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Bipartisan bills: ‘Rural legislators working with urban counterparts’

Barbara McLachlan

Our first few weeks of the second session of the 74th General Assembly have flown by quickly as we prepare for late nights, floor debates, committee hearings and meetings. During these first weeks, every joint committee of House and Senate members met with the Joint Budget Committee members to hear about the fiscal climate and what departments under our purview are planning this year.

We then heard from each department during the SMART, “State Measurement for Accountable, Responsive and Transparent Government,” Act hearings, during which time we asked questions about policies and progress of the bills we passed last year. This gives all legislators a close look at what the next 100 or so days may look like, making sure we understand the issues.

We have run a few bills through committees that didn’t have much public testimony; the bulk of work starts next week as many of our first five bills are read across the desk and sent to a committee for action of the Legislature.

I am pleased about the first three bills on my agenda. Two made it into the top 10 in the House, and one made it into the top five in the Senate.

The first is inspired by the work of the Durango and Animas High students who have worked with their school boards to have opiate antagonists and drug detection products in school, empowering students to save lives and help keep their peers away from drugs. The program is optional in schools, where students, parents, educators and bus drivers will be taught how to use Naloxone and Fentanyl test strips, while understanding their shortcomings.

The second bill came out of the Water Resources and Agricultural Review Committee last summer. It prohibits local governments and unit owners’ association from allowing the installation of nonfunctional turf, artificial turf or invasive plant species. The law will only be applied to commercial, institutional or industrial property or transportation corridors. It will not affect private property.

Think about the strips of land between a business sidewalk and street. They are too small for picnics or soccer games, but demand a lot of water and money to maintain. Communities with this law in place have seen tremendous water and money savings.

My third bill addresses the need for applications and informational materials for child care centers to be printed in both English and the other prevalent language of the area. It also trains the people who speak those languages to open their own centers and provide for bilingual schools.

This will open up more centers for our youngest learners, encourage job opportunities for bilingual parents, and give more parents high quality and essential child care when they go back to work.

Despite headlines from the Capitol highlighting votes of no confidence, questionable decorum, internal party arguments, reprimands and contentious bill ideas, we are getting good work done for Colorado. Generally speaking, affordable housing is rising to the top of the “most important” pile, as is health care, economics, education, mental health and jobs. Most bills are bipartisan, and rural legislators are working with our urban counterparts to make sure we’re doing the best for everyone in the state.

I look forward to continue working hard for my constituents.

Barbara McLachlan, D-Durango, is serving her fourth term in the Legislature, representing La Plata, Montezuma, Archuleta and San Juan counties. She has been a journalist and teacher.