The 2019 legislation session is officially over, here is a wrap up of the past 120 days: I have introduced 17 different bills and passed 12 of them. I serve as the vice-chair on the Rural Affairs and Agriculture committee and a member on the Transportation and Local Government committee. Some of my bill highlights include improving mental health resources for our schools, creating a committee to study blockchain technology for agriculture, expanding the teacher cadet program and the health preceptor program, prioritizing the needs of farmers through deployment of the CDA over the FDA and also, I voted No on the Red Flag bill. I want to thank everyone for their support during the session, voicing for rural values.
Investing in Colorado’s future
Fighting for historic investments in K-12 and higher education: This year the legislature passed bills to fund full-day kindergarten for Colorado’s youngest learners, invest in skills for Colorado’s emerging workforce, attract and retain early childhood and rural educators, and allow school capital construction funding to be used for career and technical education projects in public schools.
We also added an additional $100 million to buy-down the budget stabilization factor and better invest in our K-12 schools, increasing funding by $183 per student. We also kept higher ed tuition flat and provided more oversight for student loans.
Helping to lower the cost of health care: This session we passed legislation to increase transparency for health care costs in Colorado’s hospitals, prohibit budget-busting out-of-network billing, reduce the price of insulin and lower prescription drug costs by allowing for the importation of prescription drugs from Canada.
We also reached across the aisle to create a new aﬀordable and competitive health care option in the state of Colorado that will be available to families and individuals when purchasing health insurance. Colorado will become the first state in the nation to ever set in place a process for oﬀering a public health insurance option. We also passed a bill that will allow healthcare cooperatives to incorporate consumer protections like coverage for preexisting conditions and allow the State Insurance Commissioner to work with groups seeking to create co-ops so that they can get up and running as soon as possible to provide health care cost relief for Coloradans.
Addressing the opioid crisis: The opioid epidemic in the United States has claimed more lives than the entire Vietnam War. We continued to pass bipartisan bills to help battle this epidemic by getting people the care and treatment they need and addressing prescribing practices.
Delivering transportation solutions: Coloradans are tired of the lack of investment in roads, bridges, and transit. We worked on creative and collaborative solutions to our transportation problems. This year the legislature was able to secure more than $300 million for transportation funding without jeopardizing education or higher ed funding. We expanded opportunity in the transportation sector by lowering the age threshold for getting a commercial driver’s license. And in November, voters will decide on a bipartisan ballot measure to better fund public schools, higher education and transportation.
Standing up for rural Colorado: I have stood up for rural Colorado and worked to address the unique needs of rural Colorado. We passed legislation to deploy more broadband infrastructure, lower the cost of health care, improve access to mental health resources, expand access to aﬀordable housing, address the rural teacher shortage, increase access to immigrant’s driver’s licenses, and combat the opioid crisis. Below are some of the bills that I passed with bipartisan legislation.
HB19-1137 Expand Teacher Cadet Program Include Early Childhood Education
Under current Colorado statute, the Department of Higher Education runs a teacher cadet program in identified rural schools and school districts. The statute gives money to local school districts, charter schools, or charter school institutes. These entities may contract with a board of cooperative services in order to identify and support high school students who are interested in pursuing teaching careers in rural Colorado and students, including those with disabilities, who reflect the geographic, racial and ethnic makeup of the state. This bill adds early childhood education to one of the teaching careers supported by this program. Early childhood education builds a foundation for a child’s future development, providing a strong base for lifelong learning and learning abilities, including cognitive and social development.
HB19-1088 Modify Income Tax Credit Health Care Preceptors
This bill creates a credit for health care preceptors working in health professional shortage areas. Preceptorship refers to an uncompensated mentoring experience in which a preceptor provides a program of personalized instruction, training, and supervision for a total of no less than four working weeks or 20 business days per the calendar year that is offered to eligible graduate students to enable the students to obtain professional degrees. This bill allows a taxpayer enrolled in a preceptor program a credit against income taxes in order to incentivize them towards completing the preceptor program.
Why it matters: Nationally, fewer than 10 percent of the nation’s physicians practice in a rural area — even though such areas hold 20 percent of the U.S. population. In Colorado, there are 13 counties — all rural — that do not have a hospital, including two without even a clinic. Two counties, including Crowley, don’t have a single doctor. Preceptor programs like these often work to encourage medical students and healthcare providers to learn and practice medicine in rural Colorado.