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Sen. Newell talks 2012 session

Jennifer Smith

Sen. Linda Newell, D-SD26, says she will focus her efforts on job creation, the economy, balancing the budget and youth services in the 2012 congressional session, which started last Wednesday.

During her monthly town hall at Blueberry's Cafe on Saturday, Newell outlined the Democrats' “Colorado Works” job package. Bills she is specifically working on as part of that include one designed to facilitate the relationship between businesses and government, which is based in part on Littleton's Economic Gardening program. She also supports a bill that would benefit people on the unemployment rolls by incentivizing companies to hire them and eliminating job-search requirements if they're training to start their own businesses.

The Film Jobs and Tourism Promotion Bill Newell is working on aims to restore the state's film industry to its former glory - lost to states that offer hefty tax incentives - by offering guaranteed loans to filmmakers. Creative enterprises make up the state's fifth-largest employment sector, and Newell said revitalizing it will not only bring in tax dollars from production companies but also from tourists who see Colorado's stunning landscape in movies and want to experience it for themselves. Even something as simple as a person earning $100 for being an extra in a film for a day can help the economy, she noted.

Newell will also introduce legislation to create an Office of Early Childhood, consolidating some existing programs from other agencies under one roof. This would increase efficiency and focus funding, she said.

“Early childhood is one of the best investments a state can make,” she said, noting that crime rates go down in direct relationship to the quality of care and education kids receive early in life.

She'll also tackle zero-tolerance discipline policies adopted in the wake of the Columbine tragedies, policies that have seen young children expelled for   having plastic knives in their lunch bags to spread peanut butter.

“Instead of walking out with a diploma, they're walking out with juvenile criminal records,” she said. She'd return what's not regulated at the federal level to the local school districts.

Asked whether there will be further cuts to education this year, Newell answered with an unqualified but dismayed “yes,” noting that Colorado already has the lowest per-pupil funding in the country. But during the economic downturn, the state has faced an increased need for services like Medicaid and food assistance.

“We're at a place where either people die, literally, or we cut education,” she said.

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Points to Ponder

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Sen. Linda Newell, D-SD26, says more cuts to education are likely this session, which started last Wednesday.
Courtesy Photo