Monthly Archives: May 2008


At an art gallery and framing shop in North Denver’s Berkeley neighborhood, Gov. Bill Ritter today signed legislation that will further support Colorado‘s burgeoning arts economy, which is rapidly becoming an integral part of neighborhood economic development across the state.


HB 1105 (Frangas/Sandoval) allows art galleries to serve alcohol for up to four hours per day, for no more than 15 days per year. Permits will have to be renewed annually and the alcohol has to be complimentary. The bill requires an annual state art gallery permit fee of $50, and a local license fee of $25.


“This is good for art galleries, their patrons, for businesses and for communities,” Gov. Ritter said during a signing ceremony at Metro Frame Works Custom Framing and 44 T Art Space, owned by Kevin Paul and very often occupied by his greyhounds Milo and Gracie.


“While art is definitely at the center of this, it’s also about other neighborhood businesses – hardware stores, print shops, coffee houses and restaurants included,” Gov. Ritter added. “This is about neighborhoods and building a sense of community.”


The bill won unanimous passage in both the House and Senate.



KEYSTONE ― Gov. Bill Ritter today signed into law a package of bills that gives the state new and stronger tools in the fight to keep Colorado‘s forests healthy against the mountain pine beetle, wildfires and other threats.


Colorado‘s 22.6 million acres of forestland are critical to our clean water, our wildlife habitat, and of course, our tourism and recreation economies,” Gov. Ritter said. “But our forests are at risk from the pine beetle, other insects and greater development into the ‘red zone.’


Protecting our forests will require strong public-private partnerships, strong cooperation among all levels of government, and a clear vision of how we want our forests to look in the future,” Gov. Ritter added. “The bills I am signing today get us a little closer to achieving that healthy-forest vision, and they provide some actual funding and incentives to implement that vision.”


House Bill 1110 (Witwer/Kopp) creates a five-year program from 2009 to 2014 that allows landowners to deduct the actual costs of their wildfire mitigation, up to $2,500, from their state income tax.


HB 1269 (Gibbs/White) provides a sales-tax exemption for sales, storage and use of wood products, such as lumber, furniture, or wood chips, that use wood from beetle-kill trees. The exemption would run through July 1, 2014. The bill also provides cities and counties the option of enacting similar sales-tax exemptions.


HB 1318 (Lundberg/Taylor) creates the voluntary Beetle Mitigation Fund to be administered by the Colorado State Forest Service to mitigate and remove beetle-infested trees from state-owned land. The public will be able to donate to the fund online.


Senate Bill 71 (Gibbs/Scanlan) extends a one-year, forest-restoration pilot program from 2007 through 2012. It provides $1 million a year help communities implement forest treatment projects to reduce wildfire fuels and protect Colorado‘s watersheds. In 2007, the pilot funded 12 different forest restoration projects around the state.


Colorado‘s forests and watersheds are among our most critical resources and we must do all we can to protect them,” said Sen. Dan Gibbs. “It’s heartbreaking to see the extent of the devastation in our mountain forests. With this bill, we’re tackling this crisis head-on. Removing all that dead timber will greatly reduce the threat of catastrophic wildfires and help protect our forests, our water and our way of life.”


“We cannot stop the bark beetle epidemic.  But we can and must take steps to address the resulting devastation,” said Rep. Christine Scanlan.


SB 221 (Gibbs & Romer/Scanlan & White) authorizes the Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority to issue up to $50 million in bonds to fund watershed protection and forest health projects.


HB 1241 (Scanlan/Schwartz) changes the name of the current “Colorado Watershed Protection Fund” state tax checkoff to the “Healthy Rivers Fund” and extends the checkoff through 2010.


“By encouraging Coloradans to donate to this fund, we’re supporting the essential work our local communities undertake to protect our rivers and watersheds. I really do believe this small change will make a huge difference,” said Sen. Gail Schwartz.



Gov. Bill Ritter today signed the “Innovation Schools Act of 2008,” which strengthens school-based decision-making by letting schools break free of certain district and state education rules.


