Legislative leaders will meet in a public forum February 21 to talk about ongoing negotiations at the Capitol around transportation funding. The meeting will take place at a gathering of business leaders and other interested parties who are pleading with lawmakers this year to arrive at a bipartisan deal that will address the state’s crumbling and outdated transportation infrastructure.
The Denver panel meeting is being hosted by the Colorado Business Roundtable and Fix Colorado’s Roads, the unsubtly named coalition of mostly business interests pushing lawmakers hard to reach an agreement. The roster of panel participants includes Speaker of the House Crisanta Duran, a Denver Democrat, Senate President Kevin Grantham, a Cañon City Republican, Colorado Department of Transportation Executive Director Shailen Bhatt, Vail Mayor Dave Chapin and regional chambers of commerce leaders.
That the legislative leaders have agreed to the meeting is a show of good faith and it goes some way toward tamping down a narrative promoted last week by news outlets that the conversation over transportation funding had moved into a rocky shoal and was in danger of running aground.
The narrative was the product of a press conference held by Speaker Duran, in which she tied the session’s top-priority negotiations over transportation funding to the perennial problem of short and declining education funding.
There was a sense in the immediate aftermath of the press conference that the bridge to a deal was crumbling. But then, in the aftermath of the immediate aftermath, there was the sense that in fact nothing had changed — or, rather, that the only thing that had changed was that reporters had been brought more fully into the loop on positions struck throughout the already-months-long negotiations.
Sandra Hagen Solin with Fix Colorado Roads played down last week’s flap.
“A lot is happening behind closed doors. A lot is happening in public. This will be a long road, and the back and forth of the public discourse is going to get uncomfortable at times,” she said. “But that’s a necessary part of the process, and I highly encourage it. It means everyone’s talking — and that’s a good thing.”
The panel discussion will be held at the ICOSA Event Center.