State Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush has high hopes in new session | SteamboatToday.com

State Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush has high hopes in new session

Diane Mitsch Bush

— A little more than halfway through her first term as representative for House District 26 in the Colorado Legislature, one thing was clear Sunday when Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush met with the public at a town hall-style meeting at Bud Werner Memorial Library in Steamboat Springs.

Diane Mitsch Bush enjoys her job.

From an opening Pledge of Allegiance — "just like we do" at the Legislature, she said — through strained attempts not to dip too far into the nitty-gritty and the technical terms of the job, to her closing statement — "It's a great privilege and a great honor to be your state representative” — that was the takeaway.

Many of the roughly 30 constituents who gathered Sunday proved fond of Mitsch Bush, too, and a 30-minute Q-and-A session touched on sensitive topics but never slipped into debates or contentious statements.

Mitsch Bush used the opportunity to outline some of what she and her co-workers in Denver hope to tackle in the current session, which began earlier this month and runs to May.

High on the list was better broadband access for the state and particularly rural communities.

The solution there, she hopes, is the high-cost fund that Colorado telecommunications companies are required to fill. She said it originally was meant to pay for underground copper wire to far-flung communities and houses for telephone service, but these days, it should be repurposed.

"A whole group of us have been working with stakeholders to try to repurpose that high-cost fund in a fair and equitable manner so it can go to rural broadband development in private enterprise," she said.

Queried about the level of support for the coal industry, she said all the right things in a county with a large energy sector, insisting that she's one of the biggest supporters for coal going forward and that Northwest Colorado's coal, in particular, is ideal.

"I have already been arguing in committee and on the floor that our coal is not what people think of when they think of Appalachia coal," she said. "I've really been hammering on my colleagues about northwestern Colorado coal."

She said a flood of recent emails about Common Core frequently seems spurred by misunderstanding: "We already have Colorado standards, and no one is talking about adopting another set of standards.”

She said the state's infrastructure needs attention and that public-private partnerships may be the best way to give it that attention: "All of our infrastructure is hurting, and it is largely a matter of how you get the money, and one of the most promising ways is new public-private partnerships."

And she said she loved her job, even when people disagree with her.

"You are my bosses," she said. "Sometimes, all my bosses don't agree, so that makes thing a little more difficult sometimes."

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253, email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @JReich9