Gov. Ritter also signed legislation that allows a merger between the state and Denver Public Schools retirement systems to move forward.


“Thanks to a lot of great work by many, many people, we made the 2008 legislative session the ‘Education Session,'” Gov. Ritter. “We are improving how students are taught and we’re making smarter investments in our children’s education. And with the Innovation Schools Act, we are now empowering local schools to give students the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in an ever-competitive 21st century economy.”  


The Innovation Schools Act (Senate Bill 130) was sponsored by Senate President Peter Groff and Rep. Rob Witwer. It encourages schools to improve student learning by creating Zones of Innovative Performance that will be free of certain district and state regulations. It will allow schools to make their own decisions on spending, the length of the school day and year, course content, hiring and teacher compensation.


“A status quo approach is no longer working and in fact is hindering our ability to graduate our students with the skills they need to succeed in a global economy,” said Senate President Peter Groff (D-Denver). “These schools and districts of innovation will have the potential to instruct students in exciting new ways. We have the potential to improve student achievement by offering flexibility in the way education is administered.”


Gov. Ritter also signed House Bill 1403 (Romanoff/Sandoval & Groff), which provides a framework for the DPS Retirement System to merge with the Public Employee Retirement System.


By merging the two systems, DPS and PERA could cut administrative expenses, decrease risk, and improve efficiency. Combining and streamlining the two retirement plans will making DPS more attractive to prospective teachers from other parts of the state because now their pensions will be portable.


“Teachers shouldn’t have to lose their benefits when they switch school districts,” House Speaker Andrew Romanoff said. “They should be able to go where they’re most needed.”


“This could potentially be the largest public pension merger in the country – ever,” said State Treasurer Cary Kennedy. “It’s a win-win-win: A win for Denver Public Schools, a win for PERA, and a win for the people of the State of Colorado.”




Gov. Bill Ritter today returned to his high school alma mater, Gateway High School in Aurora, to sign five education bills into law.


“These bills will improve education statewide for Colorado students, Colorado teachers and Colorado principals,” said Gov. Ritter, a member of Gateway High School‘s first graduating class in 1974. “Together, these pieces of legislation provide pragmatic solutions to challenging problems. They are student-centered and they focus on improving student achievement for all students, regardless of their station in life or their personal circumstances.”


House Bill 1204 (Peniston/Williams) creates a new board and state division to oversee instructional and administrative services for students in day-treatment centers, residential child-care facilities and hospitals.


HB 1223 (Merrifield/Williams) allows the Departments of Education and Higher Education to create technical assistance programs to help teachers intervene early with children who have literacy challenges such as dyslexia.


“Effectively addressing dyslexia is one of the keys to reaching Gov. Ritter’s goals of increasing the literacy rate and cutting our drop-out rate in half in the next 10 years,” Rep. Mike Merrifield said. “If we are serious about developing a well-educated workforce in Coloradofor strong economic development in the 21st century, we must attend to the needs of our many dyslexic students.”


HB 1370 (Middleton/Bacon) creates a Colorado Counselor Corps that will deploy about 70 guidance counselors into targeted middle and high schools to help guide students through the complicated college application and enrollment process. Colorado‘s student-to-counselor ratio currently is among the highest in the nation at more than 500:1, more than twice the recommended ratio. 


HB 1384 (Todd/Bacon) creates a study of teacher working conditions and a pilot program to reward national board certified teachers.Colorado teachers who earn certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards will be eligible for stipends of $1,600. If they teach in a “low” or “unsatisfactory” school, their stipends increase to $4,800 per year.


“Top flight teachers do more than teach — they inspire, they inform, they set the bar high, and they coach our kids to go further than anyone thought possible,” Rep. Nancy Todd said.


HB 1386 (Merrifield/Spence) creates a “Principal Leadership Academy” to identify, recruit and train educators who have the potential to become gifted school leaders.


