The State Legislature is moving along well as we head into April and only 40 days left of the 2011 Legislative Session. However, the Joint Budget Committee still has no agreement on the State Budget for FY 2011-12 and therefore no ‘Long Bill’ has yet been released. CFB staff will be watching the Long Bill for any unexpected amendments.
Despite a relatively quiet session, there was movement on many bill tracked by CFB this week. We expect to see the “Long Bill” (the State’s Budget for Fiscal Year 2011-12) out by next week. It will be heard first in the Senate. That is when the real work will begin.
The Senate Ag Committee moved two favorable measures forward to the Senate Floor this week with the passage of HB 1159 which allows the Commissioner of Agriculture to license a grain protein analyzer before the analyzer is operated for commercial use and HB 1083 which adds hydroelectricity and pumped hydro to the list of technologies that the PUC may give full consideration of for use. CFB is in support of both of these measures.
The House and Senate will continue next week with full calendars of floor work (for 2nd and 3rd readings of numerous bills). We are still anticipating a handful of bills that we will engage on to be released in the coming weeks. The Long Bill (State’s Budget) is not expected to come out for a few weeks yet. The JBC is busy at work with long days of hearings to address the $1Billion shortfall in next year’s budget.
For a complete list of bills that CFB is currently following please check out the link to the Legislative Tracking List.
As a reminder, next week is National Ag Week – March 13 through the 19th – www.agday.org
Colorado will be celebrating National Ag Day on Wednesday, March 16th at the Colorado State Capitol!
The Colorado General Assembly will present a House Joint Resolution, sponsored by Rep. Sonnenberg and Sen. Schwartz, on Wednesday, March 16th, in recognition of National Ag Week and in celebrating National Ag Day in Colorado.
At Noon there will be a press conference on the West Steps of the State Capitol followed by a sandwich lunch prepared by members of the Colorado Ag Council.
Press Conference Agenda
Referred to the Voters!!! Victory for SCR – 001 (Ballot Measure Initiative Reform) successfully passed the full Senate and House this week with greater than 2/3rds support from both chambers in order to become a referred measure on the 2012 Ballot. Troy Bredenkamp, Exec. VP for CFB, testified as the voice for agriculture and rural Colorado on this measure in the House State Affairs Committee on Wednesday. Farm Bureau would like to thank all those legislators that supported this measure which will help to strengthen the voice for rural Colorado in the initiative process.
Also successfully passing the House chambers this past week and being referred to the Senate were the following measures:
HB 1004 – Rep. Baumgardner’s Farm Truck Registration bill
HB 1083 – Rep. Swerdferger’s Hydroelectricity and Pumped Hyrdo bill
HB 1084 – Rep. Baumgardner’s Modify Late Vehicle Registration Fee bill
HB 1093 – Rep. Bradford’s Special Mobile Machinery Ownership bill
HB 1111 – Rep. Sonnenberg’s CDA Livestock Confidential Data bill
HB 1192 – Rep. Coram’s bill to give CDOT authority to authorize state highways for travel with longer vehicle combinations
DEFEATED: HB 1165 (Align County Treasurer Water Dist. Fees) was successfully killed this week (2/23) in the House Local Government Committee. CFB was working in opposition to this bill which would have allowed the county treasurer’s office to dramatically increase fees for their services to collect irrigation and drainage district assessments. There was testimony for willingness of a more appropriate increase in this fee; however, this bill would have caused an unreasonable fee increase for some of our irrigation districts across that state that would have seen their fees go from $100 to greater than $12,000.
Here is a highlight of some of the major happenings from the Colorado State House and Senate this week:
The Colorado General Assembly has got down to business this week, addressing numerous pieces of legislation. The Senate has been dealing with supplemental bills, trying to refill the hole in this current fiscal year’s general fund budget. Those measures will move to the House next week.
Last week Farm Bureau assisted in killing SB 17, a bill which would have increased Anhydrous Ammonia Incident Reporting Requirements. CFB has agreed to further discussions over the interim with the Department of Ag to understand what exactly needs to be addressed with reporting incidents. The Senate State Affairs Committee killed a number of measures this week including, SB 35 – Prohibit Severance Related Revenue to Gen Fund.
The Department of Revenue has issued emergency rules for the implementation of HB 1190, regarding the rule for the Energy Sales Tax (39-26-102.21 C.R.S.) The DOR has the authority to issue the emergency rule for a 90 day term. The Attorney General’s Office is currently reviewing the final language, which mirrors the temporary language. The DOR expects to hear comments from the AG’s office regarding the language in the next week or two. The Department did accept the stakeholder’s suggested language and the regulation specifies that the suspension of the tax exemption does not apply to energy purchased for agricultural purposes. The rule further defines “agricultural purposes” as the same meaning found in 39-26-102(1) C.R.S.
Current statute defines “agricultural commodity” as any agricultural, horticultural, floricultural, viticultural, and vegetable products, livestock and livestock products, wheat, hay, corn, sugar beets, timber and timber products, oats, malting barley, barley, hops, rice, milo, and other feed grains, bees and honey, poultry and poultry products, and milk and milk products, either in their natural state or as processed, including any marketable agricultural product.
Therefore, CFB believes that if producers did not have to pay sales tax on their energy use before, they should not have to now. We will continue to stay engaged as this rulemaking gets finalized.
2010 Colorado Legislation
As we have passed the 30 day mark following the close of the 2010 Colorado General Assembly Session. All legislation has had to clear the Governor’s desk. Since the legislature adjourned on Wednesday, May 12 (the last day possible under the constitutionally mandated 120 day limit), Governor Ritter had until last Friday, June 11 to act on those bills. You can see a full list of the bills that passed the legislature and the final disposition of those bills.
Sales Tax Ag Exemption
The Colorado Department of Revenue is in the middle of their rulemaking process on the “Energy Use Tax Measure”, HB10-1190 (Concerning the suspension of the exemption from the state sales and use taxes for fuels used for industrial purposes). Colorado Farm Bureau joined other Ag and energy stakeholders, including the Colo. Rural Electric Association, in submitting a letter to the Colo. Dept. of Revenue seeking clarifying language in regards to the Ag exemption amendment done in HB 1190. The amendment was done in order to exempt all fuel uses purchased for agricultural purposes. The intention of the joint letter was to recommend alternative language to the proposed changes to regulation 39-26-102.21 to define “agricultural purposes” in order to offer clear guidance to the utilities that are required to collect the sales tax at the point of energy distribution and for agriculture producers to have a clear understanding. Ultimately, clearer regulatory language will reduce compliance issues for all parties and DOR. The focus of this language would be to define the purpose of the energy consumption instead of attempting to compile a comprehensive list of activities within agriculture production. We will provide further updates as this rulemaking progresses.
*Update* Today (May 6th) the Senate Ag Committee unanimously killed HB1407. Colorado Farm Bureau was the only group to testify in opposition to the measure in the Ag Committee. CFB along with the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association were the only two groups to oppose the measure.
Proposed Creation of a Range Worker Advisory Council
Rep. Daniel Kagan (D-Cherry Hills) has brought forward HB 1407 to create a Range Worker advisory council, termed the Sheep Herder Task Force. This council will be charged to study and discuss issues concerning range workers in Colorado who are working under the federal H-2A visa program.
The bill requires the advisory council to report recommendations, including any legislation deemed necessary, to committees of reference of the Colorado General Assembly. The council is set to dissolve after a report is issued. They will be required to meet at least twice, but not more than four times, and one of the said meetings must be held on the Western Slope. The bill also creates a cash fund for gifts, grants, and donations to cover the costs associated with the advisory council, which is believed to come from the Catholic Conference of Colorado.
Senate Concurrent Resolution – 003 (“Ballot Initiatives to Amend Constitution”) was recently brought forward to the legislature by Sens. Tapia and White and Rep. Court.
The measure is being coined as the “Son of Referendum O” (from the 2008 General Election), which was a measure to reform the ballot initiative process. Colorado Farm Bureau actively worked in support of Ref. O, which was defeated on the ballot. With much work over the past two years, many voices have come together to make a second attempt on the ballot to change the initiative process for citizen backed consitutional amendments.
This legislation proposes to implement the initiative reforms recommended by over 90% of the 1,200 civic leaders who convened statewide. It makes the following changes related to a proposed constitutional initiative:
- Requiring that 5% of the signatures gathered to place the initiative on the ballot come from each Congressional District
- Requiring a 60% super-majority voter approval on the ballot for future amendments to the constitution
- Allowing anything that is already in the constitution to be amended out with the same simple-majority by which it got in prior to 2011
- Requiring a super majority vote of the people to repeal future constitutional amendments passed after 2011
In 2009, SB 09-235 was passed to reauthorize the Habitat Stamp Program. It required an ongoing dialog between stakeholders to focus on finding solutions to outstanding issues of concern. These stakeholders, including the largest sportsmen organizations and the Sportsmen’s Advisory Group (SAG), sat down and discussed how to make the Habitat Stamp Program work for all. The result was the introduction of HB10-1361. Farm Bureau was in active support of this bill.
Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg led the charge to bring together a coalition of representatives from sportsmen groups and Ag landowner groups, including CFB, when it became clear that the Division of Wildlife was not willing to discuss concerns around the Habitat Stamp Program.
