Legislature accomplished good things

Itís a challenging assignment to sum up the past weekís events, or non-events, as the case may be. Iíd anticipated being finished midweek and headed home for the interim, but instead the legislatureís 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 ďmust doísĒ 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.

Iím very pleased with the session in terms of what Iíd 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 to work on was reducing the costs of healthcare 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 healthcare efforts will need monitoring and follow up, but weíve got a chance to bend the notorious cost curve in healthcare 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 youíve been following that saga, itís proof that constituent contact does indeed make a difference and Iíve 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 governorís administration, we ended up with a much better situation than what was in place at the end of last session.

Iíve 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 Coloradoís General Assembly. The district encompasses Montezuma, Dolores, La Plata, Archuleta, Montrose, San Miguel, San Juan and Ouray counties. Contact Sen. Roberts by phone at (303) 866-4884, or e-mail ellen.roberts.senate@state.co.us.

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