The big issues for the Western Slope |

The big issues for the Western Slope

Rep. Bob Rankin
Staff Photo |

We just returned home from Grand Junction and the Club 20 Fall Meeting and debates. Club 20 hosts political debates in election years for the Western Slope, and they are open to everyone. It’s a major Colorado political event, and this year was no exception. I really enjoyed seeing some of my fellow legislators, lobbyists and department managers who attended the event. We work together intensely for four months and then have only random contact for the rest of the year, so there’s lots of catching up to do when we see each other during the summer.

Because I have no major party opponent, I had no debate scheduled (my opponent was speechless!), but I was given 15 minutes to speak to the audience using my own format. Joyce, who you know as my spouse and Legislative Aide, had offered to debate me. I, however, wisely did an informal poll at the steak fry the night before and was advised by almost everyone that it would be a very bad idea, since I would definitely lose.

So, instead, I reviewed what I’ve been doing as your representative for the last two years and talked about my new role on the Joint Budget Committee, which by the way, has vastly increased my popularity with every one of the 22 departments of government who all want more money.

I used the rest of my time to go over some of the issues that I think will be big news in the upcoming legislative session and are important to the Western Slope:

Economic Development: My vision for western Colorado is prosperity without unbridled growth. That means that current residents and newcomers who want our lifestyle can get good jobs and have access to top quality resources. It means that the next generation can stay at home or come home to a satisfying career. While the Front Range is growing and prospering, the Western Slope doesn’t share that good fortune yet. The state government can help by promoting transportation, education, broadband and business incentives, and facilitating information exchange with Front Range industry. I’ll be working with our “west slope caucus” and watching every bill and budget action to promote our interest.

Public Lands: I’ll continue to ask the state to support our counties and towns as they deal with the federal government. That includes sage-grouse, Roan Plateau and Thompson Divide, the EPA war on coal, and a myriad of other issues. If I can get enough support, I’ll run my bill again to create a position in state government to focus federal issues.

Health Care: I’ll be watching for new insurance premium rates and the commission on health care costs to help ensure that we can afford private insurance and contain Medicaid costs.

K12 education: I’ll be working with the budget on JBC and with legislation to make sure our rural districts get a fair budget and our students have opportunities to equal those in wealthier districts.

Higher education: I’ll be working with the department to evolve the new performance based funding model that I co-sponsored last year.

The “oil and gas local control task force”: We expect recommendations to be submitted to the legislature in March. I hope it’s more than a new overlay of regulation and restriction.

Water plan: Drafts from the basin roundtables are emerging. The west will resist new trans-mountain diversions and continue to support agriculture. I’ll advocate for more scientific measurement and modeling, and I’ll continue to ask how we plan to fund new projects.

There are others: Stay tuned.

I continue to be impressed with Club 20 as a bipartisan advocate for Western Colorado. Its subcommittees and its resolutions are important to both state and national issues. Thanks to its members and staff.

Joyce and I continue to enjoy our work and are honored to represent 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.

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