Four on the Floor

Rep. Matt Soper, R-Delta, listens to debate from his desk on the floor of the Colorado House in the final days of the 2019 legislative session. Rep. Janice Rich, R-Grand Junction, sits next to him. CHARLES ASHBY/ The Daily Sentinel

Dozens of state boards and commissions would be required — to the extent possible — to have more diversity among their members, including from rural parts of the state and in political affiliation, under a bill that Rep. Matt Soper is trying to get through the Colorado Legislature.

While many such panels already have certain guidelines as to who is appointed, such as no more than a set number of people from one political party or at least one representative from the Western Slope, the Delta Republican’s House Bill 1212 would apply those standards to nearly all state panels.

Currently, there are more than 250 such boards and commissions, but the measure would only apply to those completely appointed by the governor’s office. At present, that’s 160.

“While the current governor has vastly improved geographic and demographic diversity reflective of the four corners of this great state, it is important for the Legislature to continue to encourage the executive branch to look not just at satisfying the requirements for service on a board, but to meet the diversity of a vast state with many perspectives and many viewpoints,” Soper said of the bill.

Under the measure, the governor shall, “to the extent possible,” appoint Coloradans from both rural and urban parts of the state, and make sure that those panels include members from different political, racial, gender, disabled, cultural and sexual orientation viewpoints.

Law already requires some of that for some panels, such as the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission or the Colorado Civil Rights Commission.

In many of those, the law expressly limits how many can be from a single political party, and oftentimes is specific about what kinds of personal or professional backgrounds are required to serve on a panel.

Many also require at least one person from the Western Slope.

Soper’s bill won’t change any of those requirements, but expands them to include nearly all state panels.

“The bill came from conversations with constituents and local elected leaders who were complaining that the appointees were mostly from Denver or Boulder and either Democrat or unaffiliated,” Soper said. “It’s important to get Coloradans who reflect the four corners of this great state, and especially from rural Colorado, who tend to be forgotten.”

The bill cleared the House State, Civic, Military & Veterans Affairs Committee earlier this week on a nearly unanimous and bipartisan vote and is to be debated by the full House possibly as early as Friday.