Senator Steve Fenberg | Newsletters
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Newsletters

14 Feb SENATE GOP KILLS BILL TO CREATE AWARENESS RE: OPTIONS FOR STUDENT LOAN FORGIVENESS

Denver, Co — Yesterday, State Senator Steve Fenberg, D-Boulder, introduced a bill in committee to establish a streamlined process for the distribution of informational materials regarding federal student loan forgiveness programs. Under existing federal programs, college graduates with student loan debt can have their loans forgiven if they work in the public sector or for a non-profit organization. Unfortunately, the bill died along a party-line vote.

 

“With 70% of students graduating from Colorado public institutions with an average debt of $26,000, we need to step in and help provide Coloradans with basic information on how to handle this financial burden,” said Senator Fenberg.

 

SB17-147 would have required the Department of Personnel to develop basic informational materials about the federal student loan forgiveness program and distribute these materials to state and other public sector employees. The bill also directs employers such as universities, local and county governments, and school districts to pass on these materials to employees who can then become aware of their loan forgiveness options and have the information necessary to apply.

Senator Fenberg explained that “even though many of our state and public employees–including teachers–are eligible to have much of their loans forgiven, they’re often unaware of such options.”

During committee, one Colorado public school teacher spoke to her experience in which she would have qualified for both the Public Service Loan Forgiveness and the Teacher Loan Forgiveness programs if only she had known her options. Due to simply never being informed by her employer, she has exhausted her savings paying off her loans. If she had known that she was eligible earlier, she could have had thousands of dollars forgiven and saved that money for retirement or her children’s college.

University of Colorado recent graduate, Linsi Bowers, testified in support of the bill. Linsi stated that “student loan debt is the problem of my generation. To quote South African student Khaya Dlanga, ‘when you make education inaccessible, you make prosperity only possible for the already prosperous.’” She recognized that “Senate Bill 17-147 [would help] ensure that Coloradans like me who can’t afford higher education without taking out loans and who want to work in public service have the resources we need to responsibly pay off our loans, rather than letting the debt put us behind when we worked so hard to move forward.”

“Just like employers already provide information on health insurance plans, the bill would simply add information about existing student loan forgiveness programs to the list of what we notify employees about,” said Senator Fenberg.

Senator Fenberg will continue to pursue common sense legislation on student loan debt to ensure that the opportunities presented by higher education are not outweighed by the growing cost of it. This bill was cosponsored by Senators Donovan, Jones, Kagan, Kerr, Moreno and had support from St. Vrain Valley School District, Boulder Valley Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers, and New Era Colorado.

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07 Feb Week 3

February 7th, 2017

 

What a week!

Thanks again for attending my first town hall as your state senator! We experienced a record turnout for this type of event. I’m excited to do it again tonight and next month! You all provided me with a renewed energy to keep moving forward and actively fight for our values here at the Capitol.

 

Up next

Up next, my bill on energy storage will be heard in the Business, Labor, and Technology Committee tomorrow (Wednesday, February 8th) afternoon. As you know, the bill recognizes the right of utility customers to install and use their own energy storage systems. It encourages investment in renewable energy and the diversification of Colorado’s energy grid. The bill has gained traction, with support across the aisle, and will hopefully receive a fair shot in committee.

 

Get fired up

While the national political scene takes over much our attention, very similar activities are happening right here in Colorado. Does the senate bill to repeal our state health care exchange get you fired up? How about the house bills attacking women’s rights and promoting discrimination based on “religious freedom? Or, on a more positive note, a national popular vote agreement for the state? We may have the minority in the state senate, but we have the numbers on the ground. Stay involved by showing up to committee hearings, calling elected officials (not only me but also bill sponsors, committee members, swing voters, etc), attending rallies, organizing events, and continuing to fight the good fight at every step of the way.

 

Stay in the loop

I’ve received a few emails and phone calls from those of you who would like to opt-in to text message updates. If interested in receiving text alerts on upcoming bills, events, and actions, sign up here with your contact info. We’ll take care of the behind-the-scenes work and make it as easy as possible for you to show up and make your voice heard; all you have to do is sign up!

