Rep. Bob Rankin’s Under the Dome: Thank you
November 13, 2014
Thank you once again for the honor of serving as your state representative. Now that the elections are over, my wife, 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. I never understood the importance of local and state government until I had the opportunity to listen to constituents and work on legislation in the state Capitol. My hope and commitment is to continue to share the experience with you through this column.
We're still recovering from the roller coaster emotions of an Election Night that stretched into days. The result, pending any recounts, is that both the state Senate and the state house are within one vote between the two parties. The Senate will have a one-vote advantage to a Republican majority and the House will have a one vote lead for a Democratic majority. And of course, the governor, a Democrat, has been re-elected. My Joint Budget Committee will be split evenly and chaired by a Republican. We have a new crop of freshman representatives and, at least the ones that I've met, are outstanding. We have either an opportunity for cooperation or chaos.
We have the governor's budget request. It includes a big one-time improvement to education but warns of our ability to maintain that funding long term. The increased caseload and cost of Medicaid are clearly our challenges in the next few years. The budget request also includes TABOR refunds resulting from revenues growing faster than population and inflation.
I'm in the drafting stage for the third attempt at a bill with more state support to the counties on federal public lands issues. I'm also working on a bill that will support rural school funding structure. There are several other bill titles that I'm considering. Each legislator can introduce five bills during the session, but my opinion is that we should restrain ourselves and only work on good ideas instead of feeling obligated to submit five bills every year.
Other things to watch include the state water plan that will be drafted next year from the inputs of nine Basin Round Table plans. Also, the oil and gas task force appointed by the governor at the end of the past session is underway and will make recommendations to the legislature in March. The commission on health care costs has a two-year task to find ways to address that critical problem. And we still don't have a solution to our high costs of private health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. Our rates are unfairly much higher than other areas of the state. I also expect some publicity and reaction from the recent election that was the first widespread use of mail ballots and same-day registration. There were problems in some counties that led to delays and questions that will now be examined in detail.
Joyce has started an exciting program called "Interns in the Field." We now have volunteer interns in some of the high schools in our district who will keep us posted on local events by attending local community meetings and reporting weekly. These students are an inspiration, and I've enjoyed meeting them over the summer. They will visit the Capitol and, at the end of the session, receive official recognition as legislative interns. The intern program historically uses students from the Denver area. This new program is designed to involve our Western Slope students.
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Congratulations and thanks to all of our county and municipal candidates and soon-to-be officials who ran for office. I've learned how hard it is to run for these jobs. To expose yourself and your family to the public scrutiny and to endure the anxiety of public speaking and press is much harder than I thought it would be. Be sure to thank all of them and especially the ones who weren't successful.
I want to work even harder at outreach to keep my constituents posted on what will be a very interesting session this year. We use Facebook and Twitter. Please access those avenues. You can also send your issues and ideas to my state email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks again for your vote and your support.
State Rep. Bob Rankin, R-Carbondale, represents House District 57, encompassing Garfield, Moffat and Rio Blanco counties.