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.