Rep. Bob Rankin — Under the Dome: Thanks to my constituents | CraigDailyPress.com

Rep. Bob Rankin — Under the Dome: Thanks to my constituents

Rep. Bob Rankin/For the Saturday Morning Press

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

The House and Senate conducted a memorial for former Gov. John Vanderhoof that I was honored to present. The future governor came to Glenwood Springs as a World War II veteran recovering from his wounds and stayed to become a leading businessman, state representative for 20 years (before term limits) and governor. Two former governors and the current governor spoke in the House chamber in memory of Vanderhoof with nine family members in attendance. Colorado's history and traditions come alive through these memorials and are valued by every member of the Legislature.

My House caucus backed me aggressively in a floor fight about a bill that will take $6.5 million from the federal mineral lease fund to pay for a statewide firefighter equipment grant program. Federal and state statues are clear about the intended use of these funds generated by mineral development on public lands. I proposed an amendment to instead use general fund monies but once again, we are outnumbered by urban interests and the majority party. Our western counties contribute substantially to state revenues through these federal mineral lease funds and severance taxes without, in my estimation, receiving appropriate benefits.

I sponsored the species protection bill, a yearly allocation of funds to the Department of Natural Resources, which will allow the department to continue its effort to protect wildlife and also prevent inappropriate listing of species as endangered. The department has implemented species protections aggressively for years with some success and is working hard on greater sage grouse protections while negotiating with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to avoid major economic impacts from a listing.

I'm very concerned about the future of Garfield County's economy and jobs. The county is facing twin crises of declining gas production and the highest health care rates in the nation. With mandatory coverage under the Affordable Care Act, residents of Garfield County are losing coverage and can't afford to replace their canceled policies. Despite the tireless efforts of Garfield County Commissioner Tom Jankovsky, the state is not likely to make more than a small improvement in insurance rates for next year. Meanwhile the Bureau of Land Management is signaling not only fewer new drilling permits on federal lands but even a reversal of leases that have been in place for years. Combined with low prices for gas and competition from states with less costly regulation, we can expect the energy sector of the economy to decline. And new businesses that might replace energy will have a choice of locating in Grand Junction or Boulder, where their health care costs are 50 percent less.

I was recently appointed to the Joint Budget Committee. The JBC is made up of six representatives and senators who are responsible for the state's final budget after input from the governor's office and the Legislature. I plan to advocate for rural Colorado and the Western Slope but also work hard to help manage the $20 billion spending machine that is Colorado government. This is an important assignment, but I'll have to give up my roles on the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, the Local Government committee and the Technology Committee.

Thanks to all of the residents 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.

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State Rep. Bob Rankin, R-Carbondale, represents House District 57, encompassing Garfield, Moffat and Rio Blanco counties.