Our 2013 legislative session ended on May 8. The session was tremendously productive, and I am proud of what we accomplished for the people of Colorado. We considered over 600 bills and just under 90 resolutions during the 120-day session, and with several weeks before the deadline, it is a fair guess that more than 400 of the bills we passed will be signed into law by Governor Hickenlooper.
Before continuing a recap of the 2013 legislative session, I want to take a moment to remember the people of Oklahoma. Over the last few days, we have heard the news reports of dozens killed – many children – and many more injured. We’ve seen the images of entire towns leveled along with mangled piles of cars and debris in the string of violent tornadoes that have ravaged the state. As a former police officer and paramedic, I am humbled by all of those brave men and women who have worked around the clock, on what I know are seemingly endless shifts, to find and rescue as many of the people buried in the rubble as possible.
The devastation caused by the tornadoes in Oklahoma will take years to repair. While hospitals and medical centers have suffered tremendous damage, they continue to care for the injured. Many of the victims have lost their homes and most of their possessions, while their local grocery stores and food supplies have also been leveled. Over the coming days, the people of Oklahoma will need food, supplies, blood and shelter. Please visit www.redcross.org to find out where you can donate and how you can help.
The 2013 Session
This was my first session as Senate President, and it was an honor to serve. Despite some people’s perception, I worked with all 35 members of the State Senate. Every legislator considered their vote individually, and six of the nine bills I carried, I co-primed with Republican Senators and Representatives. This type of cooperation is the opposite of what we see in Washington, D.C., and I’m proud of the work we did this year in the General Assembly.
The Senate Majority had four broad objectives going into this session, and we succeeded in passing meaningful and effective legislation this year in each of these areas:
As of today, four of my bills were signed into law, with five more awaiting the Governor’s approval.
Signed by Governor Hickenlooper:
State Liability for Damages (SB23) increases the amount of damages that may be recovered under the Colorado Governmental Immunity Act. Our state has a duty to take full responsibility for the damage caused by its actions, and this bipartisan bill, co-primed with Republican Minority Leader Bill Cadman, increases the state’s accountability to its citizens.
State Liability (SB288) amends the Colorado Governmental Immunity Act to allow larger damage payments than currently allowed through the State Claims Board. This bipartisan bill helps to ensure that the state takes full responsibility for the damages caused by its actions – such as the Lower North Fork Fire.
Teaching Physicians (SB42) allows a distinguished foreign teaching physician at the level of assistant professor to renew his or her license instead of being permitted to serve only one year as a licensed physician. I carried this bill with Republican House Minority Leader Mark Waller.
State Rules (HB1070) enacts the 2012 version of the Colorado Revised Statutes.
Awaiting the Governor’s Approval:
The Colorado Working Families Opportunity Act (SB1) establishes a tax break for Colorado’s working families to ensure that people who work at low or moderate wage jobs are able to make ends meet and afford basic necessities. This tax break extends the Earned Income Tax Credit and Colorado Child Tax Credits and will benefit more than 370,000 working families in Colorado -- 5,000 families in El Paso County alone.
The Colorado Road and Community Safety Act (SB251) allows Colorado residents who lack citizenship to obtain a driver’s license, instruction permit or state-issued identification card. The license or ID card will be valid for three years. The legislation requires both documented and undocumented noncitizen residents to provide proof of residency, proof of a Colorado tax return, a federal taxpayer identification number (an ITIN), and proof of identity from their country of origin. The legislation also requires clear designation on the license that the temporary documented or undocumented noncitizen is not Real ID compliant. This bill will help keep our roads safer and allow law enforcement to better know who is on our roads without costing Colorado tax payers a dime. This bill was controversial, but I believe it is important legislation in keeping our roads and law enforcement officers safe and reducing the number of uninsured drivers.
New Renewable Energy Standard (SB252) seeks to raise Colorado’s renewable energy standard from 10% to 20% by 2020 for wholesale and large retail electrical cooperatives, maintain stable rates for consumers, and give credit to these cooperatives for energy generated by their Colorado consumers. The measure also expands the definition of renewable energy to include coal mine methane capture and synthetic gas produced by burning trash. This bill encourages our state to continue to add job diversity in rural areas and gives Colorado greater energy independence and security. This legislation will bolster Colorado jobs, save Coloradans money in the long run, and help protect our land and water.
The Colorado Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice (SB7) continues the Colorado Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice for five more years. The Commission does valuable work regarding our criminal and juvenile justice policies.
We have accomplished a lot during the 2013 legislative session. I have truly appreciated working with my constituents and colleagues in the legislature this year. I’m proud of our success during this session and look forward to continuing our work in the next legislative session. Wishing you all as safe and happy Memorial Day weekend. I am, as always,