It’s been a busy, exciting and motivating couple of weeks. I was in Craig, Parachute, Rifle, Glenwood Springs and Carbondale for town hall meetings, and then we had a typical winter driving experience as we moved to a Denver apartment for the start of the 2014 legislative session.
Then, after two days of committee sessions, various meetings and social events, the session kicked off on Wednesday, Jan. 8. Speeches by the speaker and the minority leader followed by the governor’s State of the State speech on Thursday set the tone for the next 118 days.
Making the transition from traveling District 57 to working on budget and bill issues at the Capitol was like moving between different universes, and that’s the theme of this session for me. While the Front Range metropolitan locales are recovering from the recession fairly well, western Colorado is not sharing the prosperity.
I heard from folks in Craig that pressures on the use of coal and the increased mandate for renewable energy is threatening their very existence as a community. The potential listing of sage-grouse as an endangered species heightens that threat.
Parachute and Rifle citizens are concerned about the declining gas drilling activity and resulting economic impacts. They are still upset over gun control measures and want repeal of 2013 legislation. Insurance rates that are unfair to rural Colorado are a huge problem.
In Glenwood Springs, we talked about education reform and marijuana regulation. The tourism economy is a major factor in Glenwood.
Carbondale attendees were concerned about environmental issues including the Thompson Divide but also repeated education and health insurance rates as their most important issues.
Back to Denver and the openings day’s speeches. While the Democrats would like to move on from last year’s controversies, it’s clear that the Republicans will revisit and attempt to rectify what we consider to be lingering mistakes and issues. Watch for a bevy of bills to change renewable energy mandates, implement the best of the educations reforms from last year, repeal gun laws and clean up elections laws.
The political parties will work together on disaster recovery but battle over how to spend the additional revenues from this year’s collections. We agree that we have to increase reserves for the next recession and future budgets. The growth of health care costs and the need for transportation and education funding combined with TABOR limits, point to a revenue crisis in the near future.
Meanwhile Colorado will continue to make news on the national scene because of recalls, marijuana, flood and fires, secession attempts and tax initiatives. Stay tuned.
I’ll try to keep you posted as the session progresses through these columns and my Facebook posts. A special thanks to the Post Independent for their advertising of the events in Garfield County. Please monitor your favorite or most hated bills through the general assembly’s website, www.leg.state.co.us, and let me know by e-mail what you’re thinking. It continues to be a pleasure and an honor to serve you.
“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.