).
In closing, I am so honored by your award this evening, and like so many, our work has just begun. In some respects I feel it is similar to what we felt when we lost Randy Udall at such a vibrant stage of his life and in my opinion he was not done! His passion, unease and vision were his calling and he defined advocacy in many respects. As Paul Anderson stated at a tribute for him help explain Randy’s drive for many of us:
“He had such a strong passion for the environment. His connection to the wilderness was without limit. His caring for the natural world was a way of caring for his soul. “
Onward soldiers, Randy has planted a sense of responsibility in each of us to care for the natural world around us and embrace a vision that includes everyone at the table for generations to come.
I would also like to acknowledge Randy’s family including Leslie Emerson. We can’t do what we have to do without the support of our families. Thank you CRES for this honor.
By Lindsey Middleton, Editor, Colorado Water Institute & MaryLou Smith, Policy and Collaboration Specialist, Colorado Water Institute
Threat of water shortage in Colorado along with increasing demand has water users and managers from many sectors reconsidering the benefits of water conservation. Ag water conservation has become a hot topic in the state due to a bill, SB 13-019, introduced in the last Colorado legislative session by Senator Gail Schwartz, District 5, with Representative Randy Fischer (District 53) sponsoring the bill in the House.
The bill brought to the forefront an issue that has been controversial for some time, as many believe that little if any water in Colorado is meaningfully available for conservation, hence the saying “one farmer’s waste becomes the next farmer’s water right.” Still, agricultural producers are being asked to look deeper into the opportunity for conservation, despite the complexity return flows brings to the issue.
“How do we find some additional tools, besides our instream flow programs, to motivate Ag water users to adjust their diversions at specific times? That was the thinking originally,” explains Schwartz of her motivation for introducing SB-019 in January of this year. “In the long term, we asked what would be some tools, such as infrastructure, that would allow Ag users to count on running less water without risking the loss of any historic consumptive use.”
Some had urged Schwartz to wait for more discussion about Ag water conservation among various constituencies before introducing the bill, but she chose to move ahead. “This being the second year of drought we were facing, I thought it would be more important to move forward,” explains Schwartz. After introducing the bill, Schwartz approached the Colorado Water Congress (CWC). CWC is oft en a first step for water legislation, and their formal support of a bill can help ease a bill through the voting process. As a result of discussions with CWC, Schwartz put the bill on a slow track, asking CWC to form a sub-committee and review the issues in more depth.
According to CWC State Affairs Committee member Dick Brown, who represents Pikes Peak Regional Water Authority on the committee, “The bill got narrower in scope [as we went on], which is not uncommon.” Among other changes, the bill was reduced to Water Districts 4, 5, and 6 on the West Slope.
Brown adds that Schwartz agreed to CWC revisions and amended the bill accordingly. The CWC voted to support the amended SB-019 and to work with Senator Schwartz over the summer (when Colorado’s legislature is not in session) to discuss concerns with the excised portions of the bill.
The amended bill was passed by the state legislature in April. Changes included removing a section that would allow a water judge to approve a change of water right for conserved water in certain cases. The bill as passed is already having a positive effect on some. Linn Brooks of Eagle River Water and Sanitation says her region’s tourism-based economy, which relies on river flows, benefits from Senator Schwartz’s bill, even in its truncated form. In fact, Eagle River Water and Sanitation has already begun to reach out to water rights owners in their region to conserve on a broader scale.
“We acknowledge that this tool may be difficult to use in other areas where water administration is more complicated,” says Brooks, “but we believe it can work for us.”Brooks testified for SB-019 before the House Agriculture, Livestock, and Natural Resources Committee out of a desire to protect cooperating diverters.
“The part of SB-019 that did pass alleviated the concerns of diverters that they would get penalized for cooperating,” says Brooks—concern that conservation hurts historic use averages has been a holdup for such efforts in the past.
The Eagle River Water and Sanitation District, located near the headwaters of the Colorado River Basin, draws water from the Eagle River and Gore Creek. They are the second largest municipal water provider on the Western Slope.
“Healthy stream flows support fishing, boating, and the aesthetic values that draw visitors and drive our economy,” says Brooks. Outreach to diverters in 2012 resulted in cooperation from irrigation diversions, golf courses, and others agreeing to a 15 percent reduction in diversions initially and up to 25 percent as flows dropped through the 2012 summer season. But while diverters were willing to divert less, they questioned what the long-term effect on their water rights might be. SB-019, says Brooks, supports these cooperative efforts by protecting those who participate from being penalized in terms of historic consumptive use calculations if they ever require a change of use.
