My first year in the Legislature was one of the busiest in recent years, and I confirmed my belief that the only way to get things done is through compromise and respecting both sides of the aisle.
Let’s focus on some great progress for Southwest Colorado and other parts of rural Colorado this session.
One of the bills I am most proud to sponsor is a law that will require the Commission on Family Medicine to help support rural family medicine residency programs. Those of us who live outside of metro areas understand how difficult it can be to encourage doctors to come to rural areas to practice.
Representing a rural district, I know that we need to encourage family-practice physicians in underserved areas where their medical practices can thrive and develop so everyone can have access to quality medical care. Colorado has a challenge to retain and recruit doctors in rural areas, and this program will help us get better access to health care.
I am also proud to have helped broker a compromise on renewable energy and how it affects rural Colorado. Initially, there was a proposal to require rural co-ops to have 25 percent of their portfolio in renewable-energy by 2020. There is concern among rural co-ops about how they will achieve this goal, and my amendment helped reduce the number to 20 percent.
I believe this goal can be achieved and even exceeded, given Colorado’s track record and expertise in developing renewable energy sources. Allowing rural co-ops to transition during the next several years will give us an opportunity to grow our local economy. Renewable energy is the future; gas and oil is the present. Finding a balance between the two is the best way forward.
Other bills I sponsored help update the Colorado Commission on Indian Affairs, provide free fishing licenses for veterans, give Fort Lewis College investment authority, continue the Wildlife Habitat Stamp to provide money to protect wildlife habitat, provide seed money for Colorado export businesses to help them grow and create jobs, support school resource officers to ensure our kids are safe at school and streamline the hiring practices for the Colorado Bureau of Investigation leadership. I was also the House sponsor for a much-needed wildfire-mitigation bill with Sen. Ellen Roberts. I am proud that almost all of my bills had bipartisan support.
Finally, I would like to send a big thanks to Tiffany Parker, La Plata County clerk, who was instrumental in crafting a new law signed by Gov. John Hickenlooper that will simplify elections for voters in Colorado, protect against voter fraud and save counties millions during the next few years. Her expertise and leadership was invaluable in making our state a national leader in giving voters options, modernizing our election system and saving money for local governments.
Colorado can be proud to be on the cutting edge of many issues that were debated in the Legislature this year. Whether or not you agree with the result, there is no gridlock at the Capitol in Denver. Every year, lawmakers are required to balance the budget and pass laws that we hope will make a better life for our families and future generations. I look forward to being the voice for all communities in House District 59 again next year.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.