Western Slope representatives talk legislative priorities in town hall
Health care, housing and child care among high-priority issues
The Colorado General Assembly has a lot to do and not much time to do it.
The four Democrats who represent much of Colorado’s Western Slope in the legislature — Reps. Dylan Roberts, Julie McCluskie and Barbara McLachlan along with Sen. Kerry Donovoan — held a virtual town hall on Thursday, Jan. 13. About 60 people joined and submitted questions on topics including housing, education and health care.
Donovan is entering her last legislative session, after which she’ll have to step down due to term limit laws.
Donovan said she’s always excited at the start of a new session — limited to just 120 days. The energy of being with colleagues is “one of my favorite parts of being a lawmaker,” she said.
Donovan said her work this session will include continuing efforts to find a way to stop, or at least curb, speculation on water rights by out-of-state firms.
McCluskie, whose district includes Summit County, is chairwoman of the legislature’s Joint Budget Committee. That group has for some time been working on Gov. Jared Polis’ budget proposal for the coming year. The legislature takes that proposal and ultimately delivers a balanced budget.
McCluskie said Polis’ proposed budget reflects “Democratic (Party) values.” But she added that Polis is also thinking in a bipartisan way.
McCluskie said her priorities this session include finding a way to provide more opportunities to put health care workers into rural Colorado.
Roberts is the only Western Slope legislator on a committee charged with finding the best ways to put $400 million in federal funding into helping the state’s affordable housing shortage.
That task force finished its work last week, Roberts said, adding that a report will be issued in the next several days.
Roberts is also working on a bill providing property tax exemptions to those who own child care facilities and has introduced bills to allow local marketing districts to use funds for housing and child care with voter approval.
McLachlan, whose district includes Durango, said 2022 could be the year when legislators “do something big” for education. McLachlan said there’s some bipartisan support for funding.
Roberts and Donovan have worked in past sessions on ways to bring down the cost of health insurance for Western Slope residents. A bill the two co-sponsored will be available starting in the fall, with policies going into effect in 2023.
Roberts called it a “more affordable, high quality” option.
Donovan said she’s also looking into a proposal to transport “waxy” crude oil from Utah through Colorado. The proposed route would take trains along the Colorado River and through the Moffat Tunnel.
Donovan added that state officials and residents need to decide whether that oil is “something we want.”
Roberts said legislators will also work on rules to aid efforts to combat opioid and fentanyl abuse.
Those drugs are impacting “every community in Colorado,” Roberts said. Those topics will be part of the work of a legislative behavioral health task force.
As the one-hour session wound down, McCluskie said she was grateful for the chance to reach out to residents.
“It’s an honor to represent the Western Slope,” she said. “I look forward to carrying forward these conversations, and I hope you’ll reach out to us.”
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