Wishing everyone a safe and joyful Christmas! We’re back in Denver almost full time now getting ready for the four-month session that starts in January.
I’m once again struggling with the question of how to best represent western and rural Colorado. While it’s certainly an honor to be a state representative, it’s also true that we are outnumbered and outrepresented by the East Slope urban corridor. Add the fact that most rural legislators are members of the minority party. It’s important that we choose our battles carefully. I’ve chosen to get broadly but deeply involved in budgeting and technology across the many state programs so that I can detect potential impacts to western Colorado and work for our interests.
The governor recently visited our district. He and his staff were impressed with the passion but also the courteous and respectful reception. He has promised to help with some specific issues and to pay more attention to rural Colorado. I’ll be watching closely and reminding him of those promises as the Legislature considers bills — around 600 — in the next session.
I’ll be supporting four bills that revive the best of the failed education finance reform initiative from the last session. I’ll be monitoring and helping with the state’s efforts to protect the greater sage-grouse and influence its endangered listing, and I’ll be introducing a bill to help western Colorado deal with future federal land decisions. I’ll be working on revisions to telecom regulation and extending broadband to rural communities. Health care will be high on the agenda as we all monitor the success of the Colorado exchange, and I’ll be working for fair insurance rates in our area. I’ll be closely monitoring new mental health initiatives. On the positive side, I’ll be working on economic development and advocating for tourism promotion and agritourism in our area.
I expect to see continuing controversy and bills around gun control, fracking, elections and renewable energy. The long-term big issue in the state is sustainability of our budget as health care and education dominate spending.
I plan to continue my work as a member of the Elections Commission, the State Tourism Board and the Joint Technology Committee, and I plan to attend as many of the Joint Budget Committee hearings as possible. And my work on the Local affairs Committee and the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committees will start to pick up in January.
That really is a lot of work and involvement, and it’s become a full-time job for Joyce and me, but I believe I’m now well-positioned, with your help, to look out for our interests across most state programs and legislation. Many of the triggers for my efforts have come from citizens pointing out local impacts. Without input from the people we represent, legislators might be captured by the Denver political machine. The distance and weather factors also put rural legislators at a disadvantage to our urban colleagues. I’m making a special appeal to you as we go into the next session to stay vigilant of those issues that affect us on the Western Slope and to communicate with representatives in Denver and in Washington.
Thank you for your continuing support.
Rep. Bob Rankin lives in Carbondale and represents Garfield, Moffat and Rio Blanco counties.