I've now had a new experience under the golden dome of the Capitol, almost completely shrouded for renovation. Last week the house debated the "budget" known as the "long bill."
I honestly don't know how to describe it except to say it felt more like a partisan bickering session over how to spend a lot of new money on old programs than it resembled a real budget. It passed at 11 p.m.
While many of your legislators would like to revert to true baseline budgeting, that goal seems to be impossible in government since spending is based either on existing statue or the politics of the majority party. I could spend the whole column on the budget (and why I voted against it), but what came the next week is even more astounding, and there's more to come.
Because I represent a district heavily dependent on oil and gas jobs, I follow new bills that affect the industry very closely. I believe our regulations and our oil and gas commission lead the nation in protection of the public.
But there are about a dozen bills aimed at more tightly regulating the industry, motivated by the rapid growth on the Front Range. As an example, Rep. Mike Foote, D-Longmont, introduced HB 1267, which would increase maximum fines for violations, such as spills or safety issues, from $1,000 a day to a maximum of $15,000 a day. It would also get rid of a $10,000 cap on fines. Another Foote bill, HB 1269, would block individuals, paid by the oil-and-gas industry, from serving on the oil and gas commission, and it would remove the goal of fostering oil and gas development from the commission's mandate. This dramatically alters the commission's mission to have it focus only on environmental protection.
Education finance is on the front burner. The current formula for financing of education is in the existing budget. The School Finance Act, SB 213, overhauls the basic formula. This new bill, if passed, would require a taxpayer ballot measure in November and add $1B in income taxes plus more property tax. I would like to see improved educational outcomes linked to more money.
In the ever popular health care arena, we have an upcoming bill to extend Medicaid eligibility to one in five Coloradans. Another bill would create a single payer health care system, making Colorado unique in the nation.
New on the horizon is SB 252, by Sen. Swartz, that will raise the renewable energy requirement on rural electric association to 25 percent.
Oh, did I mention recreational marijuana? How about more gun control?
I'll be working on SB 188 which will be in my Agriculture Committee. The bill is intended to increase wildlife protection and hunting on private land. The details were developed over a two-year period by a committee representing the various stakeholders.
It is an honor to serve as your bruised and battered representative. In lieu of flowers please send condolences to: Rep. Rankin, 200 E. Colfax, Room 271, Denver, CO 80203. (www.votebobrankin.com).
"Under the Dome" appears on the second Tuesday of the month. State Rep. Bob Rankin, a Carbondale Republican, is in his first term in the state Legislature representing House District 57, which includes Garfield, Rio Blanco and Moffat counties.