Legislators share plans for session

Left, Rep. Donald Valdez; right, Sen. Larry Crowder

ALAMOSA — When the Colorado General Assembly reconvenes on Friday, the San Luis Valley’s own legislators will be ready to face another session.

State Senator Larry Crowder (R), a Valley resident, continues his second term representing District 35 in the State Senate, and State Representative Donald Valdez (D), also a Valley resident, begins his second term representing House District 62.

First elected in 2012 and re-elected in 2016, Crowder represents residents of the state’s 35th District that includes portions of 16 counties in southern Colorado including all of the San Luis Valley. Valdez, first elected in 2016 and re-elected in 2018, represents HD 62, which encompasses the six San Luis Valley counties, Huerfano County and a portion of Pueblo County.

They plan to present legislation during this new session that will serve the constituents in their districts.

Both Crowder and Valdez have also made their positions clear against potential water export proposals in the Valley. Crowder added that he also opposes an export proposal in the lower Arkansas Valley, which he represents.

“Our agriculture is way too important to allow this to happen,” Crowder said. “Southern Colorado is getting hit hard by the water grabbers … I think we should do everything we can to stop this and protect our region.”

Valdez said, “I think it will be very detrimental if we even start to move water out of the Valley.”

Valdez said his vision for this session would be “continuing to fight for education, funding for education, protecting our natural resources and looking at ways to be more energy efficient and water efficient.”

He thanked the people from the San Luis Valley including his hometown of La Jara for re-electing him in this midterm election. “It is an honor to serve as state representative for House District 62 at our state capitol representing rural values, agriculture, fighting for our water, our land and our way of life.”

Both Crowder and Valdez will be involved in trying to find assistance for the district attorney’s office during this session. The 12th District Attorney’s office has had a difficult time retaining experienced attorneys due to funding and benefit issues and lost one of its most experienced assistant attorneys in 2018 and will lose another in 2019.

Valdez said right now he is researching possible ways of securing funding for the DA’s office. Crowder had planned to sponsor a bill during this session to increase state funding for the DA’s office, but another senator is proposing a similar bill, so he will work to support that legislation, he explained. The proposed bill would increase funding for the DA’s office in general and for the assistant DA in particular. Crowder said be believed the bill proposed by another state senator will be better than what he had proposed, so he will support that legislation to increase DA’s office funding.

“It’s really needed. It’s a parity problem,” Crowder said.

Legislation Crowder is working on for this session will assist active duty military, counties with the cremation of indigent and medical services.

For example, he will be supporting legislation to fix a glitch in vehicle licensing so military vehicles can be licensed. He will also propose a bill that will expand on 2014 legislation enabling active duty military outside of Colorado to make Colorado their home state and receive the tax breaks from doing so. That bill did not address those already here, however, so Crowder proposes legislation to fix that.

A veteran himself, Crowder has always worked on veterans’ issues and was glad to be on hand for the groundbreaking celebration for the Veterans Renaissance Apartments at Fitzsimons in December. This will house 60 veterans experiencing homelessness, which is at least a beginning, Crowder said.

“We need to do what we can to eliminate this condition.”

He added, “I will continue to work on veterans issues.”

He said the Veterans Affairs needs to address not only physical needs of veterans but emotional as well. He cited the statistic of 7,000 killed in action in Afghanistan and Iraq but since that time 73,000 veterans lost to suicide.

Another piece of Crowder-proposed legislation will allow counties to cremate the indigent to help with funeral expenses. Prior to this legislation, a traditional burial was the only option. This would give counties paying for the funeral of an indigent person to use a cremation option.

Another Crowder bill will address Medicaid EAPG to assist particularly rural hospitals with billing and payment systems, and another will regulate surgical facilities that have not been in the past, specifically plastic surgery facilities.

Crowder will also be working on legislation affecting the Arkansas River silt build up and Arkansas Valley Conduit.

Crowder added that he would continue to promote the rail line, trying to get a north/south line on track, “everywhere there’s a track in place.” He said he was glad to see transportation opportunities increase with the Bustang bus service, which now connects Valley residents to Pueblo, Denver and other large cities in the state. However, he said, “We need alternatives to bus or road transportation.”

Rep. Valdez will also have a full slate this legislative session.

In addition to working on legislation on the House of Representatives side to assist the district attorneys, Valdez will work on issues related to agriculture and the economy in his district. For example, he will sponsor a bill to renew the potato certification fee, which will sunset soon.

Valdez will also sponsor the Food Safety Bill with Rep. Marc Catlin.

Valdez will also be looking into ways to provide more preventive education and preventive treatment for the opioid epidemic “that is affecting our communities in more ways than one.”

Valdez added, “Another big aspect is to continue to improve our economic development in southern Colorado from Pueblo to Huerfano County and the six counties in the San Luis Valley. That is a huge, huge push to continue to stabilize our communities and our economy in southern Colorado. We always want to have that niche market in our communities to continue to grow.”

Agricultural related industries are an integral part of that, he said.

Healthcare is also an important area of concentration for Valdez, “making it accessible and affordable health care, specialty care for individuals that we do not have in southern Colorado.” He said telehealth is key in providing that specialty care, and broadband is crucial in providing that connectivity, not only for medical but educational and economic health.

Valdez commended the companies in the Valley that have provided broadband connections.

He said every age group in his district is important to him, including senior citizens who may too often be overlooked. “We need to grow our communities with infrastructure and development on all ends.”