Gov. Ritter today signed into law several key bills to help protect communities from wildfires, promote Colorado’s New Energy Economy, help military veterans become educators, and encourage cooperation between Pueblo and El Paso counties on water issues.
Senate Bill 20, sponsored by Sen. Dan Gibbs and Rep. Christine Scanlan, clarifies the responsibilities of fire protection districts, county sheriffs offices and the State Forest Service when responding to wildfires.
SB 105, also sponsored by Sen. Gibbs and Rep. Scanlan, removes limits on counties to generate funding for the purpose of fighting both forest and prairie fires.
HB 1162, sponsored by Sen. Mike Kopp and Rep. Cheri Gerou, requires the establishment of intergovernmental agreements in certain circumstances.
“Effectively fighting wildfires in Colorado requires a cooperative approach by local, county, state, federal and tribal agencies, Gov. Ritter said. “Fires don’t recognize governmental boundaries, and these bills will enhance efforts ate every level of government to help us to better plan for, prevent and fight fires.”
“With the real height of the wildfire season on the horizon, the signing of these bills could not come at a better time,” Sen. Gibbs said. “We need organization and we need funding to protect communities from the devastating effects of wildfires, and we need it now. This puts us on the right track toward more effective wildfire prevention and protection.”
Troops to Teachers
SB 62, the “Troops to Teachers” bill, was sponsored by Sen. Brandon Shaffer and Rep. Dennis Apuan. The bill makes the Teach Colorado Grant Initiative, established in 2008, available to military veterans by providing scholarships to veterans who are studying to become math and science teachers.
“Colorado is home to more than 400,000 military veterans,” Gov. Ritter said, “with more coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan all the time. This legislation will allow us to continue fulfilling our obligation to our veterans by helping them find careers as classroom educators while also helping to meet the needs of Colorado students.”
“By providing financial incentives and professional development for our troops to become teachers, this law will strengthen our economy as well as our education system,” Sen. Shaffer said. “It will put prospective teachers into the classroom, especially in rural and high-needs areas, and we can do it without any fiscal impact to the state’s budget.”
“Veterans sacrifice so much for us, and the ‘Troops to Teachers’ bill provides an opportunity to offer a token of our gratitude,” Rep. Apuan said. “By providing scholarships for our troops to become teachers, everyone wins: veterans are more able to afford to return to their education and get a good job; schools that are having trouble hiring teachers will have a larger pool to choose from; and our economy and education systems are strengthened. And veterans can continue serving their community – as a teacher.”
Fountain Creek Watershed District
SB 141, sponsored by Sen. Abel Tapia, Rep. Marsha Looper, and Rep. Sal Pace, creates the Fountain Creek Watershed, Flood Control, and Greenway District in El Paso and Pueblo counties.
“We all know how important water is to Colorado, including Southern Colorado and the Fountain Creek watershed,” Gov. Ritter said. “We also know how contentious water issues can be. This bill opens a new era of cooperation between El Paso and Pueblo counties on water-quality issues. It’s a big step forward and I congratulate the lawmakers and everyone who helped bring this bill to my desk.”
New Energy Economy
SB 98, sponsored by Sen. Gail Schwartz and Rep. Edward Vigil, assigns the same tax-exempt status for biodiesel as given to dyed special fuels in Colorado.
“The signing of this bill supports both the biofuel industry and our agricultural community today and into the future,” Sen. Schwartz said. “By supporting these industries, we are creating a positive model for the development of alternative energy sources while supporting Colorado businesses and our rural economy.”
Colorado Works Program
SB 100, sponsored by Sen. Linda Newell and Rep. Jerry Frangas, changes the definition of a non-custodial parent so that a non-custodial parent may receive employment assistance under the Colorado Works Program even though his or her child is not receiving assistance under the program.
“Families who depend on child support suffer when a noncustodial parent is out of work. By providing job training for these parents, we can help them get back to work and fulfill their commitment to their children who depend on them.