Legislative service has been an honor

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It was an honor to serve in the 71st General Assembly session, which was one of the most productive in recent memory. Among the bills that made it to the governor were several addressing the seemingly intractable issues of construction defects, the Hospital Provider Fee and transportation funding. We also passed legislation to strengthen family economic security, support K-12 and higher education, support veterans, expand rural broadband and reform the criminal and juvenile justice systems.

We passed a balanced budget for 2017-18 with broad support in both chambers. Despite a challenging budget situation, we were able to increase funding for K-12 education by $242 per student and provide more funding for affordable housing and to tackle homelessness.

The lack of significant affordable condo construction over the last few years has been attributed to builders’ concerns about lawsuits over defects in construction. This year we unanimously passed a construction defects accord that is hoped will spur construction of affordable condos without compromising Coloradans’ right to protect their most important investment: their homes.

Similar bipartisanship resulted in the passage of SB 17-267, which fixes a glitch in our budget known as the Hospital Provider Fee. The bill re-characterizes the fee as an enterprise and saves our hospitals from more than $500 million in budget cuts. The same bill increased the Business Personal Property Tax Credit for small businesses and provides $1.8 billion over the next few years for transportation projects across the state.

We also passed HB 17-1090 to extend the Advanced Industries Investment Tax Credit program, which incentivizes investment in bioscience, aerospace, advanced manufacturing, energy, electronics, engineering and information technology startups. The program has created nearly 700 good-paying jobs at startup companies since 2014.

I am gratified to report that 17 of the 19 bills I sponsored this session were passed, all with bipartisan support. I am most excited about my crime prevention justice reinvestment bill. For too long we have spent millions to redress the impact of crime after it has occurred. This bill goes to the source to prevent crime. The pilot program creates savings by reducing prison time for technical parole violations and invests the savings in the crime-impacted communities of north Aurora and southeast Colorado Springs for crime prevention. Local planning groups will assess their communities’ needs  and target resources. For example, if job creation needs are identified, they could make small business loans to create good-paying jobs.

As in past sessions, I also focused on juvenile justice. The Division of Youth Corrections has been an area of my special scrutiny for the past three years. I have previously sponsored legislation focused on increasing transparency in the division and to restrict the use of solitary confinement for juveniles. This year, moved by the publication of “Bound and Broken,” a report detailing the culture of violence in Colorado’s youth correction facilities, I sponsored HB 17-1329, an omnibus DYC reform bill seeking to transform the division to a more effective rehabilitative setting for our youth. It changes the name to Division of Youth Services and redefines the division’s purposes. It calls for a comprehensive assessment of all policies in the division to determine the cause of violence and creates a pilot program based on best juvenile corrections practices around the country.

Additionally, I sponsored HB 17-1207, which prohibits the incarceration of 10- to 12-year-old children and requires the Department of Human Services to find community placement for children who commit non-violent offenses. I also passed HB 17-1204, Juvenile Delinquency Records Expungement, which provides for the automatic sealing of most juvenile court records upon the conclusion of a case so that our youth can move on and pursue a career or higher education. Working with Rep. Yeulin Willett from Grand Junction, we passed a bill emphasizing educating kids about the dangers of sexting, the sending of graphic images over the internet.

In the coming months, I hope to serve on an interim committee to study how evidence-based and cost-effective sentencing reform could be implemented to ensure the best use of prison resources for the protection of public safety. I will also work on policy to support hardworking Coloradans and grow our business community.

As always, please reach out with any ideas. It is a pleasure to serve the people of Colorado Springs.

District 18 state Rep. Pete Lee can be reached at 303-866-2932, 719-632-1165 or pete.lee.house@state.co.us.