Legislative session was full of important successes

It’s a challenging assignment to sum up the last week’s events, or non-events, as the case may be. I’d anticipated being finished midweek and headed home for the interim, but instead, the Legislature has been summoned back by the governor to a special session.

The special session is to consider seven topics related to a number of bills that died on the House calendar as the clock ran out on our constitutional requirement that a session last no more than 120 days.

I was concerned earlier about the backlog of bills to be heard before the end of the session, and I suggested in an earlier column that we work late into the nights, if need be. We did work late some nights, but obviously, not enough.

Returning to the topic of the regular session, though, I had guessed that politics would rule the day. That happened, yet we also did a lot of good work. The budget bill and the school-finance bill, the only two state constitutional “must do’s” each session, were passed with broad bipartisan support. Because of a mildly improved economy, cautious optimism in the budget process and the politically divided Legislature, we were prudent in crafting the next budget.

I’m very pleased with the session in terms of what I’d set out to work on this year. My persistent harping in committee, on the Senate floor and through introduced and debated resolutions that we develop the necessary fiscal discipline to stop backfilling the budget by taking severance-tax funds from local governments and water projects was mostly heeded this year.

It helped to be able to describe to legislators from areas unfamiliar with energy and water development just what happens on the ground in a district like mine when those monies are transferred away from their intended purpose.

Another goal I had was to work on reducing the costs of health care in Colorado, and several bills I carried aimed at doing that were passed. One addresses getting a better handle on Medicaid fraud in our system, another expands the use of assisted-living facilities over nursing homes when appropriate, and the third encourages innovation in new payment methods that reward health value over volume.

All of these new health-care efforts will need monitoring and follow up, but we’ve got a chance to bend the notorious cost curve in health-care spending with healthier patients. I aim to continue seriously pursuing these goals.

Last but not least is the passage of the bill eliminating the towing-operator bond and improving the existing regulatory process in that industry. If you’ve been following that saga, it’s proof that constituent contact does indeed make a difference, and I’ve got some great people in my district to prove that.

We went through our share of trials and tribulations to get to this point, but with dedicated efforts from tow operators, certain fellow legislators and the governor’s administration, we ended up with a much better situation than what was in place at the end of last session.

I’ve enjoyed working with my Republican caucus – we exchange ideas, learn from each other and find that we share more common ground than not. Getting to know my Democratic colleagues in the Senate better was another positive.

Now, on to the special session and home!

Ellen Roberts represents Senate District 6 in Colorado’s 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.