2 town halls hit many issues for Routt County residents
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Both hosting Sunday town halls at Bud Werner Memorial Library, Diane Mitsch Bush and Colorado State Rep. Dylan Roberts filled nearly every seat with unique groups.
The topics discussed and questions asked varied widely. Mitsch Bush focused on her experience and current campaign to defeat Rep. Scott Tipton in November for the 3rd Congressional District seat.
Roberts focused on numerous pieces of legislation he’s sponsored, both in the works and passed last year.
Mitsch Bush on the campaign trail
Mitsch Bush served as a Routt County commissioner for two terms and three terms in the Colorado House of Representatives.
Tipton narrowly defeated her in the U.S. House of Representatives race in 2018.
Steamboat Springs City Council member Kathi Meyer introduced Mitsch Bush at the 2 p.m. “Town Hall for All” and said, while they belonged to different political parties and Meyer didn’t always agree with all policy positions, she supports Mitsch Bush.
“It’s what it’s all about,” Mitsch Bush said. “It’s about including everyone. It’s about healing the hurt that we have seen from this administration and others over the last several years.”
Mitsch Bush said she’s always worked to reach across the aisle and work with all stakeholders involved in any given issue. That’s the only way toward good policy, she said — “Get everyone’s ideas and get policy that actually works.”
She contrasted her voting record with Tipton’s and said, “We need a representative form the Western Slope who knows the trials and tribulations the people here experience every day. And knows how to solve them.”
Mitsch Bush talked about going after predatory lenders, protecting public lands and safeguarding human and civil rights.
She talked about climate change and working with ranchers who know the land as well, if not better, than anyone.
She emphasized the reliance of outdoor recreation on a healthy natural environment and pointed to Grand Junction as a place that has successfully transitioned from one being once dependent on oil and gas to one now embracing and promoting its outdoor recreation, peaches and vineyards.
When asked about the current polarization in Washington and her positions differing from those across the aisle, Mitsch Bush said she tries to start on things we all agree on.
For example, she said, “Jobs, health care and education are things we can all agree are problems,” even if the viewpoints on solutions may differ.
Asked about a strategy different from her unsuccessful run in 2018, Mitsch Bush described a more experienced staff for the national level of politics and lessons learned form 2018, like the critical role of fundraising and money.
She talked about using Tipton’s close alignment with President Donald Trump against him — focusing on things like Tipton’s votes to privatize public lands and get rid of pre-existing conditions in health care insurance coverage.
Mitsch Bush discussed the devastating impact of the 2017 tax cuts on the national deficit and being used as an excuse by Republicans to cry for cuts to entitlements, including social security.
She talked about funding priorities, saying, “We used to in invest in our people — as Americans — and our infrastructure. And that made us strong and competitive.”
Spending a bit of time on health care, Mitsch Bush applauded Roberts, who was in her audience, for his work. She talked about lowering drug prices and getting rid of surprise billing, which occurs when consumer receives care from an out-of-network provider in a situation they cannot reasonably control.
She talked about going to every corner of her district to talk to people and being a real representative.
Roberts’ packed agenda
Roberts, who represents Eagle and Routt Counties, talked about numerous bills he’s worked on during the last legislative session and what’s ahead.
He gave an overview of a bill passed unanimously in the state House that “expands the ability for water rights holders to loan their water right back to the stream to promote stream health and conservation without jeopardizing their water rights.”
Another bill with bipartisan support seeks to remove “the regulation that allows a HOA (Homeowners Association) to prevent homeowners form operating a home child care business.” He said the idea for the bill came from an Eagle County resident and was created in response to the child care shortage in an effort to create more spots within communities.
On health care — a signature issue for Roberts — he talked about a bill that “creates transparency across the entire supply line” for prescription drugs. The bill passed the House Health and Insurance Committee and is awaiting a hearing in House Finance this week. The bill would require pharmaceutical manufacturers, drug middlemen and insurance companies to report their costs to the state and explain cost increases.
Addressing the work Roberts has been doing that has garnered the most attention — the offering of a public state option for insurance coverage — Roberts acknowledged a flood of advertising in opposition to the bill.
“A lot of large hospitals and drug companies don’t want it to happen,” he said. “But that’s not scaring us off.”
They are fine-tuning the details on the next bill — putting that option into reality — and plan to introduce as soon as this week, Roberts said.
He called the proposal reasonable and urged his consituents to take those television commercials with a grain of salt.
The plan is different than a single payer model, Roberts explained, in that it builds on the existing private insurance network.
No one would be forced to choose the public option, he said, but it would create choice and competition, especially in the 22 counties where there is only one choice for an insurance provider. While insurers would be required to offer the public option, insurance companies would, in exchange, be guaranteed a lower reimbursement rates for hospitals.
The option would lower premiums, he said, and would be the first of its kind in the country. It’s his priority, he said, and “a challenging task but worth it to do.”
While the focus was on health care, Roberts also answered questions on transitional programs for the coal industry, the corona virus, methane emissions, education funding, texting while driving, wildfire mitigation, short term rentals, the new remote testimony option available at Colorado Mountain College Steamboat Springs and curbing water speculation.
To reach Kari Dequine Harden, call 970-871-4205, email kharden@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @kariharden.
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Editor’s note: The story was updated at 8:33 p.m.