2014 January

Policy Priorities, Subject Matter Experts & Marshmallows

By | Denver Metro | No Comments

On Saturday January 11th, COYAC met in downtown Denver for our second meeting of the program. The meeting was the next step to our new four-meeting process. The first meeting, held in November of 2013, focused on becoming familiar with public-policy issues and choosing policy committees focused on certain issues the Colorado Legislature faces today. The January meeting focused on understanding the issues highlighted in the November meeting. Much of this understanding came from face-to-face meetings with subject-matter experts in each of the four COYAC policy committees created at the November meeting. Before diving into understanding the issues that were the topic of COYAC’s four policy committees, COYAC began the meeting with updates and learning opportunities about public policy.


Colorado State Senator Ellen Roberts speaks to the Council about her experience in the legislature

After general introductions, the members of the COYAC Governance Committee reported on their work. The Governace Committee was a group of COYACer’s who were tasked, at the November meeting, with looking at COYAC’s bylaws and making any necessary changes to them. The committee revised COYAC’s member selection and removal criteria, setting new guidelines. Furthermore, the committee updated COYAC’s decision-making process. The committee recommended that COYAC should approve items by a consensus vote rather than a majority vote. Finally, the committee updated COYAC’s bylaws to match the new policy-committee structure. The recommendations from the Governance Committee passed with a consensus.

Next, Brenda Morrison, from Engaged Public, talked with COYAC about the state budget, specifically the need for the council to keep money in mind when making recommendations to legislators. After Brenda spoke, Chris Adams, also from Engaged Public, spoke on ethics and what to do when faced with two seemingly right decisions. For example, should the legislature A) raise taxes to provide more funding for education, or B) leave taxes at the same level and leave education funding at the same level. Both options have benefits as well as consequences. Legislators are faced with these right-vs.-right decisions on a regular basis.

After Chris Adams’ discussion on ethics, the council ate lunch and welcomed six subject-matter experts.

The Mental Health and Drug Abuse Committee welcomed Terri Hurst, Director of Public Policy at the Colorado Behavioral Healthcare Council.

The Options Beyond the Four-Year Degree Committee welcomed Mark Cavanaugh, Chief Financial Officer at the Colorado Department of Higher Education.

The Energy Development and Environment Committee welcomed two guests, Chris McGowne, Community Outreach Coordinator at the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, and Mark Safty, a partner at Holland and Hart LLP and professor at the UCD School of Public Affairs and Wirth chair of Environmental and Community Development Policy.

The Achievement Gap Committee also welcomed two guests, Robert Reichardt, Senior Associate, and Nathan Roberson, Associate at Palaich and Associates, Inc.


Mark Safty challenging council members to ask questions and think critically.

All six subject-matter experts spoke to the council as a whole for ten minutes each so all of COYAC could understand what each policy committee was discussing. Then the council split into its four policy committees and each committee discussed its issues with its experts.

During two hours of discussion with the subject-matter experts, each committee gained valuable knowledge and understanding about its issues, and the recommendations each COYAC policy committee would be making to Colorado legislators come April.

The January meeting provided COYAC members with a greater understanding of their policy committees’ issues, and valuable information on the state budget and right-vs.-right decisions. Now, two more meetings remain for COYAC: a two-day March meeting that will focus on developing recommendations for the Colorado legislature from COYAC’s policy committees and an April meeting, when COYAC will present its recommendations to legislators and the media. The March meeting will be held on March 1st and 2nd.


COYAC council members working together on the Marshmallow Challenge.

COYAC Executive Committee members expressed excitement and appreciation for how much COYAC members were able to gain from their discussions with the subject-matter experts, who took time out of their busy schedule to attend the January meeting. The Executive Committee members are further excited to see what recommendations COYAC’s four new committees will create in April.

Thank you and stay tuned!

Suzanna Steele
Co-Chair, Colorado Youth Advisory Council
Senate District 32 at-large (Denver)

Logan Graham
Vice Chair, Colorado Youth Advisory Council
Senate District 6 (Durango)

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