Session wraps up with key successes for District 6

As the clock strikes midnight, the 2013 legislative session comes to a close. There will be a number of efforts seeking to sum up the work that we did and, depending on your political views, you’ll likely be very pleased or extremely dissatisfied, with not much to offer to those identify with the center of the political spectrum.

Yet I passed a number of bills on topics that I believe are important to Colorado and my district. Addressing forest health, the state’s timber industry and wildfire mitigation will continue as legislators learn more about what is achievable at the state level. Given the large amount of federal-land ownership in Colorado, we’re limited to some degree, but much needs to be done, and greater collaboration among all levels of government is possible.

I had several bills in the area of education: expanding opportunities and accountability for online coursework, making clear that there’s room for school boards to exercise greater flexibility in participation in school-board meetings and delving into the area of English language-learning programs.

The bill I sponsored on that last topic failed to receive implementation funding this year, and I was unwilling to pass on an unfunded mandate to the local school districts. I asked that the bill be killed for now, and I’ll use the summer and fall to work with my school districts and others on ways to support increased proficiency for students in English as a second language programs in rural and urban schools.

The bill that renews the Colorado Youth Advisory Council has passed, allowing for another five years for the council to do its work at the Legislature with us. I look forward to continued participation with that terrific group of young people. Each year, the youth council is different in membership, but the consistency that I’ve so appreciated is everyone on the council’s openness to learning and participating together in the American way of government.

I completely expect to see some of them elected to office at all levels someday, with a keener appreciation than most have of the complexities, value and responsibilities of citizen engagement. The role that the COYAC members played in the dedication of the new Colorado justice center and opening the door, literally and figuratively, to younger students to be a part of that was great to watch and made me very proud of them.

There were a number of other bills that I sponsored, and they’re listed at ellenroberts.com, along with a short summary of the bills and whether they passed. The measure session’s success for me is about quality rather than quantity of bills, but the list is quite lengthy and provided me with the opportunity to work with an array of legislators on a variety of issues.

I’m headed to Mozambique in two days to present a weeklong workshop about legislative strengthening with two legislators from Maryland and Arizona, and two staff members from the National Conference of State Legislatures. We’ll be in Mozambique to work with members of its parliament, but if this experience is like the other international workshops I’ve been faculty for, I will learn as much as I’m able to pass on to others.

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

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