An inaugural session comes to an end


My first legislative session, and one of the most exciting and productive sessions in recent memory, is coming to an end Wednesday, May 8.

I am sponsoring Senate Bill 264, the Rural Health Bill with Sen. Aguilar, Sen Kefalas and Rep. Vigil. The Rural Health Bill encourages the Advisory Commission on Family Medicine to support the development of a rural family medicine program. Our rural communities are lacking in rural physicians and this bill will help bring more doctors to our area. Practicing family medicine in a rural community has a unique set of challenges as well as rewards. This bill will give hospitals in rural communities in our district the opportunity to attract new medical students and educate more family practice doctors about health care in rural Colorado.

We have also recently passed several bills regarding wildfire prevention and safety.  I am sponsoring Senate Bill 269 with Rep. Coram, Sen. Nicholson and Sen. Roberts.  The purpose of this bill is to create the Wildfire Reduction Program in the Department of Natural Resources, to provide funding opportunities for projects implementing hazardous forest fuel reduction treatments and to reduce the risks associated with wildfires in Colorado. This bill passed on second reading on Friday and will receive a final vote this week. The bill also appropriates $12 million over two years to address wildfire prevention, as we are not unmindful of the drought we all face.

Another bill that I strongly support is Senate Bill 13-270. This bill is sponsored by Sen. Nicholson, Sen., Roberts, Rep. Coram and Rep. Fischer and reorganizes and modifies statutes regarding the Wildlife Emergency Response Fund (WERF) and the Wildlife Preparedness Fund (WPF). WERF provides funding for the initial attack on a wildfire, specifically for the first aerial tanker flight, the first hour of firefighting helicopter operations, or wildfire hand crews in the first two days of a wildfire, and WPF is used for wildfire preparedness activities in accordance with the governor’s direction.  The WPF may also be used to support the purchase of fire shelters by volunteer fire departments. These funds are critical to protecting our state, and I believe this bill will create more agency and efficiency when controlling and preventing wildfires.

Last week, I also had the honor of attending two receptions for United States Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Wednesday evening’s reception at the Ralph L. Carr Judicial Center was something of a who’s who in Colorado political and judicial circles. Former Governors Owens, Ritter and Romer were all in attendance.  The Chief Judges of the 6th and 22nd Judicial District were also in attendance with their wives.

On Thursday, I joined two students from District 59 and one from District 58 who were selected to travel to the Capitol and shadow a Representative for the day. Ouray High School ninth-grader Morgan Wright, Gunnison Middle School eighth-grader Ryan Eden and Nucla Middle School eighth-grader Logan Strong were chosen from among many exceptional applicants to meet Justice Sotomayor and have the opportunity to hear her speak. Justice Sotomayor has a wonderful and inspiring story and it was a great privilege to meet her. I would like to thank Ryan, Logan and Morgan for spending time with me at this very special event.

This Saturday, May 11, will be Western State Colorado University commencement ceremony.  College graduation is a great accomplishment and a very special time in one’s life. Congratulations to all of the Western State graduates and I wish you the best of luck in the next chapter of your life.

After the legislative session comes to an end, I look forward to traveling around the district to hear from all of you again.  I plan to announce dates for upcoming town hall meetings soon. I am very excited to return home to Durango for the summer and to visit with my constituents.  I mention this every week, but I continue to be honored to be your State Representative for the 59th district. This has been one of the most challenging and stimulating experiences of my life. Thank you all for giving me this opportunity.