South Jeffco’s three Republican legislators say their committee assignments will bring benefits to residents of the area, despite the decidedly Democratic leaning at the statehouse.
Sen. Mike Kopp
State Sen. Mike Kopp, R-Littleton, will serve on four committees in 2009. He'll sit on the Senate Appropriations Committee and the Legislative Council. He'll also sit on the Senate's education and transportation committees, which he said might have a more direct impact on South Jeffco residents.
"I serve in the largest school district in the state," Kopp said. "With 88,000 schoolkids, it is a significant issue. The education committee sets statewide education policy, so having a representative from the Jefferson County delegation, I think, is beneficial to Jefferson County parents."
Kopp asks four questions regarding education legislation: Does it provide more parent choice? Does it put students ahead of the system? Does it allow for more parental control? Does it provide more incentive for teachers to provide a stronger education?
"That's really the lens I view legislation through," Kopp said. "There's a lot of interests tugging and pulling at education legislation in the state, and I put kids and parents at the center of everything I do."
Kopp added that he has a vested interest since he has three kids in Jeffco Public Schools.
"I feel like I can be a parent advocate for South Jefferson County," he said.
Kopp said he asked to be on the transportation committee because he "really want(s) to work on C-470 issues."
Kopp supports widening C-470 but would need to find funding. He and Rep. Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch, plan to work on legislation to make sure the C-470 corridor gets its fair share of transportation dollars.
"We have to do everything we can as representatives of this area to bring into our corridor all the funding that we have coming to us," Kopp said.
Kopp said residents of Jefferson and Douglas counties pay their fair share of income, property and gasoline taxes, and "it is incumbent upon us to fight to bring those revenues back into the area from which they came."
Kopp said he's planning to work with commissioners in Jefferson, Douglas and Arapahoe counties to discuss widening C-470, and together they'll seek funding for the project.
Rep. Jim Kerr
Rep. Jim Kerr, R-Littleton, will serve on the Health and Human Services Committee, the Legislative Audit Committee and the Appropriations Committee.
"In the audit committee, I make sure, as an oversight committee, that people's tax dollars are being spent correctly," Kerr said. "If there's a problem with any government entity, we come up with ways to fix those problems. I think that's what people want: They want to know that the tax dollars are being spent wisely."
Kerr, entering his second full term in the House, said his role on appropriations will allow him to serve much the same purpose, except he'll be part of deciding how much money goes to certain programs.
"If we have to make a tough decision, I'm not afraid to say no," Kerr said.
Kerr is the ranking Republican on the Health and Human Services Committee, which he said deals with hospitals, nurses, the disabled, "all of which are important issues for my constituents."
There are a lot of baby boomers in South Jeffco, and health care is very important to them, Kerr said.
Rep. Ken Summers
Rep. Ken Summers, R-Lakewood, will serve on the education and finance committees in 2009. He has previously served on the Education Committee, but in his second term he will move from the Local Government Committee to the Finance Committee.
Summers said his spot on the Finance Committee will let him take part in oversight of the Public Employees’ Retirement Association, the state’s main pension fund. With all the teachers and other government employees in Jefferson County, Summers said he can help make ensure their retirement account is being run efficiently amid the economic slowdown.
Summers said he wants to focus his time on the Education Committee assessing whether successful legislation accomplishes its goals.
"We need to make sure we allow bills to be implemented before we pass more bills that have an overlap and consequence to those," Summers said.
Any new legislation should be aimed at lowering the high school dropout rate and "preparing students for the 21st century," Summers said.
Of course, as the minority party, the Republicans face an uphill battle getting their agenda and initiatives through committee, let alone having them become law.
"With Sen. (Peter) Groff and (House Majority Leader) Terrance Carroll, those two have been very supportive of innovation and school choice issues," Summers said, referring to the Democratic leadership of the state House and Senate. "From that standpoint, that's a positive, and there'll be good collaboration in that way."
Summers said it’s important what committees Jeffco legislators land on.
"Instead of looking at it as, 'How is that going to benefit me?' people should ask, 'What kind of voice is my local representative going to have as issues come up on the state level?' "