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2023 Colorado legislative session opens with Velasco and Will representing the Roaring Fork Valley

Elizabeth Velasco stands behind her desk on the floor of the Colorado House of Representatives with her name plate prominently displayed.
Courtesy Elizabeth Velasco on Twitter
Elizabeth Velasco stands at her desk on the House floor after being sworn in as a state representative.

Colorado’s 2023 legislative session began on Monday and Democrat Elizabeth Velasco of Glenwood Springs was sworn in as the representative for Colorado’s 57th District in the House.

Velasco is the first Latina to represent the recently-redrawn district, which encompasses all of Pitkin and Garfield counties and the portion of Eagle County in the Roaring Fork Valley.

She and other new lawmakers have been going through weeks of orientation and have started learning the ropes of crafting legislation.

Velasco says she’s been able to connect with folks not just in the assembly, but in state agencies as well—like the Department of Natural Resources.

“We are working right now on a project for restoration of riparian areas, for rivers,” she said in a virtual town hall last week. “There’s also work on supporting fire mitigation, to protect the watersheds. Also workforce development for forestry, for firefighters, for first responders.”

She says she’s been learning a lot and making connections in Denver so she can hit the ground running on some of her goals—like wildfire resilience, something she says is important to her as a wildland firefighter.

“Access to those funding opportunities for local fire districts,” she said. “Also, I’m getting to know the Department of Public Safety. I’m working closely with them on a bill to remove some of the barriers for volunteers, to be able to jump in whenever there’s an emergency with incident management teams.”

Velasco will serve on the Appropriations Committee and the Agriculture, Water, and Natural Resources Committee.

During the first day of the session, Velasco introduced her first piece of legislation as well. HB23-1004, which she co-sponsored with State Sen. Julie Gonzales (D-Denver), is titled “Promoting language access and equity for Colorado consumers.”

The bill would require insurance providers that issue car, home, and renters insurance to offer the policy, policy application and related documents in the same language they use in advertisements for the policy. It also would allow consumers to pick their preferred language for all insurance documents, as well as ensure that all policy documents would be translated by a professional.

By way of disclosure, Velasco also runs her own language-services agency in the Roaring Fork Valley which provides translation and interpretation services to Aspen Public Radio.

Perry Will is back in the Colorado General Assembly

Perry Will throws his hands in the air during a moment on the House floor.
Courtesy Colorado House Republicans on Twitter
Perry Will used to represent our region in the state House, as seen here.

Republican Perry Will of New Castle previously served as the representative for House District 57, but lost his race to Velasco this November. But Will is back in Denver—this time as a state senator for Senate District 5.

He was appointed to fill the vacancy in the Senate left by Bob Rankin of Carbondale. Rankin resigned last month after serving nearly a decade in the assembly. Will will serve out the remainder of Rankin’s term, which ends in 2024.

The redrawn Senate District 5 includes all of Pitkin County, and parts of Garfield and Eagle counties—specifically the areas along the I-70 corridor in Garfield County and parts of both counties that contain the Roaring Fork Valley. It also includes all of Gunnison and Hinsdale counties to the south, as well as parts of Montrose and Delta counties.

This is Will’s second time being appointed to the assembly to fill a vacancy left by Rankin. Rankin was appointed to the state Senate in 2019 after then-Sen. Randy Baumgartner resigned over allegations of sexual harassment. Will then filled the vacancy left in HD57 left by Rankin, who was elected in 2012.

Will won re-election for HD57 in 2020, but lost the seat in November. Before getting into politics, Will was a longtime officer with Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Senate Minority Leader Paul Lundeen (R-Monument) said in a statement that Will’s experience with water, agriculture, and energy will make him a valuable member of the state Senate.

Will has not yet responded to Aspen Public Radio’s request for comment.

Caroline Llanes is a general assignment reporter at Aspen Public Radio, covering local news and City of Aspen-based issues. Previously, she was an associate producer for WBUR’s Morning Edition in Boston.