Gibbs reflects on first session |

Gibbs reflects on first session

summit daily news
Summit County, CO Colorado
Summit Daily/Mark Fox

DENVER ” Fearing his bill to help communities pay for restoration projects to repair mountain pine beetle damage was on track for a certain death in March, Rep. Dan Gibbs came up with a creative funding idea: Add an amendment to Senate Bill 122, which pays for state water projects with loan money, that would devote $1 million to his bill.

Only problem was he had just 30 hectic minutes during a House Agriculture Committee meeting on Senate Bill 122 to get the consent he needed to propose the amendment before the committee voted on the measure.

“I wish there was a camera (there) because the committee meeting was going on and I was going in and out, constantly talking to people in the hallway, working out this negotiation and getting the buy in from Department of Natural Resources that they’d be willing to fund this,” Gibbs, D-Silverthorne, said during a recent interview to discuss his first legislative session.

The bill passed with Gibbs’ amendment and he managed to secure the first dollars the state has ever spent on helping property owners protect watersheds and homes from a catastrophic wildfire relative to the pine beetle.

Gibbs’ handy work on the pine beetle bill, as well as his ability to strike a compromise among opposing sides with both his chain law bill and his wildlife stewardship act, are part of what made him an “all-star” freshman legislator in the opinion of House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, D-Denver.

“I’m not sure those bills would’ve passed or would’ve passed as easily under anybody else’s sponsorship,” Romanoff said.

Gibbs seemed to fit right in when he arrived at the Capital in January, quickly demonstrating a knack for leadership and a desire to solve problems, a big part of the reason Romanoff tapped him to serve as the vice chair of the House Transportation and Energy Committee, one of the most heavily requested committees among representatives.

Gibbs also sat on the House Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources Committee.

“There was a joke when I was a freshman that it takes you the first couple years just to figure out where all the restrooms are, but that’s not the case for Rep. Gibbs,” Romanoff said.

The numbers alone tell a story of accomplishment: Gibbs was the prime sponsor on six bills during his first session. All but one passed with bipartisan support and have already been signed into law or are sitting on Gov. Ritter’s desk waiting for his signature.

He agrees he’s had a successful run so far, but Gibbs is quick to cast the attention off himself and onto the communities he represents in Summit, Eagle and Lake counties.

He credits dozens of locals for traveling to Denver to testify on behalf of his bills when lobbyists would typically do all the talking.

“It was community involvement,” Gibbs said. “I wouldn’t feel comfortable telling you, ‘Hey I’ve had all this great success and look what I’ve done and stuff.’ Well, I view this as teamwork.”

Gibbs described his most unique highlight of the session as an invitation to testify about his House Bill 1298 in Washington D.C., where he lived just four years ago working as an aide for Colorado Congressman Mark Udall.

“There are people who testify before Congress, but a freshman legislator having my own bill ” that was a very, very memorable experience,” he said.

He thinks staffers in D.C. noticed his bill because of the unusual, perhaps unprecedented, support from the oil and gas industry on a bill that would hold the industry responsible for taking steps to minimize adverse impacts on the environment from drilling.

Another experience Gibbs won’t likely soon forget was the give and take over a contentious bill to increase the penalties for truck drivers who don’t abide by the chain law.

In early committee hearings, Teamsters filled the room to voice their opposition of the bill, which was particularly challenging because Democrats tend to fall in line with unions.

“It’s rather intimidating, to tell you the truth, and I wasn’t willing to back down from that. It didn’t scare me at all. I viewed this from day one as, ‘Hey Teamsters, truckers and so forth, I want to create a safer environment for you too,'” he said.

Truckers opposed the bill because of safety concerns like a lack of chain-up areas along I-70 and existing chain areas that weren’t well-lit or protected from passing traffic.

Gibbs was able to secure $2.475 million from the Colorado Department of Transportation to address some of those concerns, and truckers eventually jumped to the other side of the fence to support the bill, which is currently waiting for Gov. Ritter’s signature to become law.

But it wasn’t easy. Gibbs recalled shouting matches during closed-door discussions among high level state police officers, representatives from the trucking industry and other state officials, and repeated advice from fellow legislators to delay the bill for summertime review.

“I didn’t think this could wait, I really didn’t, and I thought the longer it waited the more it would potentially get watered down,” Gibbs said.

Just because the legislative session is over, don’t expect Gibbs to fade away for the summer. He’ll be holding town hall meetings locally and might even show up at your doorstep. He plans to visit his constituents door-to-door, even though it’s not an election year, to poll people on their concerns.

“I want people to see me everywhere,” he said.

Gibbs’ contact information can be found on his website at

Rep. Dan Gibbs was the prime sponsor on the following bills this session:

” House Bill 1229: A bill to increase fines for truckers who don’t abide by the chain law. Waiting for Gov. Ritter’s signature.

” House Bill 1130: A bill to create a pilot program that would provide cost-share grants for community forest restoration projects. Waiting for Gov. Ritter’s signature.

” House Bill 1298: A bill that requires the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission to consult with the Division of Wildlife to minimize adverse impacts to wildlife from oil and gas operations. Waiting for Gov. Ritter’s signature.

” House Bill 1038: A bill to create a nonnative plant fund to help communities eradicate noxious weeds. Postponed indefinitely on March 30.

” Senate Bill 145: Allows local government to offer incentives for the use of renewable energy fixtures like solar panels or geothermal heating. Signed into law on April 16.

” Senate Bill 82: Continues funding for a habitat partnership program in the Division of Wildlife. Signed into law on March 22.

Nicole Formosa can be reached at (970) 668-4629, or at

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