Here are the other bills Gov. Ritter signed into law today:


Bill #

Short Title


Date Action



Health Care For Vulnerable Populations 





Material Change Hospital Transactions 





Educ Services For Students In Facilities 





Training Around Literacy Challenges K-12 





Deemed Status Ambulatory Surgical Center 





Judicial Department IT Cash Fund 





DHS Authority To Rent Lands 





Child Support Enforcement Procedures 





Collection Prop Tax & TIF 





Facilitate Fin Renewable Energy Projects 





Tax Prop Used To Prod Renewable Energy 





School Counselor Corps Grant Program 





Ranked Voting Methods 





Teacher Quality Recruitment Retention 





School Leadership Academy Program 





Low-income Energy Assistance Funding 





CoverColorado Long-term Funding 





Consumer Health Care Transparency Act 





General Assembly Reporting Requirements 





Continuing Education Architects 





Judicial Performance Evaluations 





Special License Plate Fees 





Increase Energy Efficiency State Bldgs 





Colorado Clean Energy Finance Program 





Transfer Work Force Development To DOLE 






Gov. Bill Ritter today returned to his high school alma mater, GatewayHigh School in Aurora, to sign five education bills into law.


“These bills will improve education statewide for Colorado students, Colorado teachers and Colorado principals,” said Gov. Ritter, a member of GatewayHigh School‘s first graduating class in 1974. “Together, these pieces of legislation provide pragmatic solutions to challenging problems. They are student-centered and they focus on improving student achievement for all students, regardless of their station in life or their personal circumstances.”


House Bill 1204 (Peniston/Williams) creates a new board and state division to oversee instructional and administrative services for students in day-treatment centers, residential child-care facilities and hospitals.


HB 1223 (Merrifield/Williams) allows the Departments of Education and Higher Education to create technical assistance programs to help teachers intervene early with children who have literacy challenges such as dyslexia.


HB 1370 (Middleton/Bacon) creates a Colorado Counselor Corps that will deploy about 70 guidance counselors into targeted middle and high schools to help guide students through the complicated college application and enrollment process. Colorado‘s student-to-counselor ratio currently is among the highest in the nation at more than 500:1, more than twice the recommended ratio. 


HB 1384 (Todd/Bacon) creates a study of teacher working conditions and a pilot program to reward national board certified teachers. Colorado teachers who earn certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards will be eligible for stipends of $1,600. If they teach in a “low” or “unsatisfactory” school, their stipends increase to $4,800 per year. 


HB 1386 (Merrifield/Spence) creates a “PrincipalLeadershipAcademy” to identify, recruit and train educators who have the potential to become gifted school leaders.



Gov. Bill Ritter today signed five bills into law that will help low-income families with their energy bills, improve energy efficiency and continue to build Colorado‘s New Energy Economy.


These bills will continue bringing Colorado‘s New Energy Economy home,” Gov. Ritter said. “These new laws share common objectives – investing in renewable energy and helping families cope with rising energy prices.”


House Bill 1350 (Madden/Romer) allows local governments to provide below-market-rate loans to homeowners to finance home improvements for small-scale renewable energy projects, such as energy efficiency retrofits and the installation of renewable energy fixtures.


“I credit Gov. Ritter for all the work he’s done to transform Colorado‘s economy,” Rep. Alice Madden said. “What could have simply been a pithy campaign slogan about ‘bringing new energy to Colorado‘ has in fact turned into thousands of jobs for Coloradans across the state.”


HB 1368 (Buescher/Brophy) supports Colorado’s growing solar industry by aligning state and county property valuations and encouraging small-scale developers to build green and install solar energy systems.


HB 1387 (Buescher/Veiga) helps low-income families with their energy bills in both the short and long-term. This legislation provides $6.5 million for emergency assistance through the state’s Energy Outreach Colorado program and $6.5 million toward the Low-Income Energy Assistance Program (LEAP).


“As energy costs continue to rise, it is increasingly difficult for Colorado‘s most vulnerable residents to afford their home energy expenses,” Rep. Bernie Buescher said. “Families with children, senior citizens and individuals with special needs must allocate more of their limited resources to pay their energy bills. The successful LEAP program has helped thousands of Colorado families keep their heat on during the long winter months.”


