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Lukens: Local Ideas Become 2024 Legisation

Jan 25, 2024

This story was originally published in the Steamboat Pilot & Today.

On Jan. 10, we started our 120-day session at the Colorado State Capitol. Alongside my colleagues from both sides of the aisle and as a member of the Agriculture, Water & Natural Resources Committee and Education Committee, I anticipate an exciting session as I bring forth initiatives that will revitalize the Western Slope that we call home.

Economic prosperity

I am pleased to announce that my priority bill to create jobs in rural Colorado — Reauthorization of Rural Jump-Start Program — was the first bill introduced in the entirety of the Colorado House of Representatives during the 2024 Legislative Session. While traveling throughout Routt, Moffat, Rio Blanco and Eagle counties over the past year, I have heard from many constituents about the need to support our workforce. For us on the Western Slope, small businesses are vital to the economy of our towns, which is why I am passionate about passing the Rural Jump-Start Program to provide financial incentives to our small businesses.

Another priority in the next 120 days is boosting and strengthening our workforce. To continue to increase industry and education collaboration and support the needs of employees, I am introducing a bill to continue investing into the Opportunity Now Program and establish a refundable tax credit. By solidifying the state’s investments into our local communities, we can sow the seeds of transformational change and help families regain their economic footing after the tumultuous last few years.

Education and mental health

In huge education-related news, the Governor’s budget request officially eliminates the Budget Stabilization Factor, which is a significant win for our students and educators. I look forward to the budget process during which school funding will be a priority.

In my experience as a high school teacher and a lawmaker, I’ve noticed that students and teachers lack the resources to thrive both inside and outside the classroom. One of my favorite accomplishments in the past year was earning the Mental Health Legislator of the Year by Mental Health Colorado, and I’m proud to continue prioritizing mental health in schools through a few new bills.

Teaching is not an easy job. The last thing our educators need is to feel unsafe in their own classrooms. Another piece of legislation I’m working on would create an Advisory Committee that focuses on reviewing and recommending safety improvements so that our kids and teachers can feel safe and welcome in their schools.

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