For many families, the last nine months have been about just getting by; it’s time for legislators to start thinking about what comes next. Looking ahead, I’m eager to expand on some of our most recent legislative accomplishments, and to tackle the challenges that Coloradans will be facing in the aftermath of the pandemic.
During the Extraordinary Session, my bill improving broadband access for students and educators across the state passed with overwhelming support, and continuing to find innovative ways to get all Coloradans reliable and affordable internet access will be a primary focus for me in 2021. Broadband doesn’t just help us get online for work, school or entertainment; it supports important local systems like emergency medical services and other public safety networks. By ensuring that all Coloradans have access to broadband, we will make our state a safer and more equitable place.
It’s also past time to make sure that all Coloradans have access to affordable health care. This slow-rolling crisis presented a huge challenge before the pandemic began and has only been made worse since. Many of us have struggled with new or worsening mental illness, forgone vital preventative care, been buried under medical bills, or are dealing with long-term health consequences after surviving COVID-19.
At the state legislature, we can meet this challenge head-on and help Coloradans recover from the pandemic by passing a public health insurance option for our state. No one will have to utilize the public option who doesn’t want it, but even those who like their current individual or employer-sponsored coverage will benefit. Studies show that a public option will lower premiums across our state by 9-18%. By passing a public option, we can help Coloradans focus on improving their lives and not on struggling to pay medical bills.
Financial hardship has become a reality for too many this year. But the pandemic hasn’t affected everyone equally. The most vulnerable among us, including Colorado’s veteran community, have been made even more vulnerable to hunger and homlessness, and getting help to those who need it most urgently is another part of my plan for the legislative session. I’ll sponsor a bill to help vets in the rural parts of our state get access to the care and wrap-around services that they need and deserve.
Over the next months, my colleagues and I will have the opportunity to ensure that all our citizens can access the tools they need to make their lives and their communities better. From creating new programs to help mitigate the risk of devastating wildfires, to finding creative ways to reduce recidivism among previously-incarcerated people, we can unite to help Colorado emerge from this challenging moment, stronger than ever before. We’re better when we work together, and I’m eager to get started.
Kerry Donovan, a Vail Democrat, represents District 5 in the Colorado Senate and serves as Senate president pro tempore.