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Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Senator Schwartz's Bills Signed into Law

Senator Gail Schwartz (D-Snowmass) has had a productive year for Senate District 5 and Colorado. As chair of the Joint Select Committee on Job Creation and Economic Growth it produced over two dozen dynamic bills to help build and sustain jobs in Colorado. Sen. Schwartz also sponsored more than 30 bills to revive rural Colorado by strengthening local economies, encouraging job creation, and expanding the new energy economy.

Supporting Rural Colorado:
Tuesday, Senator Schwartz will stand by as Governor Bill Ritter signed into law two of her bills which are important to rural Colorado: HB 1111 and HB 1119. HB 1111 will help the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment increase the availability of health care to under-served areas while growing local economies. The legislation helps coordinate available federal and state programs that capitalize on medical reimbursements, grants, and the placement of health care professionals in those areas. This bill also uses a federal visa program designed to bring foreign medical professionals into under-served rural areas. This visa program is a unique and exciting opportunity to bring Spanish-speaking health care professionals to our Spanish-speaking communities. The program also attracts new doctors to underserved areas by offering a student-loan payment program to help young doctors retire their debt.

Sen. Schwartz worked with Representative Ed Vigil to address rural substance abuse problems. HB 1119 establishes a grant program that will provide alcohol and substance abuse programs with prevention and treatments services to youth and adults in rural areas. These new programs will provide much-needed assistance to rural communities in their efforts to manage and prevent substance abuse. The bill was supported by a number of state health programs.

“I want to let the people in Senate District 5 know that your needs are represented and your voices heard at the capitol,” said Sen. Schwartz. “This session we passed several dynamic bills to support citizens living in rural parts of the state. This new legislation will help revive rural Colorado by strengthening local economies, encouraging innovation, and improving access to health care by bringing more resources to existing healthcare providers.”

“This year I worked with Senator Boyd, Rep. Vigil and Rep. Massey to sponsor a bipartisan piece of legislation that addresses urgent health care needs in our rural communities. HB 1111 recruits doctors to rural or underserved areas of the state to ensure that everyone in Colorado has access to quality health care. More importantly, this bill takes full advantage of significant federal funding opportunities to fill physician shortages without increasing state expenditures.”

“With HB 1119, Rep. Vigil and I created a rural substance abuse program to help rural communities in their efforts to manage, treat, and prevent drug and alcohol addictions. I firmly believe that everyone in Colorado should have access to quality care and services regardless of where they live. These two bills will promote a healthy Colorado and I am proud to see them become law.”

Coming up: Wildfire bill signing Wednesday
Wednesday, Governor Ritter will also sign SB 13 that was co-sponsored by Sen. Schwartz, sponsored by Sen. Dan Gibbs (D-Summit County), and endorsed by the Interim Committee on Wildfire Issues. This bill provides limited civil immunity for fire departments and other entities that donate surplus firefighting equipment. It also protects from personal liability volunteer firefighters, their commanders, and the organizations which employ them.

Coming up: Electric Cars bill signing Thursday
Thursday morning Sen. Gail Schwartz will join the Governor at the Alliance for Sustainable Colorado in Denver to sign SB75. This bill will open more of Colorado’s low-speed roads and city streets to neighborhood electric vehicles (NEVs). Currently, Colorado has a patchwork of conflicting regulations for these vehicles. By establishing statewide legislation for their operation, it will be easier for more Coloradans to use energy-efficient electric cars and paves the way for future electric transportation and integration into the smart grid.

“Colorado has been and will continue to be a leader in the New Energy Economy,” Sen. Schwartz said. “I sponsored SB75 to promote low-speed neighborhood electric vehicles as one aspect of our larger energy goals this session. This bill will help Colorado move toward a local sustainable electric transportation system, reduce carbon emissions and support communities throughout the state.

“Many important bills were supported by the Joint Select Committee on Job Creation and Economic Growth,” continued Sen. Schwartz. “These bills will promote construction of green, solar-ready homes, green businesses, and green jobs and grow Colorado’s work force. Green industry saves our environment, but more importantly it develops reliable jobs for Colorado.”