Senate Bill 147 (Gordon/Hodge) adds low-income housing to the list of state buildings that have to be built to high performance energy standards.


“Making affordable housing truly affordable for those struggling to get by has been a dream of mine since I came down to the legislature,” Rep. Mary Hodge said. “This package of legislation will help make that dream a reality.”  


SB 184 (Romer/Levy) helps low-income homeowners finance energy efficiency and renewable energy improvements through the creation of the Colorado Clean Energy Finance Program.


“This innovative package of legislation will allow us to provide below-market loans to low- and moderate-income homes, helping them make energy improvements to their homes in order to save money on their utility bills,” said Rep. Claire Levy.  



  Gov. Bill Ritter announced today that President Bush has approved Colorado’s request for federal disaster aid to supplement state and local recovery efforts in areas struck by severe storms and tornadoes in Weld and Larimer counties on May 22.

“I want to thank President Bush and the Federal Emergency Management Agency for their rapid response to our request for aid, especially over this holiday weekend,” Gov. Ritter said. “The magnitude of the disaster put it beyond the reach of local and state agencies to effectively respond without the assistance of the federal government. The President’s federal disaster declaration will allow us to maintain the quick pace of recovery efforts already underway.”


Damage assessments show more than 851 residences sustained some degree of damage, including 78 that were destroyed and 228 that suffered major damage.  


FEMA Administrator David Paulison said the President’s action makes federal funding available to affected individuals in Larimer and Weld counties.


Paulison said that FEMA assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster. 


Federal funding is also available on a cost-sharing basis for hazard mitigation measures statewide.


Paulison named Kenneth R. Tingman as the federal coordinating officer for federal recovery operations in the affected area. Tingman said additional designations may be made at a later date if requested by the state and warranted by the results of further damage assessments.




Following is a summary of key federal disaster aid programs that can be made available as needed and warranted under President Bush’s major disaster declaration:


Assistance for Affected Individuals and Families Can Include as Required:

·       Rental payments for temporary housing for those whose homes are unlivable.  Initial assistance may be provided for up to three months for homeowners and at least one month for renters.  Assistance may be extended if requested after the initial period based on a review of individual applicant requirements.  (Source: FEMA funded and administered.)


·       Grants for home repairs and replacement of essential household items not covered by insurance to make damaged dwellings safe, sanitary and functional.  (Source: FEMA funded and administered.)


·       Grants to replace personal property and help meet medical, dental, funeral, transportation and other serious disaster-related needs not covered by insurance or other federal, state and charitable aid programs.   (Source: FEMA funded at 75 percent of total eligible costs; 25 percent funded by the state.)


·       Unemployment payments up to 26 weeks for workers who temporarily lost jobs because of the disaster and who do not qualify for state benefits, such as self-employed individuals.  (Source: FEMA funded; state administered.)


·       Low-interest loans to cover residential losses not fully compensated by insurance.  Loans available up to $200,000 for primary residence; $40,000 for personal property, including renter losses.  Loans available up to $1.5 million for business property losses not fully compensated by insurance.  (Source: U.S. Small Business Administration.)


·       Loans up to $1.5 million for small businesses that have suffered disaster-related cash flow problems and need funds for working capital to recover from the disaster’s adverse economic impact.  This loan in combination with a property loss loan cannot exceed a total of $1.5 million. (Source: U.S. Small Business Administration.)


·      Loans up to $500,000 for farmers, ranchers and aquaculture operators to cover production and property losses, excluding primary residence.  (Source: Farm Service Agency, U.S. Dept. of Agriculture.)


·       Other relief programs: Crisis counseling for those traumatized by the disaster; income tax assistance for filing casualty losses; advisory assistance for legal, veterans benefits and social security matters.


Assistance for the State and Affected Local Governments Can Include as Required:


·         Payment of not more than 75 percent of the approved costs for hazard mitigation projects undertaken by state, tribal and local governments to prevent or reduce long-term risk to life and property from natural or technological disasters.  (Source: FEMA funded, state administered.)


