Bill to change county commission elections fails Brown, Roberts were sponsors

DENVER – Two Southwest Colorado Republicans’ plan to change the way county commissioners are elected died Monday in the state Senate.

House Bill 1159 would have let voters in small counties choose to elect their commissioners by district, rather than countywide.

But resistance from the lobbying group for county commissioners helped scuttle the bill. The Senate State Affairs Committee killed it on a 3-2 vote.

Rep. J. Paul Brown, R-Ignacio, and Sen. Ellen Roberts, R-Durango, sponsored the bill.

Brown said he was expecting the bill to die.

“It’s ironic that three legislators from big metropolitan districts on the Front Range decide for all the small counties, when their counties can do this already,” Brown said.

His bill would have let counties with a population less than 70,000 elect commissioners by district. Bigger counties already have that option.

The bill had passed 61-4 in the House last month, but it faced opposition from Colorado Counties Inc., a statewide group for county commissioners. Some commissioners have expressed worries that if they were elected by district, it would be harder for them to govern for the benefit of the whole county.

The Senate committee had delayed a vote on the bill for two weeks to give Brown and Roberts a chance to lobby CCI, but the group declined to revisit Brown’s bill.

One senator said opposition from county commissioners led him to oppose the bill.

“I guess I would be happy to reconsider this a year from now,” said Sen. Rollie Heath, D-Boulder, chairman of the panel that killed the bill.

Sen. Tim Neville, R-Littleton, said he was disappointed that CCI did not rethink its position on the bill.

“We’re not here to run CCI,” Heath said.

“Nor are they here to run us,” Neville replied.

Brown said he might try again on the bill in a future year.

jhanel@durangoherald.com

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