A thanks to legislators who listen | AspenTimes.com

A thanks to legislators who listen

Some politicians listen to their constituents and, sadly, some don’t. But we feel it’s worth a mention when two Republican state senators cross party lines to cast votes more in keeping with their constituents’ wishes than with their own philosophies.

Such was the case last week, when Sens. Lewis Entz and Jack Taylor, both Republicans, helped defeat a bill that could have done huge damage to local affordable housing programs in Aspen and other resort towns. Both lawmakers joined Democrats in voting against Senate Bill 154, which would have prohibited governments from forcing developers to sell units at below-market prices. The bill died on a 20-15 vote in the Senate.

The Aspen-Pitkin County affordable housing program is the only reason many middle-class Aspenites have been able to stay in town, and over the years has become an almost integral part of local life.

But conservatives around the state and in the valley say government doesn’t belong in the housing business. They philosophically oppose the programs because of the burdens they place on taxpayers and developers.

For all of these reasons, it is significant when two Republican legislators break ranks to heed a call from constituents who support such programs.

Both men said they heard a chorus of opposition to SB 154 from Pitkin County, the town of Crested Butte, the town of Telluride and other places where real estate values are an obstacle to all but the wealthiest citizens.

Taylor said after the vote that the bill would have damaged much-needed affordable housing efforts in Steamboat and other resort towns that he represents. Having been personally involved in housing efforts, Taylor has a clear understanding of the problems faced by resort towns.

Entz, on the other hand, is a farmer from a tiny town in the San Luis Valley, hundreds of miles from Aspen. He was admittedly puzzled after the redistricting process placed the vacation-home mecca of Pitkin County in his district, but he has done an admirable job of listening to his new constituents and representing their interests.

“I’ve always represented people, regardless of their affiliation,” he said, and he appears to mean it.

Residents of the upper Roaring Fork Valley owe a “thank you” to Sens. Lewis Entz of Hooper and Jack Taylor of Steamboat Springs. Senate Majority Leader Norma Andersen of Lakewood also voted against the bill.

Gregg Rippy, a Glenwood Springs Republican, also has his differences of opinion with Aspenites. But he, too, has shown a willingness to listen and respond, as shown by his House Bill 1320. Prompted in part by last summer’s drought, which practically dried up the Roaring Fork River through Aspen, Rippy’s bill would allow water users to temporarily cease their diversions and return water to streams without losing their water rights.

Another Rippy bill makes us nervous, however. In an attempt to protect builders from lawsuits over construction defects and to lower their insurance premiums, Rippy may, in fact, take away homeowners’ right to collect damages for faulty building. This is a deservedly controversial bill. It gives us pause that lawyers are leading the opposition, but we believe HB 1161 should be defeated.

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