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Balanced budget, but no redistricting map

The first session of the 68th General Assembly of the State of Colorado is officially over.

The Colorado House of Representatives adjourned a little before 10 p.m. on Wednesday, May 11.

I learned much in the past 120 days. The session was much like I expected, except for a few things. I was very surprised and impressed by the wonderful staff that helps each legislator as they research and write bills that will be introduced. The Legislative Council staff coordinates committees and advises us, when asked, on the process, guiding us to the end result. The Legislative Legal Council is a group of attorneys who write our bills and amendments. These folks are nonpartisan, and one may work with both a Republican and Democrat legislator on the same bill, each having opposing ideologies, and will not say one word to one legislator about the other.

It was also great to get to know other House members — both Democrat and Republican. There was not one whom I disliked. They are all very bright and committed to the State of Colorado. Differences in philosophy and principles, yes, but all dedicated to our state.

My biggest disappointment was that we did not agree on a Congressional redistricting map. I was glad that the last map presented by the Democrats did keep the Western Slope whole as a community of interest. However, it split the Eastern Plains in half and compromise was not to be found. Now the courts will decide. I believe there is judicial and legislative precedent to keep both the West Slope and the Eastern Plains whole. My House Bill 1276, which would direct the courts to keep these two rural areas whole, did pass the House, and I hope it will help to give some direction to the courts. Time will tell.

The biggest accomplishment in the session was that we balanced the budget without raising taxes or fees. This is a good sign for prospective business in Colorado. It is one step in our being more business friendly. Next year will also be a tough year to balance the budget. We must remember that the federal government will be cutting its budget also, and the once abundant federal grants may be much harder to get. State and local governments will have to be more efficient and may have to cut back on services. We need to prepare.

In the interim, among other things, I will be working to come up with a plan to lower health care costs. I would like to put a group of professionals together from the health care industry and the health insurance industry and look at ways that government can get out of the way and let both intertwined industries be more competitive and efficient. There may be unneeded regulation that discourages or impedes competition. We know that there is a huge shortage of doctors and nurses. Colorado has one of the best medical schools in the nation. How can we produce more doctors? This and many more questions must be answered.

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