Coming up: Broadband and B.E.S.T. bills signing Thursday
Thursday afternoon, Governor Ritter will sign many bills at the Capitol including SB 162 and SB 257. For rural Colorado, one of the most important pieces of legislation to come out of the Joint Select Committee on Job Creation and Economic Growth is the inventory of broadband service areas (SB 162). Sponsored by Sen. Schwartz and Rep. Larry Liston, this bill creates an inventory of state broadband areas and removes any restrictions on private gifts and grants needed to fund this program. This also extends the deadline to complete the inventory. This bill will initiate the mapping of broadband connectivity throughout the state.

“Schools, hospitals, and businesses cannot succeed where there is limited or no broadband access,” said Sen. Schwartz. “It is important for us to focus our economic development state-wide: in rural areas in addition to our cities. This bill will expand broadband access and pull down federal recovery dollars for investment. With SB 162 Colorado will be taking a critical first step to identify the gaps in broadband access and continue our plans to expand infrastructure and service throughout the state.”

“Mapping will provide us with a comprehensive inventory of broadband service areas to guide policymaking and form a consensus around the future of broadband,” continued Sen. Schwartz. “The faster we can get broadband access to rural areas, the faster we can level the playing field and ensure that healthcare, education and businesses will thrive in all parts of the state. This is essential to a successful Colorado.”

SB 257 amends the Building Excellent Schools Today Act (B.E.S.T.) which was created last year to construct $1 billion of new schools in Colorado. It allows more efficient implementation of the act without reducing funding or restricting lease-purchase agreement authorizations. The B.E.S.T. program was created to provide school districts especially in rural areas with much-needed funding for capital construction projects. The first round of funding received from this program will create a safe and supportive learning environment for the children in five districts of Southern Colorado.

“Colorado’s children are our most important asset,” said Sen. Gail Schwartz. “We need to make sure they have top-notch schools, which includes top notch energy-efficient facilities. This landmark achievement of state funded school buildings is the result of a long-term, collaborative commitment to provide all students in Colorado with a 21st century education. In Colorado’s current economic climate, the approval of these grants for new school construction is critical in creating jobs and stimulating the economy in our rural communities. We are making an investment in Colorado’s educated work force of tomorrow. I am grateful to the State Board of Education for their commitment to improving Southern Colorado’s public school systems and supporting the families who rely on them.”


This summer the work continues…

This summer, Senator Schwartz will continue working throughout her district and at the Capitol as a member of the Task Force on Health Care, the Water Resources Review Committee, Capital Development Committee, Heritage Tourism Board and higher education efforts. She intends to continue meeting with her constituents to discuss emerging issues and new opportunities before next session starts in January, 2010.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

COLORADO # 1 IN NATION FOR TIRE DUMPS


Senate Chamber
State of Colorado
Denver

NEWS RELEASE

Schwartz’s SB 289 can create green jobs with old tires

DENVER--- Colorado is home to 1/3 of whole waste tires in America, with 60 million waste tires in two large tire monofills (one in Hudson off I-76 in Weld County and the other in Midway in southern El Paso County.) In addition to these large tire dumps, millions of tires are in smaller piles on farms and commercial and residential properties around the state.

SB 289 passed the Senate Local Government and Energy Committee and addresses the waste tire problem.

“The proposed legislation is an opportunity to make use of existing revenue, create green jobs from waste tire recycling and reuse and support a new sector of sustainable recycling businesses,” said Senator Gail Schwartz (D-Snowmass), Senate sponsor of SB 289. “Supporting a strong recycling sector that creates green jobs, eliminating the tire dumps and providing rural Coloradans with programs to clean up waste tires on their properties.”

“For Colorado to maintain its leadership role in the new sustainable economy, we must address the scourge of over 60 million waste tires that scar our landscape,” Sen. Schwartz said. “The large tire monofills are a public health threat and an environmental disaster waiting to happen.”

