On Wednesday, June 8, Governor Jared Polis visited Stagecoach Meat Company in Wiggins to sign two bills: SB22-209 and SB22-053.
SB22-209 is the Meat Processing Grants and Loans Bill sponsored by State Representatives Dylan Roberts and Rod Pelton and State Senators Kerry Donovan and Jerry Sonnenberg. According to the summary of the bill, grants and loans awarded by this program “must be used to start, expand or support a small meat processing business.”
SB22-053 is the pandemic health care facility visitation bill sponsored by State Representatives Barbara McLachlan and Tim Geitner and State Senator Jerry Sonnenberg. This bill allows patients in hospitals, nursing homes and assisted living facilities to have at least one visitor while receiving care despite the ongoing pandemic.
Polis first introduced SB22-209, a program that will run through July 1, 2024 and will allocate $62,885 to the Colorado Department of Agriculture.
“We currently have a unique type of problem in the beef production chain. Consumers pay a lot more in grocery stores – 30-40% more for beef – and yet cattle farmers only get about 15-20% more…” said Polis who underscored the importance of better profits for growers and processors and better prices for consumers.
He also understood previous challenges that hampered assistance to breeders and processors.
“(Loans and grants) are often hard to come by, and we want our processors to really focus on running and growing their business. They shouldn’t have to become experts filling out forms and paperwork and applying for grants and loans,” Polis said. “We want to remove the barriers to accessing these funds by offering real and practical help to meat processors to qualify for these grants.”
Senator Sonnenberg then spoke about the bill, explaining that it was inspired by his own personal struggle to find a place to process meat during the pandemic.
“People want to know where their meat comes from. They want to get to know this producer and they’re looking forward to this opportunity, so that was the driving force here,” Sonnenberg said. “I’m excited about the opportunity to be able to scale this capacity to meet this need. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to be here. This is actually something that will help agriculture immensely and also help the consumer.
Polis credited Kris and Jessica Musgrave, who came forward to see him sign the bill, for hosting the day’s event at Stagecoach Meat Company.
Polis then introduced SB22-053, calling the bill “really important” and explaining that people admitted to hospital generally cannot choose which hospital they end up being admitted to.
“There is no market. You don’t pick and go to a hospital and say, “I don’t like your visiting policy.” I will go to another (hospital).’ You are where you are and you should be able to be visited. Being able to visit a loved one when they are sick or dying…being able to spend that precious time with them is so important. I think this (need) was only highlighted during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Polis said. “I think it’s important to allow certain visits. It’s not like you can go around hospitals, especially in rural Colorado.
Due to Geitner’s continued work on the bill since 2020, Polis invited him to speak.
Geitner introduced Steve Reiter, who was attending the event with his two sons, Matthew and Caleb, and shared a bit of their story.
“It’s a bit of family, unfortunately, that has really brought to light the tragedy we experience when loved ones are separated due to health issues. In this case, Elizabeth Reiter has sadly passed away, and she is died alone, which is tragic. We made a short title (of the bill) for Elizabeth (Reiter): Elizabeth’s No Patient or Resident Left Alone Act,” Geitner said, thanking Steve Reiter for his dedicated involvement throughout. of the bill’s creation and passage process “Hopefully this is a good thing that brings a lot of resolve to the people of Colorado.”
Sonnenberg returned to the mic to share why he too was passionate about this bill. He told the story of his friends’ 2-year-old son being brought to hospital and then flown by helicopter to a children’s hospital. The boy’s parents started the long journey to the other hospital and called closer family members to meet their son when he arrived so he wouldn’t be scared. However, these family members were not allowed to enter due to the hospital’s visiting policy. By the time the parents arrived, the boy was unresponsive.
“This is unacceptable in a society where family should be a priority,” Sonnenberg said. “Tim (Geitner) has been advocating for this for a few years. I came on board to try to help. It’s key to making sure no one dies alone. Someone always has to have a lawyer… It’s probably, in my 16 years, the most important bill I have ever written.
The Reiter family and Rachel Stovall, candidate for House District 17 of the Colorado House of Representatives, were asked to come forward when the bill was signed into law by Polis.