Editor's note: This is the second in a three-part series examining the issues Summit County's lawmakers Sen. Randy Baumgardner (R - Hot Sulphur Springs) and Rep. Millie Hamner (D - Dillon) will be addressing during the 2013 legislative session.
DENVER - Three weeks into her second term in the Colorado state Legislature, Democrat Millie Hamner's workload has tripled.
The third-year representative is now in the majority party, chairing the House Education Committee and spearheading significant pieces of legislation for the state's schools and highways.
Hamner said, among other bills, she plans to sponsor a measure asking state lawmakers to direct $5 million toward a new fire suppression system for the Eisenhower Tunnel.
Transportation officials hope to retrofit the Interstate 70 tunnel with a mist system that could control the temperature of a fire inside the facility, giving emergency crews the 8-10 minutes they need to respond to the scene.
"If something happens that we can't get to in that response time, we may not be able to fight that fire because the heat is so great that we can't get to it," Colorado Department of Transportation Region 1 director Tony DeVito said last year. "We're not trying to design this (so) it puts out the fire. It tries to keep heat to the point that it buys us the time."
DeVito and Colorado Congressman Jared Polis have called the suppression system a matter of national security, given I-70's importance as an east-to-west transportation corridor.
But Hamner said she expects the bill to meet with some resistance from other legislators with transportation funding tight across Colorado.
"There could be some advantages (to the fire suppression project) from a statewide perspective," she said. "Certainly I will lift up all those kinds of arguments as it relates to tourism, safety and our motor carriers. So many people would benefit from that project, it's not just people who live in close proximity to the tunnel."
The bill has not yet been introduced, so the source of the $5 million is still unclear.
Hamner is again focusing heavily on education issues this session, advancing a bill to align various early childhood development programs under a state department and planning legislation that might amend the state's school finance system.
She is also carrying legislation that would implement health guidelines for individuals producing commercial food products out of their private residences and a bill allowing high schools to share data with colleges at student's request to help streamline the college application process.