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Week features constituent contacts

Last week was busy with constituent contact as well as my regular legislative duties.

A group of citizens participating in the Montrose Chamber’s leadership program came to Denver to spend some time at the Capitol, observing the legislative process and meeting with elected officials. It was a great opportunity for me to hear their thoughts and concerns and to do my best to explain what it’s like to be their state senator.

Then, on the weekend, I participated in the Ag Summit in Cortez at the 4 Corners Ag Expo with Representative Don Coram, who, after redistricting, now represents all of Montezuma County with me. Not surprisingly, the gun control bills were on the minds of many who attended there for the reasons that I often raised when we were debating the bills on the senate floor.

Guns are a tool of the farmer and rancher just like a shovel or a wire cutter and many of my ag producers were very upset with the bills that passed affecting their constitutional rights as well as their personal safety. Given the proximity of those in Montezuma and Dolores Counties to three other states in the Four Corners region, there were also serious questions raised regarding enforceability and jurisdictional challenges. Again, these were topics I brought up in the senate debates that went unanswered and unaddressed by the bill sponsors.

Even if the governor signs the gun control bills, I’m guessing that at least some of the bills will be challenged in court, so it will likely be a while before the dust settles on this new legislation.

Another topic raised at the Ag Summit was the federal government’s possible listing of the Gunnison sage grouse as an endangered species, which would seriously impact the farmers and ranchers in their ability to continue production in the area. There are families with deep roots in agriculture in the Cortez and Dove Creek areas and people are already struggling with high unemployment.

While this is a federal decision, as the state senator for the area, I’ve received many letters from deeply concerned residents. I’ve been in touch with the Colorado Department of Natural Resources to learn more about their perspective and to see what can be done to assist in this. I’ll continue to follow this closely and I appreciate the letters and conversation I’ve received on the issue.

At the Ag Summit, many common sense ideas were presented regarding why the sage grouse numbers have diminished and, in particular, what can be done about the effects of natural predators. After the legislative session is over in May and I’m back home more than on the weekends, I’ll be visiting the Dove Creek area to talk with residents further on this.

This next week, I’ll be presenting a number of bills in committees and on the Senate floor. A couple of the bills focus on reducing Medicaid fraud and another will facilitate loan repayment for health care providers practicing primary care in the rural areas of Colorado like my district.

My bill increasing access to supplemental online courses for high school students is moving along with great collaboration among the stakeholders who are also committed to seeing this learning opportunity further expanded to all of Colorado’s students, regardless of their zip code.

This story was posted on March 21, 2013.