State Rep. Roberts stresses housing, child care, public safety as top priorities this session

Rep. Dylan Roberts, a Democrat from Avon, represents Colorado’s 26th District, which includes Routt and Eagle counties.
John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot & Today

At the start of the 2022 legislative session, affordable housing, child care and public safety are top issues for 26th District Colorado House Rep. Dylan Roberts, who represents Eagle and Routt counties.

Roberts, a Democrat from Avon, is not seeking re-election to the Colorado House in November. Instead he is running to represent Routt County and much of Northwest Colorado in the Colorado Senate.

In a virtual town hall with fellow Democratic lawmakers Thursday, Jan. 13, Roberts said acting on recommendations from the Affordable Housing Transformational Task Force, of which Roberts is now chair, would be a focus for the Legislature this session.

“Without reliable, affordable housing our entire economy and communities suffer,” Roberts said.

That task force will soon release a report that will be used to write bills that allocate chunks of the $400 million Colorado received from the American Rescue Plan Act to help address housing needs across the state, Roberts said.

The investment hopes to create transformational change for housing in Colorado, he added.

In addition to allocating funding, Roberts also said there are policy avenues the legislature needs to pursue, and we can’t “just focus on building our way out of the problem.”

Roberts said he intends to introduce a bill that would revisit how local lodging taxes can be spent, an issue he said he frequently hears about from local officials. Currently, these taxes can only be spent on local marketing, but Roberts said his bill would give municipalities and counties more flexibility.

“It would allow counties and local marketing districts to ask voters to change the use of revenue of lodging taxes in their communities,” Roberts said, identifying housing, child care and other workforce needs these funds could be earmarked for with voters’ approval.

On the first day of the session, Roberts introduced a bill that would exempt child care centers from property taxes. The hope is the bill could help incentivize more centers to open across the state. It has sponsors in both parties in the Colorado House and Senate.

Roberts said health care would also remain a focus for him this year after passing his Colorado Option legislation last year, which will add an affordable option on the individual and group marketplaces in every county on Jan. 1, 2023.

Roberts continued by saying the Legislature would build on previous efforts to lower prescription drug prices with a bill requiring rebates from prescription drug companies to insurers be passed along to consumers.

“We’re really pleased with some of the work that’s gotten done on health care, but there is more to do,” Roberts said.

The Legislature will also review recommendations from the Behavioral Health Task Force, which has about $450 million in federal funds to allocate. Roberts said some of the suggestions he has seen could lead to transformational change for behavioral health resources.

Roberts mentioned recent changes at Mind Springs Health, saying he hopes the company’s internal changes and increased funding at the state level would help increase access to care and ensure it is available in a timely manner.

Public safety will be another focus for Roberts and the legislature in general.

He said he is working on a bill with Republican Terri Carver, of Colorado Springs, that goes after online market places that are contributing to an increase in retail theft. The bill would put new rules on third-party sellers, requiring them to ensure goods sold on their platform are not stolen.

“I’m also working on bills related to better enforcement of drunk driving and keeping our roads safer,” Roberts said. “Look forward to several other bills in the public safety space as we go forward.”

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