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Meghan Lukens: My first bills will address access to broadband, teacher licensure, affordable housing and more

Jan 23, 2023

The following op-ed was published in Steamboat Pilot & Today.

Being your state representative is truly the honor of a lifetime. The first few days at the state Capitol were filled with excitement and hope. On Jan. 9, all newly elected legislators were sworn in, and we now have a majority women state legislature for the first time in Colorado history. We also elected Julie McCluskie, another Western Slope representative from Summit County, to Speaker of the House.

We immediately got to work introducing legislation to make a difference. My first bills will address issues including teacher licensure, agricultural job opportunities, affordable housing, rural broadband access, solar gardens and water quality. Each issue and solution is intertwined with other sectors that all directly impact our community.

In fact, addressing the broadband access limitations is the priority of my first bill moving through the state House. HB23-1051 will help get resources and funding to improve rural broadband services, and we will be able to provide higher-quality broadband access to rural communities.

Increasing rural broadband access will create jobs, allow remote work, facilitate virtual learning for students and increase the accessibility of emergency services. As I experienced teaching high school during the COVID-19 pandemic, access to high-quality broadband is no longer a luxury; it is a necessity.

Throughout the week, committees heard from the departments we work with.

As a member of the Agriculture, Natural Resources and Water Committee, we heard updates from the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Natural Resources. As a member of the Education Committee, we heard from the Department of Education, the Department of Early Childhood and the Department of Higher Education. I am confident that we are heading in the right direction in these sectors.

We commemorated Martin Luther King Jr. by passing a joint resolution. As a history and government teacher, my students and I would discuss his speeches and writings at length. His vision and advocacy for equality and justice made such a positive impact on American history, and we are forever grateful for his leadership and courage.

On Jan. 17, we heard from the governor during the 2023 State of the State Address during which we heard about the governor’s plans for affordable housing, affordable health care and environmental protections. Colorado is seeing some of the fastest job growth in the country with businesses of all sizes setting up shop here, and our unemployment rate sits well below the national average. While Colorado is heading in a great direction, life is still difficult for too many members of our community. It should not be so hard to just scrape by in our state. Families should be able to not just survive, but thrive.

The work we will do this legislative session will help Colorado take steps toward a future in which the costs of living are more affordable and make life for Coloradans even better. During the start of the session, I also had the opportunity to attend numerous legislative receptions, hosted by groups such as the Colorado Restaurant Association, Colorado Chamber of Commerce and the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association. I believe that building bipartisan relationships is essential in order to best represent Northwest Colorado. By working with leaders from our own community, we can address our unique concerns with unique solutions.

In my new role, I have made it a priority to be an advocate for the Western Slope, especially for our communities in Northwest Colorado. By working with other Western Slope legislators including Speaker Julie McCluskie, Sen. Dylan Roberts and Rep. Elizabeth Velasco, we will be able to get results for issues unique to our regions such as the quality of rural schools and the need for water protection, among many others.

All this work will not be done overnight. It will take long hours and hard work. It will take bipartisan collaboration between the 100 legislators that have been sworn into the Colorado legislature. And hearing from you makes it easier for me to represent your interests and address your concerns.

Meghan Lukens represents District 26, which includes Routt, Moffat, Rio Blanco and Eagle counties, in the Colorado House.

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