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A memorial tribute to Ernest House, Sr.

It was a great honor to sponsor the memorial tribute by the Colorado General Assembly to the former Ute Mountain Ute Chairman, Ernest House, Sr.

Mr. House died in a motorcycle accident on Sept.17, 2011. In addition to his duties with the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Mr. House also served in the Colorado Army National Guard and was a member of the Airborne Division. Ernest House Sr. was the grandson of the last hereditary chief of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Chief Jack House, whose image is prominently displayed in the center glass window of the Old Supreme Court in the State Capitol.

Present to accept the tribute were his son, Ernest House Jr., and daughters Michelle and Jacque House. Ernest House Jr. is the executive secretary on Colorado Commission of Indian Affairs and is a very good friend of Assistant House Majority Leader Rep. Mark Waller of Colorado Springs.

On the same day, the flags of Southern Ute Indian Tribe and Ute Mountain Ute Indian Tribe were officially made a part of the Colorado Capitol in a flag ceremony attended by Gov. Hickenlooper. They will proudly stand in front of the door to the offices of the lieutenant governor on the first floor of the Capitol.

These activities came on the heels of the House Education Committee giving unanimous approval to SB 12- 57, which I sponsored in the House. This bill gives school districts the flexibility to hire qualified Native American language teachers without the educational certification requirements. The bill has garnered a lot of attention in the media of Native American communities. I was even interviewed by the Navajo Times, and the reporter indicated that she was hopeful that Arizona would pass a similar bill.

The economic and revenue forecast was presented by the Legislative Council Staff and by the Governor’s office last week. The good news is that the economy seems to be gradually gaining strength which may result in an estimated $256,000,000 left in the General Fund at the end of the year above the required reserve. The General Assembly will have $602.2 million more to spend in FY 2012-13 than the amount budgeted for FY 2011-12. This amount does not account for expenditure pressures resulting from inflation and caseload growth, and assumes that the $256 million will not be spent this year.

The bad news is that for every dollar estimated to be available there are numerous entities that want to spend that dollar. No one is talking about funding the maintenance of Colorado’s buildings and other infrastructure. The total of levels 1, 2, and 3 controlled maintenance projects as recommended by the office of the State Architect is $63 million. Presently only level 1 projects, those that are deemed emergencies, are budgeted. All maintenance levels should be fully funded. Of course, there are other important needs like K-12 education, higher education, developmental disabled and many others. We must continue to make government more efficient.

The one thing that is sure is that priorities must be made, and no one will be completely satisfied.

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