I have spent my entire legislative career working across the aisle to improve the lives of all Coloradans, particularly the people of my district in Colorado Springs. My work has focused on increasing jobs and economic opportunity, reforming criminal justice, expanding behavioral health, promoting renewable energy and improving Colorado’s education system. I proudly ran on those issues in 2018 and won more than 62 percent of the vote. Since taking office in January, I have been working tirelessly to deliver on those promises. With the successful passage of 36 bills, two-thirds with bipartisan support, I believe I have done that.
During my nine-year legislative career, I have passed over 120 bills, the vast majority with Republican and Democratic support. During that time, I have sought to remain constant to my values and I have built a reputation for moderate, collaborative and common-sense policy making.
In every session, there are always a few contentious bills that provoke strong disagreement and receive most of the publicity. This year vaccinations, oil and gas reforms, FAMLI paid family medical leave, ERPO or the Red Flag Bill, comprehensive human sexuality education, equal pay for equal work, vaping/tobacco tax and local minimum wage were among the most divisive.
None of those bills passed as introduced, and all were either significantly amended by the Legislature to make for more moderate measures, or failed to pass. However, those were only a small fraction of the almost 600 bills we introduced and of the 462 we passed. Of those passed, more than 95% received bipartisan support. Colorado’s Legislature is a model of respectful, deliberative, and thoughtful decision making in which collaboration, compromise and stakeholder inclusiveness are virtues. This session was no different.
Some of the bills receiving bipartisan support dealt with high health care bills by allowing purchase of prescription drugs from Canada, providing for negotiated rates and requiring annual reporting of hospital costs and spending. Other bipartisan bills will increase access to treatment for opioid addiction. Additionally, we addressed issues plaguing the state by providing significant funding for affordable housing, and, in the environmental area, we passed bills to move Colorado toward reducing carbon emissions by 90% by 2050, to make it easier to retire coal power plants, and to expand electric vehicle infrastructure. Fulfilling one of Gov. Jared Polis’ campaign commitments, we passed a bill to provide free full-day kindergarten.
I continued my legislative focus on business and economic development arenas to strengthen Colorado’s economy to give more hardworking people the opportunity to get ahead. In prior sessions, I have sponsored bills to help veterans move from the service to civilian careers, expand access to capital, promote entrepreneurship, and implement Keep Jobs in Colorado so state contracts go to Colorado companies. This year, working with general contractors and unions, I sponsored SB196 to significantly expand apprentice training opportunities to address the skills gap and create the workforce of the future. To promote pay equity and end the gender wage gap, I also co-sponsored the Equal Pay for Equal Work Act. I was the prime sponsor of a bill to update the Colorado Corporation Code.
I also pursued my commitment to criminal and juvenile justice reform by sponsoring 15 bills, 13 with bipartisan co-sponsorship. We passed common-sense legislation to remind Coloradans of upcoming court dates by text message thereby reducing crowding in our jails. Along with Sen. Bob Gardner (R-Colorado Springs) I sponsored SB108 Juvenile Justice Reform, which will implement evidence based decision-making and best practices, including restorative justice diversion for juvenile offenders. We introduced a bill, HB1225, to end cash bail for certain low-level offenses so people without financial means don’t remain in jail. We worked to pass sensible parole reforms and extended funding for three successful justice reinvestment bills, including Transforming Safety in southeast Colorado Springs.
Lastly, we passed bills to expand and simplify criminal and juvenile record sealing allowing people who have paid their debt to society to move on with their lives.
As the husband of an educator, school board member and a father, I also made addressing education issues a top priority in the Senate. That is why I carried legislation to make our schools safer by increasing the availability of active shooter emergency incident response training in our schools. I supported legislation to implement full-day kindergarten, address the student loan crisis, and improve access to mental health services in our schools. By supporting educators and students, we can help set up the next generation of Coloradans for success.
This session has been busy because we set an ambitious agenda. I am proud to say that I delivered on my campaign promises and emerged with a strong legislative record. It is a privilege and honor to serve by working collaboratively on a bipartisan basis to find solutions to improve the lives of the people of Colorado Springs.
Pete Lee is a Colorado state senator representing District 11.