Education, newspaper bills gain momentum

We have now finished the legislative session’s fourth week and have begun receiving bills for third reading.

This is the final review by the House, where there is a recorded vote, and the bill either moves on to the Senate, the governor’s desk or goes to the legislative graveyard.

I am pleased that we passed HB 1034, a bill by Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg, R, Sterling, to facilitate the electronic transfer of agriculture warehouse products and improve the financial security for our producers and their financing entities.

We also unanimously passed HB 1023, which was a legislative push to establish standards for accelerating academic standards for K-12 education. On a divided vote, we removed restrictions on small-group health-insurance carriers to forward information regarding mental illness to the all-payer claims database. I supported this bill because I believe patients and the public are better served by a system that is more transparent and results in a robust database that can be shared in such a way as to protect patients and the public.

The database is completely encrypted and allows us to see where our medical dollars are being spent. While it was a divided vote, it was not a partisan one. A handful of Republicans joined the Democrats to support the legislation.

After successful passage through the House Judiciary Committee, we unanimously passed HB 1014, the stolen newspaper bill that will protect all newspapers, irrespective of whether they are free or not. We also unanimously passed HB 1065, which will permit mental-health professionals licensed in another state to provide medical treatment for military installations or veterans’ hospitals.

There was a big floor battle about renewing the cigarette tax. For some reason, previous legislatures exempted cigarettes from taxation. Although it was taxed later, the bill was going to “sunset” or be repealed unless extended. After a vibrant debate, the House voted to extend the tax.

I made my first appearance at the podium in support of HB 1076, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation public-safety measure designed to expand opportunities for directors and agents. Despite the fact that it had the backing of the current CBI director, Colorado sheriffs and police officers and virtually all law enforcement in Colorado, the debate took an ugly turn when it came to the vote on second reading. I am unsure why there was this opposition and hope that moving forward, this unknown opposition will halt. It passed on third reading on a vote of 41-22. It now moves on to the Senate.

We had a substantial week in the Agriculture, Natural Resources & Livestock Committee, where we passed a controversial water bill. HB 1013, which I discussed last week, involves the U.S. Forest Service and ski areas and was passed in a bipartisan manner to the House Appropriations Committee.

In Judiciary, we unanimously passed an excellent bill designed to attack the horrific backlog of rape test kits and other medical evidence that has developed in the last decade. It is notable that this bill was sponsored by Rep. Frank McNulty, former speaker of the house, and was fully supported by all members of the committee. We also heard a bill regarding the restoration of Second Amendment rights for nonviolent felons. There is much work to be done on this issue, and I need to be convinced that the public will be protected if this bill passes.

I am having my first town hall meeting at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at the John Wagner Public Library in Lake City, with a follow-up at 2:30 p.m. in Gunnison at the Ann Zugelder Public Library. I urge anyone who wants to discuss any legislative issue to attend and keep me informed about what my constituents want.

I continue to be honored to be your state representative for District 59, and I look forward to hearing from you on these important issues.

Mike McLachlan represents the newly reconstituted House District 59 in Colorado’s General Assembly. The district now encompasses La Plata, Archuleta, San Juan, Ouray and Hinsdale counties and part of Gunnison County. Call McLachlan at (303) 866-2914 or email mike.mclachlan.house@state.co.us.