Week 4 – With low ambitions…

Last weekend Louis and I decided to go to the movies during our family time on Sunday. Although the film has been out for weeks, we finally made it to see Lincoln. If you have not yet seen the movie, it is a fascinating portrayal of how our 16th President navigated difficult political waters to pass the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which ended slavery in our country. For political nerds like myself, the film highlights the struggles that elected officials face as they struggle to live their values in the face of extreme opposition. I was particularly taken with Tommy Lee Jones’ portrayal of U.S. Representative Thaddeus Stevens, who was an ardent abolitionist and advocate for racial equity. At the climax of the film, Rep. Stevens must choose between making a bold statement for racial equality or having the 13th Amendment become law. Ultimately, he decides to minimize his own beliefs publicly to ensure passage of the amendment, which causes him immense personal grief. The lesson was clear – it may be difficult to know which path will lead to victory but, regardless of the challenges we may face, we must continue on in pursuit of the ideals we hold dear.

This week has been full of intense debates centered on our core values as Coloradans. I have seen my first bill and resolution pass, and I have also voted down legislation after many hours of emotional public testimony. This job is incredibly challenging, but I am honored to represent my community in this venue.

Emancipation Proclamation Awareness Month
One hundred and fifty years ago President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation into law, freeing thousands of slaves during the Civil War. This courageous act was the culmination of years of struggle based on the simple premise that all people are created equal. This action paved the way for the full abolition of slavery, which helped to reunify our country during one of the most divisive periods in our history. I was approached by the NAACP Colorado, Montana, Wyoming State Conference to run a resolution that declared February 2013 the Emancipation Proclamation Awareness Month for the state of Colorado. As a member of the NAACP Colorado Springs Branch, I was honored to carry this resolution and I was happy to host additional members of the NAACP on the Senate floor as the resolution was presented. The House considered the resolution on Tuesday and passed it on for final signature by the Governor.

Economic Opportunity Act
On Monday, my first bill, SB 13-018, was heard in the Senate Business, Labor, Technology (BLT) Committee. This bill, also known as the Economic Opportunity Act, prohibits employers from using credit information in hiring/promotion decisions if the information is unrelated to the job. I believe that no one should be denied an employment opportunity because they have fallen on hard economic times. We have just come through the worst recession since the Great Depression, and many Coloradans have experienced extreme financial hardship. We should be focused on returning people to work rather than creating arbitrary barriers to employment that keep people in debt. The BLT committee heard testimony from employees, advocacy groups, lawyers and others that indicated that this bill is good for Colorado’s economy. Unlike previous years, the business lobby was neutral on the bill because I worked with them to craft an amendment that permits employers to use credit reports in the hiring of CEOs and CFOs (while still allowing them an opportunity to explain any credit discrepancies that may be due to military service, medical expenses, divorce, etc.) and requires the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment to investigate claims of violation instead of having these issues heard in the courts. The bill passed out of committee with Democratic support (3-2) and is now headed to the full Senate for consideration.

Gun Safety
The Senate Judiciary Committee heard both SB 13-009 and 13-062 last week. Both bills were presented as an extension of the extreme, national agenda of the NRA to have more and more weapons in civic life. SB 13-009 would have permitted school boards to allow school employees (teachers, administrators, janitors, paraprofessionals, cafeteria staff, etc.) to carry concealed weapons in schools. I think it’s important to note that under current law you can take an online course (with no live training) to receive a concealed carry permit here in Colorado. As a parent, I believe that our kids should feel safe in school. In fact, the testimony, data and research shared with me by educators, law enforcement officers, parents and students proved that this bill would have put kids further in harm’s way by exposing them to adults with minimal training to properly handle a firearm. I thought it unfortunate that SB 13-009 figuratively and literally placed all Colorado kids in the crossfire, and for that reason I voted against the measure.

Senate Bill 13-062, would have mandated private businesses to hire armed security guards (1 guard for every 50 patrons) if lawful business owners did not permit members of the public to carry a weapon in their establishment. If they didn’t comply with the concealed carry mandate, they would have been held liable under civil law for any damage that may happen in a rampage. The VP for Kroenke Sports, which owns and operates large sporting venues (e.g. Pepsi Center, Dick’s Sporting Goods Field, etc.), testified that his company would be forced to hire over 400 guards for a standard concert. Like most Coloradans, I believe that more and more guns in civic life will jeopardize our safety. We have all seen the violence that erupts on Black Friday when patrons fight over discounted microwaves; I cannot fathom what these events would look like if the entire store was armed and ready for battle. I voted against this measure because I believe that the 2nd Amendment does not supersede our constitutional guarantee of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We need common sense gun safety laws that honor our core values and do not cater to the extreme gun agenda.

I will continue to stand up for our core beliefs, even when the fight gets difficult. Again, I am always happy to hear from you. Please email, call, Tweet, Facebook, or visit me if you’d like to talk about any issue that may be facing the State of Colorado. I will leave you with this quote from U.S. Representative Stevens:

“I will be satisfied if my epitaph shall be written thus: ‘Here lies one who never rose to any eminence, who only courted the low ambition to have it said that he striven to ameliorate the condition of the poor, the lowly, the downtrodden of every race and language and color.’” – Rep. Thaddeus Stevens, January 13, 1865

With low ambitions,

Jessie

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