Gibbs reflects on his first year |

Gibbs reflects on his first year

Julia Connors
Vail CO, Colorado

FRISCO ” Democrat state Rep. Dan Gibbs refused to let his first legislative session slip by without making some noise.

“I really wanted to introduce bills that would have an impact on local communities,” said Gibbs, speaking at a Summit Chamber of Commerce Legislative Affairs Council meeting Wednesday afternoon.

Gibbs, also a Summit County Chamber board member, reviewed the major outcomes of this year’s legislative session and gave the group a preview of what he suspects will be coming down the pipe next year.

The freshman lawmaker spoke of the difficulty of passing the pine beetle bill he sponsored, which will provide $1 million to help local groups prevent devastating fires fueled by beetle-killed trees.

“It was kind of a tough sell, to tell you the truth,” he said, remembering a conversation with another legislator who asked what the singing group the Beatles had to do with forest fires.

Gibbs said he considered the bill an important one, because potential forest fires, spurred on by dead trees, could negatively affect the state’s tourism, economy and water supply.

Gov. Bill Ritter traveled to Frisco in May to sign the bill into law, which was the first time in anyone’s memory that a governor signed a bill locally.

A new, tougher chain law bill, which Gibbs also sponsored, was far from an easy sell and didn’t make it out of the Transportation and Energy Committee the first time around, despite Gibbs’ role as the committee’s vice chair. So he headed back to the drawing board, meeting with trucking industry representatives to make adjustments to the bill that they could better support. Eventually the bill passed, helping to pay for more chain-up stations for trucks on I-70 and increasing fines for truckers who ignore chain requirements.

The interstate shut down more than 100 times last year, creating unsafe conditions for motorists and causing millions of dollars of lost revenue for businesses that depend on the traffic, he said.

The group applauded Gibbs for his tenacity in gaining support for the bill.

“That was really good work,” said Carla Zinn, president of CMZ Companies. “I appreciate how you went back and didn’t give up.”

Dillon Councilmember Don Parsons also voiced his support, calling Gibbs, “Rookie of the Year.”

Gibbs said he hopes to get a few more officers to patrol the interstate around Summit County, especially given that new trade agreements could mean more trucks coming through from Mexico, where some safety requirements may not be as tough as those in Colorado.

“The chain law will not be effective if it’s not enforced,” he said.

Gibbs also touched on four other bills he sponsored, three of which were passed. That list included a bill allowing local governments to offer incentives for local communities to install and use renewable forms of energy, such as solar panels and wind turbines.

Lastly, the legislator highlighted some issues the state government will likely see next session. Colorado will fall way short of transportation funds over the next two decades and will probably propose ways to increase its pot next year.

In the education sector, squabbling over which levels of education need the most state funding will need to be mitigated, he said.

A commission on health care will also present a report early next year proposing three to five different opportunities to provide more people with health insurance, he said.

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