Water, affordability will be top issues for Routt County’s new legislators in Colorado House, Senate | SteamboatToday.com

Water, affordability will be top issues for Routt County’s new legislators in Colorado House, Senate

Sen. Dylan Roberts and Rep. Meghan Lukens have already introduced legislation, with more in the works

Rep. Meghan Lukens and Sen. Dylan Roberts pose for a photo after being sworn in to their new roles in the Colorado legislature on Monday, Jan. 9, 2023.
Meghan Lukens/Courtesy photo

The two new legislators representing Routt County at the Colorado Capitol were sworn in on Monday, Jan. 9, and each are trying to hit the ground running with bills already introduced by the second day of the 2023 session.

As evident in speeches from state leaders at the dawn of the session, affordability and water will be top issues this year.

Not only have the local legislators each added their names to a bill focused on addressing housing affordability and access, each sits on committees that will be key players in the legislature’s efforts regarding drought, water conservation and the Colorado River crisis this session.

“We’re trying to put Colorado in the best place possible when we start talking about interstate negotiations on the Colorado River,” said Sen. Dylan Roberts, chair of the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee. “I will always stand up for our Western Slope water interests first.”

Rep. Meghan Lukens said she is excited she was placed on the House’s Agriculture, Water and Natural Resources Committee to work on protecting waterways like the Yampa River that are so crucial to her Northwest Colorado district.

“We’re going to be working collaboratively to develop policy solutions to protect this precious resource,” Lukens said. “I’m looking forward to be on (the committee) for that exact reason.”

While both legislators have bills in the works that will be introduced later in the session, each also introduced bills just after being sworn in, including some they have worked on together.

Sen. Dylan Roberts poses for a photo on Monday, Jan. 9, 2023, with his family after being sworn into his new role representing the vast Senate District 8, which spans 10 counties in the northwest corner of Colorado.
Dylan Roberts/Courtesy photo

Roberts, a Democrat from Avon who is ascending to the Senate after representing Routt County in the House since 2017, is the prime sponsor on the Senate’s first bill regarding affordable housing that, if passed, could aid a project brewing in Steamboat Springs. Lukens is one of the House sponsors on the bill.

As introduced, SB23-001 would make changes in Colorado’s public-private partnerships office to work with local communities to build workforce housing on state-owned land.

Roberts said this office has already been involved in a project in Steamboat with the Colorado Department of Transportation that would add housing and childcare. This bill provides funding and directly charges that office to pursue projects like this across the state.

“The funding that will come with this bill if we get it passed will be available to that project as well as others across the state,” Roberts said. “It will be an important part of making sure that project gets completed and start doing similar ones in other parts of the state.”

Get the top stories in your inbox every morning. Sign up here: steamboatpilot.com/newsletter

Roberts has also introduced a bill that would create the Rural Opportunity Office within the state’s office of economic development, which hopes to give rural communities a leg up when competing for grants with larger communities. The bill was written with communities like Moffat County and Hayden in mind, Roberts said.

“Rural communities need specific types of assistance to capitalize on their unique benefits, but also deal with their specific challenges,” Roberts said.

A third bill Roberts is a part of that is starting in the House seeks to take on increasing prices for epinephrine pens, working in a similar way to legislation passed in 2021 that capped costs for insulin.

House District 26 Rep. Meghan Lukens sits at her new desk in the Colorado House of Representatives after being sworn in on Monday, Jan. 9, 2023.
Meghan Lukens/Courtesy photo

Lukens, a Democrat from Steamboat Springs in her first elected office, introduced a bipartisan bill Monday that would expand deadlines for funding meant to support rural broadband development. Roberts is a Senate sponsor on the bill.

“This bill will fund rural telecommunications, whether that is voice or broadband services,” Lukens said.  “This will help get resources and funding to improve rural broadband services.”

Lukens said she is also excited to bring her perspective to the House education committee after being sworn in less than a month after leaving her role as a teacher in Steamboat. The number one issue facing schools is funding, she said.

“Last year we brought down the budget stabilization factor to the lowest level it’s ever been and we are going to continue to try and do so this year,” Lukens said. “We’re in this position to make yet another historic increase in education funding.”

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Steamboat and Routt County make the Steamboat Pilot & Today’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.