In August, after enjoying seeing and talking with people at the remaining county fairs in Southwest Colorado, I won my primary and am headed on to the November general election. Being on the campaign trail since the session adjourned in May has provided me with a nearly continual check-in with folks about what’s on their minds, and while I don’t have all of the answers, I spend a lot of time thinking about how the state government can work better for its residents.
Typically, legislators sit on interim committees that meet through the course of the summer and fall. Last year, I wrote about the interim hospice and palliative care committee that I served on, and as a result of that work, I carried several bills last session responding to issues raised during the committee hearings.
Interim committees are intended to expand the knowledge of legislators about issues affecting the state and to give residents additional opportunities to participate in the hearing process as new legislative efforts are considered. Because of budget constraints, though, we’re not having interim committee meetings this year as there are costs to bring legislators in for those meetings and to staff them, as well.
There are many ways to keep involved as a legislator, and in August, I was invited to speak on a legislative panel at the annual conference of the Colorado Water Congress. I went to the multiday conference early to attend workshops on water conservation, water quality and how to communicate clearly about complex topics such as water policy.
My panel at the Water Congress focused on the interplay between state financial resources and water issues, and I was included in this panel because I’m on the House Finance Committee. This was a complex and important topic to talk about as Colorado considers what direction to take with respect to future water policy and laws.
It helps that I have an educational background in natural resources, including water law, but getting advice at the workshop from those in the communications business was valuable because if we’re to make progress on the state’s tough issues, including future water policy, it’ll only be through discussing those issues with all involved.
To further educate myself about energy issues, I recently toured an underground coal mine in Somerset. This Western Slope coal mine isn’t in my district, but given the role I played in sponsoring a controversial piece of legislation last session that affects several energy sectors in our state, I wanted to visit with company officials and pursue a dialogue with them.
In previous summers, I’ve toured natural gas sites, as well, and this summer, I was invited to speak at two oil and gas conferences. Energy independence will be reached in this country when we responsibly use all of our many resources.
Yet one more leg of the educational stool for legislators, and the most important one, is constituent outreach and contact. Compared with legislators in urban areas, I have the benefit of knowing my neighbors better than they typically do, and this familiarity leads to local connections on all sorts of topics. Making these connections, meeting with constituents about their concerns and visiting the district’s businesses and facilities helps guide me in representing the district throughout the year.
My thanks to all who help educate me on the issues and who make themselves available as resources to me now and when I’m at the Capitol in the winter months when the Legislature is in full swing and proposed bills come rapidly and in large volume.
Ellen Roberts, R-Durango, represents the 59th District in the state House of Representatives. Reach her by phone at the Capitol, (303) 866-2914; fax (303) 866-2218; home phone 259-1594; or e-mail email@example.com.