Under the Dome: Summer update
Recalls, special sessions, petitions, campaigns, tweets, Facebook, CNN, Fox News. Yikes, let’s go fishing. Sometimes it’s just overwhelming. Madison talks about factions in politics in Federalist 10, and we’ve always had quarreling factions in American politics, but it seems that right now we have enough friction between factions to start a forest fire — at least there are no big actual forest fires yet this year.
I debate with myself about what to talk about in the many town halls and civic meetings where I get to choose the topic. I usually lose the debate and try to cover everything — a mistake. What’s more fun though is to skip the bad stuff and talk about the good. Or at least the things I’m doing that I think are good.
I’m continuing as the co-chair, with the commissioner of education Dr. Anthes, of the Education Leadership Council. It’s a bipartisan council made up of educators and stakeholders from across a broad spectrum with the mission of guiding the future of education in Colorado. We had a significant influence on bills in the 2019 legislative session, including two that I sponsored along with bipartisan members of both houses. The Reading to Ensure Academic Development or “READ” act passed both houses unanimously, unusual to say the least for a big expensive bill. We plan to continue the council with emphasis on four areas; reading, early childhood programs, transition to higher education and community involvement.
I believe we made significant steps during the session to lower health care costs, a major issue in western and rural Colorado that I’ve been working on for years. The reinsurance bill will reduce the costs of individual premiums by over 25% starting next year based on supporting actuarial analysis. Reinsurance is just a band-aid on the Affordable Care Act and underlying costs, so we have to continue to work on the cost issue.
Bills and resulting actions on transparency, enacted with the cooperation of the Colorado Hospital Association will help both state programs, group policy purchasers, and allow individuals to shop for the best quality service at the best price. And the issue is not the same across the state. We find significant variations between geographic areas because of access and utilization. Local cooperatives, like the Summit County initiative, can use transparent data to negotiate with providers. I’m looking for good news as the reinsurance program kicks in and local cooperatives take the lead to provide quality health care access at a fair cost.
I’ll be going into my sixth year as a member of the Joint Budget Committee. I’ll keep advocating and voting for rural and western Colorado as we start up the process in November. We’ve had several exceptionally good budget years, and I’m concerned that we have overcommitted going forward, but we have added most of the new funding to roads and schools. We will be budgeting about $40 billion, approximately $13 billion of which is from income and sales tax. That’s a lot of money, but there’s less flexibility than we would like because of federal programs and programs in existing law.
Joyce and I will be on the road when we don’t have to be in Denver, so we hope to see a lot of our constituents this summer.
Senator Bob Rankin writes the monthly column “Under the Dome” hoping to inform and engage the constituents in his district and the Western Slope. He serves on the Joint Budget Committee and represents Garfield, Rio Blanco, Moffat, Routt, Grand, Jackson and Summit Counties.