Water issues and vets’ concerns dominate week at Legislature

The completion of the first month of the 69th session of the House of Representatives has been rewarding, meaningful, and at times, challenging. We have discussed and passed many bills for second reading, but few bills have been enacted at this point.

We have also passed numerous resolutions, and I was pleased that the Fallen Soldiers Resolution, which I was not able to vote on last week because I was presenting my perspective to Club 20, came back to the House for yet another vote. As a veteran, and because I fully support our military and their families, I was delighted that my voice and vote could be added to this resolution.

In the House Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources Committee, we continue to receive SMART Government reports and budget requests from the various departments. On Monday, I attended the Colorado Water Congress and met with former Sen. Bruce Whitehead. Later in committee, we had a full discussion about the relationship between U.S. Forest Service attempts to link the ski area permit system to what some people consider an infringement on ski area water rights. One side of the debate wants to make this a full-fledged assault on all levels of the U.S. government. As a legislator who has a significant number of ski areas in his district, I listened earnestly to all the testimony and do understand that the ski areas’ water rights should be protected from federal infringement. Because the bill as currently drafted is so broad and so sweeping, I cannot support it in its current form, but if it is narrowed to the U.S. Forest Service and our Colorado ski area water rights, I will support House Bill 1013.

I was able to advance my first bill, House Bill 1076, out of Judiciary Committee on a 9 to 2 vote. Essentially, what the bill does is expand the opportunities for qualified directors and agents to advance through the Colorado Bureau of Investigation agency by making POST certification permissive and not mandatory. The bill was fully supported by Ronald Sloan, current CBI director, as well as the Colorado sheriffs, police and other members of the Colorado law-enforcement community.

On Thursday I also was privileged to attend and participate in a legislative panel at the Colorado Water Congress. As I told its membership, I continue to remain committed to bipartisanship and good government. I fully understand the responsibilities of a Western Slope legislator regarding the protection of our water rights, rivers and streams. It was good to see Sen. Ellen Roberts, Sen. Gail Schwartz, John Porter, Steve Fearn, Barry Spear, Steve Harris, Bob Wolfe, Billy Nesbitt, Frank Kugel and John McClow. I will continue my dialogue with the Colorado Water Congress to ensure that the water rights of the 59th District are fully protected.

Among the most rewarding experiences this week was my attendance at the “Boots to Suits” program luncheon sponsored by the University of Colorado at Denver. This program provides employment services for returning veterans in partnership with supporting businesses. This is an extremely worthwhile program and one I hope can be expanded to other higher-education facilities. As soon as time allows, I intend to convey all that I learned to President Dene Kay Thomas of Fort Lewis College and President Jay Hellman of Western State Colorado University.

I continue to be honored to be your state representative for District 59, and I look forward to hearing from you on these important issues in Denver.

Mike McLachlan represents the newly reconstituted House District 59 in Colorado’s General Assembly. The district now encompasses La Plata, Archuleta, San Juan, Ouray and Hinsdale counties and part of Gunnison County. Call McLachlan at (303) 866-2914 or email mike.mclachlan.house@state.co.us.