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A challenging upcoming session

In just a few days, I’m going to walk through the door of the State Capitol in Denver to begin my first session as your state Senator.

I’ve entered this historic building many times over the last five months, but every time I walk in I’m always in awe of the golden dome. Not only because of its beauty, but because of what it stands for. The work we do as legislators under the gold dome often goes unnoticed, but it is so important to the lives of every Coloradan. I’m honored and humbled to be a part of this important work this session.

I couldn’t have started in the Capitol at a more challenging time. It will be a tough year as we focus on Colorado’s economic recovery and balancing the budget. But it will also be an exciting time to get started on work important to people in my district. I have spent the last few months talking with different groups in our area about issues that are important to them. I’ve spoken with education representatives, agriculture groups, rural electric associations, elected officials, conservation groups, water user organizations, and even cub scouts! After listening to my constituents, I have decided to bring forward a package of bills I think will help Colorado’s economy recover, help Colorado’s workers get ready for the jobs of the future, and to help Colorado’s kids get a quality education.

I’m working on a bill which would attract new energy companies and jobs to Colorado and invest in cheaper energy for the long-term by expanding Colorado’s Renewable Energy Standard. In 2004, voters approved a measure that said part of the state’s energy has to come from renewable energy. In 2007, the governor and the Legislature increased that standard and we are working to increase it again. This bill will keep Colorado a leader in the new energy economy and help us continue to grow Colorado’s energy here at home.

Continuing education and job training opportunities will be more accessible under a bill that I will introduce as a part of Colorado’s 529 college savings programs. Job Retraining Accounts will be worker-owned, employer-matched, interest bearing savings accounts, which can be used for training and education opportunities to upgrade skills and abilities. The training received will help the workforce increase their earning potential, and to assist in achieving individual career goals.

I mentioned in my first column that I have lived in rural Colorado and worked on water issues for most of my adult life (most recently as executive director of the Southwestern Water Conservation District). I will build on that experience to represent my constituents in all eight counties in southwestern Colorado with a bill I’m working on, which deals with the state’s future water needs. Colorado’s population is expected to double by 2050 and its water use will increase significantly. Currently, there is a very effective piece of legislation which allows the Colorado Water Conservation Board to approve grants from oil and gas revenues and cash funds, for water efficiency and drought planning programs. Unfortunately it is set to expire in 2012. I want to make sure we extend this important bill through 2020 to encourage the efficient use of our most valuable natural resource, and so we can support Colorado’s water demands into the future.

These are just a few of the bills and issues I will address as your state Senator next session. I look forward to hearing from you about how I can best serve you in the Legislature.

You can reach me at the State Capitol at (303) 866-4884 or bruce.whitehead.senate@state.co.us.