Republican Reps hear local concerns, explain redistricting at town meeting
Water, land use and health insurance were among major concerns raised by about a dozen area citizens at an informal meeting with Republican state lawmakers Saturday.
State Reps. Gregg Rippy, of Glenwood Springs, and Al White, of Winter Park, met with the public Saturday in Glenwood Springs as part of the “2002 Republican Listening Tour,” a series of 16 statewide town meetings.
While this was a “listening” meeting, the Representatives also did a little talking.
Rippy led the meeting by explaining the redistricting of the state’s House and Senate boundaries, particularly on the Western Slope. Every 10 years, Legislative districts are re-drawn in order to redistribute representation more evenly according to population.
Rippy, who now represents District 57, will, if re-elected in November, shift to District 61 in January 2003. That district encompasses all or portions of Pitkin, Gunnison and Hinsdale counties, as well as Garfield County east of Mamm Creek. Rippy is thus far running unopposed.
White, who now represents District 56, will shift to District 57, which includes Jackson, Grand, Routt, Moffatt, Rio Blanco counties as well as Garfield County west of Mamm Creek. White is being opposed by Democrat Terry Carwile.
On this side of the divide, White explained, issues are more “Western Slope” than they are Democrat or Republican. He named water, agriculture and land rights as examples.
One of the most notable changes in districts is in Grand County, where the headwaters of the Colorado River lie. Those headwaters will now lie in the 16th Senate District, which also includes Gilpin County on the Front Range. However, Grand County will be a part of District 57. That means that Senate control of those waters will fall into the hands of Eastern Slope politicians, said White. Since the beginning, those waters have flowed West. “Well, they’re gonna flow east now.”
“There’s an old saying that water’s for fightin’ and whiskey’s for drinkin’,” he added. “I’ll continue to fight for water.”
Realtor Cheryl Chandler raised concerns over Senate Bill 141, which concerns royalty payments from oil and gas leases. Chandler recently attended a meeting of the Colorado Association of Realtors. The organization’s concern, she said, is over contracts. For example, she said, if a person has a contract with a gas company to sell gas, the bill gives the company power to nullify the contract. In addition, the oil and gas companies can ignore any new real estate sale contracts in regard to mineral and gas rights.
The bill, according to Rippy, has been pulled. “It’s possible the bill will die and come back in another form,” he said.
Caley Gredig, whose family raises sheep on their 18-acre farm in the Emma area in Pitkin County, raised concerns over SB-1107, a property rights bill intended to protect property owners from governmental entities that try to “burden” property by restricting or limiting its use.
Pitkin County will adopt a land-use plan that severely limits her family’s use of their land, Gredig said. The family is concerned the bill won’t do enough to protect the decades-old family business.
Rippy said that the bill has been “postponed indefinitely.”
“I believe very strongly in property rights. .” said Rippy, adding that the bill went too far in protecting those rights. The bill, he said, arose from problems in Pitkin and Boulder counties.
He also told Gredig he didn’t believe Pitkin County is being responsible in the way that they’re approaching the land use code.
Garrett Brandt, an attorney and owner of Brandt Feigenbaum in Basalt, expressed concern over health care. Brandt said he employs six people. In the past two years he has seen an increase in costs, a decrease in benefits, and required coverage for services not needed. “I’m paying out the nose for pregnancy insurance,” he said. “We don’t need pregnancy insurance.”
Brandt, whose deductibles also continue to rise, expressed concern about the possibility of a high rise in premiums next year.
White commented that “we all should be outraged” at the cost and availability of health insurance.
On the brighter side of politics, Rippy and White are co-sponsors of a bill to name a state mineral. The bill’s prime sponsor is Rep. Carl Miller (D-Leadville). Colorado has a state gem (aquamarine) and fossil (stegosaurus), but no mineral. Only 19 states have adopted a mineral.
“I think it’s been kind of an oversight,” said White.
Miller, who worked in the mines for 27 years and is “very familiar with rhodochrosite,” said that the bill came out of a letter he received from an earth sciences class in Bailey. In doing some research, students discovered that Colorado had no official state mineral.
“It surprised me that Colorado, as mineral rich as it is, had no state mineral,” Miller said.
Rhodochrosite is a mineral found in voids and pockets of veins that once produced silver, gold and base metals, according to Vicki Cowart, State Geologist. In crystallized form it becomes bright red and translucent, and is generally valued for its intrinsic beauty, although some specimens are gem-quality and are made into jewelry.
Some of the best specimens in the world have been found in Colorado, particularly in mines in Park and San Juan counties. Mines in the Alma area produce some of the purest known forms of rhodochrosite. The world’s largest crystal, measuring 6.5 inches diagonally, was recovered in 1992 from the Sweet Home Mine in Park County.
The bill passed its second reading on Wednesday and now goes to the House. “I’m very confident it will pass,” said Miller.
If the bill passes, rhodochrosite will join the list of official Colorado emblems and symbols, including the white and lavender columbine, lark bunting, Colorado blue spruce and Colorado hairstreak butterfly and Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep.
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