Among other aspects, SB-019 contains language that gives appropriators a “safe harbor” when they decrease their consumptive use. It calls for water judges to not consider any decrease in use resulting from a variety of programs, including certain water conservation programs, land fallowing programs, and water banking programs.
Brown, who was part of the CWC sub-committee providing recommendations for the bill, says that there was some debate about aspects of SB-019. “Some folks were really nervous that this was going to be a significant change in water policy since it tackled the issue of use it or lose it,” he says.
One of the objections to the original bill had to do with unintended consequences for other areas of the state, such as the Rio Grande Basin. “From what I have seen,” says Schwartz, “through recent legislation we are channeling different options for different basins.” She says by applying SB-019 to most of the West Slope, the bill was able to seize upon a timely opportunity and serve as a pilot for applications elsewhere. “We have the opportunity with roundtables to really look at specific needs for different basins,” she says.Schwartz says dialogue will continue as part of summer and fall sessions at the capitol. “We have more time,” she says, “but we will nudge people into having the conversation rather than have it evolve on its own.”
One group that is taking up the challenge of looking at Ag water conservation from the producer’s point of view is the Colorado Ag Water Alliance. “We want to see what opportunities might exist for Ag conservation instead of just saying it can’t work,” said CAWA member Robert Sakata. A CAWA committee will be meeting with Senator Schwartz this summer.
“These are difficult conversations, and I think we have to have them,” says Schwartz.
On May 14th, Governor Hickenlooper signed an executive order directing the development of the first long-term State Water Plan by and for Coloradans. The “gap” between our water supply and demand is of critical concern today and in the future. This planning process will be the foundation of a larger discussion about water needs and allocation. I recommend that all Coloradans engage in this important effort.
The state water plan will pave the way for water decisions that responsibly and predictably address future challenges. The Governor’s executive order detailed that the plan must promote a productive economy that supports vibrant and sustainable cities, viable and productive agriculture, and a robust skiing, recreation and tourism industry. It must also incorporate efficient and effective water infrastructure planning while promoting smart land use and strong environmental protections that include healthy watersheds, rivers and streams, and wildlife.
The Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) has been tasked with creating the Colorado Water Plan. The board must submit a draft of the plan to the Governor’s office by December 10, 2014, and a final plan by December 10, 2015. The CWCB will incorporate the state’s Interbasin Compact Committee (IBCC) and nine Basin Roundtables recommendations to address regional long-term water needs.
As chair of the Interim Water Resources Review Committee (WRRC), I will help ensure that the diverse voices of Colorado’s water community are heard during the development of this plan. The ten-member WRRC is comprised of legislators representing districts in each of the state’s major river basins. The committee has a full agenda as we are charged to review water issues and propose legislation. The WRRC will also remain actively engaged with the CWCB in development of the State Water Plan.
A recent public opinion survey on water issues in Colorado indicated that only 30% of Colorodans believe the state has enough water to meet its current needs. Furthermore, nearly 70% of Coloradans indicated they believe there is insufficient supply for the next 40 years. Colorado’s perennial drought has diminished our reservoir levels, which not only impacts our state, but has immense implications for neighboring states. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation may constrain water releases for the first time in modern history from Lake Powell to the minimum required by the 1922 Colorado River Compact for the next two years unless precipitation significantly increases in the Colorado River Basin.
As charged, the water plan has a broad scope and will inevitably need to address difficult and contentious issues. I believe that we should first focus on conservation and efficiency both at the municipal/industrial level and in agriculture. Water conservation is an area with broad consensus. A recent public opinion study of Coloradans identified conservation as the most important water related issue. Other studies have strikingly demonstrated that 80% of Coloradans favored conservation over new construction projects. In 2013, I sponsored SB13-19 which gives landowners a new tool to conserve water without injuring their water rights. New conservation and efficiency tools are needed in the State Water Plan as they stress wise use of our precious water resource.
Conservation may be just one piece of this larger puzzle, and I want to hear what pieces are important to you. The dialogue around the state water plan is a critical discourse to ensure the protection of western slope water, reduce the “buy and dry” cycle on our agricultural lands and demand responsible urban and industrial use. In order to make your voice heard, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, your regional round table, and IBCC members to help identify water issues and solutions that you feel are critical to this process. Thank you for caring about Colorado’s future!
To follow WRRC interim meetings, find materials, and read potential state water legislation as it becomes availbile please go to http://www.colorado.gov/lcs/WRRC.
