Every January, the opening day of the General Assembly marks the beginning of another opportunity to spend 120 days developing policies and fighting the big fights to make the biggest difference we can to make life better for the people of Colorado.
This year, the shadow of the pandemic looms large, as do the economic disruptions from the COVID hangover. While we’re all eager to get back to a more normal life, many are struggling to keep up with the high cost of living. There’s little we can do about the global factors that are driving prices of things like gas and groceries, but we’ve been working for years on solutions to bring down the costs of healthcare, housing, child care, and higher education. We will be continuing that work this session.
For the families struggling the most, our work last year to close tax loopholes on wealthy corporations and special interests has allowed us to increase funding for the earned-income tax credit and child tax credit. And I’m crossing my fingers that the US Senate gets it together to pass the Build Back Better plan that wil continue the federal child tax credit and do even more to help hard-working families get through this tough time. I know Senators Bennet and Hickenlooper are supporting that effort.
Our public schools are also struggling. On top of being chronically underfunded for decades, the pandemic has strained our educators and set back our students. That’s why we’ll be boosting funding for education this year to support those teachers and make sure every kid is given the educational opportunities they need to prepare for a successful life.
There are so many other ways we’ve made progress over the last few years on dozens of issues covering everything from climate change to transportation infrastructure to gun violence prevention, and I’m excited to continue that work while we also address the most immediate needs of the people of this beautiful state.
For my part, I’m focusing my efforts on a few specific things:
- Utility Consumer Protections – When a customer is overdue, they may receive robocalls and letters that they’ll soon be disconnected, but it’s rare that someone actually talks to them and helps connect them to consumer assistance programs. And when a customer pays an overdue bill, there’s no guarantee their service will be reconnected the same day. We can do more to make sure consumers’ needs come first.
- Primary Care Payment Reform – We’ve been talking for years about the need to prioritize preventive care and move from fee-for-service to paying for quality outcomes, but progress has been limited. I want to pick up the pace and move closer to a system of universal primary care.
- Health-based Air Pollution Standards – We’ve made a lot of progress on climate change and monitoring air toxics around refineries, but what about other toxic chemicals released by a variety of industries that may cause cancer or other health effects? It’s time to beef up air quality monitoring across the state for all harmful chemicals and hold industry accountable for the health of their surrounding communities.
- Senior Housing Supports – Since my first year at the legislature, I’ve been working on finding ways to replace the broken senior homestead exemption with a better senior housing benefit that will give more support to lower-income seniors including renters and remove the ten-year residency requirement so that these seniors can downsize and take their tax credit with them. It’s the most complex policy I’ve ever worked on, and I’m getting closer to the right solution. Maybe this year will be the year.
- Protecting Voting Rights – As Chair of the State Affairs Committee, I hear all proposed legislation related to elections and voting. I will hold the line against “bie lie” conspiracy theorists and protect Colorado’s gold-standard election system from right-wing attacks. This shouldn’t be a partisan issue, and even the vast majority of Colorado’s County Clerks (most of which are Republicans) agree that our election systems are secure. But there are several GOP legislators who brought legislation last year to undermine our election system and chip away at voting rights in the name of increased security. They’re wrong, and I’ll fight them at every turn.
As I’ve said before, legislating is a team effort. None of us can be experts on everything, so we each specialize and work to build support among our colleagues. While I’m focused on the ideas above, I know my colleagues are digging into countless other ways to help Coloradans get through this tough time and make this beautiful state even better and more prosperous than it already is. I can’t wait to see what they come up with.
And stay well. Hold your loved ones close. This too shall pass.