Local frosh lawmaker turns heads in Denver
Ryan Summerlin June 6, 2008
Summit County’s Christine Scanlan went from filling a vacancy at the state legislature at the 11th hour to passing all 11 of her bills, a remarkable feat for a newcomer.
“The freshman like to joke that it takes the first session to figure out where the restrooms are, but she’s just done a great job,” said House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, a fellow Democrat.
Among her highlights, Scanlan passed bills revamping the statewide education assesments and mitigating the impacts of bark beetles in the mountains, and she fought off a proposal to implement tolls on Interstate 70 through the high country.
For all her success, though, the Dillon resident said she encountered a steep learning curve at the statehouse.
“This session was such an intensive learning process,” she said. “… It’s like drinking from a fire hose.”
Scanlan was appointed to the House in December, when Dan Gibbs moved to the Senate to fill the seat of Joan Fitz-Gerald, who resigned to campaign full-time for the U.S. House.
By the end of the 120-day session last month, Scanlan had made a name for herself among House leadership.
“She’s very quickly established herself as a thoughtful colleague and a good leader,” Romanoff said.
“She combines two good attributes,” he continued. “One, she’s very levelheaded and unflappable. Frankly, this is a building with a lot of drama, and she has a good sense of her district and values and puts her constituents first. Two, she’s in touch with her district.”
Her successes didn’t sit too well with House Minority Leader Mike May, though.
“I wouldn’t overall agree with her voting record,” the Douglas County Republican said. “We’re just not going to agree.”
Scanlan bridged the partisan divide, working with Republican Rob Witwer of Evergreen on the education-testing reform measure, which would require students to have deeper knowledge of core subjects.
The bill would revamp the educational standards tested by the Colorado State Assessment Program.
“I appreciate that she took on the education establishment on education reform and the Democrats on the education committee,” Witwer said.
Scanlan also took the lead on two pine-beetle bills.
She was the House sponsor of the Healthy Forest Restoration Act, which provides $1 million in grants per year for five years to Colorado communities for wildfire mitigation and watershed protection in areas affected by bark beetles.
And she was the House sponsor of a second measure that allows local governments to use bonds to pay for cutting down trees killed by bark beetles.
As Scanlan prepares to run for election this fall, she said her goal is to speak to as many voters as possible.
“I came in so late, I didn’t really have a chance to reach to constituents,” she said.
Among her ambitions would be requiring out-of-state homeowners who rent their homes out to tourists over the Internet to pay the same lodging taxes as local proprietors.
“She’d tell you she’s not a natural politician,” Romanoff said, “but she’s a natural lawmaker.”