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Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser on recent Supreme Court rulings and issues facing Coloradans

Courtesy of Phil for Colorado
Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser

The Supreme Court’s recent rulings have put a spotlight on state justice systems as they react to changes at the federal level. This comes as Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser has been visiting communities across the state, including in Montezuma County.

There's been widespread focus on the legal system amid a recent spate of consequential U.S. Supreme Court rulings, including on state-level justice departments. Here in Colorado, Attorney General Phil Weiser has been visiting communities in the southwest part of the state lately. He was in Telluride last week, and in Cortez over the weekend. From partner station KOTO, Matt Hoisch spoke with Attorney General Weiser about some of the recent Supreme Court rulings and his approach to issues facing Coloradans.

Matt Hoisch, KOTO News: Colorado lawmakers this year passed a bill guaranteeing the right to abortion in light of the US Supreme Court's recent ruling overturning Roe v. Wade. I'm curious how you hope to use your office's power to continue to guarantee that folks in Colorado have a right to abortion.

Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser: The Reproductive Health Equity Act basically codifies Roe v. Wade in Colorado law, which means no one in Colorado can get in the way with a provider offering abortion services to those who need it for a range of different reasons, if that comes up. If there are people who are trying to stop access to abortion, our office can do something about it.

KOTO News: Do you see the Attorney General as having a particular role in upholding that law?

Weiser: Our role is to enforce our laws. Our role is to provide guidance on our laws. That's why we put out a recent "Know Your Rights" document so that all Coloradans know, under Colorado law and this Reproductive Health Equity Act, access to abortion services are protected.

KOTO News: I'm going to stick with the Supreme Court for a bit because it's been in the news a lot lately. It also recently released a ruling limiting the Federal Environmental Protection Agency's power to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. What power do you have as attorney general to continue to ensure that Colorado reduces its greenhouse gas emissions? And how will you use that power?

Weiser: As attorney general, I've been defending protections for our land, air and water, including those on the federal level, like our clean car rules, making sure that we in Colorado can have higher standards for our emissions. Basically, making sure that cars here have less emissions than for example, in other states. We're now in a time when the federal government, under this recent ruling, can have less authority to deal with greenhouse gases. That means the work on the state level, moving towards a clean energy economy, is more important than ever. And we've been doing that work in Colorado for years now. My job is to make sure that work continues. I'll be defending it. I'll be helping to implement it.

KOTO News: You say the word "continue," but does this Supreme Court ruling at all change your strategy or approach to this work moving forward?

Weiser: The reality is the so-called Clean Power Plan for Colorado was sleeves off of our vest. We had already committed to a clean energy transition, meaning that when you looked at the goals we were gonna have to meet, we were already doing it. So in one sense, the painful ruling, which we think in our office is really a threat to the EPA's ability to protect human health, is not going to change what we're doing. It does make it more important, however, because it's no longer the case that our actions are going to potentially comply with federal law. Our actions are because we in Colorado care about protecting our land, air and water at a time of climate change.

KOTO News: One of the big issues of concern for many people in our community is housing and short term rentals. And the challenges of regulating and finding an equilibrium in that industry. What power do you see yourself having as attorney general to help find that equilibrium and ensure housing sustainability in Colorado?

Weiser: Housing issues are a challenge all over the state. It's one that our office has a pretty limited remit, if you will. We did get a new fair housing units setup, which can oversee practices by those who own and rent homes to others to make sure they do it fairly. But the main question that you're getting at - Do we have enough affordable housing? How do we encourage it? How do we treat different forms of housing? - is actually something the legislature deals with, and obviously the governor, but our office has a pretty limited role with it.

KOTO News: You're up for reelection this year, but you're also not the only one up for reelection this year. And right now, at least on the federal level, forecasts are not looking too good for Democrats. A lot of folks expect Democrats to lose at least some of the control they have at the federal level. So if you do win a second term as Colorado's Attorney General, how would you see that potential reduction of democratic control at the federal level impacting your ability to do work in the office?

Weiser: My message to everyone who asks is: tune out Washington. Right now, Washington has been a lot of noise, a lot of hating, but not a lot of problem solving. The work we're doing in Colorado, on the opioid epidemic, for example. On protecting consumers - we got $40 million back to consumers who are cheated by irresponsible companies. On how we protect our water during this time of climate change and drought. This work we're doing in Colorado, it's meaningful. In the best of all worlds, we will get more help from the federal government. We're gonna get some from this federal infrastructure act that will help us provide broadband and build more water infrastructure. But frankly, the federal government has largely been absent on critical issues. So whether or not Democrats control Congress or Republicans control Congress, my view is, I'm putting my head down. I'm working with people here in Colorado to solve the problems that face the people of Colorado.