The fight between the state Senate and the governor over his appointments continued on Thursday, though the appointments Gov. Jared Polis made to the board for the Great Outdoors Colorado Trust Fund won Senate approval despite objections.
Sen. Don Coram, R-Montrose, who voted against those appointments in the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee on Wednesday, said his objection is not to the appointees themselves, but the lack of geographic diversity in Polis' appointments to boards and commissions. Five of the seven are from the Denver area and Colorado Springs, with the others from Edwards on the Western Slope and another from Lamar. One-third of the state of Colorado has no representation on this board, the portion north of I-70 from Kansas to Utah, Coram said. "You can't take more than one-third of the state and flat out ignore them and say 'you're not important.'"
He also noted that the governor signed a bill last week that mandates more diversity, including ethnicity and geographically.
Sen. John Cooke, R-Greeley, said he was upset about the lack of geographic diversity, too, but also took issue with the lack of political diversity. Five of the seven are Democrats. Cooke reminded Polis that he had pledged to do better on his appointments a year ago. That was tied to appointments to the Colorado State Fair Authority, and in a blowup on the 2020 session's last day, the Senate did not vote on those three nominees although they continue to serve on the fair board.
Since the governor took office, boards and commissions are more metro-centric, said Senate Minority Leader Chris Holbert, R-Douglas County. For GOCO, why wouldn't there be someone representing Colorado's great outdoors, which he characterized as everything west of Edwards, including southwestern Colorado and Weld County.
The GOCO board is 14 members plus three state officials; the entire board is I-25 dominate, Coram said, with no representation north of I-70 or south of Highway 50. "If we do not send a message to the first floor that there is more to Colorado than the center third, we are shirking our duty as representatives and senators of the state."
Sen. Kerry Donovan, D-Vail, defended the appointments. She read off the towns where GOCO members live, assuming the appointments are confirmed. Ten of the 14 live on the Front Range. Two are from southeastern Colorado, one from Breckinridge, one from Edwards. There are more members from Greenwood Village (two) than from the Western Slope west of Edwards or from the northeastern Plains. Donovan also expressed frustration with where the appointments are headed. The law says the board must include two members from each of Colorado's seven congressional districts, she pointed out, with two who live west of the Continental Divide. If we continue to see frustrations with appointments, perhaps the General Assembly should change the law, she said.
But Donovan pointed out that those appointments meet the law.
The appointments were approved on a 21-14 vote.