Rep. Bob Rankin’s Under the Dome: State government — why I care
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 big, and it’s complicated, and doesn’t work perfectly. But what’s interesting is that there are 49 other states out there, and we all watch each other and compete to do the best job and be the most innovative in our approaches to myriad functions. We actually can measure ourselves against the other states in education, health care, corrections and business growth. Did I mention marijuana?
Contrast that with the federal government, which has no competition, little accountability and seemingly no constraints on its power. It’s been said that the states are the laboratories of government in the United States, and that’s proving to be true as the country emerges from the great recession. It’s worth watching the relative performance of the states and comparing policies. Colorado has comparatively low taxes and favorable business policies for some industries. Our population is growing and new business startups are numerous on the Front Range as a result. This is the Colorado prosperity that continues to be missing on the Western Slope.
The desire to share Eastern Colorado’s prosperity in the west was the focus of a recent economic summit organized by Club 20 (Club 20 is organized to represent the interests of 20 western Colorado counties). I participated along with other legislators and the leadership of Club 20. The governor attended with all of the department heads responsible for our issues. Some of the key issues were our partnership with the federal government land managers, tourism promotion, rural broadband, the timber industry and job creation through partnerships with existing Colorado Front Range companies. The governor and his staff promised to follow up with actions addressing our issues and to schedule periodic meetings with our Club 20 membership.
The threat of a special session to consider legislation giving local authority to regulate the oil and gas industry is still alive. I continue to oppose or at least be highly skeptical of a session that would present a highly controversial and complicated bill to 100 legislators and tell them that they can’t change a word. Aside from the process, almost all of the industry in Western Colorado opposes the currently drafted bill.
Whether or not the special session occurs, we can expect to see ballot initiatives that further will regulate and restrict oil and gas development. Signatures currently are being collected, so it’s impossible to say exactly what will be on the ballot, but we’ll see massive advertising the rest of the summer. The most significant initiative concerns drilling setbacks from structures. It’s estimated that such a constitutional amendment could curtail as much as 70 percent of new development. This initiative has the support and financial backing of U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, but that support could be withdrawn if the special session legislation can be passed.
The state water plan will emerge in the next two years and influence how we plan and use water throughout the next several decades. With our population forecasted to double, securing water for urban use becomes a priority. At the same time, we want to preserve our prior appropriation water law and ensure that we don’t dry up our agriculture heritage. I’ve attended some of the planning sessions of our Colorado River Basin Roundtable. Eight roundtables will submit their input and then participate as the state develops a single plan.
My role in the Legislature will change dramatically next year as I leave my committee assignments of the past two years and move to the Joint Budget Committee. While I know I can help Western Colorado more in the new role, I’ll miss working on agriculture and local government issues that came up. The long hours of testimony from residents who travel hundreds of miles to have their say are wonderful examples of government of the people.
Thank you all for your support, your ideas and, yes, even for sharing your problems.
Joyce and I are honored to represent you.
State Rep. Bob Rankin, R-Carbondale, represents House District 57, encompassing Garfield, Moffat and Rio Blanco counties.