We’re off and running! The 2020 state legislative session started last week, and the Capitol is buzzing with predictions and expectations about what will happen this year. We’re also reflecting on what we accomplished last year and how we made good on our promises.
I co-sponsored the full-day kindergarten bill last year, and now about 92% of kindergarten-aged students are attending classes. As a former teacher, I understand the value of early childhood education, and how it prepares students for a standard of lifelong learning. Full-day kindergarten saves many parents the tuition money they would otherwise spend; it also saved districts the money they were spending to offer a full day of education.
Some of my 2019 bills addressed other aspects of education, including training our principals to be leaders, which can change the tenor of a school. Students in teacher education programs will now be taught the best practices compiled by groups of educators, outlining what they wish they knew when they started teaching, or what they learned in a classroom. We also set aside stipends for teachers in rural schools to encourage them to enjoy the camaraderie and beauty of rural Colorado.
One bill I sponsored last session established the Food Systems Advisory Council at Colorado State University to match food producers with food consumers. This one-stop shopping process makes it easier for both to call one number. Producers may have lots of a particular food that consumers, like schools, prisons or hospitals, may need. It keeps our local foods local and stabilizes markets for farmers and ranchers.
Another bill protects our water from acid mine drainage by having mine owners post a bond before opening their mine, which will be used for cleanup once they’re done. Too many mining companies go bankrupt, left without the resources to clean up after themselves; this bill assures that won’t happen, and taxpayers won’t have to pay.
And we found resources to help people living in the Wildland-Urban Interface to mitigate their properties in advance of another wildfire season. This lowers insurance costs and keeps fires from spreading unnecessarily.
As a Legislature, we worked to make our state more affordable and equitable for all Coloradans. To continue that work, we must work together to find the best solutions for our problems.
The first 10 priority bills of the year were released last week, and I’m happy one of mine is No. 2. The bill will help people who have been working but now want to go back to college; certificates, courses and work experience will be evaluated by a panel to determine what college credit students can earn. These hard-working Coloradans will now have a semester or so of credit before they even get started, encouraging them to pursue a degree.
We learned in our committee how students in higher education are not just high school graduates anymore. They are older and more experienced, and should be encouraged to pursue more education if they want.
This bill will help them get the start they need.
A second bill of mine addresses school newspapers, one of my loves during my years of teaching. The statute governing the student press was written in the 1970s, and, of course, did not include online newspapers. This bill will update the statute so students will have their First Amendment rights guaranteed whether their writing is in print or online. It will also protect the teacher from administrative retaliation for supporting a student following the law.
Together, the 72nd General Assembly is considering bills related to affordable health care and more mental health help. We are looking at bills concerning teen vaping and smoking, rural economic development and further wildfire mitigation in high-risk areas. The Safe2Tell program, which has become increasingly utilized in Colorado, could be improved, helping students in need to quickly get the help they need.
Our goal this year is to work together to make our state more affordable, build an economy that’s for all and protect our Colorado way of life. Though only 10 bills made the list of priorities, we’ll consider many more during this session. I will continue working with both Democrats and Republicans to get the good work done, while also faithfully representing District 59.
Barbara McLachlan represents State House District 59. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.