Meghan Lukens: Delivering results for our community in the 2023 legislative session
One hundred and twenty days, 20 prime-sponsored bills and thousands of constituent contacts later, the Colorado 2023 Legislative Session has come to an end. I am so proud of the work that we have collectively done, and I am energized to keep the great progress going.
A few months ago, I was a social studies teacher at Steamboat Springs High School, where I emphasized the importance of a representative democracy to my students on a regular basis. While at the State House, every single decision I made was in an effort to be the best representative I could for House District 26.
We passed new laws, many of them bipartisan, that will deliver real results on the issues that matter most in the lives of all Coloradans. We worked to improve affordability, create safer communities, expand your rights and freedoms, and bolster our workforce and public education.
Many of my bills, including HB23-1064 and SB23-269, drew upon my experience as an educator in our rural district. When we support students, our entire community benefits. As a teacher, I saw firsthand the crisis in our classrooms as a result of the underfunding of our schools, and we had many successes at the State Capitol this legislative session to support our students and teachers.
In our rural schools, we are facing significant staffing shortages. As signed by the governor, SB23-1064 establishes the Interstate Teacher Mobility Compact, which will make it easier for out-of-state teachers to move to Colorado. By encouraging more high-quality teachers to work in our classrooms, we will be directly supporting our students.
I was also proud to co-sponsor SB23-287, which will make historic investments in our schools. The 2023 Public School Finance Act includes a historic buydown of the Budget Stabilization Factor and builds on the State Legislature’s work the last few years to increase funding for public schools. It will increase per-pupil funding by 10%, bringing the statewide average to $10,614 per pupil. As a result, schools will see over $660 million more this year and well over $1 billion more per year than just a few years ago. This includes a one-time $30 million investment in rural schools, which will make a tremendous difference in House District 26.
I continuously hear from parents that they struggle to find early childcare options that they can afford. In coordination with the governor’s work to create the Colorado Universal Preschool Program, my bill, SB23-269, will establish one-time bonuses for providers to boost our early childhood education workforce. Early childhood education is one of the most impactful investments we can make in our children, families and communities. In our rural community and throughout Colorado, people are in desperate need of solutions for early childcare that address cost and access. This bill is another step in the right direction.
SB23-256 was part of a package of bills intended to mitigate the negative impacts of wolf reintroduction. I am extremely disappointed that the Governor has vetoed SB23-256. I have heard from ranchers and farmers consistently that it is absolutely imperative that we have the 10(j) rule in place prior to state-orchestrated wolf reintroduction, and this bill was a direct request from Western Slope constituents who will be impacted most by wolf reintroduction.
Another bill in this package is SB23-255, which will create a dedicated “Wolf Compensation Fund” within the Colorado Department of Natural Resources to be reserved for compensating livestock owners who suffer loss or injury of their animals from wolf attacks. Proposition 114 included language that guaranteed livestock owners be compensated for their losses, and the creation of this dedicated funding source honors that commitment.
I also passed HB23-1094, which will extend the Agricultural Workforce Development Program.
This bill is more than just a signal that agricultural jobs matter to Colorado – it takes action to ensure that our next generation of agriculturists can explore a field that interests them and supports their local community needs. Supporting the next generation of agricultural workers is vital to maintaining the culture and economy in Colorado.
Expanding reproductive rights
In House District 26, there is overwhelming support for continued access to reproductive healthcare, and I took this support into consideration as I voted on and co-sponsored legislation to expand reproductive rights legislation in our state. SB23-188, SB23-189 and SB23-190 will ensure that reproductive healthcare services such as abortion are safe and legal in Colorado.
Together these bills will protect the rights of patients and providers, prohibit deliberate misinformation, and make care more affordable by closing gaps in insurance coverage. It is essential that Colorado continues to be a leader in reproductive healthcare access, and I am proud to be a pro-choice legislator.
As Coloradans struggle to live and work in the state that they love, we as a State Legislature are doing our part to make things more affordable. SB23-001, HB23-1224 and HB23-1225 are bills that will increase affordability in housing, taxes and healthcare.
SB23-001 ensures that the high price of land, normally a barrier to affordable housing, does not deter people from living in the community in which they work. Using state-owned land, especially in rural communities, will be essential to the private-public partnerships that SB23-001 creates. The prime example of this bill in action is taking place in Eagle County.
Between Vail and Avon is an area called Dowd Junction, in which, on state land, the local jurisdiction will be able to build up to 80 units of workforce housing.
To reduce the cost of health care premiums and prescription drugs, HB23-1224 and HB23-1225 work together to get real results. HB23-1224 lowers insurance premiums and makes it easier for consumers to shop for high-value health plans with fewer out-of-pocket costs by holding insurance companies accountable and limiting excessive profit. This bill that I cosponsored saves Coloradans money on prescription drugs by expanding cost-saving measures for more drugs, as well as the criteria for selecting drugs for out-of-pocket cost limits.
This role truly has been the honor of a lifetime, and I am looking forward to continuing to make a difference in the lives of Coloradans one bill at a time. Please contact me at email@example.com with comments and concerns.
Rep. Meghan Lukens represents District 26, which includes Routt, Moffat, Rio Blanco and Eagle counties, in the Colorado House.
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