Out from Under the Dome: Important issues to follow

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Colorado House District 57 Rep. Bob Rankin, R-Carbondale

During the summer, I’ve been on a commission that’s mission is to “oversee” the implementation of House Bill 1303. This is the new law to “strengthen the participation of individuals in the election process.” The commission’s focus was on getting ready for the November 2013 election. However, two counties, El Paso and Pueblo, now have to conduct recall elections Sept. 10. What originally was a seriously challenging timeline now is compressed dramatically. I’m impressed with the clerks association and the Secretary of State’s office as they struggle with technical problems, process design, rulemaking and training readiness. The clerks in the counties I represent are helping me immensely.

The Thompson Divide controversy remains one of the most important issues in this part of the state. I recently toured the area and saw some of the potential drilling sites and the threatened access up Four Mile Road. As a state legislator I don’t have a role in the decision, but I certainly have an interest since I live and play here. I’ll be sponsoring a bill for more state support to local groups battling public land decisions next year. Public interest in the use of public lands is on the rise across Colorado and long overdue.

U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton’s, R-Cortez, bill on hydroelectric energy production is on its way to the president for signature. It will make new small-scale hydro projects much easier to get permitted and built. That’s good news for western Colorado. I hope to get hydro included in the recently enacted state renewable energy mandate to ease the burden on rural electric rates.

The debate about ballot Initiative 22 (a $1.1 billion tax increase to fund a new K-12 financing formula) is heating up. The initiative will fund Senate Bill 213 if it passes. Although the bill has some good elements in it, increasing funding transparency and accountability, I question whether it’s real reform or just spending more money in hopes of better results. I also question the fairness of the new formula to rural school districts. Talk to your favorite teacher, but also do some research on the reform side. There are successful models of reform emerging in other states. Maybe it’s time for fundamental change from the part-time agrarian model to more seat time and a rewarding career path for teachers.

Joyce and I attended some of the recent Club 20 subcommittee summer sessions. Thanks to Club 20 for developing bipartisan, Western Slope advocacy on a wide variety of subjects. Together with the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, the Farm Bureau, the Colorado River Water District, local chambers, a variety of local business groups and local government, it provides your rural state legislators with accurate, timely and invaluable information. I encourage everyone to get involved in your associations and follow local and state government issues. Having not done so myself for many years, I’m now rewarded every day by learning about new issues and interacting with fascinating people who have a very wide variety of opinions. It’s easy to miss that when we focus on our own set of friends or business associates.

State Rep. Bob Rankin represents House District 57, which covers Garfield, Rio Blanco and Moffat counties.

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