Colorado Senator Michael Merrifield

The Peoples Voice

Issues

CREATING JOBS AND GROWING THE ECONOMY

As your Colorado State House Representative, one of my major concerns was creating jobs and growing the economy. As Senator, I intend to remain focused on creating opportunities for job growth and strengthening our local and state economy. I will push for tax and incentive programs to nurture and cultivate new small businesses and support existing small businesses. I will provide strong legislative support for the concept of Economic Gardening that has been brought forward by Rep. Pete Lee. It is my belief that there are plenty of programs for the “Big Boys”, but not enough attention or resources are given to small businesses, our “Mom and Pop” shops. It is small business that provides most of the jobs in Colorado. Locally, I believe it will be especially important to concentrate on rejuvenating and restoring South Nevada Avenue and South Academy Boulevard through state incentive and tax credit programs. We need to promote the South Academy Avenue Plan. By investing in infrastructure in those neighborhoods, we will create jobs, build more vibrant neighborhoods, and support a better quality of life for people living in those areas.

One of Colorado Springs’ major economic drivers is the tourism, but we are missing out on enormous economic potential by not vigorously marketing the Pikes Peak region as the “Outdoor Adventure Capital of the Rockies.” We should promote the natural assets we have here to bring in mountain bikers, hikers, climbers, and other outdoor adventurers to increase our tourism income–with very little investment. We should begin by marketing this outdoor adventure theme to Baby Boomers, the fastest growing group of recreationalists in the country. We should also promote our Arts and Music community, growing jobs, attracting visitors, and improving our quality of life. Toward those ends, I intend to partner with fellow legislators, city and county leaders, business leaders and regional Chambers of Commerce to put all these ideas to work growing our local workforce and our economy.

OIL AND GAS REGULATION

The state of Colorado must have stronger regulations or laws to protect its communities and communities must be allowed to have even stricter laws if the community feels that it is in the best interests of their citizens. There were six important bills that have been passed to help regulate the oil and gas industry in Colorado The chief goal is to protect our environment and water resources, while allowing responsible businesses to exploit an important resource. The following bills proposed to regulate the oil and gas industry to protect our environment and water resources. While the controversial practice of “fracking” provides an abundant source of cheap energy to consumers, Democratic legislators hope to enact laws that will help protect our water and require the Oil & Gas Industry to be more accountable.

Right now, regulations from the Oil and Gas Commission are poorly enforced and do not protect our communities. The industry has grown so rapidly that no one has been able to keep up with the issues and there just are not enough inspectors. The industry must be forced to be open and honest with the public about what chemicals they are using in the fracking and oil extraction process, about how much water is consumed and about how many workers are actually benefitting from employment in the industry, and how much the Oil and Gas businesses should pay in taxes.

WOMEN’S ISSUES

Since Americans moved off the farms in the early twentieth century, tension has grown between the demands of the business world and the needs of the family. The effective progressive/union movement of the 1930s – 1950s, helped to mitigate a number of the problems created by business demands—a 40 hour work week, sick leave, an end to child labor—but new problems have developed. Economic and social changes resulted in increasing numbers of women needing to enter the workforce, and as those women began working, the needs of their families came into conflict with the demands of employers. Women became the face of the new economy and were, perhaps, most acutely aware of the inherent conflicts between jobs and the home.

Today, that tension is worsened by job mobility. Today’s young person has been cautioned to expect to make several career changes over his/her working life—as if it were some necessary evolutionary adaptation. Those changes create still more problems for the family, and women are usually the first to experience those pressures.

Thus, “women’s issues,” that are, in truth, “family issues” have taken center stage in voter’s minds. These problems—equal pay for equal work, family leave time, adequate health care, control of reproduction, quality child care, good schools and a healthy environment—are especially important to me. Women deserve unequivocal support—not patronizing. Because I want to help Colorado women, I will focus on the issues that impact women most directly.

Few people question the need today for a second household income. Most Colorado women share an equal part in the financial responsibilities of the home and family and, typically, they contribute an equal number of hours in the workforce as do their partners. Unfortunately, women on average still earn only 79 cents for every dollar earned by a man in Colorado. All of our daughters, sisters and mothers deserve equal pay for equal work. Women should be supported in their expanded role with equal pay and adequate family leave protections.

Thus, I fully support the FAMLI Act, a family and medical leave insurance program funded through employee contributions for all Coloradans. The US is the only industrialized nation in the world that does not guarantee some form of maternity leave, and the serious illness of a family member often forces an employee to choose between being a good employee or a good family member. We need to rectify this problem.

I also believe that a woman’s right to privacy is absolute when it comes to making choices about her own body, her health, and the needs of her family. It is a matter of fundamental freedom. No one should have to surrender her most personal decisions to a politician, an employer or anyone else. We do not want to turn back the clock on women’s rights.

I understand women’s issues and have long been recognized as a champion for women’s rights. The bottom line, however, is that these so-called women’s issues are really all people’s issues for everyone who values the family.

What is good for women and their families is really good for all Coloradans.

ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES

I’ve always loved the outdoors. My time with my father when he took me hunting ranks up at the top of my fondest childhood memories. As an adult, I’ve practically made a second career of exploring the beautiful Rockies skiing and on my mountain bike. It has become a passion. These experiences embedded in me a heartfelt appreciation for how extraordinary our Colorado environment is. We must protect it. The current debate about fracking, emblematic of the fossil fuels vs renewable energy debate, has sidelined a number of other, important environmental issues.

Specifically, we need to promote the development of renewable energy resources. We need to enhance protections for public lands and increase funding for the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Division. We also need to continue to provide tax incentives for land owners who willingly agree to keep land on working farms or ranches forested or in their natural state.

Moreover, the state of Colorado must have strong regulations or laws to protect its communities from the negative effects of resource extraction, and communities must be allowed to have even stricter laws if the community feels that it is in the best interests of its citizens. After all, mineral extraction (including oil and gas) revenues are not Colorado’s only income source, our tourist and agricultural industries are at least as important in contributing to Colorado’s revenues.

The fracking debate reflects the tension between developing the ready fuels, needed to sustain our economic engine while freeing us, at the same time, from dependence on foreign oil, and protecting our environment from more degradation. This single-focus discussion, however, is distracting us from the crucial need to protect all aspects of our environment. We learned that lesson the hard way last year when we faced extraordinary wildfire and flooding events. We still need to deal with urban sprawl, improve our mass transit systems (so we don’t burn so many of our limited fossil fuel resources on single occupancy vehicles), keep our air and water free of contaminants, live sustainability in a semi-arid environment, defend our beautiful wilderness areas, and face the fact of climate change.

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