Sen. Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass Village, visited the Pitkin Board of County Commissioners during its regular meeting Wednesday, offering an update concerning her recent legislative work. She also took the time to thank all the commissioners for their assistance and endorsements as Schwartz nears the end of her eight-year tenure as a Colorado senator.
“We could have never passed the bills we did without your support,” Schwartz said.
A bill that originated from Pitkin County concerns is the Independence Pass Bill, or House Bill 1021. The bill increased the fines for the operator of any vehicle who violates a road closure or road restriction on Independence Pass from $500 to $2,000, or $2,500 if travel restrictions are in place at the time of the violation. The bill also directs the Colorado Department of Transportation to erect additional signs warning truckers of the increased fines. The bill has been sent to the governor for his final signature.
Schwartz introduced Senate Bill 23, a bill to promote irrigation efficiency and not penalize the water rights of those making irrigation-infrastructure improvements. It would allow the “saved” non-consumptive water from efficiency upgrades to be put back into the stream while protecting the water-rights holders and downstream users. The bill is yet to be signed by the governor.
“Senate Bill 23 led to a good conversation when it comes to understanding that the upper reaches of the Colorado River are, in some respects, endangered and how can we find ways to incent agricultural efficiency,” she said.
Schwartz also worked on House Bill 1089, which will transition the 10th Mountain Division license plate from a specialty plate into a charity plate. From 2016 forward, only veterans of the Army’s 10th Mountain Division and their families can purchase the traditional plate commemorating the division. The general public can purchase new plates that add the word “supports” to the 10th Mountain Division header.
Some of the money used to purchase future plates will go to the 10th Mountain Division Foundation.
Schwartz is also a big supporter of the new Gypsum biomass plant, the first of its kind in Colorado. The biomass plant will produce 11.5 megawatts of electricity per year by burning dead timber collected mostly from the White River National Forest. That main fuel source will be supplemented by other sources, such as wood construction waste that normally goes to the landfill.
Several of the commissioners took the opportunity to thank Schwartz for her continuous support of many Pitkin County concerns during the past eight years.
“You’ve always been there for us,” Commissioner Rachel Richards said. “You’re an example for all of us.”
Schwartz said having a professional and personal relationship with the commissioners has made working with them easier.
“I find these commissioners to be assets and friends,” Schwartz said. “Our commissioners are very significant to policy moving forward. The level of engagement that our county has in shaping their legislative priorities and policies is so important. It also gives me a better understanding to what their needs are so I can be responsive.”