Bipartisan Bills to Support Rural Communities Move Forward



DENVER, CO – The House advanced legislation on a preliminary vote today to support rural communities through securing more good-paying jobs, building local economies and streamlining investments in energy technology and schools.

“When rural communities succeed, we all succeed, and this bipartisan legislation demonstrates our commitment to uplifting local economies, creating good paying jobs and supporting our schools,” said Rep. Meghan Lukens, D-Steamboat Springs, sponsor of HB23-1247 and SB23-094. “We’re taking a community-specific lens to identify energy solutions for rural Colorado that will streamline careers in budding fields and allow Coloradans to continue to live in the communities they work in. We’re focusing legislation on finding solutions for rural Colorado, specifically to help address the educator and staff shortage, and develop talent pipelines to improve school transportation and recruit more bus drivers in rurals areas of the state.”

HB23-1247, sponsored by Representatives Meghan Lukens and Ty Winter, would direct the Colorado Energy Office to conduct two studies focused on identifying advanced energy generation and transmission opportunities in rural Colorado to diversify the economy, establish good-paying jobs in new energy industries and support hardworking families. HB23-1247 aims to identify reliable and affordable energy solutions for Colorado communities in parts of Montrose County and southeastern Colorado with a focus on energy generation, storage solutions and regional economic impacts.

SB23-094, sponsored by Representatives Meghan Lukens and Don Wilson, works to support rural school districts in their efforts to recruit and retain more drivers and establish more sustainable funding for school transportation. This bill creates the Colorado School Transportation Modernization Task Force to find and recommend solutions to the transportation challenges that create barriers for students to attend the school or afterschool programs of their choice, and suggest ideas for a sustainable funding stream while also developing talent pipelines to recruit more drivers.

“Rural economies in all four corners of our state make Colorado stronger and support hardworking families,” said Barbara McLachlan, D-Durango, sponsor of SB23-006. “The Rural Opportunity Office provides a pathway to promote, diversify and expand economic opportunities in small towns to meet the needs of our neighbors. I’m proud to sponsor this bipartisan legislation that’s focused on uplifting our local economies, securing community investment and creating good paying jobs.”

SB23-006, sponsored by Representative Barbara McLachlan and Marc Caitlin, creates the Rural Opportunity Office (ROO) within the Office of Economic Development and International Trade. ROO is charged with serving as the central coordinator of rural economic development, supporting communities transitioning away from coal-based economies, increasing rural-focused recovery programming, and making recommendations to help inform economic development policy impacting rural communities to help meet their needs and capacity to thrive.

The Rural Opportunity Office began its work to boost rural economies and resiliency through supportive development strategies in 2019. The office has expanded services to assist tribal nations in their economic development through grant writing support, education campaigns and technical assistance.

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