Colorado Community Media asked the following questions of state Sen. Jeff Bridges, D- Greenwood Village, ahead of the 2020 legislative session, which began Jan. 8. Bridges represents Senate District 26, which includes Littleton, Englewood, Sheridan, Cherry Hills Village and parts of Aurora, among other areas.
What can be learned from the 2019 session?
Despite what some news coverage would have you believe, Democrats and Republicans here in Colorado can actually work together. In fact, 96% of the bills we passed in 2019 had bipartisan support. And every bill I’ve passed has had bipartisan support, including my bill to fully fund full-day kindergarten, which passed the Senate with unanimous support. Last year, we also worked to cut the cost of health care and put our state on track for 100% renewable energy, which means good-paying jobs and a healthier environment for all of us.
What bill or bills are you most looking forward to working on in the 2020 session?
We have a teen vaping crisis in Colorado. I’m working on legislation to increase the age of purchase for all tobacco products from 18 to 21. Most middle school and high school students know someone over the age of 18 willing to buy vaping products for them — it’s called “social sourcing.” Very few have a friend over the age of 21. Raising the age of purchase will dramatically decrease the accessibility of vaping products for teenagers and help put a stop to this public health crisis.
In light of Proposition CC’s failure in November, what steps should be taken for transportation and education funding?
We have a (roughly) $9 billion deficit in critical transportation infrastructure. Over the last few years, voters have rejected two bond measures, a sales tax and a TABOR rebate — yet when asked what the state should prioritize, folks say “transportation.” I’m working on a bipartisan plan with specific projects to increase funding without raising taxes. For our schools, we need fair funding. For example, if you have a $500,000 home in Englewood, you pay more in taxes for education than an identically valued home in Aspen. A fair tax structure will create reliable income for our districts and free up almost half a billion dollars for public schools.
What do you envision as the most daunting challenge this session?
Colorado has one of the strongest economies in the nation, but even folks who seem to be doing well feel like the bottom could drop out at any moment. With the rising cost of health care and housing, too many families struggle just to keep their head above water. We need to make sure that every Coloradan has the opportunity to earn a good life. That’s especially challenging during an election year, when some legislators on both sides run “message bills.” These aren’t designed to solve a problem — they’re about scoring political points … I try to stay focused on legislation that actually improves the lives of … the people I represent.
Describe a successful 2020 session.
In the 2020 legislative session, I look forward to continuing my bipartisan work to make sure every Colorado family has the chance to earn a good life in this state we love. That means working to cut the cost of health care, improve our roads and transit, increase funding for our public schools, and continue our state’s leading role in the development of renewable energy resources — and the good-paying jobs and cleaner environment that industry creates.
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