I hope to see you at my next town hall meeting for all of HD-18, this Saturday, April 30 at the Manitou Springs City Hall. Manitou Springs Mayor Marc Snyder will join me.
I’ll be there to discuss any questions you still have about the state budget, your reactions to proposed congressional district maps affecting El Paso County, and your ideas for Colorado you’d like to see discussed as bills in 2012.
City Hall is at 606 Manitou Avenue, Manitou Springs, CO 80829. From Colorado Springs, take US-24 W/Midland Expressway and exit onto US-24 BUS W/Manitou Ave; the building will be on your right.
An important issue facing Colorado’s Legislature in 2011 is the Constitutionally-mandated task of redrawing our U.S. Congressional District boundaries to balance population. Since 2000 Census, El Paso County has added more new residents than any other county in Colorado, which has lead to some significant proposed changes.
Each state has its own process for re-drawing the maps; in Colorado, there is a bipartisan committee consisting of 10 Legislators – 5 from each party – who have the responsibility. They held 10 public meetings around the state to obtain citizen input and have drawn some maps for discussion. The target is to have about 718,457 people in each of Colorado’s 7 districts.
The Joint Select Committee must also consider the following principles; no diluting of minority influence (established by the Voting Rights Act); recognizing communities of interest and preserving regions, geographical areas, water basins, transportation corridors, cities, towns and neighborhoods with similar needs in the same districts when possible; and maintaining competitiveness based on party affiliation, which means that we should favor creating “swing districts” with balanced number of Democratic, Republican and unaffiliated voters over “safe seats” where the same party always wins.
Some of the proposed maps split El Paso County into two Congressional Districts: Fort Carson, and its bedroom communities of Fountain, Widefield and Security, would go with the South and East rural parts of El Paso County in CD-3, a district that extends across the entirety of Southern Colorado. Colorado Springs, Manitou Springs and Monument would continue to be the population center of CD-5, which would now extend northward to include Castle Rock and Highlands Ranch.
These are just a few of the options on the table, but I encourage you to read about the process and contact my office to tell me what you think.
Moments ago my restorative justice bill passed the Colorado House. The vote was 65-0 and a long list of my colleagues signed up as co-sponsors from the floor.
HB11-1032 expands the Victim Rights Act and gives those impacted by crime new options by defining restorative justice, describing its processes in state law, and permitting it to be used in different types of criminal cases as well as in disciplinary cases in schools. Some victims could get the option to meet face-to-face with an offender to speak their minds and demand straight answers, which has been shown to have a life-changing positive effect on all involved when it’s done in the way the bill describes.
We worked hard to make sure HB11-1032 would become a law that victims groups, prosecutors, youth workers, educators, the department of corrections and others agree will benefit communities and victims. There is plenty of good research showing that the process reduces the likelihood an offender will return to crime, and it gives victims a sense of closure. Here you can learn more about Restorative Justice and the bill.
HB11-1032 will now go on to Colorado’s Senate, where Senator Linda Newell has agreed to introduce it. I am proud that all of my colleagues from both parties voted for the bill and I look forward to a positive outcome in the Senate.
Last week, the State House passed a balanced budget to fund the next fiscal year. It took three days, a midnight session, some acrimony, and an absolute commitment to the task. The House voted 50-14 for the bipartisan “Long Bill” budget.
The legislature decides how we spend $7 billion from our General Fund. Over 42 percent, ($3.3 billion) of Colorado’s general fund is spent for K-12 education and 11 percent is committed to the state’s colleges. Most of the rest of Colorado’s revenue is spent for corrections and courts, health care, and human services. Colorado is unable to run a deficit and the budget is limited to what taxes can raise in a year.
I voted to pass the budget, but with reluctance and disappointment. My hesitation arose from the fact that it contained significant cuts to education, human service and increased fees on working families. I voted for this budget after working with my Democratic colleagues on over two dozen amendments designed to replace money for education, preventative health care for low income women and children, including for breast cancer and cervical screenings, for community health centers, court advocates for abused or neglected kids, for programs to educate and rehabilitate our prisoners, for family literacy and for need-based scholarships (see the video below). I fought for need based scholarships, for money to divert juveniles from jails, and for school counselors, among others.
House Democrats fought hard during the budget debate to reduce the cuts to K-12 education and the vital services so many Coloradans depend upon; and we will continue to work hard to find innovative solutions to reduce the burden on our kids, seniors, women, veterans, and low-income Coloradans. And after hours of debate and attempts to make the budget better, we worked with our colleagues across the aisle to pass an imperfect budget in tough economic times.
If you expect to be in the Denver area on April 13, please consider stopping by the Capitol to visit me in my office and take a look at the House Chambers where all of Colorado’s laws have been passed. Members of the House will be reserving time to give constituents a chance to meet their representatives on the job, from 5-7pm.
The Capitol is 200 E. Colfax Avenue in Denver – take exit 210A for US-40/US-287/Colfax Ave to get to the Capitol from I-25. My office is in room 306, on the third floor in the Northeast side of the building; turn right from the elevators.
Colorado’s capitol is always free and open to the public and I hope to see some of you at the open house.
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My top priority as a legislator is to be accessible to you, the constituents of House District 18. Please don’t hesitate to email, call, or stop by my office at the Capitol to let me know what’s important to you in Colorado.