Colorado Gov. Polis signs landmark health care legislation in Vail

Flanked by Kerry Donovan and Dylan Roberts, Jared Polis inks a law that will create a public health insurance option for Coloradans

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis smiles in May after signing a bill alongside Sen. Kerry Donovan, Lt. Gov. Dianne Primavera and Rep. Dylan Roberts outside of Blue Moose Pizza in Lionshead Village. Donovan and Roberts sponsored legislation that aims to decrease the cost of health insurance for mountain residents.
Chris Dillmann |

What Polis signed

Here’s a brief look at the bills signed Friday in Vail by Colorado Gov. Jared Polis. All bills were sponsored or co-sponsored by either State Sen. Kerry Donovan or Rep. Dylan Roberts, both of whom represent Eagle County:

  • HB19-1004: Establishes a framework to create a public option for health insurance in rural areas.
  • SB19-078: The Open Internet Customer Protection in Colorado Act.
  • SB19-141: Establishes a framework for “entertainment districts” that allow guests to carry alcoholic beverages around a resort village.
  • HB19-1259: Authorizes Colorado Conservation Trust Fund projects.
  • SB19-159: Re-authorizes the Passenger Tramway Safety Board, which oversees gondola and chairlift safety.

VAIL — A lot of Colorado’s economy runs in ways that aren’t necessarily apparent to Front Range residents.

That’s why Eagle County Commissioner Matt Scherr said a brace of bills — including one designed to lower health insurance costs — signed Friday in Vail by Colorado Gov. Jared Polis is important for the entire state.

Polis, along with state Sen. Kerry Donovan and Rep. Dylan Roberts, both of whom represent Eagle County, Friday created a bill-signing caravan that included stops at the Eisenhower/Johnson Memorial tunnels, Silverthorne and Vail.

The Vail stop, at Blue Moose Pizza in Lionshead Village, brought together a number of local officials, as well as representatives from Vail Resorts and the Starting Hearts nonprofit.

Vail Police Chief Dwight Henninger was on hand, although the bill he was most interested in was signed at the tunnels.

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Finally, a traction law

Henninger has long supported what’s called the Winter Conditions and Traction Control Requirements bill that passed this session. That bill requires motorists to have either adequate tires or traction devices — chains or AutoSock devices — when driving Interstate 70 between Golden and Dotsero in the fall, winter and spring.

Since he’d been at the tunnels, “I figured I should be here, too,” Henninger said. 

Scherr said the traction bill was a measure that should have passed years ago, but was stymied by one legislator, former Senator Randy Baumgardner of Grand County.

“That bill is the poster child for what’s wrong with politics,” Scherr said.

Health care bill the star

The star of the Vail bill signing was HB0-1004. That bill, co-sponsored by Donovan and Roberts, creates a framework to create a publicly-funded health insurance option for residents in mountain and rural counties. People in those areas who have to buy their own health insurance now pay some of the highest rates in the nation.

The bill, Polis said, will “save high country residents money on health care.”

Roberts said the bill will introduce competition to markets that are often served by only one insurance company.

“We’ll get more people covered,” Roberts said. “It’s a really bold policy.” In fact, he said, it’s the first such bill in the nation.

Donovan said the private-option bill has had Polis’ support since he served in the U.S. House of Representatives, representing part of Eagle County.

“We’ve had (Polis) on our side for many years,” Donovan said.

Scherr said that bill is important to residents in rural areas, of course. But, he added, that means the bill is important to the economy of the entire state.

If people have to move out of agricultural counties, that affects the state’s food supply, Scherr said. Similarly, people in resort counties provide services to Front Range residents, many of whom moved to Colorado for quick access to mountain playgrounds.

Health insurance is a key part of keeping people in those areas, he said.

Serving resort communities that serve metropolitan areas was also the impetus behind bills re-authorizing the state’s Passenger Tramway Safety Board — which inspects chairlifts and gondolas — an a bill that allows creation of “entertainment districts.”

Eagle County Commission Jeanne McQueeney said that bill essentially allows counties to change their liquor laws to allow guests to carry alcoholic beverages while walking around, say, a resort village.

McQueeney said Vail Resorts came to the commissioners to ask for the change. But, she said, state law didn’t allow that change.

Eagle County will have to change its liquor regulations to accommodate the new state law.

Once that happens, McQueeney said guests at, say, a concert in Beaver Creek Village won’t have to stay at a bar or restaurant if they want an adult beverage. Patrons won’t be able to take drinks from one business to another, but can enjoy drinks out on the plaza if they choose.

“We’re excited about the legislative change,” Beaver Creek Resort Company Managing Director Jen Brown said. “It allows Beaver Creek to take advantage of being an entertainment district.”

The bill signing took only a few minutes, and Polis was off to Grand Junction to sign more bills that came from this year’s legislative session.

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at or 970-748-2930.

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