A wise politician once told me, “When you cast your vote, be mindful of the 3 Cs – your constituents, your colleagues and your conscience. You need to go home to your district and live with your neighbors, you will need to go back into the chamber and work with your colleagues, and you need to be able to go home and sleep at night.” To that end, I have been hosting biweekly town hall events throughout the district, reading thousands of emails, and meeting with constituents, community leaders and businesses. I’ve also been working with my Democratic and Republican colleagues to find solutions to the big issues facing the state. Although I cannot guarantee we will agree on an issue, I think it is incredibly important that I weigh all perspectives in moving forward this session. Thank you for engaging with me on these important issues; I’m honored to represent our community!
Some political pundits have claimed that the Colorado legislature has taken on too many controversial subjects this session, suggesting we should delay justice on various issues for a more politically convenient time. However, on the campaign trail I heard from nearly every voter that they were tired of politicians pointing fingers of blame without ever taking action. Instead, I heard loud and clear that voters wanted their elected officials to find solutions to the most difficult issues facing us today. I had no illusions that this job would be easy and I am honored to fight hard to build a better Colorado for all of us. To that end, we are officially halfway through the session and I have great news to report!
Civil Unions – SB 11
After 3 years of struggle in the legislature, Civil Unions finally became law in Colorado! Governor Hickenlooper signed the bill into law on, Thursday, March 21, 2013, at 3:00pm at History Colorado. With nearly 1,000 people in attendance, we were able to celebrate this moment of making history. My family and I have fought for the passage of this legislation since it was introduced and it has been a surreal experience to see it become law this year. Finally, my family, and hundreds of other families throughout Colorado, will be afforded basic legal protections to care for the people that we love. Louis and I haven’t decided on a ceremony option yet (the legislative session is still in full swing!) but I will keep you apprised as we figure out all of the details!
ASSET – SB 33
Colorado ASSET passed both the House and Senate and will be signed by the Governor in the near future. I have worked on this bill for 10 years, fighting side by side with many students, parents and teachers, to ensure all Colorado kids have a fair shot to succeed. This bill was the first bill I testified on at the age of 19, and I am so relieved to see it finally become law. SB 33 will allow all Colorado high school graduates an opportunity to pay in-state tuition rates at Colorado colleges and universities if they meet standard admission criteria. I believe all people, regardless of your background, should have a fair shot to succeed in America. Colorado ASSET ensures that we keep our best and most talented students in Colorado. I will send additional details about the bill signing as soon as the Governor designates the time/place he will host the event.
GUN VIOLENCE PREVENTION
As I indicated in previous messages, we have spent a significant amount of time discussing community safety and gun violence prevention. After a marathon two weeks (I had 3 work days in that time period that lasted 17 hours each) we finally passed a comprehensive package of bills that are designed to protect community safety for all of us. Here is a quick rundown of the bills:
Background Checks – HB 1229 (signed by the Governor on 3/20/2013)
This bill requires every person who purchases a gun to pass a background check. The bill will prevent criminals and people with severe mental health issues from obtaining a gun. Millions of guns (an estimated 40% of all guns) are sold without background checks (private sales). Last year alone, the Colorado background check system kept more than 5,000 guns out of the hands of dangerous people.
Background Check Fees – HB 1228 (signed by the Governor on 3/20/2013)
The bill reinstates the Republican-initiated fee ($10) for a background check to purchase a gun. Taxpayers currently subsidize gun owners to the tune of $1,500,000 per year to pay for background checks that gun owners once took responsibility for. Those who wish to purchase a gun should be responsible for the costs. Newspapers pay licensing fees (1st Amendment), churches pay registration fees to secure their nonprofit status (1st Amendment), and cities charge permit fees for parades (1st Amendment), and this bill continues to recognize that all of our constitutional rights are coupled with responsibility.
High Capacity Magazine Limit – HB 1224 (signed by the Governor on 3/20/2013)
The bill limits the capacity of a gun magazine to 15 rounds, to reduce the damage of guns by reducing the number of rounds that can be quickly fired. The difference between a 30 round magazine and 15 round magazine is 15 less dead people. Reloading a gun allows anyone, of any size, to tackle the shooter – like in Tucson. The ONLY thing that stopped the shooting in the Aurora theatre was the fact that Holmes’ 100 round magazine jammed. The sole purpose of high-capacity magazines is to inflict the most damage in the shortest period of time.
Domestic Violence – SB 197 (headed to the House for consideration)
This bill aligns state law with federal law by keeping guns out of the hands of domestic violence abusers when a protective/restraining order is in place. Domestic violence perpetrators use extreme acts of violence to control their victims. Abusers with access to guns are much more likely to kill their victims. In Colorado, thirteen women died this way last year alone.
