Positive legislation

For a legislative session that is infused with plenty of partisan rancor, the 2014 gathering of Colorado lawmakers is also cultivating some across-the-aisle goodwill, with a number of measures making their way through both chambers. Two in particular deserve kudos – and swift passage.

Rep. Mike McLachlan’s measure to provide a tax credit to farmers who donate some of their harvest and Sen. Nancy Todd’s bill allowing Colorado community colleges to offer four-year degrees where the demand and capacity can be demonstrated are excellent examples of practical measures that do good things for all involved.

House Bill 1119, which McLachlan, D-Durango, is co-sponsoring with Rep. Tim Dore, R-Elizabeth, would provide farmers an incentive to donate some of their bounty to help feed hungry Coloradans. The measure allows food producers to take up to $5,000 in state tax credits for food donations made to organizations that distribute food to those in need. In order to qualify for the credit, donors would have to certify that they earn income in the farming or ranching business. A federal tax credit for such donations already exists. Colorado is right to mirror that benefit.

Those who are struggling to feed themselves and their families do not traditionally have access to adequate amounts of fresh produce. A tax credit to encourage donations to food banks will mean a significant incentive for farmers and ranchers to make those contributions, supporting both the nutritional health of their neighbors as well as demonstrating the values at the heart of locally produced food. And Colorado’s farmers and ranchers, who must invest heavily – through equipment and constant labor – in making their businesses successful, can benefit from a tax break for sharing their harvests. HB 1119 passed unanimously out of the House Agriculture Committee on Monday. It should enjoy similar support as it winds through the legislative process.

So, too, should Senate Bill 4, sponsored by Sen. Nancy Todd, D-Aurora. Her three Senate co-sponsors comprise two Republicans and one Democrat, and the House support is equally bipartisan. The measure would allow Colorado community colleges to develop and offer applied-science bachelor’s degree programs, provided that the colleges can demonstrate there is demand for the programs, that they can be offered efficiently, and that a similar degree is not offered at a nearby four-year institution.

The bill makes sense: If there is workforce and market demand – a requirement of SB 4 - and a community college is positioned to offer a four-year degree in a cost-effective way, it should be allowed to do so. It opens options for students and employers, creating more opportunities for Coloradans to access education that prepares them for the job market. The bill, at the same time, ensures that the state’s community colleges and four-year schools work together to efficiently and effectively deliver needed degree programs. The Colorado Senate passed the measure last month, and it is now being considered in the House.

Colorado legislators, from both chambers and both parties, have done good work on these bipartisan measures that have benefits across party lines.

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