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Donovan declared ‘big winner’ in 2018 Colorado legislative session

Newcomer Roberts also enjoyed productive debut

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May 23, 2018, 11:42 am

State Sen. Kerry Donovan, D-Vail, did some good work this past state legislative session despite a tough working environment for women. RealVail.com kicked off the session back in January talking to Donovan about the swirling maelstrom of sexual-harassment allegations in the Republican-controlled Senate.

And after the session ended earlier this month, the left-leaning political site Colorado Pols called Donovan one of the session’s “big winners” for her work on a pair of broadband bills:

Kerry Donovan

State Sen. Kerry Donovan, D-Vail, at the first day of the 2018 session of the Colorado Legislature in January (Bente Birkeland/Capitol Coverage).

“Sen. Kerry Donovan:The first-term Senator represents one of Colorado’s largest (geographically-speaking) and most diverse districts in SD-5, and she delivered for rural Colorado in a big way in 2018. Donovan was a driving force behind two measures that will build out high-speed, broadband Internet service in some of the state’s most hard-to-reach areas, giving voters good reason to approve her re-election bid this fall.”

Donovan, a former Vail Town Council member, has to work with lawmakers like disgraced Republican state Sen. Randy Baumgardner, whose list of transgressions is lengthy and troubling (as detailed previously by RealVail.com).

But it’s not like all of this backlash against offensive behavior hasn’t been coming for quite some time. Republican Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg called Donovan”eye candy” during a committee hearing in 2016, so she must be used to the Senate’s good-old-boy atmosphere by now. Too bad that’s the norm as things currently stand.

Meanwhile, on the Democrat-controlled state House side, RealVail.com would like to add newby state Rep. Dylan Roberts to the list of “big winners” this past session. Selected to replace Steamboat Democrat Diane Mitsch Bush (who stepped down to take on Republican Scott Tipton for U.S. Congress), Roberts saw six of his 12 bills signed into law by the governor.

The bills he didn’t get through would have helped us on the health-insurance front on the Western Slope, and his seemingly common-sense mining reclamation bill also was killed in the Senate.

For a deep dive on that bill and mining-waste regulations in general under the Trump administration’s EPA — including the Eagle Mine near Minturn and the complex of mines near Silvertorn — check out RealVail.com’s cover story for Colorado Politics.

And here’s a legislative wrap-up story RealVail.com produced for the Vail Daily on May 15:

Roberts, Donovan lament the bills that go away this past session

Last week saw the conclusion of one of the most tumultuous Colorado legislative sessions since the fierce gun-control debates of 2013, but both local state lawmakers say this session will likely be remembered more for the laws that didn’t pass than the ones that did.

State Rep. Dylan Roberts, D-Eagle

State Rep. Dylan Roberts, D-Eagle

Particularly disappointing for first-year state Rep. Dylan Roberts, D-Eagle, was the failure of HB-1384, a bipartisan healthcare-cost study proposal that passed out of the Democrat-controlled House but died in committee in the GOP-controlled Senate. It would have spent $360,000 looking at three possible ways the state can increase health-insurance competition in rural areas.

“The bill was a small, cost-effective, but crucial step to find long-term solutions to rising health insurances costs, which is the top issue for almost all of our constituents,” Roberts said. “The status quo is unacceptable, and even though the Senate defeated several efforts to alleviate this burden for Coloradans, I will continue to work hard on this issue.”

Roberts, appointed in October to fill Diane Mitsch Bush’s seat after she resigned to run against Republican Scott Tipton for U.S. Congress, must now take his record to the voters of Routt and Eagle counties in House District 26 as he runs for election for the first time in November. Roberts was the lead sponsor on 12 bills this session, and six did make it to the governor. He is being challenged by Republican John Rosenfeld, according to the secretary of state’s office.

State Sen. Kerry Donovan, D-Vail, who sponsored HB-1384 in that chamber, said its failure, along with Senate rejection of other proposals aimed a drug-cost transparency and lowering runaway Western Slope insurance rates, underscores the scope of the problem in mountain communities.

“This does point out that the individual market is still not working in our part of Colorado,” Donovan said. “Colorado is going to have to solve this problem for Colorado, and the only way to do that is to start looking at how the state offers some different insurance options, because the market isn’t working and what we’re getting from D.C. isn’t working, so time for us to fix it.”

Premiums on the individual market – for people not covered by Medicaid or insured by their employer – has risen 72 percent over the past three years in Eagle, Summit, Pitkin and Garfield counties. HB 1392 – another Roberts-Donovan bill focused on reinsurance to subsidize people making too much for Obamacare subsidies but not enough to afford runaway rates, also died in Senate committee.