Colorado’s first woody biomass power plant is nearly complete. Senator Mark Udall and State Senator Gail Schwartz toured the facility in Gypsum on Friday, where wood cuttings from beetle kill trees will be turned into electricity. Aspen Public Radio’s Marci Krivonen explains.
Heavy machinery is moving dirt around at a construction site not far from Interstate 70. The area used to be grazed by cows. Now, it’s being transformed into an industrial site, complete with two smokestacks and metal ramps surrounding a tall, main building.
Starting in December, wood cuttings mostly from the White River National Forest will be trucked here, so they can be turned into electricity. Developer Dean Rostrom is with Eagle Valley Clean Energy, the group building the plant.
“The trucks that come in here will look like a Wal Mart truck, the fuel that will come in will largely be chipped, so they’ll chip it in the woods for the most part. It’ll go over there onto the truck dumper and the entire truck dumper and the entire truck dumper will come up and all the fuel will be dumped out of the truck,” he says.
The idea is to use wood to generate electricity for homes and businesses in the Eagle Valley and beyond. To do that, the wood chips will be burned to heat water, which will turn to steam. The steam will turn a turbine that’s connected to a generator that will put power on the grid.
Del Worley is the CEO of Holy Cross Energy, the utility that got the project going. Several years ago, Holy Cross put out a bid for renewable energy projects in order to meet their goal of becoming 20 percent renewable by 2015.
“This will put us there, when this comes online, we will have met that goal.”
Worley isn’t the project’s only proponent. U.S. Senator Mark Udall visited the site in early August. He says he envisions the project being the first of many in the state.
“We can easily envision five and the sky’s the limit, this is cutting edge, it’s poineering and we’re here to tip our hats to the owners who have invested in it,” Udall says.
The $56 million plant will put 41 people to work in a region reliant on dollars generated from tourism, real estate and construction.
It also helps clean up the forests, according to State Senator Gail Schwartz. She pushed legislation that creates business for the plant. The bulk of the fuel used here will come from red and dead forests killed by the Mountain Pine Beetle. She says the plant gives loggers a reason to clear those areas.
“There’s not enough money at the federal, there’s not enough money at the state level to go in and manage these forests, but this is the beginning of a market based solution. They’re bringing value to that slash and brush that was clearly waste,” she says.
There are some residents in the Gypsum area who don’t like such an industrial facility in their community. But, overall, Eagle County Manager Keith Montag says people support it.
“I think in general it’s being embraced by the community, I think the community understands the benefits of something like this. Of course, there’s always a few folks who always have questions and concerns.”
The power plant will generate 11 and a half megawatts of electricity per year and burn roughly 250 tons of woody biomass each day once it starts running in December.
Drought has been and will continue to be a perennial threat to Colorado that impacts not only our economy, but also public health and safety. It has been a leading cause of the wildfires Colorado has experienced this summer as the moisture content in our air and forests is extremely low. While late spring rain and snow has helped thus far to insulate the central mountains from fire, the San Luis Valley and other areas of the state are grappling with the serious impacts of wildfires. The men and women fighting these fires and protecting our communities are working valiantly, and we thank them for their service and continue to pray for their safety. It is important to remember that physical fire damages are not the only costs affecting communities. This week I visited wildfire areas in Hinsdale, Rio Grande, and Mineral counties and saw first hand the significant decline in the regional tourism that those communities rely so heavily on each summer. The West Fork Fire Complex is over 110,000 acres making it the largest in recent history. Additionally, I observed and the serious residual threats of the fires to flooding and water quality in the watershed. National, state, and local entities are working together as a model for collaboration during a crisis. For more information on the Rio Grande Emergency Action Team (REACT) go to www.rweact.org
This year, I am proud that seven bills aimed at confronting our wildfire challenges became law. These bills allow the state to leverage greater resources toward fighting fires and work toward developing healthy forests. However, the large fires statewide this summer remind us these new tools are not enough. Identifying ways that the state can improve forest health, reduce wildfire risk, and promote long-term business solutions is critical, and I will continue to work on these issues this summer and fall. In the meantime, reduce your home’s fire risk by creating defensible space in your immediate surroundings. You can stay posted on active wildfire news through INCIWEB: http://inciweb.org/state/6/ andhttp://www.coemergency.com/. Also please assess your community’s risk through the Coloroado Forest Service’s new interactive portal http://www.coloradowildfirerisk.com/map
The forests and our watersheds are critical to our water supply on which our state and much of the western U.S. depend. Drought has increased fire danger to these resources, threatened storage facilities, and also diminished our reservoir levels. I intend to build on the progress we had in the 2013 session, promoting solutions to end the “buy and dry” crisis facing our agricultural community, addressing water storage and integrating the importance of forest health and management into the state water plan. Additionally, I intend to explore responsible tools that promote conservation and efficiency of our water resources without injuring existing water rights.
