Town Hall update tonight in Eagle |

Town Hall update tonight in Eagle

Diane Mitsch Bush

The current state legislative session began officially on Jan. 8. My goal is a session in which we can all work across the aisle to develop evidence-based, common-sense public policy that solves problems and improves life for all Coloradans.

One example is a bill I am co-prime sponsoring in the state House with my Republican colleague Rep. Don Coram, of Montrose, that streamlines the process for small hydropower permitting. It removes red tape while protecting our environmental and community values.

Prior to the session opening, I travelled all around our beautiful House District 26 (all of Eagle County and Routt County), listening to citizens at town halls, local governments, nonprofits and businesses. In December, I also participated in oversight hearings at the Capitol for the Colorado Department of Transportation and the Colorado Energy Office.

In my travels, I was very pleased to learn that several local businesses have already used and benefitted from small-business bills passed with broad bipartisan support in 2013 to expand. A manufacturing business used the job creation tax credit to hire new employees. When I was visiting that business, one of these new employees was busy filling out forms for the procurement technical assistance process that was created by 2013 legislation. The founder-owner was really excited about new opportunities.

This year, we have several bipartisan bills to help businesses create more jobs, including targeted job training, reduction in some business personal property taxes and more technical assistance for businesses.

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Since the session began, I have continued to work with stakeholder groups on my bills, many of which seek to remove red tape. All will make our mountain communities better places to live, play and work for all.

I organized stakeholder meetings with truckers, Pitkin County, CDOT, State Patrol and local law enforcement to hammer out compromises, resulting in HB14-1021. The bill is in response to safety concerns about vehicles more than 35 feet using Independence Pass in violation of the current statute. HB14-1021 clarifies the area of violation with mile markers and proposes higher fines to deter illegal use of the road. This bill passed out of the Transportation-Energy Committee two weeks ago.

HB14-1030 will be heard this week in committee. It is the result of a bipartisan effort with my Republican colleague Don Coram, of Montrose, that streamlines the process for small hydropower permitting. I have met with utility representatives and with environmental groups and other stakeholders for practical compromises. The bill promotes the small hydroelectric industry while protecting our environmental and community values.

HB14-1060 would allow statutory cities to pay planning commissioners. The idea for the bill came from the town of Eagle, which has had trouble retaining planning commissioners. Many planning commissioners have specialized skills and spend many hours working and attending meetings that deserve compensation, if a statutory town so desires.

I have been participating in a series of discussions on potential legislation for expanded, improved rural broadband service. A bill to repurpose the high cost fund for rural broadband may be introduced this week. Better access to high-speed broadband is critical for our businesses, education, health care and families.

Water quantity and quality are essential for our economy, our health, our environment and our quality of life. During the summer and through October, I served on the Joint House-Senate Water Resources Review Committee, traveling throughout the state to better understand water quality and quantity issues facing our river basins.

As you you may have heard, Gov. John Hickenlooper has requested that a draft Statewide Water Plan be developed by December 2014. The plan will create opportunities and challenges for our headwaters counties on the Western Slope. We must take an active role. I will keep you informed. During the session, I serve on the House Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources Committee, where water bills, oversight and water issues are assigned.

I am so honored to be your state House representative! Please do contact me with your ideas, concerns and issues at or at my Capitol office at 303-866-2923. My legislative aide, Tate Carpenter, or my intern, J.T. Stepleton, will help you. I will get back to you as soon as possible. I look forward to working with you and for you and everyone in our beautiful, headwaters district!

I hope you can attend my Town Hall meeting this eveing at the County Building in Eagle from 5 to 6:30 p.m. I look forward to listening to you and sharing information on bills and issues. The meeting will be held in the county commissioners’ hearing room on the second floor at the Eagle County Building in Eagle.

State Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush, D-Steamboat Springs, serves Eagle and Routt counties.

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