Sen. Schwartz discusses kitchen bill and drought during visit to Aspen

Staff report
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado

ASPEN – State Sen. Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass Village, discussed the recent regular and special sessions of the Colorado General Assembly and issues facing her district during an Aspen visit on Wednesday.

Schwartz, who represents Senate District 5, spoke of two bills she co-authored that received full legislative approval and were signed into law. She also talked about drought conditions and the need to conserve water this year.

Senate Bill 48, the Local Foods, Local Jobs Act, will enable Coloradans to produce and sell homemade goods from their own kitchens without having to deal with state Health Department inspections. A version of the bill failed last year because it lacked support from the Colorado Farm Bureau and the state House of Representatives, she said.

This year, it took some doing, but Schwartz and other lawmakers were able to get both legislative bodies to buy into the bill. During the bill-signing ceremony, both she and Gov. John Hickenlooper wore aprons.

“It allows for people to prepare foods in their home kitchens, and they will be exempt from inspections and licensing,” Schwartz said. “But you have to be trained, and you can only prepare a certain range of foods.”

She described the home kitchens as “business incubators for new products.” This year, the state Health Department and the restaurant industry voiced some concerns about the bill.

“You have to sell directly to the consumer at the farmer’s markets or through the Community Supported Agriculture program,” she said. The program, also referred to as a “farm share,” is an agreement in which a farmer-producer sells goods to a consumer (or set of consumers) at a previously determined fixed price.

Schwartz also mentioned Senate Bill 133, the Electronic Waste Recycling Jobs Act. It bans landfills throughout the state from accepting electronic equipment, but there are exemptions for certain areas that don’t have the resources to send their electronics elsewhere.

Pitkin County already bans electronics at its landfill, which is why there are local programs that assist with picking up items from local businesses and residents and sending them outside of the county for recycling or disposal.

“Those are great jobs,” Schwartz said of the positions that will be created through the bill. “We’re mining resources right out of our electronics that would otherwise be in the landfill and a threat to groundwater and public health.”

In the recent special session, Schwartz pushed Senate Bill 2, a water-projects bill. It allocates $61 million in reservoir projects and watershed protections. Her district will receive $30 million toward the rehabilitation of the Beaver Park and Rio Grande reservoirs.

Because of redistricting, Schwartz’s district will lose counties in the San Luis Valley but will add Eagle and Lake counties.

A new, nonpartisan group, the Aspen Democracy Initiative, hosted her visit, which took place at BB’s Kitchen in downtown Aspen.