Pitco consults lobbyist about state Legislature
The Pitkin County commissioners received a lesson in realpolitik yesterday when a Denver lobbyist advised the board on how to deal with the state government.Danny Tomlinson, a professional lobbyist of 29 years, was hired by the commissioners this spring to help defeat Senate Bill 215 – legislation the commissioners felt would gut local land-use controls.The bill was sponsored by state Sen. Lou Entz, whose district encompasses Pitkin County. Entz backed the bill after intense lobbying from local landowner Peter Droste, who claimed the county was infringing on his right to develop property in the Brush Creek Valley.Ultimately, Entz let the bill die, but hinted similar legislation would come forth when lawmakers reconvene in their next session.Yesterday, Tomlinson advised commissioners on how they can be more active in state politics. Lawmakers consider more than 900 bills in less than 90 days of the legislative session, he explained. With big issues such as the state budget garnering much of their attention, legislators often make snap decisions about other matters.”We have to consider what kind of relationships we do not have,” Tomlinson said. “Establishing long-term relationships with [lawmakers] is so important. They might have two minutes to give when in session. They need to be able to trust you, to know what you are about, that you aren’t evil people with horns growing out of your head.”Tomlinson encouraged the commissioners to make trips this summer to meet and lobby state lawmakers, particularly Entz, who met last week with commissioners. He was in town for a Colorado Counties Inc. gathering in Snowmass Village. Tomlinson also suggested the county prepare and distribute one-page fact sheets that boil down the commissioners’ position on issues before the Legislature.Some commissioners expressed dismay over the internal politics of the Legislature, calling it unethical that many lawmakers vote on a bill without public discussion.”I find it so frustrating that we have to reduce 30 years of history onto a single-page handout because the people in Denver, like our current president, don’t like to read,” Commissioner Dorothea Farris complained.That’s why making contact with lawmakers when they are not in session offers greater opportunity to convey the nuances of the commissioners’ positions, Tomlinson said.The county will likely extend its contract with Tomlinson during the next legislative session, especially if a new iteration of Senate Bill 215 emerges.”I’d love to say we won’t need you on 215 next year, but that probably won’t be the case,” Farris said.Eben Harrell’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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