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Water resolution advances out of committee

The interim water resources review committee has wrapped up its scheduled meetings and has designated certain bills presented to it as being committee approved.

Any legislator can carry a bill relating to water policy outside of those approved by the committee, but the value of having the committee’s approval at the start of the next session is that the subject matter of the bill has already been discussed and debated, with a supermajority of committee members voting to advance the idea on to the full Legislature in January.

My being a member of the water committee was valuable for hearing the current water issues and concerns as presented by experts on various topics affecting our state water policies. I’m pleased to report that a resolution that I presented to the committee which restates and reinforces the need to respect existing law regarding adequate funding to support Colorado’s water infrastructure passed by a wide margin and will be introduced as a committee resolution this winter.

Too often, the funds for water infrastructure have been shifted to other uses in the budget and, like the energy impact funds for local communities, the Legislature needs to apply the necessary fiscal discipline and foresight to use the funding for its original purposes. To do otherwise is another unfortunate example of robbing Peter to pay Paul.

Another committee I’m on provides oversight to the development of a Colorado health benefits exchange. We met over the summer and may meet again in December. This committee has had a bumpier ride than the water committee in that the challenge is creating an exchange that fits Colorado and is deemed acceptable by the federal government.

The benefits exchange is intended to be an easy-to-access online marketplace for consumers to shop for health insurance. It’s a part of the federal healthcare legislation that is to be put in place by the states or the federal government will supply the template to be used in those states who don’t develop their own.

I didn’t support the Colorado bill that begins the process of setting up the exchange, but I’ve agreed to serve on the legislative oversight committee and will be as constructive as possible in that role. It’s important that the exchange meet the needs of Colorado’s individuals and businesses while helping to contain costs in our current healthcare system.

It’s also important that the state retain as much authority and discretion over the formation and operation of the health benefits exchange despite the overwhelming number of complex federal rules that threaten the bill sponsors’ goal of creating a Colorado exchange. The committee’s work will continue into next year.

My final bit of news for this month’s column is that I’ll be in South Africa for much of November as part of a small team of American state legislators asked by South African legislators to help them deal with problems of governmental corruption that seriously hinder the productivity and stability of their nation.

Our work there will focus on our states’ practices in the areas of promoting governmental ethics, transparency, oversight and anti-corruption. It’s a daunting task, but I’m excited to have been asked to join the team and I look forward to learning about the government, people and culture of South Africa while there.

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