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Nicholson talks with Dems about life in the majority

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By Sandy Barnes

State Sen. Jeanne Nicholson told a gathering of Evergreen Democrats that she is having fun this year as a majority member of the state legislature.

 

“We can get a lot of work done,” Nicholson said at the Mountain Area Democrats meeting on Feb. 23. 

“This year in the Senate we have already passed the civil union bill,” she noted. “I am thrilled we can finally get that accomplished.”

Nicholson is hopeful that the bill, which provides same-sex couples many of the rights given to married people, will pass the state House. 

The District 16 senator also said she is carrying six pieces of legislation dealing with wildfire mitigation to make it safer to live in the foothills. One of the bills would provide $10.3 million for mitigation work on private and state lands.

“We are working hard this year to get some legislation and money,” Nicholson said.

Related legislation would require insurance companies to provide a given percentage of personal property loss coverage to people who lose homes in wildfires and extend the amount of time they are paid for temporary housing. 

As a former public health nurse, Nicholson said she is focused on providing adequate medical care for citizens and ensuring the safety of children. 

In Colorado, 72 children have died in the past five years from the effects of abuse and neglect, she said.

Among bills that Nicholson is working on is one that would make paramedics and emergency medical technicians responsible for reporting suspected cases of child abuse. 

Only paid employees would be required to make reports, she said. 

Making sure that there are adequate child-care facilities where kids are nurtured will also help address the issue, Nicholson said.

Many working parents are leaving their youngsters with people who aren’t qualified to care for them, she remarked.

Regarding health care, Nicholson is involved with a bill to let Coloradans purchase health insurance within a cooperative and to ensure a choice of providers. 

“It would compete with other insurance companies in Colorado but will be more affordable,” she said.

Nicholson is also supporting a package of gun control bills, which she called “very reasonable.”

The measures would not take guns away from people but would require background checks for everyone and put more responsibility on a person who owns a gun, she said.

Also under consideration is a requirement that a person applying for a gun pay a $10 fee for the background check.

“The majority of people want responsible legislation,” Nicholson said. “We should at least try to make things better.”

While discussing the public school finance reform bill under consideration, Nicholson said the current system is not equitable.

“Some of the wealthiest counties in Colorado are getting the most money, and the poorest are getting the least money,” she noted.

In Durango, there are high-assessed property values and an average median income of $75,000 a year. Durango could fund schools at a higher level than other communities, she said.

It is necessary to adjust those factors and redistribute state funding, she said.

The state will take a measure to provide more state funding for education to the ballot, Nicholson added.

The senator also offered her perspective on communications between her party members and the Republicans.

“The truth is the media likes to describe the more outrageous things that are happening,” she said. “In general, I think the environment is very positive.”

Nicholson won the District 16 seat in 2010, defeating Evergreen Republican Tim Leonard by a narrow margin and succeeding fellow Democrat Dan Gibbs. Gibbs is now a Summit County commissioner.

Contact Sandy Barnes at sandy@evergreenco.com or call 303-350-1042.