In-Person Training for Concealed Carry – SB 195 (headed to the House for consideration)
The bill clarifies the existing concealed carry permitting process to ensure that hands-on experience with a gun is included in the training, instead of training exclusively online. Simply stated, someone with a concealed carry permit should be able to show they can actually shoot a gun. Carrying a concealed weapon is a great responsibility. A person should be able to demonstrate basic knowledge of handling a weapon if they want the ability to shoot/maim/kill another person for self-defense.
For those of you who haven’t been able to join us for the town hall events, here is a recap of meetings I’ve hosted to date, with links to the resources/information that have been presented:
Saturday, January 19th – Westminster (co-hosted with Rep. Peniston and Sen. Tochtrop)
The first town hall we hosted focused exclusively on public safety and gun violence prevention strategies. Many attendees expressed their deep concern over violence, especially with the Aurora shooting, Newton massacre, and the brutal murder of Westminster’s own Jessica Ridgeway. The meeting had over 100 attendees, who all indicated that we needed to take a multi-pronged approach that balanced individual responsibility, law enforcement coordination, mental health care access, and strong laws focused on ending violence.
It was mentioned in the meeting that a new park is being planned in honor of Jessica Ridgeway. To learn more about the park and to donate go to the Jessica Ridgeway website.
Saturday, January 26th – Commerce City (co-hosted with Rep. Moreno and Rep. May)
Based on the feedback of voters, the second town hall event focused exclusively on transportation issues, with a broad concern about the lack of development of mass transit in the north metro area. We invited RTD Directors Paul Solano (who represents Commerce City) and his colleagues, Director Claudia Folska and Tom Tobiassen, to present on the plans to develop FasTracks in the north metro area. Residents expressed their concern that our neighborhoods have been overlooked for transit development, and the RTD Directors committed to carrying that message back to the board. To learn more about FasTracks plans in our neighborhoods, please visit the FasTracks website.
Saturday, February 9th – Thornton/Welby (co-hosted with Rep. Salazar and Sen. Hodge)
This town hall focused on broad issues of concerns among the residents of Thornton and Welby. Residents expressed their support on various issues, including health care reform, gun violence prevention and higher education. The Adams 12 School District and a representative of the teacher’s union presented to the full group about the controversial budget issues facing the schools. Overall, residents, parents, teachers and administrators agreed that we should continue to have a dialogue about making our school systems transparent and accountable, ultimately to ensure that all of our kids have a great public education.
Saturday, February 16th – Westminster (co hosted with Rep. Peniston and Sen. Tochtrop)
With the federal sequester looming and state forecasts better than expected, we invited the nonpartisan group, The Bell Policy Center, to give residents an overview of Colorado’s fiscal health and what we can do to improve it. They presented the budget in a straightforward fashion and were incredibly helpful in assisting all Westminster residents to understand the complex budget situations we face here in our great state. Click here to see their informational videos about the state budget.
Saturday, February 23rd – Perl Mack/Sherrellwood (co-hosted with Rep. Moreno)
Before the town hall event, Rep. Moreno and I visited the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) site at Adams City High School. Business students (juniors and seniors) are working with local volunteers to assist individuals to fill out and file their taxes. It was amazing to see the great work we can do when our community comes together to support one another! The town hall focused on immigration laws. We invited local immigration experts to present about current immigration laws and the proposed changes on the national level. It was the first time that I had to use my bilingual skills and it was painfully evident that I need to practice my Spanish more frequently!
March 16th – Westminster (co-hosted with Rep. Peniston and Sen. Tochtrop)
The Colorado Center on Law and Policy presented to the full group about the state and federal health care reforms taking hold this year. Residents were able to get a full overview of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare) and the Colorado health benefit exchange. One of our own Adams County residents, Ken Connell, also presented on a proposed bill to establish a statewide health care cooperative system that would reduce costs for every resident of the state.
Although we are only halfway through the session, we are not halfway done with our work! We still are required to approve a budget and we have many issues to consider before the session ends. I was recently appointed the Joint Select Committee for the Implementation of Amendment 64, which is charged with establishing all of the regulations related to the voter-approved measure to legalize marijuana for recreational use. In addition, I have two high-profile bills that will be introduced in the next two weeks related to privacy and public safety. Stay tuned, there are many more issues to be addressed in the coming weeks! With that said, I’ll leave you with these words from our 26th President, Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt:
“In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing. The worst thing you can do is nothing.” – President Theodore Roosevelt
Doing the right thing,