BRIGHTON — With a new legislative session under way, state Sen. Mary Hodge, D-Brighton, has a wide array of issues she plans to tackle in 2013.
Staying true to her 13-year interest in water and water rights, Hodge is sponsoring a number of bills that she says are “common sense.”
Among those being considered are Senate Bill 13-041, which is designed to protect water storage long-term use; Senate Bill 13-074, which addresses legacy ditches and Senate Bill 13-072 deals with conditional water rights, like those belonging to Bennett, and would eliminate the requirement to obtain a final permit for water wells.
“Bennett, if they had to perfect their water right in the way we used to do it, would have to go back to the usage when that right was granted, so they would lose a lot of water. They probably would be unsustainable to the population they have now,” she said.
Hodge also plays an important role in developing the state’s budget as a member of the Joint Budget Committee. She said the state has more money to work with than in the past and that the committee is considering giving more funding to K-12 education and giving public employees a raise.
As a former teacher, Hodge said education has always been a priority for her.
“We are restoring an additional $238 per pupil — or that’s the governor’s proposal, we haven’t approved it yet — more than before,” she said. “That does not anywhere near cover the $1 billion plus we have cut in the last four years.”
Hodge said she would personally like to see more funding for higher education and for the corrections budget to decrease as the prison population is “declining rather rapidly.”
When she met with Brighton City Council Feb. 5, Hodge said the JBC is also looking at giving public employees a raise for the first time in four years. She said Gov. John Hickenlooper asked for a 1.5-percent raise but that the JBC has recommended a 2-percent raise.
Hodge also told council it’s an entirely different atmosphere with Democratic Party majorities in both houses of the Legislature and a Democratic governor. She said a number of “big items” will be addressed, including civil unions, revoking the death penalty and allowing in-state college tuition for undocumented high school graduates.
Hodge said the civil unions bill was up for its second reading on Friday and that the bill is expected to pass.
“There are more people signed on as co-sponsors than is needed to pass the bill, so that bill will pass. The governor has said he will sign it,” she said.
Hodge said she expects Colorado’s death penalty to be revoked this legislative session barring amendments, such as when the issue was tied to cold case units four years ago.
Hodge also predicts that gun laws are going to be a huge issue this year.
“Finding the balance between and protecting Second Amendment rights and in doing reasonable legislation is difficult,” she said.