Guns dominate state legislative debates

Rankin: Keep a close eye on health care, education reform too

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If you go ...

What: Meet and greet with state Sen. Randy Baumgardner and state Rep. Bob Rankin

When: Noon to 1:30 p.m. Saturday

Where: Meeker Café, 560 Main St. in Meeker

Quotable ...

“The gun stuff is what it is. They’re either all going to vote together and pass it, or we’re going to carve enough of them off to stop some of it, but the real deal down at the legislature is education and health care financing.”

Colorado House District 57 Rep. Bob Rankin, R-Carbondale, about legislative debates ongoing in Denver.

The focus of attention among legislators at the state Capitol in Denver can be summed up in one word: guns.

This week, the Colorado House Appropriations Committee took up three bills that would reform or ban certain gun-related activities and product sales in Colorado. A fourth bill, which would ban the sale of high-capacity magazines of 15 rounds or more, was sent directly to the House floor.

Beginning today, state legislators will debate those bills, which aim to prohibit conceal carry permit holders from carrying a firearm on college campuses, require background checks for private firearm sales and transfers, and enact a fee for gun buyers to cover the cost of background checks associated with firearms purchases.

And with a Democrat majority in both the Colorado House and Senate, House District 57 Rep. Bob Rankin, R-Carbondale, is confident those gun control bills will pass.

“If the Democrats vote together they will pass every one of these gun control bills, and we (Republicans) feel they are taking away our constitutional rights,” Rankin said this week. “It’s a mess, but our strategy is to try to persuade enough Democrats to vote with us.”

Although gun control is the flavor of the month down in Denver, Rankin said the debate has distracted the public from more pressing issues, namely proposed reforms to health care and education.

“The gun stuff is what it is,” he said. “They’re either all going to vote together and pass it, or we’re going to carve enough of them off to stop some of it, but the real deal down at the legislature is education and health care financing.”

In regards to health care, Rankin said the Democrats have proposed legislation to add more than 160,000 Coloradans to the Medicaid rolls, many of whom already have private health insurance.

If passed, one in five people in the state would receive their health benefits through Medicaid, Rankin said.

The Democrats also are writing legislation to reform education financing, but the details are unknown.

“We haven’t seen that yet. We don’t know what it’s going to look like, but those two things (Medicaid and education reform) together are not affordable,” Rankin said. “We (Republicans) are pretty sure we’ll end up with a ballot question in 2013 to increase taxes to pay for those things.”

Although being among the minority has its obvious challenges, Rankin said he is excited to formally present his first bill as a state lawmaker.

Next week, the House Local Government Committee will consider House Bill 13-1188, which would allow — but not require — local governments to respond to federal public land decisions that could adversely affect a city, county or region’s recreational, agricultural or energy economies.

If passed, HB 13-1188 would require the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade to collect, compile and present those comments to the governor with a recommendation about how to respond to public land decisions as provided by federal law.

“It’s really a jobs bill because a lot of people don’t understand how public lands decisions can affect towns and cities around the state,” Rankin said. “I worked really hard to make sure it is nonpartisan and I’ve been reaching out to local environmental groups for support because I believe it’s balanced.”

On the other side of the Capitol, the Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee blocked this week the passage of Senate Bill 13-003.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Randy Baumgardner, R-Cowdrey, would have provided utilities with incentives to add coal mine methane gas to their renewable energy portfolio.

The bill died Wednesday on a party line vote.

“This bill had everything that Democrats profess to love — jobs, clean energy, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” Baumgardner said in a news release. “It’s sad that their partisan agenda stood in the way of this bill that would reduce emissions and create jobs all over Colorado.”

This weekend, Rankin and Baumgardner will be in Northwest Colorado to host a meet and greet from noon to 1:30 p.m. Saturday at the Meeker Café, 560 Main St. The event is open to the public and will feature an update on legislation currently being discussed by the Colorado General Assembly.

State legislative action can be followed by visiting www.leg.state.co.us.

Joe Moylan can be reached at 875-1794 or jmoylan@craigdailypress.com

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