On May 14th, Governor Hickenlooper signed an executive order directing the state to develop the first State Water Plan by and for Coloradans. The General Assembly’s Water Resources Review Committee will work closely with the IBCC, Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) and other state agencies directed by the executive order to address the critical water issues in our state. Wednesday July 17 will be the first Water Resources Review Committee (WRRC) meeting in Gunnison, CO at WSCU. To follow or attend the WRRC events and potential legislation throughout the interim go tohttp://www.colorado.gov/cs/Satellite/CGA-LegislativeCouncil/CLC/1242218502184
As always, please continue to share your thoughts on these issues with my office by emailing me at email@example.com. Additionally, please join me at events throughout the summer seeking to address these critical issues like wildfire and drought. You can find a calendar of my public events at http://www.gailschwartz.org/
Sen. Gail Schwartz and Rep. Millie Hamner
Energy development is a critical part of the Western Slope’s economy. It supports jobs and economic activity, as do other industries like outdoor recreation, farming, ranching and tourism, all of which rely on the land. They form a sustainable, diversified base for our economy, with each playing a critical part.
But a diversified economy can’t exist without balance. It requires consideration for the long-term effects of things we do right now. And it’s with that principle in mind that we express our support for efforts to find a balanced solution to protect Thompson Divide.
The Divide sits on the western edge of the White River National Forest, the most heavily recreated forest in the nation — and for good reason. Locals and travelers from near and far enjoy all forms of recreation, from mountain-biking to climbing to cross-country skiing.
Colorado’s rich legacy of hunting and angling also has taken root in Thompson Divide. It is home to some of the most sought-after game-management units in the state and serves as a tributary to Gold Medal trout waters of the Roaring Fork River.
Farming and ranching also coexist with the recreation economy. Thompson Divide has been ranched for more than a century. It remains one of the strongest enclaves of traditional ranching culture in the West, generating $11 million in economic output for our community.
Thompson Divide is one of Colorado’s special places. It has tremendous natural, historic, and yes, economic value — to the tune of $30 million in economic activity and 300 jobs. The livelihoods it supports, the awe it inspires. It is uniquely Colorado, and it is worthy of protection for future generations.
That is why we want to thank U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet for introducing legislation that would protect unleased minerals in the Thompson Divide area from future development. His work with the local community and current leaseholders has resulted in a middle-ground solution that strikes a sustainable balance.
His bill recognizes something we can all agree on: There are some places where oil-and-gas development should take place, and there are other places where it should not. We have to find a balance, and disruptive development that could do damage to livelihoods and the local economy just doesn’t make sense in Thompson Divide.
The Western Slope is proud to do its part in producing homegrown American energy that powers our homes and businesses; but we also are equally proud and protective of places such as Thompson Divide that are not only a unique part of our natural heritage but support local economies, livelihoods and a way of life.
This is about balance. It’s about recognizing our obligations today and to future generations. We believe that a middle-road solution like the one envisioned by Bennet and local communities strikes that balance, and we are proud to sign on as supporters of this very worthy cause.
Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass Village, represents Senate District 5, which comprises Chaffee, Delta, Eagle, Gunnison, Hinsdale, Lake and Pitkin counties. Millie Hamner, D-Dillon, represents House District 61, which includes Delta, Lake, Pitkin, Summit and Gunnison counties.
In May 2013, the BEST board awarded roughly $110 million in its sixth round of grants. If all the local bond elections in November are successful, that means more than $1.089 billion in facility improvements will have been funded since the BEST program’s inception in 2008, which has helped fix egregious facility needs statewide. But as you know all too well, even that tremendous amount of support has been inadequate to address the entirety of Colorado’s school district capital construction needs.
However, due to its current funding structure, after this year’s BEST grant funding cycle, the BEST program will take a 20+ year hiatus from funding new school construction or major renovation school projects. The lease-purchase agreements used by BEST to help fund more expensive school projects has a statutory $40 million annual cap, and we are essentially up against that cap.
