Towing-bill bond example of legislation’s consequences

With only a few days left in the session, we still have much to do. Iíve not been able to come home on the last couple of weekends as Friday floor and committee work have run late enough to cause me to miss my flights. Still, the sessionís end is in sight, and Iíll be home soon.

Iím shepherding through a couple of bills in the Senate, hoping they make it through before the close of the session. One of these is the second version of the towing bill, which like the first bill that was killed earlier in the session, gets rid of the stateís bond requirement that was added last year.

Iím grateful that Sen. Steve King, R-Grand Junction, and Rep. Don Coram, R-Montrose, joined me in the effort of sponsoring this bill. Itís an example of how Western Slope legislators often join forces and work hard together for the benefit of our region and the whole state.

The Legislature meets for 120 days each January through May and, if a bill gets killed, thereís often the chance that it can be reworked and introduced a second time. We did that in the case of the towing bond bill because it was that important to get it passed this year before a second year of putting some indisputably good towers, unable to get the bond because of personal credit-history issues, out of work.

Many take for granted the difficult and often hazardous job of the tow-truck operator who clears an accident scene or rescues stranded tourists and locals. Itís only when no one is there to answer the call for help that we might realize the great value of the work they do, often in miserable weather and the middle of the night.

Fixing the problem the Legislature caused last year by adding a bond requirement to the tow operatorsí cost of doing business without adding any consumer protection will be personally significant on a few levels. First, thereís the most urgent matter of getting people, some whom Iíve gotten to know through this issue, back to work.

There are towers who were able to get the bond, but only through borrowing money from friends, relatives or business colleagues to pay for it, and some who could afford it, but had not caused a single problem justifying a new requirement being placed on them. So, weíre also doing the right thing by reducing the cost of doing business in Colorado.

Another positive outcome of raising the issue of the tow-bond problem is that there was a lesson for all legislators, including me, buried underneath this issue. That is, in the year before, weíd not thought through enough the consequences of accepting a ďsolutionĒ proposed by an industry group that represented only a part of those who work in the field. It was a small amendment placed on a long bill that wasnít even challenged at the time that made a huge negative impact on many Coloradans.

Mistakes and unintended consequences inevitably happen during the legislative process, but the question is whether legislators will recognize them as such and, even more important, will we take the time and energy to fix them? I am hopeful that, at least in this case, the answer is ďyes.Ē

Ellen Roberts represents Senate District 6 in Coloradoís General Assembly. The district encompasses Montezuma, Dolores, La Plata, Archuleta, Montrose, San Miguel, San Juan and Ouray counties. Contact Roberts by phone at (303) 866-4884, or by email at ellen.roberts.senate@state.co.us.

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