Bills focus on county districting, charter schools, communications

Besides my lawn irrigation bill that I adressed last week, I am working on other bills, some of which I will discuss in this column.

One of these bills establishes a revolving loan fund for charter schools that are just getting started. The loan fund would start with an initial investment by the state, which would be managed by the state treasurer’s office and lent to charter schools in their first few years of operation for constructing or remodeling their physical building and facilities. I saw firsthand the need for this type of assistance with Durango’s charter school, Animas High School, when it was bursting at the seams in a shopping center, before its new location.

Public charter schools serve 13 percent of K-12 students in Colorado and they’re an important choice to offer students and parents in both rural and urban communities. There is much parental and community investment in these schools, yet access to financing to get their facilities up and running can be a difficult challenge. If passed into law, this revolving loan fund is expected to be self-sustaining as the charter schools repay the loans, those repayments become available for new start-ups.

Another bill of mine seeks to allow county residents the option to vote on electing county commissioners by the district they represent only, rather than by the county as a whole. I was asked by constituents in several of my counties this fall to consider running the bill despite the same bill having been killed two years ago.

The problem as viewed by these constituents is that if there is a dominant population center in a county, the commissioners who are elected to represent districts within the county may pay more attention to the voters of the population center rather than to the residents of the district where the commissioner comes from. The county commissioners’ statewide organization, (CCI), opposes the bill, as it did in the past, as it’s unaware of any county commissioner who supports such a change.

Since I was asked by constituents from outlying areas in four of the eight counties in my district to seek the option of putting the question before the voters of interested counties, I’m trying again to get the bill passed. To be clear, the bill doesn’t change the county election process on its own, but gives the county residents the authority to attempt to gather sufficient signatures to bring the question to a vote of the entire county.

I’m carrying the bill with Rep. Coram, of Montrose, and with another House sponsor, a Denver Democratic state representative, which reflects the nonpartisan and urban as well as rural appeal of the bill. I’ve heard from a number of my constituents who plan to travel to Denver to testify on the bill when it’s in committee and the strength of their desire for change is demonstrated by their willingness to make the trek, especially in the winter.

I met last week with the head of Colorado’s Department of Public Safety and his emergency communications director regarding possible options to improve the statewide communications system. A bill will be ready to introduce shortly and I’ll be seeking my district’s feedback.

As promised to family, I end with the cheer of, “Go Broncos!” Headed to the Super Bowl!