With a few days under their belts to absorb the news that Weld County commissioners are serious about forming a new state with other northeastern Colorado counties, some state legislators who represent constituents here say they support at least a conversation about the creation of a North Colorado.
Sen. Scott Renfroe, R-Greeley, and Rep. Steve Humphrey, R-Severance, both said on Monday they can see how Weld County commissioners are at the end of their ropes after this past legislative session.
Humphrey said he and fellow Republicans fought for "hours and hours" against S.B. 252, a new law that raises the renewable energy standard for rural electricity providers -- legislation that Weld commissioners said was the tipping point for their decision to create a new state.
In a Democrat-dominated General Assembly and with a Democrat for a governor, Humphrey said, "We really don't have the votes to stop anything, when it comes down to it."
Commissioners said they felt representatives from the Denver-metro area have attacked their way of life -- from the rural energy bill to proposed oil and gas legislation to the new gun laws passed this year.
Rep. Dave Young, D-Greeley, said he came into the state Legislature when his party was in the minority, in 2011. He said he worked to pass bipartisan laws then and now, and so-called urban vs. rural tensions are "completely fabricated."
"I just think it's an issue of people working across the aisle," Young said. "When you start talking about secession, you're not talking about working together."
Young, the only Democrat in the area, said most of the 440 bills passed by the General Assembly this year were bipartisan, and he worked "diligently" to represent everyone in his district.
Greeley Mayor Tom Norton said he believes there are industries in Weld County, such as oil and gas and agriculture, that the Legislature and governor do not support enough.
He said a real discussion of the positives and negatives of forming a new state is in order.
"I want the discussion," Norton said on Monday.
He said he doesn't think the movement to create North Colorado will hurt Greeley's image campaign, which was launched in full a few weeks ago.
The "Greeley Unexpected" campaign includes ads and events to promote the city as a cultural and entertaining community. If anything, Norton said, the North Colorado rumpus could help put Greeley on the map.
Renfroe said he believes the political situation has worsened at the state capitol in his seven years in office. He said bill after bill has been passed to benefit Denver residents to the detriment of rural residents. Recent oil and gas regulations passed by the state impact development in Weld County the most, he said.
"The flip side is, we don't get the severance dollars from oil and gas to offset the impact," Renfroe said. Even before the North Colorado initiative was brought up, Renfroe said, he had constituents contacting him daily because they were so frustrated with the Legislature.
Renfroe said he has also dealt with an unexpected aspect of the initiative, which was a website to get him elected as a senator of North Colorado -- www.renfroeforsenate.org. Renfroe didn't create the site himself, but he said in the event of a new state, he might consider running for an elected office, although that is a long way down the road.
Norton said he, too, has been asked whether he would run for governor of North Colorado or whether Greeley would become the new state capital, since it is the county seat.
"You can summarize and make all kinds of comments like that ... all of those kinds of, 'Oh by the way, wouldn't that be fun?,' " Norton said. "But the real issue is, can we establish a political boundary that gives us enough authority" to do what we want, he said.
"The commissioners are on the right track." ___
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