Friday, February 15, 2008

Legislative Update February 15th, 2008

Karen Middleton Joins the House

Karen Middleton, former policy director of the House Democratic
Office, was sworn into office Wednesday after allegations of
misconduct spurred Michael Garcia's resignation. She will represent
the people of House District 42, encompassing north central Aurora.
Rep. Middleton has big plans for her time in the Capitol, expecting to
contribute to a busy session where improving education and energizing
the economy will join healthcare reform at the top of the Democratic
agenda. "It's an honor to serve my friends and neighbors in Aurora,"
said Rep-elect Middleton on Tuesday. "I am grateful for the
opportunity to continue my public service in this new role."

Sunday Sales Proposal Keeps Sailing

Two liquor store bills were on the agenda this session. One of them,
the measure allowing grocery stores to sell beer and wine, was shot
down in committee. My bill, which would allow the sale of full-
strength beer, wine, and liquor on Sundays in licensed liquor stores,
passed through the Business, Labor and Technology Committee. We met
with little organized opposition to the bill, and I will look forward
to continue to fight for business' rights to sell their products
without the interference of outdated practices.

Beating the Beetles

Anyone who has traveled to the mountains in the past decade will
probably have noticed an unsettling feature spreading every year:
brown, sickly trees where healthy green lodgepole pines should be.
This is the work of the bark beetle, an insect whose population
naturally explodes every 100 years or so. They are incredibly
difficult to eradicate, and able to withstand temperatures far below
zero for weeks, even months, before dying. That's why Governor Ritter
has created the Colorado Forest Health Advisory Council – composed of
forest experts from state and federal agencies as well as from several
mountain communities – to develop strategies to combat the epidemic
and provide forest protection from infestation, wildfire, and
disease. "This council is not another study group," Ritter said. "It
is an action group. It is not about managing a crisis. It is about
doing everything we can to get ahead of it." The beetles have claimed
over a million acres of lodgepole pine forest. Studies are underway
to determine what to do with the infected trees. Proposals include
converting them into pellets to heat homes or selling their timber,
which has a unique ghostly blue hue.

Cracking Down on DUIs

Driving under the influence will be all the riskier if a piece of
legislation I've co-sponsored is voted into law. Longer suspensions,
increased fees, and blow tests would face DUI offenders. First-time
offenders could opt to get their license back sooner if they agree to
use an ignition interlock device, which uses a blow test to analyze
blood alcohol levels before a car will start. "I think it's the right
thing to do," said Rep. Frank McNulty, who voted for the proposal.
"Hopefully, it will save lives." The bill passed unanimously through
a House committee earlier this week.