To state Rep. Al White, the size of the crowd at Saturday's public forum was misleading.
"I was feeling pretty good about the turnout today, but take the naturopaths out of here, and I'd be thanking the three of you who came this morning," White said to the more than 30 people who attended a Centennial Hall event that also featured state Sen. Jack Taylor.
White, a Winter Park Republican who represents Steam--boat Springs' House District 57, was exaggerating the number of people who attended in support of naturopathic medicine. But the group of about 10 was the largest contingent at the forum, where, for 90 minutes, local residents spoke with their legislators about issues including tourism funding, severance taxes and property rights.
The naturopathic group -- some wearing T-shirts that said "Naturopathic medicine treats the whole person" -- asked White and Taylor to introduce legislation that would create a statewide licensing procedure for naturopathic practitioners, which Colorado does not have.
Melanie Dailey, an owner of Rocky Mountain Integrative Health Management LLC on Lincoln Avenue, said the practice received a letter Monday from the office of state Attorney General John Suthers ordering the practice to close. The decision came after a complaint stating that the practice has diagnosed medical conditions and provided treatments without a license.
Dailey said Rocky Mountain Integrative Health works with about 1,000 local patients and has canceled all future appointments. Dailey said the complaint does not refer to or imply harm done to any patients.
At Saturday's forum, Steam--boat resident and health food store owner Linda Carlton read a statement in support of licensing for naturopathic practitioners.
"Licensing would offer the public the greatest level of protection," she said.
Sandy Fisher, who also spoke in support of licensing, said to White that legislation regulating the naturopathic industry could be proposed in 2007 with support from the state Department of Regulatory Affairs.
Selling the state
In many ways, Taylor and White are similar. Both are Republicans who represent Routt County; both wore dark blazers, blue shirts, dark jeans and cowboy boots at Saturday's forum; and as members of the state's tourism board, both are avid supporters of promoting Colorado nationally and overseas.
House Bill 1201, which White and Taylor are sponsoring along with Rep. Tom Plant, D-Nederland and Sen. Jim Isgar, D-Hesperus, would inject $21 million into the state's tourism marketing budget next year, White said.
He said those funds would boost Colorado's economy by bringing more than $200 million and more than 30,000 jobs to the state.
"We do have an obligation to run our state like a business," said White, who, in fairness, wore brown cowboy boots Saturday, and Taylor's were black. "We get so busy down there (in Denver) trying to spend money, we forget how to make money for the state."
Routt County resident Buck Buckland expressed concerns Saturday that Steamboat already has plenty of tourism -- so much so that it often can be hard to get through town in the winter.
"(Tourism spending) supports your business people, but it doesn't necessarily help the residents and the normal working people here in Steamboat and Routt County," Buckland said.
Taylor, a longtime Steamboat resident, said that although he has felt the effects of traffic, well-managed tourism -- especially from people who fly in, spend money, then fly out -- is a boon to the community.
"I think we all have benefited from the tourism industry here in Steamboat and in Colorado," Taylor said, citing new businesses and increasing sales tax dollars.
In his introductory comments Saturday, Taylor spoke about an issue that is not yet before the Legislature, but that he said is on the horizon: how to spend revenue from severance taxes on coal, oil and gas extraction.
Begun in 1977, he said, Colorado's severance-tax program places a tax on extraction of minerals, oil or gas from the ground. The original intent was and is to use at least half of the revenues generated by the tax in the area where the extraction occurred, Taylor said.
As a result, coal mines in Routt County and oil and gas explorations in Moffat County are huge property tax contributors to those counties, Taylor said.
But that could be changing.
"Other people are starting to realize that that fund is going to get a lot bigger," Taylor said, citing the boom in oil and gas drilling in Western Colorado. "That's what they're going after, and that will affect us right here in Routt County, on our roads."
As for who "they" are, Taylor said Barbara Kirkmeyer, acting executive director of the state Department of Local Affairs, has been involved in preliminary discussions about changing the spending formula for severance taxes. "It would be a substantial amount of money," Taylor said.
Land is your land -- maybe
A popular phrase around the Capitol this session has been "eminent domain," after a Connecticut court case in which a municipality was allowed to seize private property from its owner to boost the town's economy.
The city of Lakewood, White said, has deemed every home and business along more than four miles of West Colfax Avenue "blighted," and prime for redevelopment.
"They want to develop for the light rail that's coming in there," White said, adding that he opposes such a measure as a violation of personal property rights.
City Council member Paul Strong said he did not want the city of Steamboat, which is planning to redevelop the base area at Steamboat Ski Area with an Urban Renewal Authority, to be compared to a Lakewood situation regarding eminent domain issues.
"(The authority) does not have the ability to condemn," Strong said. "Our concern is that the eminent domain issue is clouding the use of urban renewal authorities."
Property rights also were discussed Saturday in the context of oil and gas exploration. Steamboat resident Margaret Berglund expressed concerns about House Bill 1185, which would compensate landowners for damage incurred during oil and gas drilling on their land. Landowners such as ranchers often have "surface rights" to their land but do not own the minerals underground. Drilling can drastically reduce property values, and Berglund said that after heavy amendments in the House of Representatives, HB 1185 -- sponsored by Rep. Kathleen Curry, D-Gunnison -- is "a step backward" for landowners.
"I do believe this (bill) is better than nothing," White said. "I would rather see this bill pass than see it die altogether."
Taylor will see the bill when it comes to the Senate, and Berglund appealed to the senator.
"A lot of these people are retirees, living on family ranches, who are losing their life savings," she said. "I would encourage you to listen to the needs of your constituents."