At an art gallery and framing shop in North Denver's Berkeley neighborhood, Gov. Bill Ritter today signed legislation that will further support Colorado's burgeoning arts economy, which is rapidly becoming an integral part of neighborhood economic development across the state.
HB 1105 (Frangas/Sandoval) allows art galleries to serve alcohol for up to four hours per day, for no more than 15 days per year. Permits will have to be renewed annually and the alcohol has to be complimentary. The bill requires an annual state art gallery permit fee of $50, and a local license fee of $25.
"This is good for art galleries, their patrons, for businesses and for communities," Gov. Ritter said during a signing ceremony at Metro Frame Works Custom Framing and 44 T Art Space, owned by Kevin Paul and very often occupied by his greyhounds Milo and Gracie.
"While art is definitely at the center of this, it's also about other neighborhood businesses – hardware stores, print shops, coffee houses and restaurants included," Gov. Ritter added. "This is about neighborhoods and building a sense of community."
The bill won unanimous passage in both the House and Senate.
KEYSTONE ― Gov. Bill Ritter today signed into law a package of bills that gives the state new and stronger tools in the fight to keep Colorado's forests healthy against the mountain pine beetle, wildfires and other threats.
"Colorado's 22.6 million acres of forestland are critical to our clean water, our wildlife habitat, and of course, our tourism and recreation economies," Gov. Ritter said. "But our forests are at risk from the pine beetle, other insects and greater development into the 'red zone.'
"Protecting our forests will require strong public-private partnerships, strong cooperation among all levels of government, and a clear vision of how we want our forests to look in the future," Gov. Ritter added. "The bills I am signing today get us a little closer to achieving that healthy-forest vision, and they provide some actual funding and incentives to implement that vision."
House Bill 1110 (Witwer/Kopp) creates a five-year program from 2009 to 2014 that allows landowners to deduct the actual costs of their wildfire mitigation, up to $2,500, from their state income tax.
HB 1269 (Gibbs/White) provides a sales-tax exemption for sales, storage and use of wood products, such as lumber, furniture, or wood chips, that use wood from beetle-kill trees. The exemption would run through July 1, 2014. The bill also provides cities and counties the option of enacting similar sales-tax exemptions.
HB 1318 (Lundberg/Taylor) creates the voluntary Beetle Mitigation Fund to be administered by the Colorado State Forest Service to mitigate and remove beetle-infested trees from state-owned land. The public will be able to donate to the fund online.
Senate Bill 71 (Gibbs/Scanlan) extends a one-year, forest-restoration pilot program from 2007 through 2012. It provides $1 million a year help communities implement forest treatment projects to reduce wildfire fuels and protect Colorado's watersheds. In 2007, the pilot funded 12 different forest restoration projects around the state.
"Colorado's forests and watersheds are among our most critical resources and we must do all we can to protect them," said Sen. Dan Gibbs. "It's heartbreaking to see the extent of the devastation in our mountain forests. With this bill, we're tackling this crisis head-on. Removing all that dead timber will greatly reduce the threat of catastrophic wildfires and help protect our forests, our water and our way of life."
"We cannot stop the bark beetle epidemic. But we can and must take steps to address the resulting devastation," said Rep. Christine Scanlan.
SB 221 (Gibbs & Romer/Scanlan & White) authorizes the Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority to issue up to $50 million in bonds to fund watershed protection and forest health projects.
HB 1241 (Scanlan/Schwartz) changes the name of the current "Colorado Watershed Protection Fund" state tax checkoff to the "Healthy Rivers Fund" and extends the checkoff through 2010.
"By encouraging Coloradans to donate to this fund, we're supporting the essential work our local communities undertake to protect our rivers and watersheds. I really do believe this small change will make a huge difference," said Sen. Gail Schwartz.
Gov. Bill Ritter today signed the "Innovation Schools Act of 2008," which strengthens school-based decision-making by letting schools break free of certain district and state education rules.
