Under the Dome column: Adjusting to working in the Senate
I skipped a month writing columns after six years of never missing one. If you read them let me know. I suppose it’s because I’m still adjusting to moving over to the Senate and to the fact that my party is in the minority in both houses. I’m still on the Joint Budget Committee so that at least didn’t change except for having four of the six-members being new to the job.
I was selected in January, although narrowly, by a 10-person vacancy committee to replace resigning Sen. Randy Baumgardner. My wife, Joyce, applied to a subset of six of the same vacancy committee to replace me but was roundly rejected. Our District 57 went unrepresented for months and is now represented by a novice. Our vacancy committees are not large enough to reflect the will of our party or to select the most qualified candidate. Sour grapes? Maybe.
The Senate is very different from the House. It’s quieter and more efficient, and most of us know each other from serving together in the house. It’s altogether a more pleasant place to work, and we adjourn sooner so that I can get back to the budget work. I now represent a very large and diverse Senate district. It includes gas wells, coal mines, the greatest resort towns in the country, ranches and retirement communities. It’s a challenge but my work background, six years in the Legislature, and my senior role on the budget committee should qualify me. I’ll need to be a pragmatist to have a positive effect.
The Democrats seem to have a list of issues saved up for two years that they are working through with locked in votes of their members and naught but futile protests and filibuster from our side. So far they have passed a bill to join the popular vote (read California) in national elections. And a new set of regulations for the oil and gas industry that most say will dramatically impact its future (read jobs and taxes in western Colorado). Comprehensive sex education is underway and soon to come is paid family leave, red flag (gun seizure), eliminating the TABOR cap (delaying my work to repeal the Gallagher amendment while they do this), and who knows what else? Every day is a surprise.
I’m trying in this environment to both have my say (that of my constituents) and also run some bills. I’m working on health care cost transparency and reducing the cost of health insurance in western Colorado. I’m working with Joyce, who’s your elected member of the State Board of Education, on education reform including a new approach to our failed Read Act, and a major bill on teacher preparation. I also have a bill to allow special districts for early childhood development. I’ll be carrying many bills on behalf of the Joint Budget Committee including one related to our continuing concerns over wasteful spending on information technology. I will continue to advocate for rural Colorado on every issue including agriculture, water, education, economic development and transportation. But the reality is that rural legislators are simply outnumbered.
The budget is interesting this year. There is a lot of money this year, but new requests include $227 million for full-day kindergarten and a continuing strong lobby for more money in education overall. I’m concerned that we don’t overcommit and have to take unpopular cuts in the future. I’ll ask for more in transportation and to eliminate the wait list for those with developmental disabilities who need services. We see a slowing of the economy and a recession but who knows when?
If you’ve gotten this far and read my columns, send me a note: firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Under the Dome” appears on the third Tuesday of the month. State Sen. Bob Rankin, a Carbondale Republican, is in his first term representing Senate District 8, which includes Garfield, Grand, Jackson, Moffat, Rio Blanco, Routt and Summit counties.
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