DENVER — Having already sponsored multiple bills in less than a month, District 35 Sen. Larry Crowder (R) and District 62 Rep. Donald Valdez (D) continue to put their constituents first. During Colorado's 71st General Assembly the legislators have focused on improving rural communities with bills addressing broadband, jails, healthcare, veterans and more.
"I keep my nose in my district and it's served me very well," Crowder said. "I've never made a vote to be reelected. I always make a vote for the benefit of my district."
For Valdez's second session ever, the representative already had a co-sponsored bill signed by Gov. John Hicklenlooper's only eight days after it was introduced. Called the "Enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact," Senate Bill 27 allows nurses to maintain multi-state licenses and make it easier for them to provide telehealth services.
"That has helped out our nurses and we need to continue growing our nurses throughout the state, especially in our communities like Alamosa," said Valdez in a phone interview.
On Jan. 29 House Bill 1116, which Valdez also sponsored, became law. Called "Broadband Deployment Board Apply for Federal Funds," the bill authorizes the application and allocation of federal broadband dollars to the state.
"I voted for that bill because that will help with funding for the San Luis Valley to increase broadband in areas where we desperately need to grow broadband. If we have that connection from point a to point b, that connects our communities not only to Colorado but to the rest of the world."
Another bill Valdez is proud of sponsoring is HB1038, the “Continuing Education for Surveyors” bill. Currently waiting for a vote in the senate, this bill will require that professional land surveyors join a continuing education program in order to renew their licenses due to the changing technologies.
"Currently, over half of all land surveyors were certified before the year 2000, and before the common use of GPS and other technological advances in their field of practice," said Valdez. "This bill will help to ensure Coloradans receive accurate land surveys, regardless of who performs it, and reduce the number of land disputes that end up in our court system."
Valdez is keeping his eye on various bills that deal with improving roads, managing the opioid epidemic and fixing education funding.
"Last year we funded each school an additional $242 per pupil," said Valdez on 2017's school finance bill. "Was that enough? No, it wasn't. We need to continue funding education and growing educators."
Crowder, a seasoned politician with five legislative sessions already under his belt, is currently set on addressing Colorado's overcrowded jail population as well. According to the senator, the state's Department of Corrections is projected to increase by 1,114 inmates through 2019 yet the system only has 353 empty beds available.
"We're looking at ways to improve community corrections, ways to revamp parole, and how to alleviate beds in other prisons," said Crowder. "Right now it's a pretty contentious problem."
To assist the issue Crowder co-sponsored HB 1132 to double DOC reimbursements to county jails that house DOC inmates to $108.78 per day. "I want this jail problem fixed," Crowder said.
So far Crowder has passed SB44 through the senate. The bill would allow private employers the option to prefer veterans in the hiring process. Additionally, Crowder wants to exempt used vehicles from state sales tax to make transportation more affordable for the middle and low-income class with SB77.
Another piece of legislation that Crowder wants to pass is a bill that makes it easier for noncitizens to obtain a driver's license. If the bill passes they'll have the option to use their social security number to apply. Crowder said applicants still need to have insurance and pass the driver's test.
"What we need is people to come to work in agriculture," said Crowder. "We need them to be able to drive to work and when they get there they need to be able to drive the owner's equipment. The only way they can do that is with a legal driver’s license. This is about being able to fill the workforce in rural agriculture."