Looking at top legislation beyond hot-button issues

After a quick trip home for the weekend, Iím preparing for a busy week ahead with four of my bills to be heard in committee. My two water bills passed out of the agriculture committee last week and will be heard on the Senate floor for any debate and, hopefully, passage on through to the House chamber.

Every bill goes through hearings and debates in the assigned committees and again on the floor of both chambers of the Legislature before ending up on the governorís desk, if all goes well, or in the killed billsí pile, if a bill fails to garner enough support for passage.

Not all bills are controversial or complicated, so a number of them pass relatively easily. Then, there are bills that stir passionate debate and possibly flaring tempers with dramatic votes. The Senate floor calendar for this week includes the topics of collective bargaining for firefighters and civil unions as well as a number of bills in committees dealing with other controversial issues.

Iíve been receiving lots of emails, and while Iím not able to respond to all of them, given limited time and staff, I am reading them. What Iíve received so far about proposed firearms legislation and the importance of the Second Amendment to my constituents continues to impress me with the thought and effort put into them. The vast majority, while acknowledging the recent tragedies, donít support additional gun control.

Many are anxious to know where I stand on this issue. In a nutshell, I am a strong supporter of the constitutional right to bear arms. I continue to educate myself on the various sides of the issues, including attending evening debates and forums. I represent eight counties in the rural, remote region of the state and this also significantly colors my views.

Some Republican-sponsored firearms bills have already been heard in committee, although not in the committee I sit on. None of these bills has successfully passed, given the Democratic majorities in both chambers, but itís rumored weíll see the Democratic bill package this week.

Returning to my own bills to be heard this week, Iíve got one that deals with updates to Coloradoís probate code, another on improving access to legislative archives and two bills before the education committee. The education bills have particular relevance to rural areas and expanding the use of technology.

One of the education bills makes it clear that school boards can allow electronic participation by board members as decided by the local boardís policies. Executive sessions are excluded from this, and the bill language discourages overuse of this means of attendance, but the specifics are to be determined at the local level.

The other education bill aims to improve access to supplemental online coursework and to provide greater support for ďblended learning,Ē which is a combination of online work in a more traditional classroom setting with direct teacher interaction with the student.

Adequate access to broadband is holding the rural areas of Colorado back in this emerging and important area of education, but a recent study also demonstrates that inadequate professional development and funding for blended learning is also a barrier we should address. This bill seeks to do that by helping students and their teachers make the most of opportunities in blended learning.

Ellen Roberts represents Senate District 6 in Coloradoís General Assembly. The district encompasses Montezuma, Dolores, La Plata, Archuleta, Montrose, San Miguel, San Juan and Ouray counties. Call Roberts by phone at (303) 866-4884 or email ellen.roberts.senate@state.co.us