County Commissioners: State Lawmakers Still at War with Rural Colorado

Pros and Cons of Legislative Session Outlined by Teller Leaders

 Trevor Phipps


As soon as the 2024 Colorado legislative session started in January, the Teller County commissioners warned residents that the Democrat-controlled state government would have plans to enact bills that attacked the rural way of life.

In fact, during the 120-day regular legislative session that recently ended, the three county commissioners and the Teller County sheriff spent many days and hours at the state Capitol in Denver, fighting against legislation that they believe threatened Teller and similar rural areas. In the process, they faced some tough political odds due to a historic majority held by the Democrats.

In a recent interview, Commissioner Dan Williams, who worked as the county’s head planner for a number of years outlined Teller’s big wins and losses on the legislative battlefield.

Guns, guns and guns

During the legislative session, hundreds of bills hit the floor that crossed a plethora of subjects. One of the major focuses of the legislative session was to take aim against legal gun ownership.


Many of the slew of gun laws did pass, but by the time they made it through the process they became watered down by amendments. Others including an assault gun ban, were expected to fail before the governor could sign them into law or would not be signed.


According to Teller County Commissioner Dan Williams, the commissioners spent a lot of time the last few months testifying against bills that would not work for the rural part of the state including the bills that further regulate gun ownership. “We continue to see a lot of legislation that was not informed by local officials,” Williams said. “There was not a whole lot of bipartisan stuff.”


He said that the commissioners argued against several bills and either tried to get them postponed or get them to not apply to Teller County. He did say that the commissioners were successful in getting some of the language change in certain bills after testifying during the legislative sessions.


He also said that the number of bills introduced during this legislative session was quite large. In comparison, this year the U.S. Congress only passed around 70 bills and the Colorado legislature attempted to push through 614 pieces of legislation.


“I have asked the voters and asked the legislators, ‘What are we doing?’” Williams said. “I didn’t wake up this morning and say, ‘You know what? I need 600 more rules in my life.’ For Colorado to over-legislate and to push everything down from the higher governments and tell us how to live is a disturbing trend that needs to be reversed.”


He said that the slew of gun bills only affected legal gun owners in rural Colorado because several cities in the Denver Metro area are already gun-free zones. He said most of the bills that dealt with guns will either not be signed by the governor or will be fought against in court.


Another issue the county commissioners and the sheriff have seen is an attack on law enforcement. There are many bills that have tried to limit the authority of law enforcement agents.


Williams also said that the state has started to reduce funding for programs that aid older Americans. He said that since a third of the state is now over 50 years old, it is not good to see state authorities stripping away funding to support the state’s largest growing demographic.


Positive Benefits of Legislative Session


Despite the county commissioners having issues with many of the proposed laws brought forward this year, Williams did outline benefits legislative benefits for Teller County. For example, he cited much legislation that dealt with fire insurance to help ease the problem of homeowners not being able to get fire insurance due to prices doubling in some cases.


Williams also said that there were some positive things that took place with forest health that will benefit the county. The commissioners also supported one bill that dealt with water rights of springs that pop up in places in rural Colorado.


He said that the best bills are the ones where the lawmakers ask for input from local authorities. Last year, the county commissioners played a vital role in getting Senate Bill 23-108 passed through the legislature that clarified the authority of local municipalities to temporarily lower property tax rates to provide relief when valuations are high.


“When they tell us what the problem is and we work with them and local governments and local attorneys, it works,” Williams explained. “It’s when they go, ‘We don’t care what you think and we know better and we’re going to do this.’ That’s when it gets ugly and we have to go up there and testify.”


He did say that he doesn’t think the state lawmakers are bad people, they are just misinformed and inexperienced. He said none of them have served in local government and many don’t understand rural Colorado.


Overall, Williams likes to remind everyone that there are 5.8 million people in Colorado and 5 million of them in a 10-mile wide strip live between Fort Collins and Pueblo known as the Front Range. The remaining 75 percent of the state is rural Colorado where only around 800,000 of the state’s population lives.


“47 counties are rural or frontier and what we do up here really matters,” Williams said. “When I testified several times I told the legislators that we actually preserve the Colorado that the other 5 million people came here to see. And yet this over control, this pushing us around and this trying to tell us what to do just never seems to stop.”