For an alternative take on the General Assembly — one that’s as authentically Colorado as metro Denver’s, yet entirely different — look no further than Pueblo-based Pulp Newsmagazine’s debrief with Pueblo Democratic state Sen. Leroy Garcia.
Garcia, who is assistant Democratic leader in the GOP-run upper chamber, sat recently with Pulp News Editor Kara Mason and reviewed legislative business from a Pueblo-centric perspective as the 2017 session nears its end. His remarks offer a glimpse into the distinct political and economic priorities of the onetime industrial center. Some highlights:
Biggest win for southern Colorado in the legislature this year?
…greater transparency for electric bills. The lobbying core from investor-owned utilities really fought hard to amend it and water it down and what was so great about the process is were able to fight that off …
The other is the heroin legislation that will create a pilot program here in Pueblo County (to credential certain health workers to treat addiction related to opiates).
The urban-rural divide?
There are rural communities that are disintegrating and find themselves crippled by no economic opportunities, no funding, no diversified industries. Pueblo has been lucky and we’ve weathered it well. When you look to the number of legislators we have compared to, say, Aurora, we’ve done fairly well.
Our funding for the Colorado State Fair, for the Colorado Lottery, CSU-Pueblo, PCC. Funding for capital infrastructure as well as higher education has done very well. And we have strong advocates. Look at Rep. Daneya Esgar, who’s chair of the capital development committee. I serve on appropriations and the assistant minority leader. We have legislators — even if only a few — that are in key positions.
The impact on Pueblo of legislative efforts to create jobs?
Pueblo has a great opportunity for health care. It’s a regional hub for healthcare. And look at what the payout is for those investments — and not just nurses — but even in something like the psychiatric technician realm, or in other areas.
Look at (wind-turbine manufacturer) Vestas — it’s proving to be unique. Some of those employers say we can’t attract and retain people fast enough. I think that’s a local challenge we have to address inside.
Read the full interview; here’s the link again.