Virtual town hall provides lawmaker take-aways from the legislative session
We would like to thank the central-mountain lawmakers serving in the Colorado State Legislature who took part in our June 20 online town hall meeting. We were fortunate for the opportunity to hear directly from Speaker of the House Julie McCluskie (HD13), Rep. Elizabeth Velasco (HD57), Rep. Meghan Lukens (HD26), and Sen. Dylan Roberts (SD8), each of whom offered their thoughts on the most recent legislative session and the impacts new policies will have on Coloradans and members of Colorado’s Latino community in particular.
During the hour-long town hall, legislators provided their personal perspectives on the bills that mattered most to them, disappointments over bills that were not passed, and thoughts on legislation that should be introduced in the next session. By and large, our central-mountain lawmakers universally considered the session a success but agreed there’s more work to be done.
“It’s a privilege and the honor of my life to serve as the representative for House District 57,” Rep. Velasco said, adding that her first year in the legislature is both a labor of service and a labor of love. “We had a really successful legislative session. I really elevated all the things that I promised. I talked about climate resiliency, climate adaptation, language access, water quality for mobile home parks and making sure that we’re working for working families.”
Velasco, who was recognized as the 2023 Local Legislative Champion by Voces Unidas, sponsored and passed two of our priority bills during the session: HB23-1257 Mobile Home Park Water Quality and HB23-1237 Inclusive Language in Emergency Situations. Other lawmakers echoed her sentiment.
“I’m very excited about what was accomplished during the session,” Sen. Roberts said. “A few highlights for me include bills in the affordable housing space. Affordable housing has been one of my top priorities. In the district that I represent, we know that housing is our top challenge here, and having more available units and more affordable housing for our workforce, for our teachers, nurses, police officers, firefighters, and everybody that keeps our communities the character that they are and the businesses running depends on affordable housing getting built.”
Rep. Lukens, who served on education, agriculture, natural resources and water committees in her freshman year in the House, highlighted successes in education and agricultural workforce development in particular.
“Overall, I feel like this legislative session was very rewarding and that we brought back a lot of wins and successes for Coloradans and especially for folks on the Western Slope, and I’m really proud of the work we have done,” she said.
Noting that some 484 bills were passed through by both the House and the Senate this year, Speaker McCluskie noted that her focus was on issues like health care, housing, energy, transportation and climate – all issues of importance for Colorado’s central-mountain Latino community.
“Overall, I think we were very successful in representing our interests from the Western Slope,” she said.
That’s not to say there were no disappointments during the session, especially when it came to addressing affordability in and around the state’s resort communities.
“There’s a bunch of the bills that I wish had passed,” Rep. Velasco said. “One of them is rent control, one of the policies that passed the house but couldn’t make it through the Senate. I think that really offered opportunities for a lot of conversations. The other bill around renter protections, the Just Cause Evictions bill (HB23-1171), was also so important and so needed to protect our renters, especially in our communities. In some mobile home parks people are seeing an increase in rents of 200%.”
In the ensuing question-and-answer segment of the virtual town hall, legislators promised to continue working on housing, health care and affordability issues facing Coloradans, along with water and climate concerns. All of those issues were cited as top priorities among survey participants informing our 2022 Colorado Latino Policy Agenda (CLPA), so we are pleased to see our organizing efforts are making an impact on lawmakers moving forward.
Polling for the 2023 CLPA is set to get underway in July with an updated report scheduled for release in September. In addition to polling results used to elevate our priorities, we encourage community members to continue reaching out to elected representatives between sessions to offer feedback and suggestions.
As Rep. Lukens noted, “We’re always looking for new bill ideas.”