Entering the Colorado General Assembly legislative session during a pandemic and after a historic wildfire season, state Sen. Faith Winter has a lot to do as chair of the senate transportation and …
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Entering the Colorado General Assembly legislative session during a pandemic and after a historic wildfire season, state Sen. Faith Winter has a lot to do as chair of the senate transportation and energy committee.
Already, the Westminster Democrat has accomplished a lot. Winter helped pass two bills providing financial relief to small businesses in the three days the General Assembly met in January. On Feb. 16, legislators will reconvene, which is when Winter hopes to pass big-ticket items to address climate change and aging infrastructure. She spoke with us about some of her highest priorities.
This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
Colorado Community Media: You’re serving as chair of the senate transportation and energy committee. Tell us about your background and interest in the field.
State Sen. Faith Winter: I was chair (of the senate committee) before. When I was a state representative, I was also a chair of the transportation and energy committee in the house for two years. Before being a representative, I was on Westminster City Council, where I worked on transportation. I actually started my career working on transportation. When I was 24, I was an organizer on the FasTracks campaign. So, I`ve been working on transportation for 17 years now.
CCM: What are big picture issues the transportation and energy committee is hoping to tackle this year?
Winter: We’re looking at how we can help the economy and come out of this strong. Within the larger transportation funding package, there will be $130 million set aside this year to help stimulate the economy. And while COVID is happening, I still hear a lot about climate change. Our fires that we had last year were very problematic, there was constant smoke. I think people know that climate change is a huge problem. So, I will be bringing a couple of bills about climate and reducing carbon pollution.
CCM: Talk a little more about this subset of money in the transportation funding package that will act as an economic stimulus.
Winter: There’s $130 million that is going to be invested immediately. A lot of that is going to go towards road repair to make sure that our roads are in good condition and be safe. When we talk about road repair, that means jobs. It means construction jobs and engineering jobs.
CCM: What are some of your energy and environment-related priorities?
Winter: I will be doing three different things on climate. One will be a bill to make sure that Gov. Jared Polis’ new Greenhouse Gas Pollution Reduction Roadmap gets implemented, which means we’re meeting our carbon reduction goals in the utility sector. The second focus is on building an electrification infrastructure. Right now, the number one emitter of carbon pollution in the state is transportation. So, the question is: how are we making sure we’re pricing things in a way that encourages people to adopt electric vehicles? The third thing I will be doing is an environmental justice bill. Many of our climate bills talk about environmental justice, but we haven’t defined what that means and what a disproportionately impacted community is.
CCM: With you being from Westminster and also a proponent of multi-modal transportation, how do you feel about the situation of the Northwest Rail Line and likely delays with its completion?
Winter: I think it’s really important to continue to move forward and try and make that a reality. Our residents have been long promised that multi-modal way of getting around and having been paying into FasTracks. One of the things that we are working on in the transportation bill is the next big steps for Front Range Rail. When we think about Front Range Rail, one of the possible alignments would go through Denver to Boulder and complete the Northwest Rail at the same time. So, I think if we’re going to get this done, we can’t just rely on RTD. We need to have a partnership with the federal government, the state government, RTD and local governments to get this done. And I think we can do that.
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