Guv signs bills into law in Montrose
MONTROSE — As Gov. John Hickenlooper penned Senate Bill 177 into law Wednesday morning, standing just a few feet away a Palisade High School student could not help but smile. She had helped make the law a reality.
Seventeen-year-old Katelyn Kelly, a student at Palisade High School, testified last month in Denver for the bill aimed to extend teen pregnancy-prevention programs in Mesa, Delta and Montrose counties.
Kelly had turned to such a program, Get Real, in Grand Junction. She told lawmakers Get Real’s programs and resources helped turn her unexpected pregnancy into a more manageable situation.
“Get Real was a big help in my life. It was somewhere I could always turn to and go,” Kelly said. “I can only hope this could expand to the rest of the state.”
Rep. Don Coram of Montrose, one of the proponents of the bill, agreed.
Coram told the packed audience at the Delta Montrose Electrical Association boardroom that seven other Colorado counties were completely unaware of the legislation and wanted to try to create similar programs.
Last year there were 4,409 pregnancies in the state from others under the age of 20, costing taxpayers $7,000 each for associated Medicaid expenses.
“It interrupts their lives, it interrupts their education,” Hickenlooper said.
Opponents claimed the bill would lead to pro-choice groups operating prevention centers, and Sen. Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud, said the bill was “walking perilously close to a violation of the constitutional prohibition on indirect funding for abortion services.”
Coram dismisses those claims.
“We had opposition from people who had no idea what they were talking about,” he said. “By allowing more providers to participate, young mothers will have a greater opportunity to stay in school.”
Get Real in Grand Junction, the Teen Companion program in Montrose and the Pregnancy Resource Center in Delta have been credited with helping reduce the number of teen pregnancies and dropout rates of high school girls within the three counties.
Gov. Hickenlooper is completing a five-day road trip around the state, visiting 18 Colorado communities to sign 17 new pieces of legislation into law.
Additionally Wednesday, Hickenlooper signed Senate Bill 267, which is designed to stimulate the state’s timber and biomass industries by converting more beetle-killed trees into usable resources and at the same time prevent large-scale forest fires.
He also signed Senate Bill 238 in Gunnison. The bill extends an annual $3.25 million transfer to the Wildfire Preparedness Fund for two years, beginning July 1, 2012.