Much remains on plate as session begins to wrap up

First and foremost, I would like to express my regrets for missing the Annual La Plata and Archuleta County Cattlemen’s dinner. As our session comes to a close, we are working long hours to make sure every bill receives discourse and scrutiny from the House of Representatives. Because we worked until 10 p.m. on Friday, I missed my flight and was unable to travel to Durango last weekend. My wife Barbara was able to attend the dinner. Next year, I hope to report my work on the House Agriculture Committee as planned.

This has been an exciting week at work. As you may know, I’ve had the opportunity to vote on many important, intensely debated bills. One was House Bill 1136, the Job Protection Civil Rights Enforcement Act. Although this bill passed on third reading, I felt it was important to vote “no.” Though I strongly believe in the removal of discrimination in the workplace, this particular bill runs the risk of unduly burdening small business owners with fewer than 15 employees. The risk of punitive damages is very high and disproportionate for these small-businesses. These employees and employers are a vital part of our district’s communities. It is important to me to stand up for our small-business owners, and the bill was not good for them.

I also had the opportunity last week to vote “yes” on House Bill 1303, the Voter Access and Modernized Elections Act. In short, the bill makes numerous changes in election and voter-registration processes in Colorado. Many city and county employees in District 59 have publicly supported this bill, including La Plata County Clerk and Recorder Tiffany Lee Parker, who traveled to Denver to testify before the House’s State, Veterans & Military Affairs Committee in support of the bill. By modernizing our state’s voter system, this bill will make elections smoother and more efficient. Last week, this bill passed on third reading, and I look forward to its passing in the Senate.

Senate Bill 25 would grant more opportunities for collective bargaining to our state’s firefighters. Leading up to the vote, many people in my district came forward to share their support or disapproval of this bill. After careful consideration, I voted “yes” for several reasons. Firefighters deserve our support and respect, which I firmly believe this bill does. Many of the bills’ opponents were concerned the bill would give disproportionate control over wages. However, the bill had been significantly amended trying to bring all sides to more of a consensus. Collective bargaining will be used as a tool to discuss issues such as safety procedures and emergency-response protocol, but not wages. I think this bill is a great way to honor our firefighters, and I look forward to Gov. John Hickenlooper signing it.

Another upcoming bill is SB 252, which concerns measures to increase Colorado’s renewable-energy standard to encourage the deployment of methane-capture technologies. On the one hand, I support renewable energy, but on the other hand, Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association and all of the local rural co-ops are an essential part of life on the Western Slope. Hopefully, we can work further on this bill to find common ground between these two institutions. Without compromise, this bill could bring unintended consequences, and we must strive for a realistic path to renewable energy that protects our natural resources and also encourages our rural electric cooperatives to come to the bargaining table.

As always, I continue to be proud to serve as your state representative for House District 59.

Mike McLachlan represents House District 59 in Colorado’s General Assembly. The district 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.

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