State Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush holds a town hall Sunday at Bud Werner Memorial Library

Photo by Scott Franz

State Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush holds a town hall Sunday at Bud Werner Memorial Library

State Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush holds first town hall with Routt County constituents

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Diane Mitsch Bush

— There was no shortage of hot topics to discuss Sunday during freshman State Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush's first town hall meeting Sunday with her constituents here in Steamboat Springs.

From gun control to the amount of water used in fracking, the more than 20 community members who attended the meeting were eager to spend nearly two hours talking through a range of issues with their new representative in the statehouse.

“What do you think the chances are of the death penalty being appealed?” one of the attendees asked early during the town hall, which was held in Bud Werner Memorial Library.

Mitsch Bush, D- Steamboat Springs, responded that she thought a bill that could be introduced soon by Democratic Rep. Claire Leavy to repeal capital punishment in the state has a good chance of passing the House, and that she would support it.

The conversation then quickly shifted to the regulation of the oil and gas industry, an arena Mitsch Bush had ample experience in during her tenure as a Routt County commissioner.

Asked whether legislators could curb the practice of fracking by regulating how much water could be used in the operations, the state representative said the move would infringe on citizens' rights to sell and use their water.

She also was asked whether the legislature could change the make up of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, which regulates the state's energy industry, to make it more balanced and have it be less represented by members of the oil and gas industry.

She said that would require new legislation, and there currently aren't any proposals to do that.

With the legislature in its second month, bills are surfacing that have the potential to impact many things important to residents in Routt County.

Mitsch Bush, who represents Routt and Eagle counties, told her constituents that the state faces many fiscal challenges, including finding more dollars for public education, mental health services and higher education.

She said “the squeaky wheel gets the money,” and she encouraged residents here to follow bills being proposed now and consider testifying on bills during the committee process.

“It's really critical to have that kind of input,” she said.

Mitsch Bush also talked about the first two bills she has sponsored, including her latest one that aims to save about $45 million of federal transportation funding by fixing inconsistencies between federal and state laws dictating vehicle weight limits.

She added that she's currently working to develop a bill that would make it easier for property owners and builders to capitalize on incentives from performing energy audits and retrofitting their properties to make them more energy efficient.

“Hopefully, this will be a bill that helps that industry by making it easier for homeowners to negotiate what is currently a very complex process,” she said.

Mitsch Bush serves on two committees including Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources, and Transportation and Energy.

Constituents also were curious about how difficult she thought it would be to work across the aisle in her first legislative session.

“I very purposefully started making as many friends as I could with my Republican colleagues,” she said. “We disagree on a lot of things, but we have a good collegial relationship.”

Mitsch Bush said she was working to schedule another town hall meeting in Eagle County later this month.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com

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