Club 20 meets to discuss issues facing the Western Slope

Club 20, a coalition that brings together leaders from 22 western counties of Colorado, came to Craig for a two-day conference to go over pressing issues with community members.

Presenters at the conference addressed some controversial topics like the legalization of recreational marijuana, broadband access in rural communities, immigration reform, health care and they took time to highlight the success of a local business owner on Thursday.

Holli Hartman, legal counsel for the Denver law firm Baker & Hostetler, showed how businesses would and would not be affected by Amendment 64.

“The status quo is in place,” she said. “Until Congress decides to change the controlled substances act, federal law is still supreme.”

Hartman said employers who had drug-free provisions in their handbook still had a right to drug test their employees and fire them if the results came up hot.

“The take-away is that even with the passage of Amendment 64, employers still can make the decisions they want. They can continue using the safety requirements they want to,” said Phil Vaughan, a chairman of Club 20.

Hartman suggested Amendment 64 could provide protection to employers.

“I would argue that Amendment 64 is the first time we had a state law that said you can do drug testing,” she said.

The Thursday meeting touched on other concerns, but presenters found common themes.

Sarah Kendall Hughes, deputy chief of staff for Sen. Michael Bennet, said immigration reform touched on some of the same issues that Hartman discussed; primarily regarding security.

She said the “hodgepodge of convoluted immigrations laws” needs to be replaced by something efficient that provides a streamlined avenue for immigrants to obtain citizenship while increasing border security.

Immigration reform is an important issue and Club 20 facilitates a conversation among communities in the Western Slope said Bonnie Peterson, executive director of Club 20.

“We want to work and solve this problem with some urgency,” she said. “How great is it that in Western Colorado we can weigh in on that.”

Josh Lowe, who founded Yampa Geo in Craig, got the opportunity to talk about what it was like to start a business in rural Colorado. He said it was valuable to have a discussion with Club 20 and get their feedback.

One of the issues he brought up was his desire to have more entrepreneurs in the area.

“I think if there were more businesses similar to mine there may be more resources to draw from,” Lowe said.

He said if there were more start-ups, then young people would be encouraged to stay in towns like Craig.

“Technology is what young folks are interested in these days. There aren’t a lot of opportunities,” Lowe said.

But, he didn’t limit the possibilities to just technology.

Steve Reynolds, a chairman, said Club 20 helps rural Colorado have a voice.

“We have issues that are different than those on the I-25 Corridor,” he said. “Those urban answers don’t fit our rural issues.”

Erin Fenner can be reached at 970-824-1794 or erinfenner@craigdailypress.com

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