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It’s been bill-signing season up at the Colorado State Capitol, and two bills that Governor Jared Polis signed into law on Thursday afternoon have a direct impact on the Central Colorado Mountain region. A bill ensuring Community College Nursing Bachelor Degree Eligibility, designed to create better pathways for students to enter the medical field, will save students thousands in tuition and fees. Another bill clarified broadband provider usage on public right-if-ways.

SB22-003 District 5 State Senator (Senate President Pro Tem) Kerry Donovan (D-Vail) is one of the sponsors of SB22-003 — Community College Nursing Bachelor Degree Eligibility. Other sponsors are sponsored by Senator Janet Buckner (D-Aurora) as well as Representatives Kyle Mullica (D-Federal Heights) and Tony Exum (D-Colorado Springs). It will allow community colleges to offer full bachelor’s degrees to a greater range of nursing students to address the state’s health care provider shortage and connect students with in-demand jobs.

Colorado State Capitol. Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

“Both rural and urban areas have felt the effects of our state’s shortage of nurses in hospitals,” said Donovan. “This bill will be a step towards providing hospitals with the staffing they need while saving people money on their education.”

Under existing law, community colleges may offer a bachelor of science degree in nursing (BSN) as a completion degree to students who have or are pursuing an associate degree in nursing. The new bill permits community colleges to offer a bachelor of science degree in nursing to students who already have or are pursuing a practical nursing certificate. The previous version of the bill only stipulated a nursing certificate and appeared to exclude those who already held a year-long practical nursing certificate, which some students get first, so they can work and make a living while they continue attending college toward a four-year nursing degree.

This bill will allow more students to enroll in BSN nursing programs, which will enable employers to grow internal talent who are familiar with their workplace’s culture and needs and allow students to earn a bachelor’s in nursing at a faster pace than in a traditional program, saving thousands in tuition and fees and addressing the nursing shortage head-on.

“We are facing a critical shortage of qualified, well-trained healthcare professionals, and the pandemic has only made things worse,” said Buckner. “This bill will help more students pursue their dream and land a good-paying job in nursing while giving Colorado hospitals a larger and better-trained pool of employees to hire from. By expanding these opportunities for students, we will strengthen our workforce and improve health care outcomes for all Coloradans.”

“This law will boost Colorado’s health care workforce and build a healthier Colorado in the process,” said Mullica. “Getting more nurses from the classroom to the operating room will help ease some of the stress our health care workers have been facing. I’m proud of the work we’ve done to streamline the process for Coloradans to earn their BSN so we can get more talented, qualified nurses in the field.”

“Boosting our health care workforce is a top priority and this law paves the way,” said Exum. “Community colleges have always been leaders in preparing Colorado’s students for success and now they’ll be able to prepare the next generation of nurses with a BSN program. This is a great step towards addressing Colorado’s health care workforce shortage head-on by saving Coloradans money on earning their nursing degree and getting more qualified nurses in hospitals.”

SB22-083 — In the same bill-signing session, the governor also signed SB22-083, Broadband Provider’s Use of Public Rights-of-Way. Access to broadband is a huge issue for the state’s rural counties, impacting not just residents but the economic underpinnings of rural municipalities and businesses. Often, how contracts are being awarded has been less than transparent to the general public, timeframes have been obscure, and the needs of residents have been held up for months if not years.

The bill directs the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) to develop an electronic application, permitting, contract, and fee structure to facilitate access to public rights-of-way for the deployment of broadband and requires acceptances and denials by CDOT to be provided in writing and made available to the public.