Guest commentary: Halfway home in Denver

Dylan Roberts
Guest commentary

The legislative session is at its halfway point and there is much to report. At the Capitol, we are crafting legislation to build back a stronger Colorado, driving economic recovery with an ambitious stimulus plan; and several of my own bills are part of that stimulus. Optimism, while hard to come by in the past year, is now well warranted.

Recovery starts with Colorado’s $800 million economic stimulus plan. The plan will rebuild the state’s infrastructure and provide substantial investments to rural Colorado. The plan will support the recovery of small businesses, build affordable housing developments, train new workforces, treat mental health, and support child care, schools and students.

One of my bills, HB21-1263, the Meeting & Events Incentive Program, is a part of the stimulus plan and will promote the return of in-person events to Colorado. The bill will be particularly impactful for rural Colorado, especially mountain towns that heavily rely on a tourism and travel economy. The bill creates the Colorado meeting and events incentive program to provide rebates and direct support to eligible events across the state that produce at least 25 overnight hotel stays. Event companies, artists, performers and many ancillary businesses will benefit from this stimulus bill.

The new state budget also will help Colorado return to pre-pandemic levels of state spending on vital services. Importantly, education funding is being completely restored after cuts were made to K-12 and higher education in response to budget shortfalls last year.

Economic recovery is underway in Colorado, and my colleagues and I also are working to improve the quality of life in our state, including improvements to health and well-being.

Colorado’s mountain communities have some of the highest health insurance premium costs and as a result, some of the highest rates of uninsured residents in our state — an unacceptable statistic, particularly in the time of a pandemic. My bill with Sen. Kerry Donovan to create the Colorado Health Insurance Option will lower premiums on the individual and small group markets by 20% and guarantee that a new quality and affordable plan is offered in every county on both the individual and small group markets. By working together with the health care industry, small businesses and consumers, who have been instrumental in developing this plan, health care will become more affordable, health outcomes will improve, and we can build a healthier Colorado.

Earlier in the session, I introduced HB21-1027, which extended the popular “to-go” alcohol bill that passed last year. During the pandemic, restaurants have dealt with incredible uncertainty, extending their ability to sell delivery and takeout alcohol will give them a reliable revenue stream. This bill is well on its way to becoming a law.

Another success for Colorado was the passing of SB21-012, a bill I sponsored with Sen. Donovan that makes individuals who were trained in wildland firefighting while incarcerated eligible for employment as wildland firefighters upon their release from prison. By allowing formerly incarcerated individuals to become state firefighters, we will lower recidivism, offer a path back into our communities and protect our state from wildfires.

This is just a snapshot of the flurry of activity at the State Capitol as we turn the corner to the second half of the 2021 legislative session. As always, I invite you to contact me any time with questions or feedback at or on my cell: 970-846-3054.

Rep. Dylan Roberts (Eagle and Routt counties) represents the Roaring Fork Valley in the Colorado House of Representatives.