It’s time to rethink (again!) how we fund school facilities in Colorado. With a November ballot initiative to implement SB 213 that could result in a substantial one-time funding for school facilities, the conversation needs to start now.
[This summary is an excerpt from a larger piece written by Mary Wickersham, Kathy Gebhardt & Matt Samelson]
This year’s legislative session has come to a close, officially ending on May 8th. I would like to sincerely thank all of my constituents who took the time to participate in the democratic process by voicing their opinions. I truly value their input when deciding how to best serve SD5.
While State Senators work all throughout the year, this brief session means that the window to pass significant legislation is small. That is why I’m excited to share how remarkably productive these past 120 days have been. Nearly all of my bills passed successfully! I continued my fight for rural economic development, natural resource conservation and protection of water rights. For more information, please click on the bill numbers listed below to read the bill.
State Senator Gail Schwartz
Senate District 5
My 2013 Legislative Summary
Water Resources: Water is one of our most precious Colorado resources, which is why conservation and protection of water rights is a key legislative priority. The legislation I sponsored will authorize and fund projects for water quality, storage, and conservation.
SB13-019 - Promotion of Water Conservation Measures
SB13-181 - Funding of Colorado Water Conservation Board Projects
HB13-1191 - Nutrient Grant Domestic Wastewater Treatment Plant
HB13-1248 - Irrigation Water Leasing Municipal Pilot Projects
Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency: While the balanced and responsible development of all energy resources is important, renewable energy creates good paying Colorado jobs and moves our state towards a clean energy future. We need to continue to develop local rural renewable resources and incentivize energy efficiency.
Wildlife and Habitat: It is important to protect Colorado’s wildlife and our natural landscapes. These resources are critical to support landowners and farmers, protect the herds sportsmen depend on, and drive tourist investment into local communities.
HB13-1186 - Special District Meetings Notices & Transparency
HB13-1205 - Investment of State Moneys by the State Treasurer
HB13-1234 - Lease-Purchase Authority for Department of Agriculture Consolidation
HB13-1311 - Clarify Definition of Veterinary Premises
Balanced Budget– driving economic development: The legislature passed another balanced budget this year, as required by our state constitution, and targeted employment growth in industries like construction and tourism.
The budget funds capital construction and controlled maintenance projects at $194 million, which will help keep construction workers busy.
The budget gives the Department of Local Affairs an additional $3 million and one additional employee to establish a rural economic development program. The program will help rural areas that rely on one employer, like Fort Lyon.
The budget gives an additional $1 million to the Office of Film, Television, and Media to attract film projects to Colorado.
The budget gives The Office of Tourism an increase to $15 million, plus an additional $2 million for a state branding initiative. Tourism is a major economic driver in Colorado, putting $15.9 million into the economy in 2011 and employing 141,400 Coloradans.
Other Legislative Highlights: HB 1303 - Voter Access and Modernized Elections
Under the bill, most elections are to be conducted as mail-in ballot elections. County clerks are required to mail a ballot to all active registered voters. Voters may then mail-in a ballot or drop it off at a service center. Voters still have the option to vote in-person at a service center, or vote on Election Day.
The bill reforms K-12 education and provides a new funding formula with three main goals: (1) improve the adequacy of our education system; (2) equitably distribute state funding; (3) achieve financial stability for K-12 education in Colorado.
SB13-033 - ASSET: In-state Tuition Classification for High School Graduates in Colorado
Provides in-states tuition rates to every student who graduates a Colorado high school, is admitted to a Colorado college within 1 year following graduation, and provides an affidavit stating that they have applied for lawful presence.
This bill expands Medicaid eligibility from 100 percent of the federal poverty level to 133 percent, which is $31,322 for a family of four. This provides more than 160,000 uninsured Coloradans access to health care.
Gun Safety Legislation:
HB13-1224 - Prohibits large-capacity magazines (more than 15 rounds)
HB13-1228 - Fees for funding gun background checks
HB13-1229 - Universal background checks for all gun sales
SB13-197 - Prevents domestic violence offenders from possessing firearms
SB13-195 - Requires in-person training for concealed carry permits
Watch Sen. Schwartz and Rep. Hamner discuss agriculture, energy, education, and other issues important to Colorado.
About Meet the Leaders:
An insightful program with area leaders, Meet the Leaders explores the people, policies and issues which are responsible for directing the future course of regional communities. Through discussion and query directed by our host / moderator, Meet the Leaders helps our viewers to gain a deeper understanding and a greater awareness of the factors integral to the formation of local decision.