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Legislative session reaches halfway mark

This week marks the beginning of the second half of the 120-day legislative session.

We began the session on Jan. 11, and will end by May 9, at the latest.

Legislators’ jobs don’t end in early May, but the location of where we work changes from Denver to back home in our various districts.

I’ve had the pleasure of seeing a number of my southwest Colorado constituents in Denver at the Capitol this session as they come to the state Legislature to watch the proceedings.

Some people come by for a visit on their own and others are participating as part of an organization that seeks to raise awareness and register support of or opposition to certain issues. I look forward to many new and continued conversations back in my senate district after the session ends.

If you’re headed to Denver between now and early May and haven’t yet been to the Capitol during a legislative session, please let us know and we’ll do our best to show you the beautiful historic building and help you sit on the committees and floor activity that interests you most.

While we have young people as “shadows” a couple of times a session, you don’t have to be of school age to have that experience. If you’d like to join me for a day and see what it’s like to be a state legislator, again, just let me know and we’ll incorporate you into the day’s activities. You’re never too old to get that firsthand experience of representative democracy in action.

Besides being past the midpoint of the session, we’re about to receive the quarterly Colorado economic forecast. The forecast sets the stage for the budget negotiations that come with the second half of the legislative session. Starting March 19, you can find the state’s next economic forecast on the legislative website, www.leg.state.co.us, then linking to the tab for Service Agencies, then Legislative Council and, finally, Economics.

Each November, Colorado’s budget starts with a proposal from the governor’s office. The legislators who are members of the Joint Budget Committee (JBC) then review that proposal, state department by departments, and they then prepare their own budget proposal to the full legislature. After the JBC’s proposal is introduced as the “long bill,” both chambers of the legislature will debate and negotiate to a final version that will determine the state’s budget for the next fiscal year, July 1 to June 30, 2013.

As I mentioned earlier, in addition to the budget discussions, we’ll continue to work through the legislative bills not yet heard or finalized. The Senate is starting to hear the bills that made it through the House and the House is receiving those that passed the Senate. There are some newly introduced bills, referred to as “late bills,” that are just being started, even at this point in the session.

In the meantime, spring is arriving in Denver, the snowbanks here are nearly melted, and the Rockies have started spring training, with the team due back in Colorado next month. With the arrival of daylight savings time and longer days, I’ll have a better chance of finishing late afternoon committee hearings and still being able to get back to my apartment before dark. Life’s little pleasures and I’ll gladly take them!

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