SB 289 will:

Prohibits the disposal of whole waste tires in tire monofills.
Requires the shredding of tires before deposit in tire monofills.
Requires DPHE to adopt a ten year plan for the elimination of tire monofills.
DOR to collect the existing $1.50 waste tire recycling development fee at the time of the sale of a new tire.
Requires tire retailers to 1) use registered waste tire haulers and 2) to accept waste tires.
Allows DOLA to reallocate unused funds at the end of the quarter between existing program categories.

SB 289 will next head to the Senate floor.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Emma Farms Cattle Company gets a visit from Sen. Schwartz



Gail shows her support of Agriculture
by visiting the only Wagyu herd in Colorado
at Emma Farms Cattle Company this weekend.



Sen. Schwartz continues to advocate for the survival of
cattle ranching along the Western Slope.


Friday, April 24, 2009

Schwartz's Energy Bills Signed by Governor


NEWS RELEASE


Senate Chamber
State of Colorado
Denver

SCHWARTZ’S ENERGY BILLS SIGNED BY GOVERNOR RITTER


DENVER— Four important bills sponsored by Senator Gail Schwartz (D-Snowmass) were signed in to law by Governor Bill Ritter:
Bill #
Short Title
Sponsors
Action
SB 039 Conserve Energy Tiered Rates Incentive Sen. SCHWARTZ / Rep. CURRY Signed
SB 177 New Solar Facility Prop Tax Valuation Sen. SCHWARTZ / Rep. VIGIL Signed
HB 1233 Recognize Acequias Rep. VIGIL / Sen. SCHWARTZ Signed
HB 1294 Renew Nongame & Wildlife Checkoff Rep. VIGIL / Sen. SCHWARTZ Signed


“I am so happy these four very important bills were signed into law,” said Sen. Schwartz. “These two senate bills are essential to our energy efficient future in Colorado and will help the economic development in the state. HB 1233 recognizes the value and cultural importance of the Acequia tradition and preserves that essential history of the San Luis Valley.”

SB 39, Conserve Energy Tiered Rates Incentive, will expand energy efficient investments and create energy savings. For years, water utilities have encourages water conservation through a method called inclining block rate, where the price of water rises with increasing usage. This bill would use the same method to deal with rising power costs and also create sensible energy markets that benefit the economy and Colorado’s environment. Sen. Schwartz carried this bill for the Holy Cross Rural Electric Association who offered the concept for energy conservation.

SB 177, New Solar Facility Property Tax Valuation, will requires that, similar to wind energy facilities, state assessed solar energy facilities will be valued using the income approach. This means that the actual value will be based on the projected gross revenue of such facilities. This bill provides incentives to the solar industry and property tax revenues to counties now based on energy generation.

HB1233 is a very important bill to Colorado and the San Luis Valley region. This bill promotes and encourages the continued operation of acequias, or historic community ditches, and the viability of the historic communities that depend on this system as a means of irrigation and cultural preservation in Southern Colorado. Sen. Schwartz carried this bill with Representative Ed Vigil (D-San Luis) who’s great grandparents were the first water rights owners in the state of Colorado.

HB 1294 extends the voluntary contribution designation (or income tax checkoff) benefitting the Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Fund from tax year 2009 through tax year 2011. The Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Fund provides funding for projects that manage or recover nongame wildlife. Nongame wildlife includes 750 species of wildlife in Colorado that cannot be hunted, fished, or trapped. These projects include wildlife such as lynx, river otter, black-footed ferret, greenback cutthroat trout, mountain plover, and others. The nongame program does not receive state tax dollars and depends on voluntary contributions.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Sen. Schwartz & Rep. Curry host town hall

Sen. Schwartz & Rep. Curry
invite you to join them for a town hall meeting


Saturday April 25, 2009: 10am
At
WESTERN STATE COLLEGE
ASPINALL-WILSON CENTER

600 North Adams Street, Gunnison

Bring some friends for a discussion on the state of Colorado’s budget,
higher education and other issues facing our state.
With the economy at the front of all our minds,
take advantage of this opportunity to speak directly with the
elected officials who represent you and your families.

We will discuss current legislation and how this
budget crisis may affect your neighborhoods, communities, and businesses.
Join with us in communication that will help formulate ideas
for stimulating growth within our local economies.
We look forward to meeting you and hearing what is on your mind.

