Guns and grouse two of the topics on constituents’ minds

Last week was busy with constituent contact as well as my regular legislative duties. A group of residents participating in the Montrose chamberís leadership program came to Denver to spend some time at the Capitol, observing the legislative process and meeting with elected officials. It was a great opportunity for me to hear their thoughts and concerns and to do my best to explain what itís like to be their state senator.

Then, on the weekend, I participated in the Ag Summit in Cortez at the 4 Corners Ag Expo with state Rep. Don Coram, who, after redistricting, now represents all Montezuma County with me. Not surprisingly, the gun-control bills were on the minds of many who attended for the reasons that I often raised when we were debating the bills on the Senate floor.

Guns are a tool of the farmer and rancher just like a shovel or a wire cutter, and many of my ag producers were very upset with the bills that passed affecting their constitutional rights as well as their personal safety. Given the proximity of those in Montezuma and Dolores counties to three other states in the Four Corners, there also were serious questions about enforceability and jurisdictional challenges. Again, these were topics I brought up in the Senate debates that went unanswered and unaddressed by the bill sponsors.

Even if the governor signs the gun-control bills, Iím guessing that at least some of the bills will be challenged in court, so it likely will be a while before the dust settles on this new legislation.

Another topic raised at the Ag Summit was the federal governmentís possible listing of the Gunnison sage grouse as an endangered species, which would seriously affect farmers and ranchers in their ability to continue production in the area. There are families with deep roots in agriculture in the Cortez and Dove Creek areas, and people already are struggling with high unemployment.

While this is a federal decision, as the state senator for the area, Iíve received many letters from deeply concerned residents. Iíve been in touch with the Colorado Department of Natural Resources to learn more about their perspective and to see what can be done to assist in this. Iíll continue to follow this closely, and I appreciate the letters and conversation Iíve received about the issue.

At the Ag Summit, many commonsense ideas were presented regarding why the sage grouse numbers have diminished and, in particular, what can be done about the effects of natural predators. After the legislative session is over in May and Iím back home more than on the weekends, Iíll be visiting the Dove Creek area to talk with residents further about this.

This week, Iíll be presenting a number of bills in committees and on the Senate floor. A couple of the bills focus on reducing Medicaid fraud, and another will facilitate loan repayment for health-care providers practicing primary care in the rural areas of Colorado such as my district.

My bill increasing access to supplemental online courses for high school students is moving along with great collaboration among the stakeholders who also are committed to seeing this learning opportunity further expanded to all of Coloradoís students, regardless of their zip code.

Ellen Roberts represents Senate District 6 in Coloradoís General Assembly. The district encompasses Montezuma, Dolores, La Plata, Archuleta, Montrose, San Miguel, San Juan and Ouray counties. Contact Roberts by phone at (303) 866-4884 or email at ellen.roberts.senate@state.co.us.

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