The House and Senate both conducted a memorial for former Gov. John Vanderhoof that I was honored to present. The future governor came to Glenwood Springs as a World War II veteran recovering from his wounds and stayed to become a leading businessman, state representative for 20 years (before term limits) and governor. Two former governors and the current governor spoke in the House chamber in memory of Gov. Vanderhoof with nine family members in attendance. Colorado’s history and traditions come alive through these memorials and are valued by every member of the Legislature.
My House caucus backed me aggressively in a floor fight over a bill that will take $6.5 million from the Federal Mineral Lease fund to pay for a statewide firefighter equipment grant program. Federal and state statues are clear on the intended use of these funds generated by mineral development on public lands. I proposed an amendment to instead use general fund monies but once again we are outnumbered by urban interests and the majority party. Our western counties contribute substantially to state revenues through these Federal Mineral Lease Funds and severance taxes without, in my estimation, receiving appropriate benefits.
I sponsored the species protection bill, a yearly allocation of funds to the Department of Natural Resources, which will allow the department to continue its effort to both protect wildlife and also prevent inappropriate listing of species as endangered. The department has aggressively implemented species protections for years with some success and is now working hard on greater sage-grouse protections while negotiating with the Fish and Wildlife Service to avoid major economic impacts from a listing.
I’m very concerned about the future of Garfield County’s economy and jobs. The county is facing twin crises of declining gas production and the highest health care rates in the nation. With mandatory coverage under the Affordable Care Act, citizens in Garfield County are losing coverage and can’t afford to replace their canceled policy. Despite the tireless efforts of Garfield County Commissioner Tom Jankovsky, the state is not likely to make more than a small improvement in insurance rates for next year. Meanwhile the BLM is signaling not only fewer new drilling permits on federal lands but even a reversal of leases that have been in place for years. Combined with low prices for gas and competition from states with less costly regulation, we can expect the energy sector of the economy to decline. And new businesses that might replace energy will have a choice of locating in Grand Junction or Boulder where their health care costs are 50 percent less.
I was recently appointed to the Joint Budget Committee. The JBC is made up of six representatives and senators who are responsible for the state’s final budget after inputs from the governor’s office and the Legislature. I plan to advocate for rural Colorado and the Western Slope but also work hard to help manage the $20 billion spending machine that is Colorado government. This is an important assignment, but I’ll have to give up my roles on the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, the Local Government committee and the Technology Committee.
Thanks to all of the citizens of District 57 for your confidence and support. I take seriously my obligation to support all of us, regardless of party affiliation. We won’t always agree, but I’ll continue to explain my position and represent your interests.
“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.