Gov. Ritter also signed legislation that allows a merger between the state and Denver Public Schools retirement systems to move forward.
"Thanks to a lot of great work by many, many people, we made the 2008 legislative session the 'Education Session,'" Gov. Ritter. "We are improving how students are taught and we're making smarter investments in our children's education. And with the Innovation Schools Act, we are now empowering local schools to give students the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in an ever-competitive 21st century economy."
The Innovation Schools Act (Senate Bill 130) was sponsored by Senate President Peter Groff and Rep. Rob Witwer. It encourages schools to improve student learning by creating Zones of Innovative Performance that will be free of certain district and state regulations.It will allow schools to make their own decisions on spending, the length of the school day and year, course content, hiring and teacher compensation.
"A status quo approach is no longer working and in fact is hindering our ability to graduate our students with the skills they need to succeed in a global economy," said Senate President Peter Groff (D-Denver). "These schools and districts of innovation will have the potential to instruct students in exciting new ways. We have the potential to improve student achievement by offering flexibility in the way education is administered."
Gov. Ritter also signed House Bill 1403(Romanoff/Sandoval & Groff), which provides a framework for the DPS Retirement System to merge with the Public Employee Retirement System.
By merging the two systems, DPS and PERA could cut administrative expenses, decrease risk, and improve efficiency. Combining and streamlining the two retirement plans will making DPS more attractive to prospective teachers from other parts of the state because now their pensions will be portable.
"Teachers shouldn't have to lose their benefits when they switch school districts," House Speaker Andrew Romanoff said. "They should be able to go where they're most needed."
"This could potentially be the largest public pension merger in the country – ever," said State Treasurer Cary Kennedy. "It's a win-win-win: A win for Denver Public Schools, a win for PERA, and a win for the people of the State of Colorado."
Gov.Bill Rittertoday returned to his high schoolalma mater,GatewayHigh SchoolinAurora, to sign five education bills into law.
"These bills will improve education statewide forColoradostudents,Coloradoteachers andColoradoprincipals," said Gov. Ritter, a member ofGatewayHigh School's first graduating class in 1974. "Together, these pieces of legislation providepragmatic solutions to challenging problems. They are student-centered and they focus on improving student achievement forallstudents, regardless of their station in life or their personal circumstances."
House Bill 1204 (Peniston/Williams)creates a new board and state division to oversee instructional and administrative services for students in day-treatment centers, residential child-care facilities and hospitals.
HB 1223 (Merrifield/Williams)allows the Departments of Education and Higher Education to create technical assistance programs to help teachers intervene early with children who have literacy challenges such as dyslexia.
"Effectively addressing dyslexia is one of the keys to reaching Gov. Ritter's goals of increasing the literacy rate and cutting our drop-out rate in half in the next 10 years," Rep. Mike Merrifield said. "If we are serious about developing a well-educated workforce inColoradofor strong economic development in the 21st century, we must attend to the needs of our many dyslexic students."
HB 1370 (Middleton/Bacon)creates a Colorado Counselor Corps that will deploy about 70 guidance counselors into targeted middle and high schools to help guide students through the complicated college application and enrollment process.Colorado's student-to-counselor ratio currently is among the highest in the nation at more than 500:1, more than twice the recommended ratio.
HB 1384 (Todd/Bacon)creates a study of teacher working conditions and a pilot program to reward national board certified teachers.Coloradoteachers who earn certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards will be eligible for stipends of $1,600. If they teach in a "low" or "unsatisfactory" school, their stipends increase to $4,800 per year.
"Top flight teachers do more than teach -- they inspire, they inform, they set the bar high, and they coach our kids to go further than anyone thought possible," Rep. Nancy Todd said.
HB 1386 (Merrifield/Spence)creates a "PrincipalLeadershipAcademy" toidentify, recruit and train educators who have the potential to become gifted school leaders.
Here are the other bills Gov. Ritter signed into law today: