We often hear about bipartisan work in government, and although it sounds good, we wonder if it really happens. I cannot guarantee it occurs at the federal level, but in Colorado, it does.
I joined several Western Slope legislators last week for a large, bipartisan Zoom town hall. It included Janice Rich (R - HD55), from Grand Junction; Matt Soper (R - HD54) from Delta; Perry Will (R - HD57) from New Castle; Marc Catlin (R - HD58) from Montrose; Judy Amabile (D - HD13) representing northwest Colorado; Julie McCluskie (D - HD61) from Summit County; Kerry Donovan (D - SD5) from Vail; Dylan Roberts (D - HD26) of Routt County; and me, (D - HD59) from Durango. Senators Don Coram (R - SD6) from Montrose, and Bob Rankin (R - SD8) from Carbondale could not attend.
We all described some of our top legislative priorities this year and are co-sponsoring many of those bills with each other.
Between us, we discussed agriculture, health care, mental health, education, the environment, our budget and affordable housing, among many other topics. Though we don’t always agree on how to solve our problems, we are not disagreeable with each other, and are finding ways to compromise, negotiate and, sometimes, just let it go.
Rich, for example, is running a bill with Amabile concerning transparency in web-based information systems. And Amabile has a bill with Rankin to make sure those who have lost their homes in a declared fire disaster get insurance coverage.
Rankin and McCluskie have teamed up to help finance the all-important backcountry search and rescue services in Colorado, essential on the Western Slope. McCluskie and Will have helped fund the Department of Transportation’s creation of safe road crossings for wildlife.
Meanwhile, a bill Will is sponsoring with Donovan concerns continuing the funding for a habitat partnership program, which helps meet game management objectives and reduce big-game conflicts related to forage and fence issues. Donovan is running a bill with Catlin to fund tribal behavioral health services.
Catlin and Roberts, both members of the Agriculture, Livestock and Water Committee, ran a bill together to incentivize people with lawns to replace their water-hungry sod. Roberts proposed a bill with Soper to address a western Colorado concern: having more consistent inspections of funeral establishments and crematories.
Coram and I ran a bill together to have public schools transition back to standard K-12 accountability, giving students, teachers and districts time to get back to normal after two years of enduring a pandemic, limited testing and missing students, leading to unreliable data. And Rich and I are co-sponsoring a bill giving permission to our schools of higher education to use 100 percent of their tuition as part of their credit rating, not the current 10 percent. It will save the schools money.
Not all issues are partisan issues, and I am lucky to work alongside Western Slope legislators who put that into action. Our Zoom listeners seemed to agree.
Barbara McLachlan, D-Durango, is serving her third term representing La Plata, Archuleta, San Juan, Ouray, Hinsdale and Gunnison counties. She has been a journalist and teacher.