Remote testimony bill advances

A handful of Western Slope residents traveled to Denver to testify on a bill Monday, and they hope it will be the last time they’ll have to drive that far to do so.

That’s because the bill they were supporting would allow for remote testimony in legislative committees of measures pending before the Legislature.

“In this modern day of technology, I’m not sure why it’s taken this long,” said Leslie Hallenborg, senior vice president of the Montrose-based Uncompahgre Valley Association, a branch of Western Colorado Congress.

“It just doesn’t make any sense why you would make distance a deterrent for coming to testify on something that’s important.”

The measure, HB1303, was introduced by House Speaker Mark Ferrandino, D-Denver, and Rep. Ray Scott, R-Grand Junction.

Ferrandino said voters in his district surround the state Capitol and have no need for such a measure, but he said Scott’s voters do.

Scott said it normally takes four hours to make the trek from Grand Junction to Denver. In a snowstorm, however, it can be three times as long.

“I don’t have to explain how hard it is to get to Denver if you live in a rural area,” Scott told the House State, Veterans & Military Committee, which approved the bill unanimously.

Someone who is blind or confined to a wheelchair living in Denver would have difficulties coming to the Colorado Capitol to testify on a bill. Imagine if that same person lived in Cortez, Scott said.

“Let’s just call that impossible to do, to come up here and meet their legislators and weigh in on an issue,” he said.

At least in the beginning, the measure calls for creating up to five places around the state for Coloradans to come to testify on selected measures.

For now, the bill calls for partnering with various universities and community colleges around the state, such as Colorado Mesa University.

Other places are likely, such as in Craig and Durango. Other locations would be in the San Luis Valley and southeast Colorado.

The bill heads to the House Appropriations Committee for more debate. At least to start, it’s expected to cost about $150,000 a year to operate.


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