 

Onward,

Steve Fenberg
Senate District 18

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30 Jan Week 2

January 30th, 2017

 

A Rite of Passage…

Last week I experienced a rite of passage with my first bill dying in committee. The bill would have improved how our democratic process works in Colorado by measuring and tracking average wait times for voters at polling places. As a member of the committee, I had the chance to cast the first vote on my first bill. Unfortunately, the bill died along party lines, even though the bill had strong bipartisan support from both the Republican and Democratic parties of Colorado. I’m hoping to bring the concept back either later this session or next year. More on that later.

 

Two New Bills: Student Debt & Energy

I introduced two new bills this week, both on issues incredibly important to the future of our state. The first bill, SB17-147, seeks to help folks navigate the burden of student debt by assisting Coloradans who have student loans. The bill creates a program to proactively educate Coloradans who work as teachers, at nonprofits, for cities and counties, etc. and are eligible for either student loan forgiveness or lower debt repayments.

The other bill, SB17-145, I just introduced creates a plan for Colorado to build a 21st Century energy grid ready for innovation, such as increased solar power, distributed storage, and smart technologies. Think of this as analogous to installing fiberoptic cable as a way to plan for future high-tech industries. It’s good for the economy and the planet, and it will create more resilient communities throughout our state–all while saving us money by creating efficiencies and more cost-effective energy sources.

 

I’ll be working with House members to cosponsor more legislation for the Senate as the session continues. If you have any questions or input so far, please always feel free to send me a note, give my office a call at 303-866-4872, and visit my Facebook page for more information.

Onward,

Steve Fenberg
Senate District 18

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25 Jan TODAY: FENBERG TO PRESENT BILL MEASURING VOTER WAIT TIMES IN COMMITTEE

Denver, Co — Today, State Senator Steve Fenberg, D-Boulder, will present a bill in committee to establish a standardized process for measuring voter wait times in Colorado’s elections.

 

“Voter wait times are a big problem — but we don’t know how big of one because they either aren’t measured in a consistent manner, or not even measured at all in some cases,” said Senator Fenberg.

 

“This past election, our men and women in uniform at Fort Carson reportedly waited in line for up to three hours to cast their votes. That’s just not right.”

Fenberg also noted a more than 2-hour wait at CU-Boulder, and a 2.5-hour wait at some Adams County polling centers this past Election Day.

The Presidential Commission on Election Administration established 30-minutes to be the maximum time a voter should have to wait in line to vote. The Commission recommended that county clerks measure and track wait times in order to make improvements over time. They have worked with MIT to develop simple and cost-effective tools to help election administrators measure wait times.

 

Through Senate Bill 17-037, Senator Fenberg seeks to improve the voting process across the state by:

  • requiring county clerks who represent 25,000 active voters or more to measure wait times at polling centers; and
  • giving county clerks discretion on how to measure wait times by stating they may do so “in the most administratively practicable and cost efficient manner” for their county.

 

“One can’t improve what one doesn’t measure,” said Fenberg“If we want to improve access to our democracy, and ensure everyone is able to participate without barriers, we need to make data-driven decisions.”

By measuring how long a voter has to wait before voting, county clerks can better respond to voter needs and more effectively distribute resources between and within Voter Service and Polling Centers. Arapahoe County already measures wait times, as do a few other counties, but on more of an ad-hoc basis. Arapahoe County’s system is automated to update the county’s public website with average wait times per voter center.

“If we can measure wait times at the DMV, a deli counter, and amusement parks, then we should be able to do it for the cornerstone of our democracy,” said Fenberg.

Senator Fenberg’s bill will be heard this afternoon in the Senate State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee at 1:30PM. The bill is supported by GOP Chairman Steve House, Common Cause, Disability Law Colorado, and the Denver Clerk & Recorder Debra Johnson.

