On Oct. 2, the Western Slope Democratic caucus converged on Denver to join our colleagues at the state capitol for the first special legislative session held since 2012. The six of us arrived united in our resolve to help correct a mistake that, left unaddressed, will have negative consequences for many hard-working people in rural Colorado.
Governor Hickenlooper called the special session to correct an error in Senate Bill 17-267, which was passed in May during the final days of the 2017 regular session. Our task was to correct a drafting oversight that erroneously eliminated the ability to collect marijuana sales tax revenues for a group of voter-approved special districts, many of which provide critical services to Western Slope communities. All four original bill sponsors acknowledged that this omission was purely a mistake and that the elimination of funding was unintentional.
Two separate pieces of legislation were introduced, either of which would have rectified this omission. Considering the extensive list of supporting organizations from across the state, the strong legal precedent on their constitutionality, and the very real consequences of inaction, a "no" vote seemed illogical and irresponsible. The House version passed with all five West Slope House Democrats and a West Slope House Republican in support. However, much to our collective disappointment, both bills were killed on 3-2 party-line votes in the Senate Transportation Committee. Two of the three Republicans who voted not to fix this error are from the Western Slope.
We entered the state capitol last week determined to protect our constituents on the Western Slope from losing a valuable source of funding for services that they have approved on the ballot. If this result stands, the loss of funding for these crucial districts in this fiscal year alone could be extensive -- $66,000 for the Gunnison Valley Regional Transportation Authority, $87,000 for the Summit Combined Housing Authority, $120,000 for the Roaring Fork Regional Transportation Authority, $10,000 for San Miguel Regional Transportation Authority, and an additional though yet uncalculated loss for the Edwards Metropolitan District.
As elected officials whose districts are wholly or partly west of the Continental Divide, we are extremely disappointed that such an important and easily rectified mistake could succumb to partisan differences on the interpretation of the Colorado constitution -- especially when the Colorado Supreme Court and Court of Appeals, the ultimate authorities on our constitution, have previously ruled that the legislature has the authority to make such a fix. Though this was an unfortunate display of partisan politics in the state legislature, we remain steadfast in our commitment to fighting for Western Slope communities and the services our communities need.
Rep. Millie Hamner
Rep. Barbara McLachlan
Rep. KC Becker
Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush
Rep. Donald Valdez
Sen. Kerry Donovan
The election results are in at the local, state and national level, and as expected, Democrats are doing well in state and national races. Colorado has elected Jared Polis as governor; nationally the Republicans appear to retain control of the Senate while Democrats now control the House of Representative.
With a ballot full of local and state measures, voter turnout in Delta County topped 71%, with 15,889 ballots cast. Statewide, voter turnout was just over 52%.
Of the three Delta County residents seeking state offices, Matt Soper won over Thea Chase in State Representative Dist. 54; Mike Mason lost to Julie McCluskie in State Representative Dist. 61; and Olen Lund lost to Kerry Donovan in State Senate Dist. 5.
Locally, in the City of Delta voters rejected a .5% sales tax increase to fund recreation, as well as recreational marijuana sales. The sale of medical marijuana and cultivation/manufacturing facilities was approved by a slim margin. Delta voters also gave the city the green light to move forward with selling or trading the Cottonwood and Riverbend Park, and to sell the old Municipal Light and Power Building.