Moffat County Commissioner talks new lobbying approach
Mathers: Leaner AGNC could help governments respond quicker to bills
January 19, 2011
At its regular meeting Tuesday, the Moffat County Commission:
• Approved, 2-0, Sept. 28, Dec. 14 and Dec. 30 meeting minutes.
• Approved, 2-0, a resolution for transfer of payment of warrants for the month of December totaling $258,199.
• Approved, 2-0, a resolution for transfer of payment of warrants for the month of January totaling $402,991.91.
• Approved, 2-0, payment of payroll warrants ending Jan. 8 totaling $686,254.95.
• Approved, 2-0, payment of special payroll warrants totaling $810.42.
• Approved, 2-0, a summary of the storm water annual report of the Moffat County sand and gravel pits for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
• Approved, 2-0, a contract for legal services for the Moffat County Department of Social Services in the absence of county attorney Jeremy Snow with Tammy L. Stewart of Steamboat Springs at $110 per hour.
• Approved, 2-0, social services electronic payments and accounts payable totaling $362,081.75.
• Approved, 2-0, a senior citizen application for snow removal.
• Approved, 2-0, an inmate mental health services contract with Colorado West Regional Mental Health Center totaling $8,500.
• Approved, 2-0, a bid recommendation for a transport vehicle for the sheriff’s office for a 2011 Chevrolet Suburban totaling $37,495.
• Approved, 2-0, a special events liquor permit for Wyman Museum for the Valentine’s Day Dinner on Feb. 14 and Winter Festival on Feb. 19 and 20.
• Approved, 2-0, to enter into executive session with county attorney Jeremy Snow and Tammy Villard of the assessor’s office to discuss Questar’s appeal to the Board of Assessment Appeals.
• Heard an update from Tom Soos, coordinator of the office of emergency management on the EMS council and regional emergency medical and trauma advisory council.
— Note: Commissioner Tom Gray was absent from the meeting.
Heading into this year's state legislative session, Moffat County Commissioner Tom Mathers said he is content with the commission's lobbying efforts.
It is those efforts, Mathers said during the commission's Tuesday meeting, that play a large roll in how the commission is able to effectively respond to certain bills.
Between the organizations the county belongs to, namely Club 20, Colorado Counties Inc., and the Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado, Mathers expects the county to have "a pretty active role" in bills that impact Northwest Colorado.
However, the way Mathers and the other commissioners handle state issues has started to change, he said.
That change began when AGNC decided to cut its executive director position in September 2010.
At the time, Mathers said, the AGNC Board decided to cut its membership dues, thus eliminating the director's salary.
The cut in dues was an attempt to keep several of the organization's members from withdrawing due to budgetary concerns.
The AGNC director was charged with the responsibility of making member governments aware of legislative issues and lobbying on their behalf. However, that responsibility will now fall to board members, Mathers said.
"It is going to make us more active in it," he said. "We are not going to be depending so much on the lobbyist to make us aware — we will pay a lot more attention to all of the bills that come through."
Mathers said he isn't nervous about taking on more responsibilities to monitor the legislature, but didn't underestimate the importance of doing so. He said Colorado House Bill 10-1365 is a good example of that importance.
"Unfortunately that was one of those bills that was done before it started, but that is the kind of information in a bill that we need ahead of time so we can respond to it," he said.
However, AGNC's previous lobbying efforts, Mathers said, fell short in some areas.
"We pretty well talked that over because we really didn't feel like we were getting the biggest bang for the buck that we were spending anyway," he said. "Things were too far gone before we got word of it."
Mathers said he thinks AGNC's new structure and leaner organization might be more effective and thus encourage more counties and cities to join its lobbying efforts.
"I think most people in AGNC go through the same thought process — it seems like any of these bills that pass affect most all of the counties on the Western Slope," he said. "We have got a lot in common on what the Clean Air (Clean Jobs Act)-type bills are doing to our counties."
Mathers said AGNC has also hired a dedicated lobbyist, one he said is well-versed in the coal industry, to assist in the organization's efforts. That lobbyist will help keep Northwest Colorado governments up to speed on issues.
"Once we hear about all the bills and decide what bills affect us and (then after) taking a stance on them, then that's when this lobbyist, she'll go to work for us over at the capitol," he said. "There have been times we have talked about that all of us as county commissioners will have to make a trip to Denver and do our own lobbying on these bills.
"If it is another bill like 1365, then we'll all be in Denver doing our lobbying with the lobbyist."