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24 Jan Week 1

January 24th, 2017

 

Well, we made it through the first few weeks of session. It’s been a wild ride already; from attending committee meetings to introducing three bills on voting, energy, and affordable housing (more on these below). I’ve heard from many of you so far, and I hope to continue to receive emails, phone calls, and letters with your feedback on the issues that you care about. More than ever, it’s important that we come together and continue to fight for our values and make our voices heard.

Improving our democracy

As you know, I care a bit about election access and making sure our democracy is fair and accessible for all Coloradans. Every election, there are reports of hours-long lines for people to vote–sometimes people are even still in line to vote after the election has been called. My first bill requires the measuring of wait times for voters at polling sites, which allows us to better understand where we can improve the voting process. If we already do this simple task at the deli counter and at Elitches, we should do it for the democratic process. If any of you have stories you’d like to share about waiting in long lines to vote, send me a note or join me in committee at the Capitol and offer your testimony on Wednesday, January 25th at 1:30pm.

Advancing energy storage for Coloradans

This week, I introduced a bipartisan bill to protect consumers and advance clean energy by affirming the rights of consumers to install energy storage systems on their property. Batteries have advanced a great deal in recent years, but Colorado consumers aren’t able to take advantage of these products because utilities are intentionally making it difficult and cost-prohibitive by placing unnecessary fees and charges on these customers. This bill protects consumer storage rights, enhances the reliability of the electric grid, saves money, and reduces the need for additional generation facilities, like coal power plants.

Creating more affordable rentals

As a major concern for both our community and the state of Colorado, affordable housing in the rental market is an issue I hope to make an impact on this year. This week, I introduced a bill that ensures local communities are able to implement inclusionary housing policies in a manner that incentivizes more on-site affordable rental units.

My first town hall!

I truly believe that our democracy works best when more people show up, and I invite you all to join me at my first Town Hall on Thursday, February 2nd. We’ll gather at Rayback Collective at 6:00pm to celebrate the start of the 2017 legislative session and discuss our priorities for the year. For more information on the event and to stay up-to-date, follow me on Facebook.

 

Onward,
Steve Fenberg
Senate District 18

 

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19 Jan FENBERG ANNOUNCES BIPARTISAN BILL TO PROTECT CONSUMER ENERGY RIGHTS

Denver, Co — Today, State Senator Steve Fenberg, D-Boulder, announced bipartisan legislation to protect Colorado consumers’ right to install electrical storage systems on their own property for later use or in case of outages.

As one of Senator Fenberg’s first bills to be introduced, the legislation declares that consumers “have a right to install and use electricity storage systems on their property”, and prohibits utilities from charging discriminatory and burdensome fees on those customers.

“Batteries have advanced a great deal in recent years,” said Senator Fenberg, noting the increase in storage capacity and the drop in cost for batteries. “However, Colorado consumers aren’t able to take advantage of products like the Tesla Powerwall because utilities are intentionally making it difficult and cost-prohibitive by placing unnecessary fees and charges on these customers.”

“We have lots of storage projects in the pipeline that can’t move because of unreasonable requirements. These requirements would make the equipment lose its UL certification and add $1,000s to the cost for a small system,” said Whitney Painter, owner of Buglet Solar Electric in Golden.

 

“Colorado consumers should have the ability to install batteries that could not only lower their utility bill every month but also serve as a backup if the power were to go out…

 

The use of electrical storage systems is not just cost-saving for the consumer, but it helps reduce costs for all of Colorado’s ratepayers; with less demand on the grid during peak hours of the day, the grid will become more reliable and utilities won’t need to build more expensive power plants that are only used a few hours a year during the most energy-intensive days. I look forward to discussing this pro-consumer legislation with my colleagues,” Senator Fenberg continued.

Senator Fenberg is the prime sponsor for the bill, which is being cosponsored by Senator Kevin Lundberg (R-Berthoud), Minority Leader Lucia Guzman (D-Denver), and Asst. Minority Leader Leroy Garcia (D-Pueblo).

 

 

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