For more information please contact:

Sen. Gail Schwartz-SD 5
gail.schwartz.senate@gmail.com
303-866-4871
***
Chair: Senate Local Government & Energy
Chair: Select Cmte on Job Creation & Economic Growth
Member: Senate Agriculture & Natural Resources

Rep. Kathleen Curry-HD-61
repcurry@gmail.com
303-866-2945
***
Speaker Pro Tempore
Member: House Agriculture Livestock & Natural Resources


Thursday, April 16, 2009

JOIN SENATOR GAIL SCHWARTZ FOR A TOWN HALL MEETING
Senator heads to Woody Creek this weekend to meet with constituents
__________________________________________________________________
DENVER – State Senator Gail Schwartz (D-Snowmass) invites you to join her
for a Town Hall meeting this Saturday afternoon in Woody Creek.

Topics to be discussed include Colorado’s budget, higher education funding,
and a legislative update. There will also be a time for a question and
answer session with Senator Schwartz.


Saturday, April 18th
2 – 4 p.m.
Woody Creek Community Center
06 Woody Creek Plaza
Woody Creek, CO
(970) 922-2342



Questions? Contact Carly Knudson at 303-866-4871 or cmknudson@gmail.com

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Oil & Gas Rules head to Gov. Ritter's Desk!


SENATE DEMOCRATS
PROTECT COLORADO’S HEALTH,

ENVIRONMENT, AND JOBS

The Rule Review Bill (HB 1292) passes on 2nds

DENVER— Making sure Colorado has clean air and clean water. Protecting the health and safety of Colorado’s citizens. Strengthening our economy by keeping our workers healthy and allowing the oil and gas industry to thrive. Those are just a few things the new Rules Review bill does and HB 1292, which includes new rules for Oil and Gas, passed the Senate today on 2nd reading.

HB 1292 is sponsored by Senator Jennifer Veiga (D-Denver) in the Senate. “The rule review process is a limited process to look at Executive Branch rules to see if they have exceeded the statutory authority we have given them. We have both generally and specifically given the Oil and Gas Commission the authority to manage and balance the needs of the oil and gas industry with wildlife and natural resources protections. The Commission has done that in this omnibus rules bill and we have found the rules are appropriate.”

Sen. Gail Schwartz (D-Snowmass):The rules protect our environment, our drinking water supplies, our groundwater, our clean air standards, and our wildlife habitat. They reflect a balance of competing interests, and respond to industry concerns ensuring the on-going vitality of energy development in Colorado which is one of Colorado’s most important industries. I am acutely aware of the Legislature’s responsibility to balance our state’s economic, environmental, and public health priorities, and I am confident that we have done so in the case of these new rules.”

Sen. Joyce Foster (D-Denver): “There is no question rigs are down because oil and gas prices are down. Drilling has slowed recently in Colorado, but drilling has slowed in other states as well because of falling natural gas prices, the economy, and limitations on pipeline capacity. The economy is killing jobs – not oil and gas rules.”


The rules protect drinking water supplies, groundwater, and clean air standards, and will ensure safety for oil and gas and emergency responders by requiring disclosure of industrial chemicals. They add critical protections for wildlife, a precious natural resource that generates massive income for our tourism and outdoor recreation industries. The rules also protect private property rights. At the same time, the rules won’t harm the oil and gas industry. The rules offer more predictable timelines for permit processing and incentives for longer-term planning.

This was the most extensive rulemaking hearing in the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission’s (COGCC) history. During more than 21 days of hearings, the Commission heard approximately 12 hours of public comment by about 200 people and another 75 hours of testimony from about 160 party and staff witnesses. It also reviewed thousands of pages of written comment, witness testimony, and exhibits, addressed dozens of legal motions, and conducted more than 70 hours of deliberations. The resulting rules reflect substantial input from local governments, the oil and gas industry, property owners, and conservation groups.


HB 1292 was sponsored by Rep. Anne McGihon in the House.

The bill will now head to the Governor’s desk.