State House candidates square off
Leadville Democrat incumbent Carl Miller and Eagle-Vail Republican Heather Lemon squared off in their first Eagle County forum Monday, answering residents’ questions and outlining their qualifications.
General comments and introductions:
Lemon: I’m an Eagle County local and Eagle County comprises 52 percent of the 56th District. I’m pleased to follow Rep. Al White, I have two kids in Battle Mountain High School and I know the area and the issues we face.
I give you the experience of someone who lives here. My family was involved in a major auto accident two years ago and we experienced the outpouring of love this area is so famous for. I’ve looked for fund-raisers, causes to support and other ways to help. Serving the people in this area in this office is another way to give back.
For a living I practice immigration law – I only practice positive law, I don’t do divorce or criminal cases – and sell real estate, which aren’t things some people want to hear mentioned in the same sentence. But they’re an important part of what qualifies me for this office. Experience counts, but what kind of experience, and what you do with it, counts more. I won’t be sitting in an ivory tower or under a golden dome. The state Legislature faces legal issues almost every day. And when you introduce a bill, you need to be able to convince other members of the Legislature to see things your way, you need to sell them on it
I’ve taught in university, I’m licensed to teach in public schools and I worked in the financial field in Hong Kong. I will work hard, and that, coupled with my experience qualifies me to be your state representative.
Miller: I’ve been married 42 years, and my wife and I have two kids and two grandchildren. I served as a county commissioner in Lake County and established the National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum. From then until now, I served in the state Legislature, a job I hope to keep doing.
This is a district in transition and I’ve been through that before after my first term. That will help, and my experience in the Legislature will benefit Summit, Eagle and Lake counties.
Experience is important. I served on a wide variety of boards as a county commissioner, senior citizen advocacy groups, and committees and boards with the Colorado Legislature.
In the state Legislature, I sponsored 53 pieces of legislation. Eighty-three percent passed while I was in the minority party.
I’ve picked up endorsements from CACI (the Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry), NFIB (National Federation of Independent Businesses) and the Denver Post.
I always strive to be non-partisan. You build coalitions by working both sides of the aisle.
On containing health care insurance cost increases:
Lemon’s family was involved in a terrible traffic accident two years ago, leaving her youngest daughter with a paralyzed arm, which is slowly healing. They received much of her treatment in Canada, because the procedure is not available in the U.S.
Lemon: I’ve wondered if anything good could come from that accident and I’ve found some. Being a healthcare recipient gave me a different perspective, and socialized medicine is not the answer. Tort reform is a necessary part of the equation, as is taking a hard look at what insurance companies are mandated to provide. We are mandating companies out of this area. Medical malpractice costs were holding steady for a while, but now they’re increasing again.
Miller: Twenty-five percent of health care costs are consumed with malpractice insurance, regulations and administrative costs. We absolutely have to get rid of some mandated components that insurance companies are required to provide. One policy does not fit all.
With the Legislature, I served on a board that traveled the state to gather information on this issue. We came up with a bill to help curb health care insurance costs, but it didn’t survive. The bill will be back this year, and hopefully we can get it through.
On increasing tourism marketing:
Lemon: When Colorado eliminated its funding for tourism marketing, Utah and Wyoming clapped. The economy was much stronger then and I think Front Rangers are now more aware of tourism’s impact on them.
Miller: We’re in a budget crisis and more cuts are coming. Tourism, though, should not be treated like an expenditure. It’s a revenue generator. I sponsored a tourism bill, and I got beat up because of it, but it planted the seed. At $5.5 million, Colorado is 34th in the nation in tourism marketing, and that’s not enough.
On highway project funding:
Lemon: Interstate 70 and other federal highway projects are federally funded and we need to get in line for as many as possible as soon as possible. Money for those projects is earmarked years in advance.
Miller: We have to fight to keep the money we have. The formula has always been federal highway money coming to the state, counties and cities. Now, the Front Range is trying to change the formula to funnel more money over there. We need to keep forming coalitions to fight for Western Slope interests. When I was a Lake County commissioner, Lake County became the 21st member of Club 20. Those are the kinds of coalitions that will help us fight the new battle to change the funding formula.