School funding, forest and wildfire management current topics

Construction on the Capitol dome appears to be winding down and, as the scaffolding is slowly dismantled, natural sunlight is beginning to reappear in the center of the building. It’s been a work in progress for a couple of years now and I welcome the project’s completion, both for the restoration of the beauty of the dome and to have the construction noise end.

While the sounds of construction have muted, the many groups of school children now passing through the building keep it excitedly occupied and hustling. If you’ve not made a trip to the Denver Capitol, you might want to add it to your to-do list. The stone materials that were used in building the Capitol are from Colorado and are beautifully befitting a state that got its start from mining ventures.

Speaking of school children, I want to acknowledge the many e-mails and visits I’ve received from my district regarding improving school funding, statewide. The annual school finance bill hasn’t yet been presented in the Education committee, but that will likely happen within the next month. I appreciate hearing from educators, school board members and administrators that more needs to be done to make the funding formula adequate and fair.

I mentioned to some of my constituents who visited last week that perhaps the topic of school funding should be made a topic for an interim legislative committee or task force. The issue is one of great importance, but has many facets that deserve a closer look. I’m also sensing that while proposals have been made on how to change the funding, many would prefer a greater opportunity for public input and a more transparent process to address the challenges and potential solutions.

One of the messages that I’ve heard loud and clear is that the “negative factor” applied in the current funding formula is particularly damaging to rural schools and I will keep that in mind as the school finance bill is debated this session.

I traveled north to Fort Collins one afternoon last week to take a look at the wildfire burn site known as the High Park fire. This wildfire burned two years ago and I wanted to have a sense of what this wildfire’s path was, so close to an urban center, and to see how the land restoration process is going.

I was accompanied by state and local wildfire officials who told me about what had happened during this fire. The torrential flooding from last fall has also impacted the burn area with a lot of additional damage to the road alongside the riverbed. Significant road repair work continues presently.

The radio communications bill that I’m sponsoring has particular application to emergencies in areas such as this, as well as at home in my district, so it’s helpful to see the topography and ground conditions in other parts of the state.

The U.S. Forest Service, the Colorado state forester and timber industry representatives, including from my district, presented information to the joint agriculture committee. We heard of the rapid advance of the spruce beetle infestation, especially prominent in Southwestern Colorado.

Forest management, as well as wildfire management, will require a commitment from many if we’re to move beyond past mistakes. I intend to stay as fully engaged as possible on these topics.