April 10, 2013
Colorado House District 57 Rep. Bob Rankin, R-Carbondale
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Rep. Bob Rankin's Under the Dome: The legislative session has ended — Time for those yearly check-ups
Now that the legislative session is over, Joyce and I are spending time at home catching up on overdue home and body maintenance. I’ve had the necessity and the opportunity to experience our valley’s health care system, and that experience has caused me to reflect on what the people in the waiting room with me are also experiencing. I get tired of repeatedly filling out the same forms, but I’ve met some great people and come to appreciate once again the quality of health care available if we can just navigate insurance, be covered by Medicaid or Medicare, pay deductibles, or with no insurance, pay for services.
The time between Colorado legislative sessions is an interesting and exciting period for most state representatives and Senators. There are more opportunities to learn about issues, prepare bills for next year, and interact with constituents (did I mention fly fishing and bicycling?) than there is time on the schedule. And since it’s not an election year, we aren’t in full reelection mode quite yet.
The 2015 session was more contentious than expected but still very rewarding for me. It was an honor to serve you for another session but, of course, Joyce and I are happy to be home.
There’s a lot happening at the state Capitol. Since I was appointed to the Joint Budget Committee (JBC) and joined the committee in November, I’ve spent a lot of time reading about, discussing and attempting to understand the budget of Colorado. In the past two weeks the final report was presented to the legislature.
The start of the 70th session of the Colorado Legislature is less than a month away although the Joint Budget Committee (JBC), of which I’m now a member, has been at work for about three weeks.
Thank you once again for the honor of serving as your state representative. Now that the elections are over Joyce and I will be packing up for Denver to work on the Joint Budget Committee hearings beginning next week. With time to reflect on the last two years and anticipate the upcoming session, I realize that this experience has been one of the most interesting and often rewarding times of my life.
After the most divisive session in the history of the Colorado legislature in 2013, two recalls and a resignation, a 2014 session in which every major controversy was delayed and referred to a study (see below), and TV ad saturation, we now have ballots in the mail to every registered voter.
We just returned home from Grand Junction and the Club 20 Fall Meeting and debates. Club 20 hosts political debates in election years for the Western Slope and they are open to everyone.
I’ve become more fascinated by the Colorado State Government every month of the two years I’ve served as a state representative.
It’s turning out to be a busy summer as expected. There are more opportunities to interact with individual constituents, local governments, schools and businesses and other organizations than there is time. My plan for the summer is to focus on understanding how state government and its funding reach into our West Slope counties and towns.
Thanks to all of the citizens of District 57 for your confidence and support. I take seriously my obligation to support all of us, regardless of party affiliation. We won’t always agree, but I’ll continue to explain my position and represent your interests.
The session will end May 7. We’ve passed 114 bills and killed 118. There probably are another 250 bills in the system, so it will be a busy month.
We’re midway through the 2014 legislative session and there’s plenty of animated controversy, bad and good bills and elegant elocution. And most of us are running for office. What an experience.
My side of the aisle continues to ask for repeal of the controversial gun control laws from last year that led to two recall elections. We also want the mandates for renewable energy quotas for rural energy modified to be achievable and include hydro, but these efforts are being defeated on party line votes.
The Colorado Legislative Rural Caucus met for the first time Monday, hosting a panel discussion about rural telecom issues.
It’s been a busy, exciting and motivating couple of weeks. I was in Craig, Parachute, Rifle, Glenwood Springs and Carbondale for town hall meetings and then we had a typical winter driving experience as we moved to a Denver apartment for the start of the 2014 legislative session.
Under the dome
I’m once again struggling with the question of how to best represent western and rural Colorado. While it’s certainly an honor to be a state representative, it’s also true that we are outnumbered and outrepresented by the east slope urban corridor. Add that most rural legislators are members of the minority party. It’s important that we choose our battles carefully. I’ve chosen to get broadly but deeply involved in budgeting and technology across the many state programs so that I can detect potential impacts to western Colorado and work for our interests.
This November, Colorado citizens will vote for or against the first progressive income tax and the largest income tax increase in the state’s history. The new tax will raise about $1 billion each year to increase funding for K-12 public schools and new pre-K-12 programs. The legislation that the new funding supports also changes the formula by which money is distributed to school districts in Colorado.
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.
It seems that some crisis always is upon us. Our fellow Coloradans on the Front Range have suffered fires and floods of historic proportions. And now the federal government has shut down because of the debate on Obamacare. While we sympathize and pray for our fellow citizens and closely monitor the news on the shutdown, some crises affect our daily lives more directly than others. I’m proud of our state agencies, the National Guard and the federal resources that came to the rescue and support of flood victims, and I read with great concern the ongoing daily reports and developments.
It’s impossible to represent and listen to folks in the northwest corner of Colorado without feeling the impacts of federal land management decisions. The socio-economic impact of federal decisions on the local communities of western Colorado is enormous. This month’s column focuses on that single, critical issue.
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.”
I’ve now had a new experience under the golden dome of the Capitol, almost completely shrouded for renovation. Last week, the House debated the budget known as the “long bill.” I honestly don’t know how to describe it except to say it felt more like a partisan bickering session over how to spend a lot of new money on old programs than it resembled a real budget. It passed at 11 p.m. Friday.