Opinion | Sen. Dylan Roberts: What we got done in the 2023 legislative session
We just wrapped up the 2023 legislative session and wow, there is a lot to report. It was a true privilege to serve my first session as your state Senator, and I am proud of what we accomplished to solve problems and improve our way of life in Colorado’s rural and mountain communities.
When I ran for Senate District 8 last year, I promised to stand up for all of our communities, ranging from our rural resort communities to small towns and everyone in between. I heard from thousands of constituents who said we needed solutions to protect our natural resources, boost our rural economics and ensure that all Coloradans have access to quality education and health care. More than anything else, I heard that our towns are becoming too expensive, and we need to develop more affordable housing.
While this session was challenging and full of long days and nights, I’m proud of the bills we passed that take the next step in addressing each of these challenges. In total, I was the prime sponsor of 44 bills, all of which passed both chambers and 98% of them received bipartisan support.
Here are just a few highlights of what we accomplished:
More affordable housing
Many of our counties are thousands of housing units short, which means too many of our teachers, nurses, police officers and other hardworking individuals have no housing options near their place of work. For this reason, my legislation sought to remove barriers to housing development. My first bill, SB23-001, addresses the biggest hurdle developers face on the Western Slope: a lack of affordable, buildable land. SB23-001 allows the state to sell its many parcels of unused land to public and private developers to build affordable workforce housing. Another bill I sponsored, HB23-1184, will lessen the burden of property taxes for nonprofit housing developers that build and sell affordable housing, like Habitat for Humanity.
Further, I supported HB23-1255, which loosens red tape on housing development, and SB23-303, which refers Proposition HH to this November’s ballot to provide long-term property tax stabilization for homeowners and relief for renters.
Protecting our water
Amid Colorado’s historic drought and growing interstate pressure to reduce water consumption, we must engage in responsible conservation to ensure we can meet our agricultural and municipal water needs. We took a big step in accomplishing this with SB23-295, which creates a diverse task force to make recommendations on a statewide drought security plan for the Colorado River. We also made historic investments in our water future through SB23-177, which invests $95 million in water conservation efforts (the most ever in a single year), and SB23-270, which removes administrative barriers to undertaking stream restoration projects.
Supporting our rural economies and agriculture industry
This year I also maintained my commitment to supporting our rural communities as they face economic transitions. With SB23-006, we codified the Rural Opportunity Office, a one-stop shop for our communities to explore economic assistance and development opportunities. We furthered our support for northwest Colorado specifically with HB23-1247, which will study the feasibility of alternative energy development in this region. This study will help ensure our communities can maintain good-paying energy production jobs, while making us a national leader in alternative energy.
Understanding that our farmers and ranchers face unique difficulties, I also authored and passed a suite of bills to provide our agricultural workers additional tools to advance and protect their businesses. Two of my bills, SB23-050 and HB23-1094, expand loan and workforce development programs so agricultural businesses can invest in their future. SB23-255 will support livestock owners who will be most impacted by wolf reintroduction by creating guaranteed and adequate compensation for depredation.
Funding education and making health care more affordable
This year we invested a historic amount in both K-12 education and furthered the implementation of universal preschool. Recognizing that our schools and teachers are desperate for more resources, I’m proud that we increased K-12 education funding by $485 million, resulting in an additional $1,000 or more per pupil and a commitment to fully funding education by next year — the first time in over 15 years.
We also strengthened our health care system by funding Medicaid expansion and a 3% pay increase for our doctors, nurses and other health care providers. I also led the charge with HB23-1002 to cap the cost of EpiPens for all Coloradans at just $60 per pack. Further, two of my bills, HB23-1224 and HB23-1226, make affordable health care more accessible by strengthening the Colorado Option and improving hospital financial transparency.
And much more
While this was just a short debrief of what I worked on this session, I look forward to taking the next few months to discuss many of these ideas in more depth and hear your feedback and questions. I encourage you to attend our next town hall in Summit County from 5-6 p.m. on Wednesday, May 31, at the Summit County Community & Senior Center (0083 Nancy’s Place in Frisco) or reach out to me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dylan Roberts is the state Senator for Clear Creek, Eagle, Garfield, Gilpin, Grand, Jackson, Moffat, Rio Blanco, Routt and Summit counties.
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