Rep. Bob Rankin: Upcoming legislative session will have its challenges

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

It’s that time of year when legislators start planning for returning to Denver and living the dream; another intense four-month session of too many bills (about 500), too many social/work events and not enough contact with the people we represent.

Folks who I meet with are starting to ask what I think the session will be like next year. Will it be as divisive and downright hostile as the 2013 session? Or will the fact that it’s a campaign year soften the bills and the rhetoric? The 2014 session is bound to be dominated by the residual effects of the partisan controversial bills from 2013. There’s still unfinished business resulting from at least four of the big bills from last year.

The gun control bills have resulted in recall elections and a lawsuit by 55 sheriffs who think the law is unenforceable. The education finance reform bill needs a tax increase initiative that is not polling well for the November election. An increased mandate for renewable energy use in rural Colorado has run into problems because the numbers simply don’t work. And the bill revising election law encountered litigation challenges during the recall elections with more challenges expected.

I’ve written about most of these issues but I haven’t said much about the election law problems. I’m actually a member of the Colorado Voter Access and Modernized Election Commission, so I’m watching developments closely. While our county clerks deal with the details of the new law and are working hard to get ready for it, the general public is less aware of the mandated changes. We’ve already had one major and very public display of the bill’s problems.

When the Libertarian party lodged a motion in court demanding more time to qualify their candidate during the recall election run up, it prevented mail ballots to be delivered to every registered voter as required by the new law. In this case, the law conflicted with a constitutional provision and the judge had no choice but to overrule implementation of that part of the law for the recall election. There are other potential conflicts looming, the most eminent being a conflict in residency requirements for special districts or home rule districts, perhaps 30 days, and the new law, which has a 22-day residency requirement for having lived in Colorado but no residency requirement for the district in which a person votes.

We’ll be writing and voting on bills to reconcile these and other conflicts.

Thanks for taking an interest in state politics and the issues that affect us every day in Colorado. I’m getting a lot of positive comments on this column, and I’m motivated by having more conversations about next year’s session. State legislators can’t control federal shutdowns or what happens with Obamacare, but we all work very hard to make government work better in our state. It makes a difference to us when you know what we are doing at the Capitol.

“Under the Dome” appears once a 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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