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First job for Colorado Senate president: Helping southern Colorado battle opioids

First bill often indicates state lawmakers’ top priority

Denver Post, January 4, 2019 – State Senate President Leroy Garcia wants to rapidly expand a program that provides medical treatment to southern Coloradans battling opioid addiction, according to a draft of a bill obtained by The Denver Post.

Senate Bill 1, which usually reflects the most pressing issue for the party in power, would send $5 million to a program run by the University of Colorado that is operated in Pueblo and Routt counties. Along with the infusion of cash, the program would expand to cover the entire San Luis Valley.

In his opening-day speech, Garcia said fighting the opioid crisis in this state would be just one example of how Democrats and Republicans can work together.

“Colorado is a special place — it is a state filled with people who innovate and find solutions, and I am absolutely confident that this body will be able to find many of those solutions,” he said.

Garcia is one of numerous state lawmakers who have expressed interest in tackling the opioid epidemic. He was the sponsor of a 2017 bill that originally created the treatment program Senate Bill 1 intends to extend.

However, the issue was not among the major issues Democrats across the state ran on during the 2018 elections.

While last year’s first Senate bill went on to become a major bipartisan compromise on transportation funding, other bills with a similar distinction have been smaller in scope. In 2016, Republicans used the first bill to expand a state income tax deduction for military retirement benefits and in 2017 to ease regulations on small businesses.

Both bills were killed in the Democratic-controlled House.

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