Keeping busier than the average legislator
This summer has turned out to be a lot busier than I had expected. Somewhat by chance, but also through volunteering, I’m more involved than the average off-session legislator. But even with an insane schedule, it’s still wonderful to wake up most mornings at home and see Mount Sopris instead of the downtown Denver high rise next door to our rented apartment.
And as an engineer who likes to understand issues in detail, I’m enjoying working on a few important problems instead of trying to understand 600-plus bills in 120 days of the legislative session. For example, I’ve been involved in the completion of a study on prison utilization (the Rifle Correctional Facility will remain open). I’ve worked on an issue of data backup for the state’s digitally stored information. I’m making sure that detailed plans for sage grouse protection are consistent across county, state and federal efforts.
At the end of the session I was appointed to the new Joint Technology Committee and through it appointed to the Colorado Voter Access and Modernized Elections Commission. The election law, House Bill 1303, passed during the recent session requires that all 64 counties implement all-mail ballots and same-day voter registration, among other changes. These changes must be in place for a 2013 November ballot. The commission’s job is to assess and attempt to overcome the substantial risk in reaching that target. The law has to be interpreted and rules written. Uniform processes for the county clerks have to be designed, agreed to and put in place. In addition the data processing technology and communications have to be ready. We have to ensure that the systems are secure and that the election staffs are trained. Throughout the summer we have been meeting every Monday in Denver.
I continue to be concerned about the impact of federal decisions regarding public lands in western Colorado. Every decision impacts our environment and our economy. The state of Colorado could play a more supportive role when issues like the Thompson Divide or sage grouse protection arise. I plan to reintroduce a bill next year that will ensure the state will do everything possible to support local initiatives.
The Joint Budget Committee got some good news on the economic forecast. Colorado will finish the fiscal year with a $1.1 billion budget surplus for the year just ending and a forecast of another $1.1 billion increase in revenues for 2014/2015. The forecast comes with considerable uncertainty but is still good news after several years of cuts in vital services.
Pay attention to the election shaping up for November of this year. We will have initiatives for a marijuana tax to support regulation and enforcement. We will also vote on a tax increase to support the new education funding bill, SB-213, and likely some other ballot measures. We’re also starting to see candidates announce for the 2014 election so it will be another interesting political year.
It’s an honor to serve you. Please follow my progress on Facebook and Twitter. As always email or call with any concerns.
“Under the Dome” appears (usually) 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.
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