Sen. Donovan in Aspen: Upcoming session will be ‘interesting’
Fair broadband access, championing small, affordable homes and possibly changing the rules to allow Colorado hunters to wear pink.
Those are some of state Sen. Kerry Donovan’s priorities for the upcoming legislative session in Denver in January, which she detailed for about 11 constituents who showed up Thursday night at a town hall meeting at the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies facility behind the Aspen post office.
Beyond those issues, Donovan said the session will likely be dominated by the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, otherwise known as TABOR, which limits tax-revenue growth, requires refunds when limits are hit and forces the state to be “stuck in 1992.”
Every bill will include a TABOR discussion, and legislative leaders have warned lawmakers that it doesn’t matter if a bill is slated to cost $10 or $10 million, don’t expect it to pass unless it has an alternative funding source, she said. That’s because there’s a potential budget deficit and oil and gas prices are going down.
“It’s going to be an interesting year,” Donovan said.
Beyond that, Donovan said she’s looking at making it easier to own “tiny homes,” houses generally less than 600 square feet that some communities have outlawed because of density concerns, she said. Such homes have been put forth as affordable-housing solutions, and Donovan said she’s interested in trying to make them more available.
Donovan, a Vail Democrat whose district includes Aspen, Crested Butte, Vail, Leadville, Buena Vista, the San Luis Valley and Delta County, also brought up equal access to broadband as an issue she’d like to champion. Pitkin County voters by a large margin voted earlier this week to opt out of a state law that made it illegal for government entities to supply broadband access.
Donovan said “20-plus” other communities did the same.
“I take that as a lot of communities are not happy with their broadband access,” she said. “We’ve got to have some equality on broadband access.”
Donovan said she spoke with Pitkin County commissioners Thursday about ways to provide that equality.
Another issue she brought up that has been mentioned lately at county commissioner meetings is the movement to turn over federal lands in Colorado to state control. In order for the state to manage those lands, some would have to be sold off or leased to pay for managing the more popular areas, Donovan said.
Seventy percent of Coloradans believe the federal government should continue to manage those lands, she said.
“I’m going to try to do something more proactive,” Donovan said. “These ongoing discussions are not appropriate for Colorado.”
Donovan also said she wants to look into providing a tax credit for middle-class families who haven’t seen much in the way of recovery from the recession, especially those who support elderly parents.
“It’s trouble to talk about the tax code,” she said. “But I’d like to give them a little relief.”
Finally, another issue Donovan might bring to the table is the state law that requires hunters to wear only “bright, blaze orange” while hunting in order to be seen, especially at dawn and dusk.
“I want to wear bright, blaze pink,” Donovan said.
She said the only growth in the number of hunters today is with women, who might rather don pink than orange.
“I’d rather wear pink than orange,” she said.
“Can men wear pink?” someone in the audience asked.
“Yes,” Donovan said. “We’re Colorado, and we’re OK with that.”
The next legislative session is set to start Jan. 13.
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If approved by the voters, about $5.5 million raised through taxes and bonds could be used to fund the Glenwood Springs airport runway tunnel, and approximately $7 million could go to airport improvements, such as a new FBO, hangars, a fuel farm, perimeter fencing, taxiway lighting and seal coating for the runway every five years for the next 20.