STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — State Rep. Dylan Roberts, a Democrat who represents Routt and Eagle counties, spoke about healthcare, education and other issues during a Routt County town hall Sunday.
Roberts and Republican State Sen. Bob Rankin were slated to host a joint town hall, but Rankin was not among the 40 people who attended the event at Bud Werner Memorial Library’s Library Hall.
“He wanted to be here, and he agreed that we’ll do another (town hall) as soon as he can make it work for his schedule,” Roberts said.
Roberts opened with a review of bills he’s involved in that are currently under consideration in committee and the legislature. With Democratic control of the House, Senate and Governor’s seat, Roberts said Democratic lawmakers have to be sure the bills they put forward are the best they can be.
“With that sort of trifecta as people call it, of Democrats controlling all three, comes with a lot more responsibility,” Roberts said. “Because there’s a good chance if you introduce a bill when you’re a Democrat, it’s going to become a law, so you need to make sure it’s written as perfectly and as well as it can be.”
Recommended Stories For You
House Bill 1030 would prohibit a person in a position of trust from describing explicit sexual conduct in electronic communications.
The law stems from a Moffat County court case last year, in which a former high school teacher and baseball coach was acquitted on 10 felony counts of sexual exploitation of a child. The man was accused of sexting a 14- to 15-year-old student and eliciting nude photos from the girl.
Though the jury received 30 pages of screenshots of explicit texts to the girl, there was no direct evidence of sexually explicit images or videos. No law on the books in Colorado forbids an adult from sending explicit texts to a minor.
Roberts said there is some hesitancy from representatives “further left” than he is who are skeptical of bills that would create more crimes, as “jails and prisons are near capacity.”
“I think we’re going to get it through,” he said. “It might not be as strong as we had hoped, but we’re going to get something through to prevent any sort of future crimes like this.”
Establishing a public health insurance option
This bill would create a public health insurance option in the state. Roberts said across the state, but particularly on the Western Slope, insurance providers have no or very little competition on the individual market.
“That drives the cost,” he said. “It’s literally a monopoly in 14 counties. Adding a public, state-backed option would give people a choice and hopefully lower prices of both the public option and the private option.”
The proposal would not raise taxes or require people to select the public option, he added.
The bill is co-sponsored by Montrose Republican Marc Catlin and Vail Democrat Kerry Donovan.
Allowing pharmacists to dispense maintenance drugs without prescription in emergencies
House Bill 1077 would allow pharmacists to dispense emergency supplies of chronic maintenance drugs, such as those used to treat high blood pressure, heart disease, asthma and diabetes.
“This is called Kevin’s Law in a lot of other states,” Roberts said. “This is after a young man named Kevin Houdeshell who died because he couldn’t get access to insulin. It was over the holidays. His prescription ran out, and he could not get in touch with his doctor. When he went to a pharmacist, they couldn’t give him insulin because he didn’t have a prescription.”
The bill has passed in the House and is set to go before the Senate Health and Human Services Committee later this month.
Audience question and answer
After an overview of upcoming legislation, Roberts took questions from the audience.
Questions have been edited for clarity.
After your diabetes drug pricing transparency bill failed last year, do you have plans to reintroduce a similar bill?
“I am working on a bill surrounding insulin,” he said. “There is going to be a larger effort for all types of prescription drug price transparency that would mandate that type of transparency on the most used and expensive drugs.”
He said his bill might go further and attempt to lower the cost of insulin.
What is the legislature considering in regards to the Gallagher Amendment?
Gallagher, passed by voters in 1982, is an amendment to the Colorado Constitution that set a ratio for property taxes paid statewide. It mandates that commercial property owners pay 55 percent of property taxes in the state and residential property owners pay 45 percent.
The amendment set a fixed assessment rate of 29 percent for commercial property, while the residential property tax rate is regularly adjusted to maintain the 45 to 55 ratio. The measure was intended to combat rising residential property taxes, but it had unintended consequences, especially in rural counties, by shrinking property tax revenue.
Roberts said the legislature is considering two solutions: a full repeal of the amendment or temporarily freezing the assessment rate to give the legislature time to find solutions.
“There’s a big appetite to get something done about Gallagher on both sides of the aisle,” he said.
Considering the Steamboat Springs School District has already funded full-day kindergarten, how will Gov. Jared Polis’s plan to fund full-day kindergarten statewide impact us?
Roberts said he has been in communication with Steamboat Superintendent Brad Meeks, and Meeks is in touch with the Governor’s education advisor.
“I think there is a willingness, because it wouldn’t be that large of an impact to the plan, to allow Steamboat to maybe use the money they would’ve gotten from the plan for other things to provide other benefits,” he said.
Are there bills or discussion about funding for rural broadband?
Roberts said there are more broadband bills pending.
A bill last year phases in funding for rural broadband. Roberts said upcoming technical bills will help get that connection to the last mile and require that broadband providers send data over the network without discriminating in favor of specific sites or services, called net neutrality.
What about the electric grid?
“There’s going to be a couple bills I’ve heard that are coming on electrical storage to allow more renewable storage to make that easier and more realistic, so we can have more renewable energy,” he said.