Legislative session is really flush with bills
April 7, 2014
"If you like your toilet, you can keep your toilet." Does that sound familiar? Does it sound like the Affordable Care Act? One of the longest and hardest fought floor debates last week had to do with toilets. The sponsor actually made that statement. The bill will require that all new shower and toilet fixtures be energy efficient to conserve water. Our own Colorado Water District supports it in the hope that the Front Range will divert less water. But I don't think government should limit choice unless it's a public safety issue or offers some other very clear benefit. I have to flush the efficient toilet in our rented Denver apartment about three times, so I don't think they work as advertised. The shower, in this touted "green energy efficient" building, takes five minutes of running in order to get hot water. But water conservation is actually a very serious topic in Colorado. Follow the progress of the water plan being developed this year. It will supposedly guide water use and conservation for years into the future.
One of the biggest current challenges facing Garfield County is the rate structure set by the state for insurance that meets the requirements of the Affordable Care Act. To purchase insurance, rural Garfield county residents have to pay roughly twice what a Front Range resident of Boulder pays. I'm supporting the efforts of our county commissioners, led by Commissioner Jankovsky. If legislation will work to lower our rates, I'll sponsor it.
The Legislature is getting closer to agreement on two education bills that will add some, but not enough, funding for K12 school districts. Funding is well below the base level needed to keep the doors open without a local tax increase initiative, and several of our rural school districts are forced to adopt or continue a four-day week. I've fought, along with my caucus, for more base funding without mandates. However, spending priorities by the majority party and a fear of sustainable funds have prevented restoring historic educational funding. The state's total revenue is approaching the TABOR limit, which will require a refund to taxpayers of collections above the limit. Taxpayers voted two to one against a tax increase for education last year that would raise the limit. With Medicaid costs expected to increase faster than revenue, the future of education funding is very problematic.
We had a very controversial bill and debate in the Agriculture Committee that could have a big effect on water for irrigation and stream flow in our area. The bill would allow irrigators to use more efficient means of watering crops and fields and then sell or donate the saved water to keep our streams flowing all year. I like the concept, but we can't seem to get agreement between the irrigators, lawyers, fishermen like me and environmentalists. We haven't voted as of this writing. I would like to see us work on the bill this summer and come back with agreement since I really don't think the committee, of which I am a member, is capable of sorting out this complicated water law issue.
The session will be over May 7. We've passed 114 bills and killed 118. There are probably another 250 bills in the system, so it will be a busy month. Thanks for your input on bills so far. I do pay attention to emails, letters and phone calls. Interesting bills influenced by your concerns have included education funding, eminent domain for pipelines, and new water laws.
Look for some important initiatives emerging for the November ballot. The big ones for our area will be about "fracking" and maybe local control over development. I think we all need to learn as much as we can before we take sides on these issues that are so important to us.
Thank you for your continued support and input. Joyce and I look forward to attending local events and visiting with our friends this summer.
It continues to be an honor to serve as your representative.
"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.