Meetings around district keep lawmakers busy in ‘off season’

July was filled with meetings in my Senate district. Going to these helps shape my perspective on many state issues, so I do my best to attend as many as possible over the large eight-county territory, despite the fact that it often takes more time to get to them than the meetings last.

The meetings are worthwhile because I almost always learn new things and meet people I didn’t know before. For me, the constant education on a diverse range of issues affecting life in Southwest Colorado compensates for the many miles and long hours.

When I get out of the legislative session each year, there are usually a fair number of those meetings where legislators are asked to be on a panel to explain what activity took place during the session and how new laws will affect Colorado’s residents. Usually, there’s also time for questions and comments from the audience to hear concerns.

During July, I participated in a number of these panels. One was at the regional conference held in Durango for women-owned small businesses and another panel focused on agriculture at the Woolgrowers’ (sheep industry) annual conference in Montrose. These were followed by participating on statewide legislative panels such as health-care policy in Keystone and another on issues of concern for the civil defense attorneys’ organization in Crested Butte.

In between these, I toured uranium mines in the west end of Montrose County and learned more about the uranium mill proposed to be built in the Paradox Valley. The tour included other legislators as well as Colorado mine regulators and other interested parties, both for and against the proposed mill.

I also attended Club 20’s summer meetings on transportation and tourism, held this year in Telluride. Concerns were raised regarding possible legislation next legislative session that would increase costs on flights in Colorado and the hardship that would cause the smaller, regional airports. There are four of the smaller airports in my district and, given the importance of getting our visitors, as well as our residents, in and out of our area reliably and at a reasonable cost, I’ll be watching closely for any such proposals next session.

Beside these meetings, I’ve been busy working on constituent issues and preparing for the start of the Lower North Fork Wildfire Commission’s hearings that will begin this month. As chairwoman of that commission, I’ve been seeking input and ideas from the various stakeholders involved in wildfire mitigation and forest health issues and from those specifically affected by the Conifer area wildfire last March.

No doubt, all of us bear a heavy heart for the victims of the shooting tragedy in Aurora and their families. I first learned that something terrible had happened after receiving an email from the Aurora young man who was co-charperson of the Colorado Youth Advisory Council with me during the last year.

He’d posted on his Facebook page that he and his friends who were there that night were OK, but he urgently asked us to pray for those who’ll be picking up the pieces. There are no easy answers to what happened in Aurora or what kind of response is called for, but I hope we’ll do as he asked and remember them all in our prayers.

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. Call Roberts at (303) 866-4884, or email ellen.roberts.senate@state.co.us.

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