Congressman Joe Neguse talks housing and transportation at telephone town hall
FRISCO — Congressman Joe Neguse held a town hall meeting via telephone Thursday night, fielding questions from constituents across the district and discussing a wide variety of topics, including affordable housing, transportation funding, red flag laws and more.
Neguse represents Colorado’s 2nd Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives, covering Western Slope communities like Summit along with Jefferson and Boulder counties.
As the calendar flips toward the anniversary of his election, Neguse also provided updates on a number of his legislative efforts in Washington, D.C., beginning with an opening statement in which he addressed the CORE Act and the extension of the Secure Rural Schools Act.
The CORE Act — otherwise known as the Colorado Outdoor Recreation & Economy Act, which Neguse helped introduce in January — passed out of the House Natural Resources Committee in June and seeks to protect 400,000 acres of public land for conservation and recreation, including new wilderness areas in the Tenmile Range, Hoosier Ridge and Williams Fork Mountains.
Neguse also said he’s hoping to further extend the Secure Rural Schools program, which provides funding for schools and counties near national forests for restoration and stewardship projects on public lands and forests, along with other uses.
“It’s a primary source for funding for a lot of schools in our mountain communities, along with mountain search and rescue, road maintenance and a lot of other services that folks in Summit, Eagle, Grand County and elsewhere rely on,” Neguse said. “In my view, we’re obligated to maintain that program at the federal level, and we’re trying very hard to get that done.”
Following his opening remarks, Neguse took on questions from callers. The first topic to pop up was housing.
“Whether I’m traveling in Breckenridge or Boulder or Fort Collins or Loveland or anywhere in between, the realities of the housing crisis and affordable housing is something I hear about frequently from constituents,” Neguse said.
Neguse noted two bills he helped introduce in June that he’s hopeful will make it through the legislative process. The first is called the Affordable HOUSE Act and seeks to remove current regulations that a property has to be owned for 10 years before a federal tax credit could be used to purchase the property for affordable housing.
The other, the Save Affordable Housing Act, would seek to prevent the premature loss of affordable housing stock by protecting the 30-year affordability commitment of housing developments funded by the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit.
“Far too many people are being forced out of the communities that we’re lucky enough to call home,” Neguse said. “We’ve introduced a legislative package to ensure communities have affordable housing stock, and we preserve that.”
Other participants turned the conversation toward transportation, and what could be done to address funding issues and traffic in areas like the Interstate 70 corridor.
Neguse said that improving transportation and infrastructure are topics that have bipartisan support in Washington but are struggling to gain momentum.
“Most of my colleagues that I talk to on both sides of the aisle care about repairing the crumbling infrastructure we have across the country and recognize that this is an issue that’s past due in terms of our need to solve it,” Neguse said. “We are also pushing members here and making the case to the leadership that we ought to proceed with an infrastructure bill.”
In May, Neguse testified to the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure calling on Washington to invest in critical transportation corridors in Colorado to address growing demand and populations, specifically noting Breckenridge and Frisco as trouble areas.
Neguse also touched on the potential for a high-speed transit system through the area, saying he’d support the idea if there were a plausible path forward. Though funding remains a question mark.
“At the end of the day, it’s clear to me, and I think clear to the I-70 Coalition, we’re going to need a major investment by the federal government to alleviate and mitigate some of the issues that communities like yours continue to experience with respect to I-70.”
Neguse also addressed community concerns about potential abuse in Colorado’s “red flag” bill signed into law by Gov. Jared Polis in April. The law, which goes into effect in January, would authorize law enforcement agents and family members to petition a court to temporarily remove firearms from someone who poses a significant risk to themselves or others.
The congressman defended the law, citing what he called “robust due process protections” in place for individuals who feel the law was applied unreasonably.
Neguse also noted a couple of other ongoing legislative efforts in Washington to combat gun violence, including the Extreme Risk Protection Order Act of 2019, which would provide incentives through grants for states to adopt red flag laws similar to Colorado’s.
“We’re not sitting idly by,” Neguse said. “I made a commitment to constituents that I’ve met with that I would be an advocate and would push for common sense gun violence prevention. … That’s why I was proud to co-sponsor the bill, and why I voted on it in committee last week.”
Neguse encouraged anyone with concerns or ideas to reach out to his office at 303-335-0145 or at Neguse.House.gov. Neguse’s next town hall meeting will be held Sept. 28 at Fort Collins Town Hall.
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