U.S. Congressman Scott Tipton (R), right, visits with Alamosa Mayor Kathy Rogers, left, and Alamosa Councilor Josef Lucero, center, during a gathering at city hall on Wednesday.
Courier photo by Ruth Heide
ALAMOSA — U.S. Congressman Scott Tipton (R) had a local conversation yesterday with Alamosa government and business leaders on a variety of topics from economy to immigration.
“I am delighted to be spending my ‘vacation’ with you,” Tipton said.
On a break from Congress, Tipton is touring the 3rd Congressional District he represents, which extends from Craig and Steamboat Springs in the northwestern corner of the state to the San Luis Valley.
Earlier on Wednesday the congressman visited Colorado Malting Company, a burgeoning business in Alamosa County. Tipton said he was very impressed with the ingenuity of the business and its potential for expansion and job creation in this area.
Alamosa Mayor Kathy Rogers said economic development is one of the priorities of the city council, and the city is experiencing growth as a result. She said tourism is growing, in large part to the railroad’s efforts.
Tipton said job creation is one of his passions as well, and he appreciated what the community is doing here to advance economic development.
Most of the city council attended the luncheon with Tipton and his local aide Brenda Felmlee. Alamosa County Commissioner Michael Yohn also attended, as did economic development leaders Randy Wright, Mike Wisdom and Donna Wehe and other members of the community.
Wehe’s son Ryan, an Alamosa High School student, accompanied her, and Tipton congratulated Ryan on an essay on the Second Amendment he had shared with the congressman.
Alamosa Councilor Greg Gillaspie asked Tipton about his stance on the Second Amendment.
“I stand for the Second Amendment. I will protect the Second Amendment,” Tipton responded.
He said caution must be exercised in taking even small pieces away from constitutional rights.
He said attacks such as Aurora and Columbine involved mental issues. He also pointed to the influence of the violence portrayed on a daily basis in TV, movies and video games, such as a game in which the player is a terrorist trying to shoot as many people as possible. Something like that might push an unstable person over the edge, he suggested.
Tipton responded to several questions and concerns from councilors and community members on Wednesday.
For example, Mayor Pro Tem Charles Griego, who is also a farmer and businessman, asked Tipton about the progress being made on immigration reform, specifically about red cards for non-citizen workers in the U.S.
Tipton said he has provided information about the red card proposal to those in the House of Representative who are working on immigration legislation.
He agreed there needs to be a way for people from other countries to work in the U.S.
“We need help in agriculture, we need help in construction, and we need a good guest worker program that is good for the people providing the work and surety for the businesses as well,” Tipton said.
He said he did not know if the U.S. would ever get to the perfect solution, but he believed it could be better.
Tipton said he looked at reforming immigration in the same way he would at setting up a business, with one stage requiring completion before the next stage could be undertaken. For example, a new business would not build a structure until it owned the land.
Griego also shared with Tipton concerns about military veteran health services. Griego said the Valley has a beautiful clinic but has trouble keeping medical staff.
Tipton said he co-sponsored a bill to allow veterans to receive health care from their local medical providers without having to travel long distances to VA hospitals. Mayor Rogers, who works at the SLV Regional Medical Center, said the hospital is making progress on that as well. She said there are a few procedures that can be completed here now, but there has been a lot of red tape involved.
Tipton said he and U.S. Senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennet, both Democrats, were supportive of that. Tipton said members of the Colorado delegation meet monthly to discuss issues affecting Colorado.
“The benefits should work for the veterans,” Tipton said. “The veterans should not have to continue to work for the benefits.”
He added, “We have got to be able to support those who have already served and those who are serving.”
Councilman Josef Lucero, whose daughter works for a national defense contractor in California, said he wanted to make sure she would be safe if North Korea decided to attack the U.S. He asked what measures were being taken to thwart such attacks.
Tipton said the U.S. has the ability to intercept missiles from North Korea, but North Korea is not the only potential threat to this country. If Iran joined the “nuclear club,” for example, it would destabilize the entire region.
Alamosa Police Chief Craig Dodd shared concerns about the number of prison inmates released early into communities like Alamosa where they may remain on parole or in Community Corrections. He said some of the worst offenders are being released into rural communities where they are causing problems.
Tipton said this is not an area in which he is specifically involved, but he would look into it. He said common sense needs to come into play on decisions about when offenders are released.
Chief Dodd also asked Tipton if the federal government had made a decision on the stand it would take regarding recreational marijuana use, which Colorado voters condoned by majority last fall. Tipton said the federal government had still not made a decision.
Tipton said this must be one of the worst nightmares for law enforcement because it pits federal law against state law. Some congressmen are trying to get an exemption for Colorado, he added.
Another wrinkle is the collection of taxes from recreational marijuana sales, Tipton said, “because that’s labeled under federal law as drug laundering.”
Alamosa area resident Leon Moyer, who recently returned from spending the winter in Florida, said he believed the solution would be to legalize marijuana on a national level.
In addition to taking questions and concerns from the group, Tipton updated them on pending or completed legislation including:
• Energy: Tipton’s proposed small hydro-electric bill has moved through the natural resources committee and will be going before the full house. Tipton also proposes legislation he said was a true “all of the above” energy measure to utilize the U.S.’s own resources whether those are wind, solar, hydro-electric and geothermal or oil, gas and oil shale.
• Wildfire act: The health forest management and wildfire act will be going through committee soon and will provide a sensible approach to addressing areas of imminent threat surrounding schools, transmission lines and other crucial areas.
• Water: In this case, Tipton is working to prevent legislation that would give the federal government control over Colorado water.
“I am going to stand to protect our water,” he said. “It’s a private property right issue. We have state law. We cannot, will not, allow the federal government to circumvent that … We cannot lose control of our water in this state.”