How to Apply for Assistance:


·         Those in the counties designated for assistance to affected residents and business owners can begin the disaster application process by registering online at <>  or by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or 1-800-462-7585 (TTY) for the hearing and speech impaired. The toll-free telephone numbers are available from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. (local time) seven days a week.  Applicants registering for aid should be prepared to provide basic information about themselves (name, permanent address, phone number), insurance coverage and any other information to help substantiate losses.



D 011 08




Declaring a Disaster Emergency Due to Severe Tornadoes in Northern Colorado


Pursuant to the authority vested in the Governor of the State of Colorado and, in particular, pursuant to relevant portions of the Colorado Disaster Emergency Act of 1992, C.R.S. § 24-32-2100, et seq., I, Bill Ritter, Jr., Governor of the State of Colorado, hereby issue this Executive Order declaring a state of disaster emergency due to severe tornadoes in northern Colorado.



I.                   Background and Purpose


Shortly after noon on Thursday, May 22, 2008, more than a half dozen tornadoes touched down across northern Colorado, causing widespread damage.  The largest and most devastating of those tornadoes struck the Town of Windsor and surrounding areas, killing one person and causing significant property damage.  Although initial assessments have not yet been completed, it appears that scores of homes were damaged by the tornadoes, wind, and hail and numerous homes were destroyed or severely damaged such that they are uninhabitable.  In addition, there was significant damage to private business, livestock and agricultural equipment, and publicly owned facilities and infrastructure.


As Governor, I am responsible for meeting the dangers to the state and people presented by disasters.  The Colorado Disaster Emergency Act of 1992 (hereinafter the “Act”), defines a disaster as “the occurrence or imminent threat of widespread or severe damages, injury or loss of life or property resulting from any natural cause or cause of human origin, including but not limited to . . . wind [or] storm.” C.R.S. § 24-32-2103(1.5).  As I observed first-hand the day the tornadoes struck, these tornadoes posed an imminent danger to human life and property and, therefore, constituted a disaster for the purposes of the Act.  In response to this disaster, on May 22, 2008, I declared a disaster emergency.



II.                Declarations and Directives


A.                I hereby declare that these tornadoes constitute a disaster for purposes of C.R.S. §24-32-2103, and acknowledge my verbal order of May 22, 2008, declaring a state disaster emergency due to severe tornadoes in northern Colorado.


B.                 Pursuant to C.R.S. § 24-32-2104(5), the State Emergency Operations Plan (“Plan”) is hereby activated.  All State departments and agencies shall take whatever actions may be required and requested by the Colorado Division of Emergency Management, within the Plan, to respond to the disaster emergency, including provision of appropriate staff and equipment as necessary.


C.                 Pursuant to C.R.S. § 24-32-2106, I find that the funds in the Disaster Emergency Fund are insufficient; therefore, pursuant to headnote 22 of the 2007 Long Bill (S.B. 07-239), I order that $500,000 be transferred from the Major Medical Insurance Fund to the Disaster Emergency Fund.  I further order the encumbrance of up to $500,000 from the Disaster Emergency Fund to pay for the response and recovery effort related to this disaster.  The Director of the Colorado Division of Emergency Management is hereby authorized and directed to allocate the funding to the appropriate agencies.  These funds shall remain available for this purpose for one year from the date of this Executive Order, and any unexpended funds shall remain in the Disaster Emergency Fund.


D.                The Director of the Colorado Division of Emergency Management is hereby authorized and directed to coordinate application for any federal assistance or low-interest loans that may be available to assist the affected communities and residents with responding to and recovering from the disaster, including but not limited to Stafford Act grants, Small Business Administration loans, Community Development Block Grants, and Community Service Block Grants.


