Several bills advance, including one to establish the aerial firefighting fleet

As we approach the final days of the legislative session, there is a flurry of activity, and we are now working 12-hour days and making many last-minute decisions.

Despite this accelerating rollercoaster, my bills continue their progress, and I have been able to move additional legislation forward.

First, the omnibus probate bill left the Senate unscathed, and is now on its way to Gov. John Hickenlooper for his signature. My crop donation bill has also been approved by the Senate and will come to the House for our concurrence. My district attorneys’ fellowship bill, Senate Bill 174, has passed the House and must go back to the Senate for concurrence. Rep. Lois Court, D-Denver, and Speaker Mark Ferrandino, D-Denver, offered productive amendments that will make this a better bill and increase accountability of the district attorneys’ fellowship program and the district attorneys’ council who will administer it.

On May 1, Law Day, I joined Gov. Hickenlooper, Rep. Leroy Garcia and Sens. Cheri Jahn, D-Wheat Ridge, and Andy Kerr, D-Lakewood, at the Federal Reserve Bank for the signing of SB 1, the College Affordability Act. I was truly honored to be a sponsor of this important legislation. I am also equally proud of the role I played in securing funding for Western State Colorado University and Fort Lewis College for the construction of Quigley Hall and the completion of Berndt Hall. I am the only state representative with two state colleges in my district, and I will continue my advocacy for higher education in Colorado in future. In my immediate family alone, we have degrees from Colorado State University, Southern Colorado State College, CSU Pueblo, Fort Lewis College, Regis University, Colorado School of Mines and the University of Colorado.

The last bill I am sponsoring this session is SB 164, the Colorado Aerial Firefighting Fleet Aircraft Acquisitions bill, which I am sponsoring with Rep. Bob Gardner, R-Madison. This bill was introduced after the “Special Report: Colorado Firefighting Air Corps” was presented to lawmakers. The report recommended the state acquire small fixed-wing aircraft, helicopters and a limited supply of air tankers. It also called for the creation of a Center for Excellence, essentially a think tank for firefighting science and policy. Although critics have complained the acquisition of a firefighting air corps it too expensive, this bill streamlines the original request and reduces its cost to less than $20 million without raising taxes. These small fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters will focus on early detection, so that firefighters can intervene on the ground as quickly as possible. The acquisition of planes and the Center for Excellence will be under the guidance of the Division of Fire Prevention and Control and its executive director, Paul Cook. I am pleased to report that this bill passed the House on May 1 on a 51-11 vote and now goes back to the Senate.

As we are all aware, the snowpack in Southwest Colorado remains below normal, and Colorado’s forest fire season is predicted to begin in our region. A lightning fire can smolder for days and then spread rapidly when the wind picks up. These aircraft will allow us to find these fires while they are small and put them out before they destroy homes and lives. This bill is a move in the right direction for all of us and will help the state reduce the number of devastating fires.

I was also recently appointed by the Speaker to the interim Wildfire Matters Review Committee. I will do everything possible I can in this new role to prevent and eliminate the threat of wildfire in the Southwest and across the state.

I remain honored to serve as your state representative from House District 59.

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 mike.mclachlan.house@state.co.us.

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