Colleagues praise Taylor |

Colleagues praise Taylor

Steamboat Springs senator reflects on career at state Capitol

Mike Lawrence

— During 16 years at the Capitol in Denver, state Sen. Jack Taylor was the prime sponsor of 211 bills and 39 resolutions or memorials.

Every one of those was a battle – some harder than others – about issues ranging from tourism to taxation, water legislation to wildfire mitigation, agriculture to energy development and petroleum cleanups to pet neutering. Sitting at his dining room table in Strawberry Park last week, Taylor thumbed through a list of his accomplishments while serving in the state House of Representatives from 1993 to 2000 and the state Senate from 2001 to 2008. The Steamboat Springs Republican is term-limited in the Senate and completed his final session of the state Legislature last month.

Taylor will continue as an active legislator through the end of the year – he met with Colorado River District officials and toured the South Platte River last week, for example, as a member of the Legislature’s Water Resources Review Committee. But the Western Slope’s senior state politician knows that, at the end of a six-term run, now is a time more for reflecting than projecting.

And what Taylor holds onto is not the number of bills he sponsored, but how and why he sponsored them.

“You represent the district first, then the region, then the state. : And you don’t get hung up on single issues,” said Taylor, 72. “The only two things you have to offer are honesty and integrity.”

Those two things, along with securing a permanent source of tourism promotion funding for Colorado, may be Taylor’s longest-lasting legacy. Honesty and integrity were the topics of Taylor’s last address at the Senate microphone.

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Although voters in Steamboat Springs and across Senate District 8 have widely differing views of Taylor – who won his Senate seat by less than 2,000 votes in 2004 and saw Routt County swing strongly Democratic in 2006 elections – his colleagues at the Capitol are quick to praise the reliability of his word, the guarantee of his support when it’s promised, and his ardent support for the region he represented.

“Jack has always been very focused on the best interests of Northwest Colorado and those counties in his district, and has largely gravitated toward issues that benefit the entire area,” said state Rep. Al White, R-Hayden.

Senate District 8 comprises Routt, Moffat, Jackson, Rio Blanco and parts of Eagle and Garfield counties.

White is running for Taylor’s Senate seat against Democrat and former Steamboat Springs City Council President Ken Brenner, who also praised Taylor’s time in office.

“We should commend Senator Taylor and thank him for his 16 years of service to Northwest Colorado,” Brenner said Saturday. “It’s a tremendous sacrifice on a personal level to give that much of yourself, and I certainly appreciate his effort.”

Friend more than foe

A staffer for former state Senate President Joan Fitz-Gerald of Jefferson County said last week that Taylor and Fitz-Gerald are “longtime friends and adversaries.”

“I remember the friendship part better than the adversary part,” Fitz-Gerald said. “Jack was a good, strong Republican vote, and I was the leader of a Democratic Senate – probably (on) 75 percent of the issues you could say we didn’t agree – and yet what I remember are the times he came forward to help on things I thought were really important.”

Fitz-Gerald, now running for U.S. Congress in Colorado’s Second Congressional District, led the state Senate from 2005 to 2007.

She said in 2005, Taylor was one of the first Republicans to come to her office and offer support for Referendum C, a ballot issue that proposed weakening statewide tax limitations.

Taylor “had a great willingness to help, knowing that the state was in severe financial difficulties,” Fitz-Gerald said. “I think there were five Republicans that were willing to support it.”

Taylor publicly campaigned for the issue that summer, and Referendum C won at the polls that fall.

“Under the provisions of Referendum C, the state is projected to retain $6.4 billion from fiscal (year) 2005-06 through 2009-10,” reads an economic forecast released Friday by the office of Gov. Bill Ritter.

Fitz-Gerald also recalled Taylor’s support of her 2006 bill to help childhood victims of sexual abuse. She said the bill “opened a window on the statute of limitations” for abuse cases.

“It was a very, very high-profile, contentious bill, and Jack stood firmly with those victims when there was a lot of pressure not to,” Fitz-Gerald said. “I appreciated his courage on that.”

Try, try again

The list of Taylor’s legislation includes failures, too. Sprinkled through its 12 pages – with only a single line for each item – are bills marked “Postponed Indefinitely,” a legislative term for the death of a proposed law.

One such “PIed” bill is 1998’s House Bill 1410, when Taylor proposed the use of gaming revenues to fund tourism promotion.

A version of that idea became law in 2006 with House Bill 1201, which White sponsored in the House, and will pump $20 million a year into state tourism promotion across the country and overseas.

Taylor once called that bill “the culmination of 14 years of effort.”

“I would put that down as probably No. 1,” Taylor said Friday of the bill’s place in his legislative achievements.

This year, Taylor’s successful bills included the controversial Senate Bill 69, called “Clarify Wildlife Prohibitions.” The bill was at least partly in response to the experience of Jim Gordon, an Evergreen man who shot a Rocky Mountain goat in September 2003 and left the carcass. Gordon said he tried to field dress the animal but was unable to do so because of the late hour and other factors. When he returned the next day, Gordon said the meat was spoiled, so he took only the animal’s head and cape.

He reported the incident at a DOW office a couple of days later, was charged with the violations and ultimately convicted by a Chafee County jury.

Taylor said Friday that he spent hours negotiating with the Division of Wildlife about the bill, which will “make the Division consider more issues relative to what the intent (of the hunter) was.”

How to measure

Gay Roesch, a research associate for the Colorado Legislative Council, compiled Taylor’s list of legislation but said it’s not an accurate barometer of production.

“I don’t think you can really compare with numbers, because there is such a variety” of bills, she said.

Fitz-Gerald used a more telling gauge of Taylor’s work in Denver.

“We didn’t agree on everything, but we had a very cordial relationship,” she said. “I felt if Jack gave me his word, he was going to be true to it – and that is the measure of someone at the state Capitol.”

– To reach Mike Lawrence, call 871-4233 or e-mail