E.                 Pursuant to C.R.S. § 24-32-2104(6) and § 28-3-104, as commander-in-chief of military forces, I hereby employ and call to active duty certain elements of the Colorado National Guard as may be necessary to respond to this disaster, and delegate command authority to the Adjutant General of the Colorado Department of Military.  I order the Adjutant General of the Colorado Department of Military and Veterans Affairs and the Director of the Colorado Division of Emergency Management to coordinate activities between their respective department and division as necessary to respond to this disaster emergency and execute the directives contained in this Executive Order.


F.                  I authorize the Department of Local Affairs to make excess temporary housing units owned by the State of Coloradoavailable to those who have been displaced by the tornadoes.  Pursuant to C.R.S. § 24-32-2104(7), I authorize the Department of Local Affairs and the Department of Personnel and Administration, at their discretion, to suspend in whole or in-part state purchasing and contracting laws and regulations in order to facilitate making temporary housing available on an expedited basis to those displaced by the tornadoes.


G.                Pursuant to C.R.S. § 24-32-2104(7), I hereby authorize the Colorado Department of Transportation, at its discretion, to issue overweight and oversize permits without charging the statutory fee to carriers providing disaster assistance.  This will include issuing permits to those carriers removing debris, delivering supplies and other materials associated with the disaster recovery and rebuilding effort.


H.                Pursuant to C.R.S. § 24-32-2104(7), I hereby authorize the Department of Human Services, at its discretion, to expend Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) funds in excess of the funds allocated to Weld and Larimer Counties in order to assist those impacted by the disaster, and I authorize the Department of Human Services appropriated funds to help provide emergency housing to those displaced by the disaster.


I.                   In order to expedite the reopening of child care facilities damaged or destroyed in the tornadoes, pursuant to C.R.S. § 24-32-2104(7), I hereby authorize the Colorado Department of Human Services, at its discretion and without compromising the health or safety of children or employees of such facilities, to suspend or waive certain child care facility licensing requirements set forth in C.R.S. § 26-6-101, et seq., and/or issue provisional licenses.


J.                   The Department of Local Affairs is hereby authorized and directed to use appropriated funds and grant money that may be available from other sources to assist in the repair and reconstruction of publicly owned facilities and infrastructure.


K.                My verbal disaster emergency declaration on May 22, 2008, is hereby memorialized by this Executive Order and shall have the full force and effect of law as if it were contained within this Executive Order.


III.             Duration


This Executive Order shall expire thirty days from its date of signature unless extended further by Executive Order, except that the funds described in paragraph 2(C) above shall remain available for the described purposes for one year from the date of this Executive Order.


Bill Ritter, Jr.




May 22, 2008

Honorable Colorado House of Representatives
66th General Assembly
Second Regular Session
State CapitolDenver, CO 80203

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am filing with the Secretary of State House Bill 08-1208, “Concerning Juveniles Against Whom Charges are Directly Filed in a District Court.” I vetoed this bill as of 2:52 p.m., and this letter sets forth my reasons for doing so.


By way of background, in 1993, Denver and the metro area experienced a surge in violent crime, including violence committed by juveniles. This increase followed several years of steadily rising juvenile crime rates and led to a statewide call for action. In response, Governor Roy Romer convened a special session of the General Assembly in September 1993. From that special session, new measures, including C.R.S. 19-2-517, were enacted into law. I participated in the creation of this law in my role as Denver District Attorney.


This 1993 statute allows state prosecutors to “directly file” certain charges against juveniles into adult district court. This prosecutorial mechanism allows only those juveniles who commit the most violent offenses to be directly filed upon in district court – usually when a deadly weapon has been used or when serious bodily injury or death resulted.  It also allows for certain repeat juvenile offenders to be filed upon in adult courts. 


It is important to note that Colorado‘s Youth Offender System was also created in the 1993 Special Session. The YOS allows juveniles convicted as adults, with some exceptions, to: i) serve their time only with other juveniles; ii) serve a sentence typically much shorter than a sentence to the adult system; and iii) serve their sentence in a facility focused on the juvenile’s rehabilitation.


HB 08-1208 as proposed would change how violent juvenile offenders are charged with crimes, where they are detained during the criminal justice process, and ultimately how they could be sentenced. Because HB 1208 would change the standards surrounding the prosecution of violent juvenile offenders, I believe that neither public safety nor the interests of juveniles will be properly served.


