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Legislative session reaches its end

By midnight on Wednesday of this week, the legislative session will be concluded.

Bills not passed by that time will have to wait another year.

Whether we’ll have reached agreement on a common redistricting map remains to be seen and, if we don’t reach that goal by Wednesday, it’s still possible the governor could call the Legislature into a special session this summer to get the job done.

I mentioned last week that the two parties’ maps were so different that I doubted we’d find that common ground in the short time remaining. In the meantime, maps are being redrawn and, thankfully, the Western Slope appears to have been pieced back together in both of them.

However, there isn’t yet a common map maintaining the rural Eastern Plains as a “community of interest” and legislators from that region remain deeply troubled for the same reason I objected to the Western Slope being carved up.

In a state like Colorado, where the population centers are greatly concentrated in a relatively few urban centers, those in outlying areas like the Western Slope and Eastern Plains live with much different concerns, issues and values than that of the urban corridor we call the Front Range.

Insisting on keeping these rural regions whole isn’t about being parochial or standoffish. The historical use of a “communities of interest” standard in setting congressional boundaries is important for the necessary wisdom and advocacy that an elected representative must have to be effective and to truly reflect his or her congressional district. If this matter goes to a judge to sort out, I hope this critical standard is applied.

Each year as the Legislature adjourns from its frantic 120-day session, the people in the Capitol who work there year round must have a deep sense of relief as we head back out to our respective communities around the state. After five years of serving and having now experienced both the House and Senate chambers, I don’t blame them as we need the space from each other, too!

Despite the inevitable pressure cooker that is the General Assembly, each legislator has the opportunity to go home now knowing more about the state as a whole because of having spent this time with our colleagues from around the state. After each session, I’m better educated as to the issues facing these Coloradans and, hopefully, they know more about the challenges in southwest Colorado.

I’ve enjoyed getting to know my fellow Senators and we’ll continue to work on committees and attend meetings during the interim as we experience more directly what we discussed during the session.

Next January, we’ll be back at it in what will likely be another difficult budget year. But, in the meantime, I know I’ll enjoy being with my family and friends in the best region of the state. These columns will now change to being written once a month rather than weekly as during the session, but I’m only a phone call or e-mail away.

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