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2014 legislative session: Education, broadband and more

The 2014 legislative session began on Jan. 8 and, as the session really begins to get underway, I wanted to highlight what my colleagues and I will be working on until the conclusion of the session in early May.

Natural disasters plagued many parts of Colorado in 2013. Throughout the summer we suffered many wildfires across the state, including in Pagosa, Vallecito and the Sout Fork fires in southwestern Colorado. Shortly after wildfire season, we had the most destructive flood in state history sweep the northern Front Range in September. While there has been incredible progress made to help these communities recover, there is still significant work to be done to ensure these communities make the fullest possible recovery.

The first bills that were introduced in the House this session are designed to speed and assist the ongoing recovery efforts. I am looking forward to supporting these bipartisan bills.

I will personally be carrying a number of bills this session in addition to supporting these initiatives.

One of my bills will provide a tax exemption of up to $5,000 for an agricultural producer who donates their produce or livestock to a charitable organization. This will help make sure that any surplus food is not wasted, but instead used to feed those who are hungry and in need.

Another bipartisan bill I am sponsoring with Rep. Don Coram (R-Montrose) and Sen. Ellen Roberts (R-Durango) would clarify tax collection on entities or joint ventures owned by Native American tribes to ensure that tax collection is enforced while also respecting tribal sovereignty.

Another focus of this session will be on increasing the economic security of all Coloradans. We want to encourage small businesses across the state, and I will support a bill to give small business owners a break on their business personal property taxes. There will also be an emphasis on expanding advanced industries across the state, following up on a bill I sponsored in the 2013 session.

Future economic security is tied to education, and I am proud to be involved in the effort this session to increase access to education. Rep. Leroy Garcia (D-Pueblo) and I will be the House sponsors of Senate Bill One, which will restore $100 million dollars to higher education this year.

Colorado’s education budget, especially the budget for higher education, was one of the hardest-hit sectors during the budget cuts that were enacted as a result of the recession. Restoring $100 million dollars will help higher education institutions across the state, including Fort Lewis in my district. I have also been encouraged by bipartisan talks surrounding parts of our education package from last year, namely increasing transparency in schools and expanding programs for English language learners. I will also support efforts to enhance teacher training and increase access to early childhood education.

I am excited about the prospect of increasing broadband access for all of rural Colorado and bringing Internet access to all of our school districts, especially the Ridgway and Silverton school districts, which have been underserved for years.

Rep. Angela Williams (D-Denver) is working with a bipartisan coalition on a piece of legislation to help expand broadband in rural parts of our state and I plan to work hard to ensure it benefits underserved parts of my district. Not only will this be a boost to education by increasing access to information, but it will also be a boost to economic development and tourism by guaranteeing visitors to our great state are not without Internet. Gov. John Hickenlooper stated his commitment to this issue in his State of the State address. As a result of starting the process early and involving all stakeholders this year, I believe we will find a solution that works for everyone.

As always I am honored to serve as your elected representative in the capitol and am committed to addressing problems that will move Colorado forward. I will continue to serve on the agriculture, livestock, and natural resources and judiciary committees. I always enjoy hearing from constituents so please don’t hesitate to contact my office at (303) 866-2914 or mike.mclachlan.house@state.co.us.

This story was posted on January 16, 2014.