Lawmakers gear up for work at the state Capitol

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The election is over and now the real work begins for Colorado’s legislators. Some are veterans in their position, and some are representing their constituents for the first time.

House District 35 Rep. Cherylin Peniston is beginning her last two-year term this year.

She’s been representing the Westminster area for the last six years, so she knows her way around the state Capitol.

For this upcoming legislative session, she is focusing on early childhood education, tanning limits for minors and expansion of the Family and Medical Leave Act.

She said she plans to bring up the legislation on the Early Childhood Readiness Commission, which was established through House Bill 09-1343.

“The Early Childhood Readiness Commission is a legislative body that is involved with what is happening in the state in early childhood education and health care,” she said. “I was carrying out that bill to continue it on and it got lost in the political cross fire. So I am working with Sen. Evie Hudak to get that put in place.”

Last session Peniston’s tanning bill, HB 1170, was postponed indefinitely. Peniston is bringing it back again for the upcoming session.

The bill notifies parents of their child’s use of commercial artificial tanning devices by requiring parents to sign a permission form listing the potential risks and to stay on-site with a minor less than 14 years old.

The last bill Peniston is working on is the expansion of the definition of who can use the Family and Medical Leave Act.

She said the bill would allow for more people to be considered in using FMLA, like domestic partners, grandchildren and grandparents.

“This will go along with the civil union bill that will definitely be passed this session,” she said. “This bill would take care of those other important family members.”

Sen. Jessie Ulibarri, who represents District 21, is new to the legislative floor, but is ready to bring the wants and needs of his constituents in Westminster to the state level.

He said the legislation he is sponsoring this year reflects the concerns he heard from the community members on their porches and in front of their homes during his campaign trail.

He is focusing on stewardship of taxpayer resources, financial security and community trust with law enforcement.

He said he is working on a bill to save Colorado millions of dollars be determining a better way to pay for the required hospitalization and inpatient treatment for the inmate population.

“Other states, including Alabama, Washington and Louisiana, have adopted similar policies and have witnessed tens of millions of dollars in savings for their taxpayers,” he said.

This year Ulibarri will be working with the Office of Economic Development and International Trade to encourage the growth of the advanced manufacturing industry in Colorado. He said jobs are needed in Colorado that support working families and the local economy.

“I’ll be sponsoring legislation that ensures individuals that have faced financial adversity during the recession are not unfairly denied employment opportunities,” he said. “The bill will limit employers from accessing the credit information of job applicants as a hiring screen.”

For Ulibarri’s final bill, he said he is coordinating with law enforcement officials, nonprofit organizations and crime victims to develop policies related to the appropriate use of emerging technologies in law enforcement.

“The policy will balance how law enforcement officials can access cell phone location data and automated license plate readers to ensure public safety and also safeguard our constitutional rights to privacy,” he said. “I will also be working to develop policy solutions with law enforcement to determine how we can encourage vulnerable victims of crimes to come forward with information without concern about retribution.”

Due to the tragic event in Connecticut, gun control is a hot topic for the upcoming legislative session. Both Peniston and Ulibarri are concerned with the issue and plan on evaluating gun control bills as the come before the legislature.

“As the father of two young kids, I want our laws to reflect our core commitment to public safety,” Ulibarri said. “I will study the bills to determine if they are designed to protect the common good while balancing our constitutional rights to bear arms and to due process.”

Another hot topic is voter-approved Amendment 64, which legalized marijuana in Colorado. Ulibarri said as a legislator his job is to defend and honor the constituents of the Colorado and the United States. Because the voters voted to support the amendment, Ulibarri said he will actively work to implement the will of the people.

Peniston said she is interested in seeing the practical outcome of how Amendment 64 will be put in place and what the taskforce, implemented by Gov. John Hickenlooper, comes up with in terms of regulations surrounding Amendment 64.

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