A town hall meeting at Koelbel Library in Centennial drew a full house.
BY FREDA MIKLIN
Following a seven-inch snowfall the night before, SD26 Sen. Jeff Bridges, HD3 Rep. Meg Froelich, and HD26 Rep. Tom Sullivan welcome 60 residents to Koelbel Library in Centennial for a two-hour freewheeling town hall meeting.
Sullivan talked about HB 1177, the Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO), of which he is prime sponsor. It passed out of the Judiciary Committee Feb. 21 on a party-line vote with all four Republicans opposed and the seven Democrats supporting it. It will be heard next in the House Appropriations Committee Feb. 28.
Newly appointed State Rep. Meg Froelich listened to Sen. Jeff Bridges, whom she replaced, answer a constituent’s question.
This year’s red flag bill requires that a petitioner show that a person is potentially dangerous to himself or others, resulting in a court holding a temporary ERPO hearing in person or by telephone within one business day of the filing. If the temporary ERPO is issued, the respondent is entitled to a second hearing within two weeks for which the court will appoint him an attorney. If the judge is convinced the respondent is a danger, the court can issue an ERPO prohibiting the respondent from purchasing, receiving, possessing or controlling a firearm for up to one year. Sullivan’s 27-year old son Alex was killed in the Aurora Theater massacre July 20, 2012.
When the subject of mental health came up, Sullivan said, “Mental health issue? What are you going to do about it? Thoughts and prayers? No more. I’m tired of it. Not gonna do it anymore. We need to stand up for families who need help.”
Froelich, appointed to the House by a vacancy committee Jan. 7 two days after Bridges was selected by a vacancy committee to serve the remaining two years of former Sen. Daniel Kagan’s term after he resigned, told constituents that she shares Sullivan’s goal of gun safety and that she sits on the Business Affairs and Labor committee. She also talked about work she has done making documentary films about women’s issues.
Bridges told constituents that he was now the only sitting Colorado state legislator who held a master’s degree in divinity and that he was committed to Gov. Jared Polis’ plan to institute full-day kindergarten in Colorado. He said, “It will cost $227 million. We can do it.”
On the other pressing subject in our state, he said, “We are stuck on funding transportation and improving our roads. Voters (in November) rejecting funding roads with and without new taxes.”
State Rep. Tom Sullivan listened to citizens’ questions intently.
He said he was working on a warranty of habitability bill so that tenants would not be required to pay rent for any period of time when the premises are not habitable.
A question was asked about passing a bill requiring presidential candidates to disclose their tax returns in order to be eligible to be on the ballot in Colorado. Bridges said he sponsored a bill like that two years ago when he was in the House, but that it was killed by the then Republican-controlled Senate.
In answer to a question on the status of the Public Employees Retirement Association of Colorado (PERA), Bridges said that PERA was in a stronger financial position now, but that he voted against last year’s bill because he felt that it took too much money from teachers and other retirees.
A citizen asked why the legislators supported the current bill that would award all nine of Colorado’s electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote in a presidential election. That bill has passed by the Colorado legislature and is expected to be signed by Polis in a matter of days.
Sullivan focused on the theory of one person, one vote. He also cited Article 2 Section 1 of the United States Constitution, which specifies that electoral college electors may be appointed by any manner the state Legislature chooses.
The conversation returned to the topic of transportation. Sullivan expressed concern but had no solution. Froelich said, “The governor has said it’s not a priority of his.” Bridges talked about finding ways to get electric vehicle owners to contribute because they don’t pay gas tax, which is the primary funding source for roads in Colorado. He was cautious, though, because, “Adding large upfront fees to electric vehicles would be a disincentive to purchasers. As an environmentalist I’d like to see more electric vehicles on the road.” He also expressed concern that as autonomous vehicles increase, they are used for shared rides. Bridges said, “We don’t want empty cars driving around the roads.”
The other topic that drew attention was oil and gas, an industry that is unarguably crucial to Colorado’s economy. Big-4 accounting firm Pricewaterhouse Coopers calculated that oil and gas is responsible for 232,900 jobs and $31.4 billion in economic input back in 2015.
A citizen asked the obvious question on many people’s minds. “If we have a climate emergency, why are we allowing the fossil fuel industry to increase its production?”
Bridges probably drawing from his training in divinity, looked at the bright side. He said, “The key is to move toward renewable energy and electric cars. We are lucky to have Xcel Energy because their goals are our goals.”
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