As a state senator, I am sometimes asked, “What do you do when you're not in session at the Capitol?” Well, in Colorado, we have a “citizen Legislature,” originally designed for us to be in session January to May, and then go back to our “citizen” jobs in the interim.
Over the years, however, our legislative commitments have increased due to more complicated policy issues requiring more research and vetting time, and due to increased population so we have more constituent needs. Now, many of us serve on policy committees, task forces and commissions all year long.
So, I thought you'd like to know what I'm doing during the interim and year-round. This year, I serve on:
• Colorado Workforce Development Council — finding policies and methods to assist with economic development for businesses from the people side; connecting candidates to job skills training and job placement assistance in order to transition back into the workplace or transfer skills into another industry.
• Juvenile Justice Task Force (part of the Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice) — reworking the juvenile justice system and influencing surrounding services to get to the root of the problem and prevent youth from committing crimes and ending up in the justice system. Research shows that preventing youth from entering the system can increase graduation rates, reduce crime, and reduce incarceration and community costs.
• Capitol Building Advisory Committee (Chair) — overseeing and making recommendations regarding the state Capitol building complex; the current restoration of the Capitol dome and maintenance of the building and grounds, while preserving our state history.
• Joint Technology Committee (Vice Chair) — a new joint legislative committee that will have oversight of our state information technology investments. Our goal is to save potentially millions of dollars as we utilize best practices from the private sector into state IT projects and hardware/software acquisitions.
• Conflict Resolution Month — a “synergizers” group that coordinates activities throughout the state during Conflict Resolution Month, October. Year-round, we work to educate and influence elected officials and communities about the high costs of conflict and the tools and techniques of managing conflict.
• Early Childhood and School Readiness Commission — a commission that reviews and recommends legislation that will help children be ready for school, including the areas of health, mental health, parental involvement, family support, child care, and early learning.
• Legislative Oversight Committee for the Continuing Examination of the Treatment of Persons with Mental Illness Who Are Involved in the Justice System (Chair) — affectionately known as the committee with the longest name; with almost 80 percent of Colorado offenders with mental illness or substance abuse, this is critically both a human and fiscal issue.
In addition to our year-round commitments, in the interim, we also work on town halls, constituent needs, community projects and legislation for next session. Also, some of us occasionally have part-time work on the side to supplement our annual salary of $30,000.
That's it! The interim life of a senator!
State Sen. Linda Newell represents District 26, which includes Littleton, western Centennial, Cherry Hills Village, part of Englewood, Sheridan, Columbine Valley and portions of Bow Mar. She can be reached at Linda.Newell.Senate@gmail.com or 303-866-4846.