I had seven bills in committee this past week, meaning it was a very full and mentally challenging week to keep all of the details of the bills straight, so I could explain them to committee members.
The number of bills for me to present was that high because the House bills were making their way over to the Senate to consider them. Because I spent four years in the House before coming to the Senate, a number of the House legislators and I’ve already worked together.
We know each other’s strong suits and areas of interest and committee assignments so, despite being in the minority, they’d asked me to carry their bills.
I remember what it’s like as a House member seeking a Senate sponsor, since there’s about half the number of Senators as there’s Representatives, so I’ve been willing to help the House members.
It made for a particularly interesting week because the bills spanned diverse topics like local government, technical revisions to the Uniform Commercial Code, reinforcing trustees’ authority in a property tax appeal, upgrading Colorado’s laws impacting installation of residential wastewater systems, and collecting more information on rural healthcare work forces. I’m pleased to say that six of the seven bills passed at least their initial hearings in the Senate.
The one bill that didn’t survive its committee hearing was originally sponsored in the House by Rep. Brown. The bill would’ve allowed county voters to decide whether they want to elect their county commissioners by district or at large. I see absolutely no good reason why larger Colorado counties currently have this ability, but counties with a population of 70,000 residents or less are denied the right to even consider this possibility.
There was strong opposition from a couple of county commissioners in my district and lots of support among residents of the more rural reaches of the counties. These residents feel underrepresented in county issues by the current election at-large process.
Their concern is that the election at-large approach encourages commissioners to favor the sentiments of residents living in the more concentrated towns or cities in the county. Colorado Farm Bureau and other agricultural groups were very supportive of the bill and I appreciated their statewide outreach on the issue.
It’s understandable why some commissioners in opposition to the bill would feel threatened by such a change, but the citizen support for the bill was heartfelt and bipartisan. While it meant having to choose sides in a contentious issue in my district, I agree that all counties, regardless of size, should have the same choice in electing their local governments. I’m disappointed that the bill was voted down in the Senate “kill” committee.
This week brings us closer to debates on the state budget bill, which’ll be introduced in the House. It’s good to know that, according to the latest forecast, our state’s economy is improving. I’m hoping we’ll see that news translate into jobs for those still unemployed or underemployed in my district.
As we approach this budget cycle, we state legislators need to carefully consider the consequences of past cuts made and to remember the upcoming state impacts of impending federal cuts. We must also revisit establishing a meaningful Colorado rainy day fund, something we seriously missed in this recession.