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‘When we take the “I” out of legislating, using “we” instead, we proved we can get a lot done’

We. We accomplished a lot this year – our bipartisan success happened because we communicated, compromised and collectively decided how to best address our problems.

Affordable and attainable housing, one of Colorado’s most urgent issues, made headway. We ran several bills protecting our existing supply of homes, while also protecting renters. We asked some local governments to allow granny flats on personal property.

McLachlan

We addressed urban density issues: One bill encourages local governments to build housing near transit centers so people can easily get to work. Another limited the number of parking spots each building needs, leaving room for more housing.

The long-awaited property tax bill passed with little trouble, with both Republican and Democrat prime sponsors. It caps future spikes, and cuts rates for both commercial and residential properties. Some sponsors demanded the tax cuts could not affect schools, and others required Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights refunds could not be touched. Both sides got their way.

Our public schools did very well this year. One bill paid off the budget stabilization factor, raising the per-pupil dollars and giving a one-time stipend to rural schools. The best news is that it ended reliance on an antiquated and outdated 30-year formula; the second bill created a new formula. This time, money goes to identified student populations, such as English language learners, and low income, special education and rural students.

Colorado will pay districts a base salary, then add to it according to the student population, not according to the district itself. Rural schools will now be getting extra funding on top of that, every year, meaning we will be able to hire more teachers and pay them better. Rural schools have been left out of the budget process for 30 years; we are now finally fully involved.

In other education news, some low-income families will get free college tuition for two years of school, giving students the boost they need to pursue careers and future education.

We did a lot for water in our state, funding dozens of conservation and storage projects, banning nonessential public turf to save both money and water and passing a huge bill addressing the U.S. Supreme Court ruling removing protection for some Colorado waters. We created a permitting program for the dredge and fill activities impacting those waters.

And, we referred a ballot measure allowing revenue from sports betting above the $29 million cap to be used for the Colorado Water Project. You will vote on that.

Another bill passed that will cut child poverty in half by offering refundable tax credits to low-income families with children under 5. This helps take care of our youngest residents, giving their parents the breathing room to work full time.

Environmental advocates joined forces with the oil and gas industry advocates to address air quality and safety; it is the first time in many years both sides sat down together to make decisions for our future. We voted yes.

Transportation was a popular topic this session, and commuter rail along the front range and into some mountain areas drew interest. Getting people off the roads will be efficient and clean.

Bipartisan work was key to our success. We didn’t always agree, but we tried to compromise as often as possible. When we take the “I” out of legislating, using “we” instead, we proved we can get a lot done. Not everyone joined in, and not everyone was happy, but we are headed in the right direction.

I am proud of our success. We did it.

Barbara McLachlan, D-Durango, is serving her fourth and last term in the Legislature, representing House District 59.