The 2009 legislative session ended May 6. As a freshman member of the House, several people have asked me what I thought of the session. In truth, I feel a bit like Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz” after spinning around in the tornado and finally being dropped back into Kansas. The good news is that I live in Colorado, not Kansas. The bad news is many of the changes this legislative session will bring for the people of Colorado.
In this tough economy, it is surprising that our state has increased the size of our government by 1,400 new state employees, created nearly $1 billion in new taxes and fees, suspended the senior homestead exemption — all in 120 days. One of the largest new fees came in the form of a vehicle tax to fund transportation. The proposal was passed at the same time the governor approved another measure to remove the only existing transportation dollars from the budget (repeal of Arveschoug-Bird). As the people of Colorado are struggling to hold on during this economic storm, our state government appears to be unaware of the difficulties facing our working families.
Fortunately, there was some good news; the effort to cut higher education by more than $300 million was curtailed. High school students will have increased access to concurrent college courses and to career and technical resources. We also passed a measure to increase support for online education options and to grant in-state tuition to military veterans who settle in Colorado.
I was grateful that my bills — assisting fire protection district board authority; intergovernmental cooperation for wildfire mitigation; nursing home quality of life improvements; and streamlining business entity filings with the secretary of state’s office — passed with unanimous support in the House and will all be signed into law by the governor.
A fifth bill, providing funding of fire protection district training that I sponsored, was absorbed into an omnibus bill and funded through the governor’s office. Thankfully, the legislature is recognizing the need to protect our forests and is showing a growing commitment to our wildland urban interface areas.
Please understand that it is a great honor to represent House District 25 at the Capitol. Despite the frustrations, disappointments and concerns, and while our system is far from perfect, it is still the best in the world. I have learned much and look forward with renewed energy to the opportunity of working for the people of HD 25.
I am so appreciative of those of you who have taken the time to contact me with your concerns and wishes. I remain available to meet and discuss your issues. In fact, I look forward to those meetings.
We are currently looking to schedule town hall meetings in Evergreen, Conifer, Littleton and Golden Gate Canyon so I can share the results of the session and listen to your concerns and issues. Thank you for the opportunity to serve.
Cheri Gerou, a Republican, is the state representative from House District 25.