The Colorado General Assembly has just wrapped up a very active and successful 120-day legislative session, and it continues to be my honor to serve the people and communities of Senate District 35.
This year I worked with both sides of the aisle on several key issues important to southern Colorado.
Supporting our veterans remains one of my chief priorities while I represent you as your state senator. Veterans — our local heroes — serve our communities in innumerable ways, and it is our responsibility to honor their service. This year I sponsored several bills with this in mind.
We are finding that many of our returning veterans struggle to find work once they return to civilian life. This drove me to sponsor House Bill 15-1030, a successful piece of legislation that creates an employment-services pilot program for veterans. I was also successful in establishing a military tax exemption and increasing support for veteran’s service officers.
Additionally, Senate Bill 15-1045 was passed, granting our veterans free entrance to state parks. Many of our veterans face a variety of challenges, and it was an honor to be able to pass legislation in supports of these patriots.
One of my most pressing concerns this session was improving health care access to rural Colorado. I sponsored Senate Bill 15-197, which will make it easier for advanced practice registered nurses to provide care to our communities.
We don’t have enough health care providers in rural Colorado, so many of our neighbors struggle to find care when they need it. It is important that we attract more health care providers to the region, and this new law will make it much easier.
We should also give families more options when it comes to selecting providers, which is why I sponsored House Bill 15-1075. It allows registered naturopathic doctors to treat children less than 2 years of age, if certain conditions are met.
I will continue to work to bring more quality providers to rural Colorado so everyone has the opportunity to get the care they need.
I also sponsored a bill that created a commission on aging that will look more closely at the challenges we face as we age. Our elders and their families need access to support resources, which are often scarce in our rural areas. This commission will look at this issue and create solutions to ease the burdens for families facing the challenges many of us will confront as our loved ones and we get older.
This session, I was proud to work with Rep. Ed Vigil — my San Luis Valley dynamic duo counterpart — to add a judge to the overloaded 12th Judicial District. I am committed to protecting Coloradans’ constitutional rights — including the right to a speedy trial — making this appointment imperative. I was pleased that we were able to prioritize this necessary measure, which was signed into law by the governor on March 20.
Finally, I worked very seriously on the vital issue of water in Southern Colorado. I successfully sponsored Senate Bill 15-198, which expands opportunities for agricultural water-rights owners to temporarily lease their water to a municipality while the owner fallows the affected agricultural land.
I also carried an initiative that allows the Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority to use the Drinking Water Revolving Fund to provide financial assistance to private nonprofit entities for drinking water projects. The Governor will sign this innovative effort into law on Tuesday in Rocky Ford.
I remain dedicated to keeping the Southwest Chief Amtrak line in the state, and I will continue to support economic development measures for Southern Colorado.
While the 2015 session has only just ended, I am already working on legislation for 2016.
It is my honor to serve the citizens of Senate District 35, and I am especially pleased with the high success rate of legislation supporting our part of the state. I look forward to continuing to serve you and achieving more success for Southern Colorado next year.