April 30, 2009
The Joint House and Senate Health and Human Services Committee met today to receive a briefing on the H1N1 virus, commonly referred to as the "Swine Flu". As of this morning, there are 2 confirmed cases in Colorado. Director of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano declared a national emergency at Level 5, indicating a pandemic is imminent in order to draw down federal funds to support. This sounds worse than it is because every strain of the flu is essentially a pandemic every year.
What is it? The virus is a form of influenza or the flu.
How does one catch it? This is caught from person-to-person NOT from contact with pigs NOR from eating pork.
Why is this worse than other flus? There have been 160 deaths in Mexico. The same strain has not proven fatal elsewhere, except for one infant in Texas. We do not know why the same strain has proven fatal in Mexico but not elsewhere.
How to minimize chances of getting it? Wash your hands. Others can avoid spreading it by covering one's mouth if coughing or sneezing.
What are the symptoms? The symptoms present as sore throat, cough, runny nose, fever, fatigue and nausea (feels like the flu).
How long is it in the system or contagious? It takes about 5 – 7 days to work through the system and one generally would need to wait 48 hours after the fever breaks to not be contagious.
Is the flu vaccine effective against it? No, it is too genetically different.
If you have symptoms, stay home. For children, they should not go to school or daycare. For adults, do not go to work.
What can you do? The Department of Public Health is advising people to (1) wash their hands, and (2) prepare a home prep kit for 2 weeks.
What should be in your home prep kit? (1) 2 weeks of food, water; (2) 2 weeks supply of any medications you take; (2) 2 weeks of diapers and baby formula, if you have children.
Who is at risk? Anyone can catch it but infants, people with other serious health conditions and the elderly are at increased risk for more severe reaction to the flu.
Want more information or resources?
Centers for Disease Control & Prevention:
Colorado Department of Health & Environment:
April 22, 2009
The Renewable Energy Finance Act (SB 09-51) was signed today by Governor Ritter. It passed with bi-partisan support and creates many financing options making renewable energies more affordable for middle and lower income Coloradans.
Key Features of the bill:
- Allows 3rd Party Ownership in Colorado – Allows financing for small, medium, and large public and private projects for solar, wind, geothermal energies.
- Creates monthly payment options for solar, wind, geothermal or energy efficiency upgrades through bank loans, mortgages, leases, lease purchase.
- Gives savings on utility bills making use of Colorado's current net-metering credits.
- Increases Investments from the State Treasurer's office in renewable industries that will give returns back to the State and provides limited collateral backing to private lenders under-writing green loans.
- Plugs into current rebates and credits available.
- Allows marketing with designated green lender logo designed by Governor's Energy Office for participating lenders.
How is it funded? This opens up the market and is fuelled by private lenders and investors. The state monies in the treasury will be loans only with return on taxpayer investment. There are no new taxes or fees needed to implement this bill. This bill uses existing resources or private lenders.
What are the benefits of the bill?
- Ordinary homeowners who may not currently be able to afford $15,000 – $20,000 out of pocket (even for rebates) can now access residential solar through affordable monthly payments;
- freeze energy bills at current levels;
- get credits for additional energy produced on the grid;
- By making renewable choices available and affordable for middle income Coloradans increased installations will mean increased jobs;
- It will bring known investment capital to the State of Colorado;
- It will facilitate the research and development of renewable energy technologies in Colorado and attract future businesses;
- It will streamline larger renewable projects;
- create more financing options for small, medium and large private and public projects.
While most Coloradans support increasing energy independence, reducing our carbon footprint, diversifying our energy portfolio, until today, most people could not afford to participate in the "green revolution" because it was priced out of reach.
If you have ever wanted to put solar panels but didn't think you could afford them, perhaps now is the time to think again. You can find more information by visiting Colorado Solar Industries Association at http://www.coseia.org/newsite/index.php?id=1 or by contacting the Governor's Energy Office at http://www.colorado.gov/energy/.
This was a great way to celebrate Earth Day. The Earth may not be the only green you save.
