State Sen. Schwartz outlines agenda at Aspen stop | AspenTimes.com

State Sen. Schwartz outlines agenda at Aspen stop

Andre Salvail
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN – State Sen. Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass Village, met with local residents and business owners Monday morning in Aspen to outline her 2012 legislative agenda and to discuss ways in which the state can assist small-business owners facing barriers to growth.

About 15 people attended what was described as a “community conversation” with Schwartz at Aspen Emporium and Flying Circus on Main Street.

Dwayne Romero, the state’s former economic development director, was in the crowd as well, and spoke of government programs designed to provide financial assistance to small businesses. Aspen Mayor Mick Ireland and City Manager Steve Barwick also were present.

“We’ll be seeing the [state] economy eke up a little bit,” Schwartz said during opening remarks. “We’ve done fairly well during the downturn, but stimulating construction and the growth of our housing industry [are the] most serious issues for us overall.”

Schwartz, who is serving her second term in Senate District 5, said drastic cuts don’t appear to be part of the 2012 state budget picture.

She said because the state doesn’t have a lot of money to provide incentives to large corporations to move to or expand in Colorado, lawmakers will focus on tax incentives for small businesses as a way of creating jobs.

“We’re in a position where we can’t offer big lump sums of cash to have new industries come to Colorado, so we have to grow our own,” Schwartz said.

She spoke of a bill she plans to sponsor that would 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 is what we call letting consumers make their own choices,” she said. “If you want to go and buy a jar of applesauce or apple butter or jam that’s nicely labeled, that vendor can make that in their own kitchen, and that kitchen can be exempt from inspection.”

Schwartz also mentioned a bill to help rural areas that lack access to Internet broadband connectivity. The legislation recommends the consolidation and deployment of state broadband resources to help rural communities meet their needs.

She said adequate broadband access is critical for students, families, health care providers and businesses and that it will help strengthen the economies of rural areas.

“I think that it’s a crime that there’s such a disparity for our schools and for our hospitals across the state that don’t have connectivity we need,” she said. “Those economies will continue to be not successful to the extent that we do not have broadband into those markets.”

Schwartz also spoke of the need to renew the Building Excellent Schools Today program, which her legislation established in 2008. The program has provided nearly $1 billion through local bond issues and competitive grants to underfunded school districts and charter schools.

The program is helping the state’s education system compete while fostering job growth through school construction, she said.

Schwartz’s sprawling district covers 11 counties from Basalt southward, taking in much of the U.S. 285 corridor to the Monte Vista/Alamosa area and stopping at the state’s border with New Mexico. Her district is being redrawn this year to include Eagle County.

Schwartz said anyone in the district who needs help with an issue involving a state agency may email her at gail.schwartz.senate@gmail.com. The Colorado General Assembly’s 2012 session begins Jan. 11 and is scheduled to adjourn on May 9.

asalvail@aspentimes.com


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