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Five things Colorado should know about Congress’ $1.3 trillion spending package

WASHINGTON — Congress this week passed a $1.3 trillion plan to fund the federal government through Sept. 30, and tucked into that 2,232-page measure — which President Donald Trump must sign to avoid a shutdown — are several provisions that will have an impact on Colorado.

Among them:

New money to fight wildfires

A longstanding concern among Western lawmakers is the way that the federal government is forced to pay for its efforts to fight wildfires.

Too often, the cost has been so much that the U.S. Forest Service has had to raid other programs to cover the expense — including money used to improve forest health and prevent wildfires in the first place.

A change spearheaded by U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner of Colorado changes that process by establishing a new emergency fund that can be accessed once the initial fire-fighting funds are tapped out. That new fund will start at $2.25 billion in 2020 and increase to nearly $3 billion by 2027.

“Because of the pressures that wildfires have brought to the West, as well as the challenges of climate change and development, the antiquated way we pay for firefighting needed dramatic change,” Bennet said in a statement.

Added Gardner: “Our provision will ensure the Forest Service has the necessary funding for cleanup and prevention efforts that will help reduce the amount of catastrophic wildfires the Forest Service has to fight.”

A thaw in the gun violence research ban

Congress has effectively barred the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from researching gun violence for more than 20 years, but an addendum to the bill nudges the agency back toward that kind of work.