Colorado legislative session 2015 gets underway soon


At last, with snow on the ground, it feels like December. That, combined with the increased frequency of phone calls and meetings mean that, before long, the Colorado legislative session 2015 starts. For that, I’ll be packing up to move to Denver, coming home on the weekends, if the weather allows.

I’ve received my committee assignments and they include chairing the Senate Judiciary Committee and serving as vice-chairwoman of the Agriculture, Natural Resources and Energy Committee. After the regular session ends in May, I’ll be chairing the interim Water Resources Review Committee, which coincides with continued work on the state water plan as proposed by the governor and the executive branch. All of these assignments are good for my district and will present lots of interesting challenges and work ahead.

I’m carrying fewer bills this session than in previous years as, in addition to the committee assignments mentioned above, I’ll be balancing my new role and responsibilities as president pro tempore of the Senate. Having served in the Senate for four years already, the rules and procedures aren’t new to me, but being in the position of personally enforcing them is, and I look forward to that as well.

Several of the bills I’m carrying as the prime sponsor stem from the interim committee work I did this past summer and fall in the natural resources policy areas of water and wildfire. The wildfire committee bills include such topics as reauthorizing the wildfire mitigation grant programs, offering the option of a nonprofit organizational structure for volunteer fire departments and allowing owners of agricultural land destroyed by wildfire temporary property tax relief similar to that provided to landowners impacted by flooding.

My first bill for the session relates to an earlier bill I carried requiring the state to identify the current emergency communications gaps in Colorado. My 2015 bill allows a few more months for the assessment to be completed and this short delay is at the request of those completing the work such as fire chiefs and emergency managers. From the assessment report, we’ll need to develop an action plan for how to close those gaps that are especially evident in mountainous areas such as in my district in southwestern Colorado, but includes urban pockets as well.

The emergency communications system must function well statewide so that our first responders have the best information available to them whether they are responding to a flood, wildfire or a school shooting. The price tag of addressing the problems brought out by the needs assessment will likely be significant as technology and infrastructure will be necessary. Yet, public safety is a core function of government and I will advocate strongly for doing what it takes as quickly as possible to get a truly comprehensive and complete emergency communications system.

In addition to preparing for the 2015 session, I’ve been attending meetings and delivering legislative presentations with constituents around the district. While in Denver for another meeting of the Colorado Youth Advisory Council, I proudly watched the awesome Durango High School theater performance of “Les Miserables,” as the students celebrated their first-place win of a multistate competition.

We live far from downtown Denver, but the many and varied accomplishments from across my district are recognized and appreciated statewide — happy holidays and let it snow.