Steamboat Springs As the Colorado Legislature gets rolling on the 2003 session, Routt County can take comfort in the knowledge that its representatives are in excellent position to influence legislation and protect this area's interests.
Republicans Jack Taylor and Al White have each secured key leadership posts for the session, which got under way a week ago. Taylor is chairing the Senate Business, Labor and Finance Committee and the Legislative Audit Committee. He is also vice chairman of the Agriculture, Natural Resources and Energy Committee.
White has been named assistant House majority leader. He also serves as vice chairman of the Business Affairs and Labor Committee and as a member of the Education Committee and the Legislative Council.
The Front Range of Colorado accounts for 80 percent of the state's population spread across just 11 counties. By comparison, the Western Slope accounts for 11 percent of the state's population spread across 23 counties. As a result, when it comes to issues where the Front Range and Western Slope have differing interests, the Front Range has a distinct advantage.
One of the best ways for Western Slope legislators to balance that advantage is through key committee assignments and chairmanships. Clearly, Taylor and White have done that.
After a year of raging wildfires and a prolonged drought, water rights and conservation are expected to be among the most contentiously debated issues during the session. As vice chairman of the Agriculture, Natural Resources and Energy Committee, Taylor is in position to protect the Western Slope's interests in this regard.
There are numerous other critical issues facing the Legislature, including tourism spending, education, auto insurance rates and health-care costs.
From his position as Finance Committee chairman, Taylor will have the opportunity to influence the proposed overhaul of the state's auto insurance regulations, affect changes that could benefit small businesses when it comes to health-care coverage and other important business issues. White will carry similar influence in the House.
Both Taylor and White have proposed legislation to bolster state funding for tourism, which could have a direct impact on the Steamboat economy.
Education funding and testing standards also are pressing issues and White, as he did last year when he carried legislation allowing teachers in high cost of living areas to get pay raises, will again play an important role as a member of the House Education Committee.
White's appointment as assistant House majority leader in only his second term demonstrates how well respected he is within his party. That gives him added influence on all legislation in the House.
The most successful politicians are those who are able to seize leadership opportunities and wield influence on behalf of their constituents. Taylor and White are in position to do that in Denver over the next four months.