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Legislative session is off to a good start

This session of the Legislature started out with friendly greetings, rousing speeches, mostly-masked gatherings and what reporters are calling a “laser focus” on a few major issues. Now, we are seeing how this work will unfold.

The ideas are bipartisan and good for Colorado, so I am entering the year somewhat optimistic. Our “laser focus” areas include: saving people money, improving public safety, setting students up for success and improving access to quality, affordable health care. While we may have different approaches to the solutions, I’m encouraged to see that we seem to share the same goals.

The first 10 bills ready for action this year are good indicators of the House of Representatives’ commitment. Stay tuned, as there will be many more to come.

1. Cutting Fees to Start Your Own Business, House Bill 22-1001, will save businesses and entrepreneurs money by cutting the fees and costs associated with business filings.

2. Preparing Students for Success by Expanding Concurrent Enrollment Opportunities, House Bill 22-1002, expands the number of students who can participate in the ASCENT concurrent enrollment program, coordinating school districts and community colleges to help prepare students for quality jobs.

3. Preventing Youth Violence and Crime, House Bill 22-1003, helps local governments and school districts improve public safety, prevent crime and reduce recidivism, focusing on youth support and interventions.

4. Saving Coloradans Money at the DMV, House Bill 22-1004, will freeze DMV driver’s license fees for the next two years.

5. Boosting the Health Care Workforce, House Bill 22-1005, extends a state income tax credit for health care mentors who help and encourage people to enter the health care workforce. It expands the program to include addiction counselors and registered nurses.

6. Saving Parents Money on Child Care, House Bill 22-1006, expands access to affordable child care by increasing the types of child care facilities exempt from property taxes, enabling more providers to get up and running.

7. Saving Homeowners Money on Wildfire Mitigation, House Bill 22-1007, creates a grant program and changes a state income tax deduction to a tax credit to help landowners in high wildfire hazard areas perform wildfire mitigation measures on their property.

8. Saving Families Money on Infertility Diagnosis and Treatment, House Bill 22-1008, will help Coloradans looking to start a family save money on fertility treatments and ensure their insurance plans cover infertility diagnosis and treatment.

9. Extending Skills Training Proven to Prepare Students for Success, House Bill 22-1009, extends the workforce diploma pilot program that was set to repeal in July. Participants earn certificates and industry recognized credentials, unlocking economic opportunities to help them provide for themselves and their families.

10. Saving Educators Money and Expanding Child Care Options, House Bill 22-1010, saves educators money and prepares our youngest learners for success by creating a refundable income tax credit for early childhood educators. Educators working in or leading a child care program would be eligible for the credit for the next five years.

All 100 legislators have the opportunity to present five bills at the start of every session, so this list is a fraction of the legislation we will see this year. Not on this list, but coming later this session, are bills to make record investments in public schools, improve access to behavioral health, and uphold our water rights while prioritizing cleaner waterways and air. We’re also planning legislation to make housing more affordable and maintain our strong agricultural background.

I am hoping we all keep our shared goals in mind as we move Colorado forward, helping to create a state that is healthy, safe, well-educated and saving money.

Barbara McLachlan, D-Durango, is serving her third term representing State House District 59, which includes La Plata, Archuleta, San Juan, Hinsdale, Ouray and Gunnison counties. Reach her at barbara.mclachlan.house@state.co.us.