At the halfway mark of the 2014 legislative session
March 10, 2014
We're midway through the 2014 legislative session, and there's plenty of animated controversy, bad and good bills, and elegant elocution. And most of us are running for office. What an experience.
Thanks to everyone, regardless of your party affiliation, who attended caucus meetings last week. The very survival of our republic depends on citizens who take part in the process to elect folks who will take your principles and views to county, state and national forums. From my own experience, public service is fascinating and rewarding. Take the time to know your candidates and advocate for the things that you care about. You can make a difference.
Good news on my public lands crusade. I was pleased that the governor hired John Swartout as a permanent member of his policy office. John is an excellent choice to work on federal land issues that affect western Colorado. I'm glad to see progress toward better and stronger coordination with our federal partners. I've worked on this issue with a lot of help for two years, and now I'll work closely with John on the many federal land issues ahead. I'm of course disappointed that the administration chose to oppose and defeat my bill to establish the same position in a less political, nonpartisan and more collaborative structure. It's critical that we protect our environment, but we also have to listen to the concerns of all of the citizens who live, work and play on or near public lands.
I'm asking the governor to come out west to talk about our jobs and economy along with Club 20 and other Western Slope legislators. While the Front Range is reportedly recovering from the recession, our part of the state is not. I believe it's time to move from grand plans and endless meetings to very specific actions that will bring a vibrant economy back to the Western Slope. I and my fellow legislators will ask for a set of actions that will get western Colorado moving.
We have a serious problem, especially in Garfield County with the insurance rates that apply under the Affordable Care Act. The Garfield County commissioners are working on this issue diligently, and I'll support them if legislation is an option.
Two important education bills were moving through the legislative process this past week. HB-14 1298: Financing of Public Schools and HB 14-1292: the Student Success Act were discussed in a six-and-a-half-hour hearing in the House Education Committee. The two bills taken together increase funding for student count and inflation and then add money to offset some of what's known as the "negative factor," cuts taken to the statutorily required funding level during the recession. Additional funding is added for specific programs like spending transparency and English learning. I'm getting a lot of constituent input on these bills. I'll watch them and their impact on our rural school districts carefully as amendments and fiscal notes emerge when they move through the legislative process. If you would like to follow these bills, and others, you can do so on the legislative website: http://www.leg.state.co.us. You can listen online to all committee meetings and watch what happens in the Senate and House Chambers. The calendar for each chamber is posted by 8 a.m. daily.
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In other news: I led a memorial for former congressman and neighbor Mike Strang, who recently passed away; the town of Rifle was here to receive a grant to do a cyber-security assessment; the Grand Junction Chamber met with legislators; and the CMC trustees and new president were in town. We have large groups visiting the capitol every day, and the chamber and hallways are packed.
Thanks for your continued support and interest in Colorado's legislature. Don't Hesitate to call or email any time. I need and welcome your input in order to stay in touch with western Colorado.
"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.