Eagle County officials keeping a close eye on the Colorado legislature’s new session | VailDaily.com

Eagle County officials keeping a close eye on the Colorado legislature’s new session

Staffers, advocacy groups help keep track of hundreds of bills per year

Colorado's 2023 Legislative session began on Monday, Jan. 9. With it, Rep. Meghan Lukens and Sen. Dylan Roberts are the two legislators working on behalf of Eagle County.
Meghan Lukens/Courtesy Photo

The Colorado legislature this week started its annual 120-day session. Many of the hundreds of bills introduced this year might affect county and other local governments. That’s why the session is closely watched across the state.

The Eagle County Board of Commissioners this week approved a resolution for the county’s “Legislative Policy Statement.” That 37-page document outlines many of the county’s strategic goals. The document also includes legislative priorities from both Counties & Commissioners Acting together, a group of about a dozen of the state’s 64 counties.

Some priorities

Eagle County is a member of Counties & Commissioners Acting Together. That group has a lengthy list of state legislative priorities, including:

  • Short-term rental reform legislation
  • Housing funding
  • American Rescue Plan Act behavioral health funding
  • Wildfire mitigation funding

The statement also includes a policy statement from Colorado Communities for Climate Action.

Eagle County Commissioner Matt Scherr said Eagle County also belongs to Colorado Counties Incorporated, which represents 63 of the state’s counties.

Scherr said those organizations help local officials keep track of the flood of bills introduced every year. Scherr is the current president of the climate action group’s board.

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Scherr said the work of local staff, and reports from the three organizations in which the the county participates, help him and his fellow commissioners keep track of potentially important bills working their way through the legislature.

Those advocacy groups sometimes work together before bills are introduced in order to weigh in before state representatives and senators tackle the topics.

Rural and resort areas are vastly outnumbered in the legislature by Front Range communities.

Scherr said it’s a good thing that Summit County Rep. Julie McCluskie is the new Speaker of the House.

“She knows precisely our issues,” Scherr said.

State Sen. Dylan Roberts is just starting his first term in that house of the legislature representing the 10-county Senate District 8. Before that, he served four years in the House representing Eagle and Routt counties.

Roberts said he kept in close contact with those commissioners while he was in the house. That’s going to be more difficult with 30 commissioners in the senate district, but Roberts said he’s met with all but a handful of those officials.

“That’s something I value,” Roberts said. “I need to know what our commissioners (think).” That’s especially true when counties are asked to carry out state law.

No matter the district’s size, Roberts said county commissioners “are often the first people I go to” to discuss legislation.

Commissioners have also provided ideas for Roberts to propose legislation. His first Senate bill this year would allow the state to use some of its vacant land for workforce housing in counties.

Roberts said that bill was crafted in part with a Colorado Land Board parcel in EagleVail in mind. The Colorado Department of Transportation currently uses that site for several mobile homes as well as office space. The first phase of that plan, working in partnership with local governments and the private sector, would relocate the mobile homes and build 80 units of workforce housing. A second phase could add another 200 units to the parcel. A third phase, which would require a bridge across the Eagle River, would free up land for still more housing.

Roberts noted that housing is in short supply near resort areas and in rural areas around Craig and Meeker.

“The counties have done a very good job of organizing and advocating” to support or oppose legislation, Roberts added.

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