This measure would have created the Colorado Wildlife Habitat Stamp Operation, Maintenance, and Enhancement Fund. Money in the fund would be used for the expenses associated with the operation, maintenance and enhancement of property that is purchased using Habitat Stamp funds. Unfortunately, the measure met with extreme resistance from the Division of Wildlife and Director Remington who argued that they never agreed to have further discussions following the passage of SB09-235.
“It is too bad that the DOW has chosen to ignore both Sportsmen and Landowners regarding controversial issues with the Habitat Stamp program,” said Rep Jerry Sonnenberg (R-Sterling) the sponsor of the measure. “It is difficult to have a dialog with an agency whose leadership is less than honest.”
HB 1123 unanimously passed the House Judiciary Committee this week. This measure declares that a person can not be charged for an arson offense if they started and maintained a fire as a controlled agricultural burn in a reasonably cautious manner and there was no personal injury as a result. “Controlled Agricultural Burn” is defined in this bill to mean a technique used in farming to clear the land of any existing crop residue, kill weeds and weed seeds, or reduce fuel buildup and decrease the likelihood of a future fire. We believe this is a positive bill for Ag. CFB thanks Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg for bringing this bill forward.
HB 1101 was amended and passed the House Transportation & Energy Committee this week. This bill deals with Farm Truck Registration. CFB was supportive of the amendments to this bill. This measure now declares that if a farm truck is used primarily for agricultural production on a farm or ranch owned or leased by the owner of the truck and the land on which it is used has been classified as agricultural land (for taxing purposes). Currently, a county clerk may require that a person demonstrate that the person’s primary business is agriculture and show proof of this income in order to register a motor vehicle as a farm truck.
The Senate passed the Budget Supplemental Bills for the 2009-10 fiscal year. They now go to the Governor’s Desk. As for HB-1327, the objectionable Section 9 was deleted. It was replaced with Section 8 that transfers $2 million from the CWCB Perpetual Base Account to the General Fund.
Next Week – The House committees will hear SB 165 – ‘Adjust Oil and Gas Well Regulation’, SB 34 – ‘Pesticide Act Refillers Requirements’, SB 38 – ‘Organic Certification Act’, SB 19 – ‘Valuation of New Hydroelectric Facilities’, and SB 52 – ‘Alter Designated Groundwater Basin Area’. On Tuesday, the Senate State Affairs Committee will hear HB 1107 – ‘Urban Renewal Area regarding Ag Lands’.
Update on HB 1188 – Farm Bureau and a growing opposition coalition continue to make this our priority as the bill has passed the House and moves into the Senate. It has yet to be official what Senate Committee this bill will be heard in. Stay tuned…. CFB asks that you continue to contact the State Senators asking for a NO vote on HB 1188.
Supplemental Bills – The House debated and passed the 2009-10 Supplemental Bills to balance out this current fiscal years budget as adjustments and additional cuts had to be made to state departments. The Ag Lobby worked to guarantee that the Department of Ag did not take any additional cuts to their General Fund budget. The bills now move into the Senate and will be heard over in that chamber next week.
HB 1327 is one of the said supplemental bills. This measure would have completely drained CWCB Construction Fund, along with about a dozen other funds such as the Local Government Permanent Fund and the Processors and End Users of Waste Tires Cash Fund. In the House Appropriations hearing Rep. Curry raised objections to this raid and then Rep. Sonnenberg was successful in getting an amendment to the bill that entirely removed Section 9 of the bill, therefore saving the $20+ Million in the CWCB Construction Fund. Much thanks goes to Rep. Sonnenberg and Curry for leading that charge along with the other Appropriations Committee members that voted in favor of the amendment. The bill successful passed through the House with Section 9 still omitted from the current bill.
As the current legislative session kicked off this week here at the Gold Dome there is much anticipation for what is in store over the next four months. Being an election year and now with a lame duck Governor, many questions hang in the air.
With the National Western Stock Show currently happening not too many miles away many legislators have been decked out this week in their hats and boots which should help serve as a reminder that the Ag Industry is alive and well in this state and has no intention of sitting back quietly on the sidelines this Session.
The first round of bills was released Wednesday afternoon and CFB Staff is currently sorting through them all to determine what water, wildlife, transportation, natural resource, land use, and immigrant worker issues we will engage in as we move throughout the next few weeks.
Clearly the state budget remains a priority with many proposals, but the bottom line is that the 2010-11 budget will not be dealt with until after the March 20th economic forecast is released. But before then Farm Bureau will have to deal with the supplemental bills which will balance out the current year’s budget for 2009-10.
Committee hearings will start next week with many State department reviews and briefings. Legislators are optimistic of bipartisan agreements as many tough issues will hit their desks. The Ag Community has gathered around many tables this week as notes and talking points are prepped to lead the charge on critical issues such as water, food policy and immigration.
The CFB Legislative Conference is just around the corner and we look forward to seeing many more hats and boots here in Denver!