“It was just the individual market [skyrocketing] and now we’re starting to see small-group plans kind of creep up in cost and that’s going to impact more people,” Donovan said. “People have to have access to healthcare that doesn’t bankrupt them. That’s just a fundamental aspect of life.”

Donovan, who is running for re-election this November in her sprawling Senate District 5, which includes Eagle and six other counties, said she expects the rising costs of healthcare will be a top campaign issue on the Western Slope this summer and fall. She’s being challenged by former Delta County Commissioner Olen Lund of Paonia on the Republican side.

But another big campaign-trail topic will be climate change, Donovan said, adding that she ran two climate bills that both died in the Senate – a chamber Republicans control by a scant 18-17 margin.

“As soon as you say climate change in this building, the Republican Party is against it, which is really unfortunate,” said Donovan, who added that the combination of drought and rising temperatures is impacting both the agriculture and recreation industries in her district.

“It’s not along party lines in my district,” Donovan said. “People are saying climate change is happening and we need to do something about it. It’s people who live and work in the environment and know that it’s being impacted. People are really frustrated with partisanship – particularly when it’s an issue that isn’t partisan in the community.”

One positive for both lawmakers was a bipartisan compromise on transportation that will inject some badly needed money into roads and transit infrastructure, although both parties agree it’s still not enough and voters could be asked to approve more spending this fall.

“I am very pleased with the compromise we reached on transportation in SB1,” Roberts said. “It will be the largest investment in transportation in over 20 years and one our state sorely needs. It is an immediate infusion of funding that CDOT needs, as well as creates the infrastructure for responsible funding for the next 20 years.”

From the very beginning of the session in January, allegations of harassment and sexual misconduct roiled both the House and Senate. The House expelled former Democratic Rep. Steve Lebsock, while critics said the Senate dragged its feet on charges leveled at several lawmakers, including Western Slope Republican Randy Baumgardner, R-Hot Sulphur Springs.

“I’m very proud of the leadership the House of Representatives showed in our handling of the harassment and retaliation allegations of one of our members,” said Roberts, a deputy district attorney in his day job. “We conducted a professional and thorough investigation and gave Rep. Lebsock a full and fair hearing on what was a workplace matter, not a criminal trial.”

Donovan who led on the topic from the first week of the session, noted that Baumgardner was stripped of his chairmanship of the transportation committee, his vice chairmanship of the agriculture committee and removed from all the interim committees that travel the state between sessions.

“In comparison to what’s been done, I don’t think it’s enough, but it’s the strongest reply that they’ve had so far,” Donovan said of Senate GOP leadership. “It does impact him.”

Donovan will be celebrating Colorado Public Lands Day (a law she passed last year) with a cleanup session at the Gore trailhead in Vail from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday. RSVP via her Facebook page. Roberts will be celebrating the day participating in a hike into the Spraddle Creek area of Vail that’s proposed as a wilderness area addition in the Continental Divide Wilderness, Recreation and Camp Hale Legacy Act. Click here for more information.

 

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David O. Williams

Managing Editor at RealVail
David O. Williams is an award-winning freelance reporter based in the Vail Valley of Colorado, writing on health care, immigration, politics, the environment, energy, public lands, outdoor recreation and sports. His work has appeared in 5280 Magazine, American Way Magazine (American Airlines), the Anchorage Daily News (Alaska), Aspen Daily News, the Aspen Times, Beaver Creek Magazine, the Chicago Tribune, the Colorado Independent, Colorado Politics (formerly the Colorado Statesman), Colorado Public News, the Colorado Springs Gazette, the Colorado Independent (formerly Colorado Confidential), the Colorado Springs Independent, the Colorado Statesman (now Colorado Politics), the Daily Trail (Vail), the Denver Daily News, the Denver Post, the Durango Herald, the Eagle Valley Enterprise, the Eastside Journal (Bellevue, Washington), ESPN.com, the Glenwood Springs Post-Independent, the Greeley Tribune, the Huffington Post, the King County Journal (Seattle, Washington), KUNC.org (northern Colorado), LA Weekly, the London Daily Mirror, the Montgomery Journal (Maryland), The New York Times, the Parent’s Handbook, Peaks Magazine (now Epic Life), People Magazine, Powder Magazine, the Pueblo Chieftain, PT Magazine, Rocky Mountain Golf Magazine, the Rocky Mountain News, Atlantic Media's RouteFifty.com (formerly Government Executive State and Local), SKI Magazine, Ski Area Management, SKIING Magazine, the Summit Daily News, United Hemispheres (United Airlines), Vail/Beaver Creek Magazine, Vail en Español, Vail Valley Magazine, the Vail Daily, the Vail Trail and Westword (Denver). Williams is also the founder, publisher and editor of RealVail.com and RockyMountainPost.com.

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