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Lukens: Local ideas become 2024 legislation

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January 29, 2024, 7:22 am

The 2024 Legislative Session has begun! On January 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.

Meghan Lukens

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.

Amidst a chaotic world, students need access to mental health care even if it is just temporary or not part of a sustained mental health condition. We need to support more exemplary psychologists in schools. Another bill I will introduce this Legislative Session is an Interstate Mobility Compact for School Psychologists, similar to last year’s successful Interstate Mobility Teacher Compact, so that high-quality school psychologists trying to move here can practice without the barrier of re-license.

Agriculture and Natural Resources

In conversation with constituents, I understand that more needs to be done to protect our state’s land, water, and wildlife habitat, and conservation easements are a great way to do so. I am working on legislation to support the Conservation Easement Income Tax Credit, which will greatly help our rural landowners, ranchers, and farmers interested in conservation easements.

One of the most pervasive issues within rural communities is the increase in mental health issues coupled with the lack of adequate mental health providers or programs to help those in need, which is why another bill I am working on establishes an Agricultural Liaison position within the Behavioral Health Administration. This bill will create the Agricultural Liaison role within the BHA to guarantee that farmers, ranchers, and other industry workers have access to the behavioral health care they need.

Bipartisanship

As the State Representative for House District 26, I am committed to bipartisanship, collaboration, and civility. I have heard from constituents that results – not politics – are of utmost importance, and rest assured, I am committed to working on behalf of the people of House District 26 utilizing respect and hard work.

After a warm and joyous holiday season, community stands out as one of the best things about living where we do. In the spirit of coming together and helping everyone feel welcome in our home state, I would love to hear your thoughts, ideas, and concerns. You can contact me at repmeghanlukens@gmail.com, through social media, or in person at one of my town hall meetings. I also send out more regular legislative updates through my newsletter, which you can join by emailing me.

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