Coming together for schools, jobs

To the editor,

As we surge into the final week of the 2020 legislative session, we encounter roadblocks: cutting 25 percent of our budget; killing dozens of bills we had worked years to craft; debating; more debating; riots; COVID-19; and passing legislation to use our federal grants to address pandemic issues.

It isn’t easy.

Through all this, though, I am proud to have spon- sored and passed several bills just this week with biparti- san support in both the House and the Senate.

To help support a stronger future workforce, I spon- sored House Bill 20-1002, College Credit for Work Experi- ence, with Rep. Mark Baisley and Sens. Rachel Zenzinger and Tammy Story. It gives employees the opportunity to earn college credit for their work experience. Many peo- ple who are looking for a new job or want to pursue a college degree may now earn college credit for their years of working. The bill also allows students to test out of col- lege courses and earn the credit without tuition.

Along those lines is Senate Bill 20-009, Expand Adult Ed- ucation Grant Programs, with Rep. Marc Catlin and Sens. Rachel Zenzinger and Bob Rankin. This bill expands the op- portunity for more people to attend adult education pro- grams to earn their GED, which will give students tools to pursue better jobs, possibly getting away from government assistance, contribute to their community and raise chil- dren who understand the value of education.

Saving about $600,000 a year, House Bill 20-1135, Re- place High School Social Studies Assessment, removes the high school social studies assessment tests. I ran this bill with Rep. Perry Buck and Sens. Nancy Todd and Paul Lundeen. This test is given every three years to random students, and the data was not useful enough to instruct teachers’ plans. Many testified that social studies tests should be essays, where students learn from history, not standardized, multiple-choice questions.

To encourage more people to join the teaching profes- sion, I sponsored Senate Bill 20-158, Professional Training for Teachers, with Rep. Jim Wilson and Sen. Nancy Todd. It opens up more opportunities for teacher licensure by expanding access to alternative licensing programs and loan forgiveness programs, and specifies how those pay- ments can be classified.

To help District 59 rebound from the pandemic crisis, I sponsored Senate Bill 20-002, Rural Development Grant Program Creation, with Rep. Bri Buentello, and Sens. Kerry Donavon and Don Coram. The REDI (Rural Eco- nomic Development Initiative) program funds grants for projects in rural communities that create new jobs through a new or existing employer or start projects that create diversity and resiliency in the local economies. The money will be given to a local government, which serves as the grant administrator.

Another bill to expand economic development in Southwest Colorado is Senate Bill 20-197, Aligning State and Federal Law on Hemp, which I ran with Rep. Marc Catlin and Sens. Steve Fenberg and Vicki Marble. This bill aligns state statutes with the federal statutes established in the 2018 Farm Bill. Colorado is leading the way in in- dustrial hemp cultivation, processing and sale, and this bill will encourage the industry to grow.

Finally, communities will now be able to use the surplus military vehicles they received from the federal govern- ment to aid in firefighting efforts. I sponsored Senate Bill 20-056, Surplus Military Vehicles on the Highway, with Rep. Perry Will and Sen. Crowder to allow these vehicles on the highway if they will be used for wildfire control.

I will continue to listen to the needs of my Southwest Colorado constituents as we finish this most unusual leg- islative season, and I look forward to doing more next year.

– Rep. Barbara MacLachlan, D-Durango