As a former prosecutor and close observer of the juvenile justice system, I believe HB 1208 would alter a system that has not been shown to be defective. No system of justice is perfect, or for that matter self-executing. C.R.S. 19-2-517 and the Youth Offender System have adequately and fairly addressed the problems that beset our state in 1993. I find no reason presented that warrants the change in the law suggested by HB 1208.


Accordingly, I have vetoed this bill.





Bill Ritter, Jr.





COMMERCE CITY ― Gov. Bill Ritter today signed into law an ambitious plan that will provide $1 billion to build new K-12 schools statewide and repair aging schools with crumbling roofs and failing electrical, heating and plumbing systems.  


Known as B.E.S.T, or Building Excellent Schools Today, House Bill 1335 will leverage existing revenues from the state’s School Land Trust Fund and create a centralized school construction plan. The legislation was sponsored by House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, Senate President Peter Groff and Sen. Gail Schwartz. State Treasurer Cary Kennedy was the chief architect.


“This is pioneering legislation,” Gov. Ritter said during a signing ceremony at Monaco Elementary School in Commerce City, an aging urban school set to undergo vital repairs this summer. “This is the most substantial commitment to rebuild and repair K-12 schools in the history of Colorado – and with no new taxes and no impact on the General Fund.


“B.E.S.T. is a terrific example of the forward-thinking, pragmatic and student-centered reforms that characterized the 2008 legislative session,” Gov. Ritter added. “It doesn’t solve all of our school-construction needs. But it’s a first step in a long process toward ensuring that all Colorado children learn in safe, healthy schools.”


“In order to prepare our children for tomorrow, we must begin building excellent schools today,” Treasurer Kennedy said. “There’s no greater investment we can make in Colorado‘s future. This program puts state resources to their highest and best use for Colorado‘s school kids.”

“Every child deserves a safe, healthy place to go to school,” said Speaker Romanoff, who toured Colorado‘s crumbling schools last year with members of the advocacy group Great Education Colorado. “Students and teachers should be able to focus on reading, writing and arithmetic – not flooding, fire hazards and broken septic tanks.”


“By investing in school safety, we are also investing in the overall education of Colorado students,” Senate President Groff said. “This bill not only offers a solution to crumbling schools, but it does it in way that is fiscally reasonable.”


“It’s time the state steps up to address the condition of our schools, especially those in our rural districts,” Sen. Schwartz said. “We included measures in this bill to give schools a fighting chance to teach their children in safe environments.”


The Need


Many of Colorado‘s schools are aging and in dire disrepair. Some of these building are nearly 100 years old, with failing roofs, piping, heating, water and electrical systems. Needed repairs would cost $4.7 billion, according to a 2003 State Auditor’s report.


However, half of the 178 school districts in Colorado don’t have a tax base to support this level of construction.


The B.E.S.T. Plan


Building Excellent Schools Today will direct $30 million to $40 million of existing revenues from the state’s School Land Permanent Trust Fund to leverage up to $500 million in state dollars and an additional $500 million in local matching funds.


The School Land Trust encompasses 3 million acres. The federal government gave this asset to Colorado‘s schoolchildren upon statehood in 1876, exclusively for the support of K-12 schools.


Revenues from the School Land Trust have grown significantly in recent years as mineral and commercial developments have expanded. Revenues have grown from $48 million annually in 2003 to $83 million next year.


Revenues from the Trust Fund come from various sources, such as interest income, oil-and-gas royalties, rental income from agricultural and grazing leases, and timber sales.


Other states use School Land Trusts to support K-12 capital construction, including Washington, Arizona, Wyoming and Montana.


The first step of enacting B.E.S.T. will be to conduct a statewide assessment of school health and safety needs. Once complete, construction grants will be awarded based on:


o       Meeting health and safety needs;

o       Helping poor, rural districts that have the oldest infrastructure;

o       Building 21st century schools throughout Colorado.