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Local politicians hold town meeting

Area legislators held a town hall meeting Oct. 31. Although it was Halloween, nothing too scary jumped out at the meeting.Sen. Bill Cadman (R-Colorado Springs) said the Colorado Legislature hasn’t changed its spending habits. Instead, they are raising fees like tripling the cost of marriage licenses and doubling the cost of divorce.District 19 Rep. Marsha Looper (R-Calhan) said more people need to be in Denver to testify for or against legislation.”Only one person from this county spoke against increasing vehicle registration fees and late fees,” Looper said, adding that as of September, the state has collected $800,000 in late fees from El Paso County alone.District 15 Rep. Mark Waller (R-Colorado Springs) said that $236 million needs to be cut to balance the state budget. The $190 million from the America Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 will be used to close the gap, he said.”The problem is that stimulus dollars are one-time dollars and we won’t have them next year,” Waller said.”We need to plan for a rainy day.” He said the legislature refused to cut back on spending in 2008, “when everyone saw this (slowdown) coming.”On the county budget, Dan May, district attorney for El Paso and Teller counties, said his office has targeted violent crimes, gangs, habitual criminals and meth labs, despite a trimmed budget. Since he took over in January, his office has handled 90 habitual criminal cases and nine murder trials.County Commissioner Amy Lathen (R-District 2) said county commissioners will hold a hearing on the 2010 budget Nov. 17. She said they expect to vote on the final budget Dec. 8.Lathen also said the county is conducting a small area traffic study that’s important to the Falcon area.”Development has a traffic impact,” she said. “How do you charge developers for this impact? How much is fair? Should we be doing this [study] in small areas or should we be doing it county wide?”These fees impact the cost of doing business in this county. We need to be very careful about how we implement this policy.”Lathen said Colorado Springs has asked the county treasurer, Sandra Damron, to impose delinquent fees on city residents who don’t pay the storm water fee. Regardless of Damron’s decision, Lathen said the county will be sued and forced to spend money on legal fees.Other bills on the state levelMark Lester, who represented Amy Stephens (R-Monument) on behalf of District 20, said Stephens ran two bills that were passed: one that incentivizes businesses to encourage employee wellness and a bill that allows county commissioners more voice in the state’s budgetary processes.Stephens also is thinking of running a bill that will allow Colorado to opt out of the public option if it is passed by Congress, Lester said.Looper said she introduced a bill that raises the statute of limitations on vehicular homicide from three to five years. She ran the bill because of a case that was solved too late to arrest the perpetrator of a hit-and-run traffic accident that killed a Fountain father of five. The bill passed.She’s also working with May on a “Veterans Treatment Court” to help place returning veterans who get into trouble into treatment programs more quickly.

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