Bird-dogging the legislature in Denver
NEW BILLS NEW LAWS … I’d given up going to state meetings for Colorado Counties, Inc. (CCI). It’s a useful lobbying group that helps counties prevent really bad bills from making it through the Legislature. And helps even pass a few good ones … But, of late, CCI has been infected with the “partisan paralysis” that Sen. Ted Cruz champions. Last month Republicans knocked almost all Democrats out of CCI leadership positions on its steering committees. Instead of having a chair with the majority party and vice-chair with the minority party, so as to offer a bi-partisan front to legislators on CCI issues, conservatives led by Weld County Commissioner Barbara Kirkmeyer cleaned house … That kind of disastrous internal one-up-woman’s-ship led Boulder County to leave CCI last week. Denver City and County had already pulled out … San Miguel County’s paid its dues for 2016, or we might have considered pulling out as well. But, next year, unless there are changes, it would be hard to recommend staying on board a group that supports fracking, tax breaks for the rich, return of public lands to the states, and opposes universal health care, more money for education, higher minimum wages, etc … But this year, I’ve been directed to attend and offer what liberal input I can to the process … The bills CCI reviews run the gamut from the inane to the seriously wrong, from good ideas to senseless tweaks. There was unanimous support for a SJM16-001, urging Congress to pass Good Samaritan legislation to protect those involved in voluntary reclamation of abandoned hard rock mines from potential liability – a big stumbling block for cleaning up situations like the one over in San Juan County that led to a mine adit blowout and heavy iron release in the Animas River last year … ASIDE: When I was in San Francisco last month, I visited an art installation at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts entitled, “Golden Prospects” by Kevin Cooley. It was all about the Animas River spill, with boxes of on-floor videos of murky water flowing over iron-coated rocks. It wasn’t very impressive. But maybe living so close to the actual river was insulation from the meant-to-shock simulations of tainted agua … CCI steering committees voted to support HB16-1150 to give counties authority to prohibit underage nicotine possession, SB16-080 to require cannabis grow operations in a home to be enclosed, locked and restricted from anyone under 21-years-of-age, HB16-1030 to allow local governments to require insurance and driver’s licenses for OHV riders on local roads (something local counties have been trying to achieve for years), and SB16-060 that shifts fiscal responsibility for providing courtroom space from the counties to the sate … CCI opposed SB16-067 to grant a personal property tax exemption for broadband providers, HB16-1088 giving Fire Protection Districts the authority to impose impact fees on new development, SB16-81 to create a rural economic emergency assistance grant program, HB16-1071 which would have granted county citizens initiative power for county decisions (killed in committee), HB16-1078 granting whistle-blower protections to local government employees, SB16-37 changing the public’s access to digitally-stored data under the Colorado Opens Record Act, and SB16-54 allowing local governments to set minimum wages in its jurisdiction … Those are only a handful of the hundreds of bills considered in the Colorado Legislature each session. Which is why it’s important for local governments to pay attention to what’s happening in Denver. And, with perhaps a new bipartisan county support group, help shape the action.
RAT-A-TAT STATS … Hunger Free Colorado released a report last month for 2015 that ranked Colorado 46th in the nation for getting food stamps to the needy. Pitkin County had the worst record, enrolling only 10% of those eligible, while El Paso County had the best record, enrolling 71%. San Miguel County enrolled 27% of those eligible, according to the report … The National Association of Counties (NACo) puts out a newsletter, CountyNews, and in the Jan. 11th edition, it published a graph of the Top 10 Counties with the Highest Growth Rate of 65 Years and Older Population (2004-2014). Colorado had 7 of the 10 spots, with San Miguel County ranked third in the nation with a 203% growth rate. That’s telling me that the Telluride Region is becoming a retirement haven and that doing more for seniors is something the County is going to have to wrestle with in coming years … In the same issue, NACo’s County Explorer program offered a map that showed San Miguel County to be the only county in the state in 2015 to have full economic recovery with all four recovery indicators used from Moody’s Analytics data – one of only 215 counties in the nation to do that, out of over 3000 counties total … Finally, the heaviest one-day snowfall ever recorded in the nation wasn’t in Alaska, Montana, Maine or New Hampshire, but right here in Colorado. On Dec. 4, 1913, 63 inches of snow fell on Georgetown in Clear Creek County
THE TALKING GOURD
beside the sunflowers
this strand of what ifs
-Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer
Western Slope Poet Laureate