April 20, 2009
Some of you may recall that Briana and Alliyah Patterson were orphaned last month when their mother was murdered. When the police sought to apprehend their father as a suspect he killed himself, leaving the two girls (ages 3 & 4) orphaned.
(Photo: Aurora Sentinel File)
For full article see
These girls have not only lost their parents and primary source of support but will be facing the rest of their lives with serious emotional implications. Many of you have expressed your shared sense of grief for the losses suffered by these girls.
Want to know what you can do to help?
Rep. Ryden, Sen. Spence, Sen. Williams and myself have set up a fund. The "Brianna and Alliyah Fund" was established at the Public Service Credit Union. Donations to the fund can be made at any of the union's 28 branches, including the Aurora office at 16900 E. Quincy Ave.
Our hearts go out to these children. Please consider helping if you can or let others know how they can help. Any amount helps.
April 15, 2009
As Colorado faces an historic budget and economic crisis, including $1.4 billion in cuts, and risk of closure of significant portions of state services, including public higher education, the question has quite fairly been asked…
"Have we done everything we can to reduce wasteful spending?"
And the answer is "no."
But it may not be where you think. There is no fluff or frills in Colorado's budget that has one of the lowest state tax rates in the Country and a requirement to balance the budget every year. Corrections is feeling the brunt of the legislature's failure to lead and act to take on sentencing reform.
We have introduced 2 omnibus sentencing reform bills today that reflect smarter choices on prison policy and spending.
We are currently spending twice as much on corrections as higher education and it is now the 3 largest item in our budget and growing. Most other states have taken similar moves as an effort to be evidence-based, smarter on crime and smarter with spending taxpayer money. Colorado can't afford NOT to consider sentencing reform.
Here are some facts to consider:
- It costs $30,386 per inmate per year in operating costs and $150,773 per year per inmate for capital construction.
- 74% of our prison population is in for non-violent offenses.
- The Department of Corrections has become the single largest "mental health care provider" in the State of Colorado.
- Probation costs $3.42 per day to supervise whereas prison costs $78.95 per day to supervise.
- 1 in 29 Colorado residents are now under correctional control. (That figure was 1 in 102 in 1982).
- At the current rate of incarceration we would need to build a new prison every year.
- For the cost of incarcerating 1 inmate we could
- Educate 5 children in K12;
- Fund tuition for 10 students in higher education;
- Pay the full health insurance premiums for 3 families per year;
- Fund 6 Medicaid enrollees for health care;
What's more is that we have research that demonstrates that we are no longer getting any public safety returns at the level we are spending. If fact, there is a significant body of research demonstrating that the funds can be better spent in ways that not only improve public safety and reduce recidivism but also save us money.
We can no longer afford to waste money on things that don't work and we need to prioritize our money on incarcerating people who are a true threat to society.
April 09, 2009
Today we reconvened as a caucus to review potential amendments from both sides of the aisle on the long bill (aka SB 09-259). The legislature finished reviewing, and at the direction of President Groff, the members of the JBC reconvened to further review options to avoid ending / eliminating $300 million.
We have gone just about as far as we can go without closing core functions of government for the people. Because we can not afford to dismiss any idea out of hand MANY ideas have surfaced on how to handle the short-term and long-term budget problems of the state:
- review of $1 billion in special interest tax exemptions / credits (examples include: (mail advertising, sales of precious metal bullion / coins, pesticide sales, bull semen etc.) — a move previously unavailable until the Colorado Supreme Court decision.
- review of enterprise zones: ~ $40 million, a recent audit suggests while some enterprise zone funding is used to create new jobs, others may not.
- de-coupling the state income tax base from the federal income tax base, freeing us of some tax loopholes the feds have approved that we may not want to inherit.
- Sale – Leaseback of state buildings: If there is a private market, the state could sell the buildings we own to a lender who allow us to lease them back. This raises revenue but means we are repaying for buildings we currently own.
- Bring a measure to convert to a progressive tax structure to the public for a vote.
- Sentencing reform: The Department of Corrections is one of the few departments continuing to grow even in this budget-cutting environment. 74% of our inmates are in custody for non-violent offenses and we incarcerate at a higher rate than most states and more than other countries.
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