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2010 Election Recap

Following the November 2 election, Colorado is truly a purple state.  Republicans now control the Colorado House with a 33-32 majority*, won three of the statewide races and two Congressional races.  Democrats were able to keep control of the Colorado Senate, the Governor’s office as well as the U.S. Senate.

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Legislative Briefs…

Floating Bill Sinks

A conference committee that was convened to work out differences between two versions of the controversial Right-to-Trespass (HB 1188 – Right-to-Float) legislation was unable to find compromise and the committee was discontinued.

Rep. Kathleen Curry (I-Gunnison) made a motion to support a version of the bill that was slightly modified from the House version that would have allowed commercial river outfitters the ability to float through private land on specific rivers, but the committee deadlocked on a 3-3 vote.

Sen. Al White (R-Hayden) made a second motion to support the Senate version of the bill which would have directed a study of the issue to be done this summer.  The committee again deadlocked on a 3-3 vote.  As a result, proponents acknowledged that there would not be a compromised reached this year and the bill is considered lost.  The issue is far from over however, with 20 separate ballot initiative proposals being introduced.

(Image: jocelyn.aubert)

Legislative Briefs…

One Week Left

There is one week left in the 2010 legislative session and Colorado Farm Bureau is busy wrapping up work on various bills still moving through the system.  A brief summery of the remaining bills can be found below.

HB 1429 – Legislative Review of Tax Benefits, was defeated on the House floor on Tuesday.  CFB was opposed to the legislation that called for annual review of certain state tax benefits to determine whether or not they should be continued or appealed.  Tax benefits in the bill that directly impact agriculture included the sales and use tax, income tax and the gasoline and special fuel tax.  The business community, oil & gas community and agricultural groups were opposed to the bill due to concerns with the criteria by which the various tax benefits would be judged, who would conduct such study and the overall negative impact to the business economy by hindering efforts to produce business plans.  CFB was especially concerned with the impacts on agricultural producers and felt that this bill would have put Colorado farmers and ranchers at a competitive disadvantage to neighboring states.

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Legislative Briefs…

Rafting Bill Still Alive

The Colorado House of Representatives voted today to send the controversial right-to-trespass bill, HB 1188, to conference committee.  Representative Kathleen Curry, the House sponsor of the measure, did not support the Senate version of the bill which directed the Colorado Water Congress to facilitate a study regarding the issue and to report back to the legislature in November.

Rep. Curry asked for permission to have a conference committee established, which will be made up of 3 members from the House of Representatives and 3 members from the Senate.  The committee will then be charged with trying to draft  a compromise between the two versions of the bill.  Colorado Farm Bureau has been very active in the discussions about this controversial bill, and supports the issue being taken off the table this legislative session and being further discussed in a study this summer.

CFB is asking the Colorado Senate to not agree to go to conference committee and to stand by their version of the bill.

Budget Debate Closes Capitol

The 2010-11 State Budget was debated in the House of Representatives this week.  Due to the severe economic downturn and significantly decreased state revenues, the conversation was bleak.  After just a couple of hours of debate, the House voted cut their losses and instead of attempting to approve a balanced budget, they voted to close the doors to the Capitol for the rest of the year. The small amount of budget revenue that has come in will be diverted to a vacation fund for House members to use at will.  The Senate is not expected to oppose the move, as they are already on vacation. April Fools!!!!

Legislative Briefs…

Budget Debate Clears House – The Colorado House of Representatives debated and approved the 2010-11 State Budget (HB10-1376) this week.  There was little controversy during the debate of the $18.2 billion budget.  The most recent revenue forecast indicated that the General Fund Revenues would increase by $389.4 million, giving a little more breathing room for the General Assembly.  The bill will now move over to the Senate.  Colorado Farm Bureau will continue to monitor the bill and especially HB 10-1377, which makes a temporary change to certain programs within the Colorado Department of Agriculture.  This bill removes General Fund money for the Inspection and Consumer Services Program and allows CDA to recoup the loss by increasing fees for two years.  Similar legislation was passed during the last economic downturn in 2002, where fees were raised for a period of 3 years.

Governor Ritter Signs SB 10-52 – Legislation that provided certainty for designated ground water wells was signed into law by Governor Bill Ritter this week.  SB10-52 clarifies legislative intent of the 1965 Ground Water Management Act creating designated groundwater basins, by providing that once final well permits are issued, the permits cannot be revoked if designated basin boundaries change.  CFB supported the legislation.

Ag Land Taxation Bill Moves Forward – The Senate State Affairs committee gave approval to HB10-1293, which establishes a 13-member interim task force to study the assessment and classification of agricultural and residential land to ensure that land is valued based on its actual use

Budget Debate Begins

The 2010 Long Bill (HB 10-1376) has been introduced.  The March 2010 forecast indicates that General Fund revenues will increase by $389.4 million (5.8%) for fiscal year 2010-11.  General Fund appropriations subject to the statutory limit for fiscal year 2010-11 total $6,938.6 million.  This is a 4.6% ($308.3 million) increase.

In addition to the Long Bill, several other bills have been introduced as part of the overall 2010-11 budget package. The budget package will be debated starting in House Appropriations on Tuesday, March 30. Party caucuses will meet tomorrow afternoon. Debate will then shift to the House Floor with the goal of finishing debate and sending the bill over to the Senate by the end of the week.

Department of Agriculture

The main change for CDA is in HB 10-1377, which refinances all of the Inspection and Consumer Services Programs with cash funds for fiscal year 2010-11 and 2011-12.  These programs include the fertilizer, feed, large scales, measurement standards, farm products and the commodity handlers programs. Current law stipulates that a portion of the cost of each of these programs is paid by the General Fund.  HB 10-1377 removes that General Fund money and allows CDA to increase fees to cover the difference – approximately $1.3 million or near 50%.

Legislative Calendar

Monday – March 22

HB 1101 – Farm Truck Registration (Senate State Affairs – 1:30 p.m.)

Tuesday – March 23

HB 1361 – Habitat Stamp Program Enhancement (House State Affairs – 1:30 p.m.)

Wednesday – March 24

DOW Briefing on Habitat Stamp Program Pursuant to SB09-235 (Joint Ag Committee – 7:30 a.m.)

SB 139 – Unwanted Horse Checkoff (House Ag – 1:30 p.m.)

HB 1205 – Local Land Use Planning for Military Installments (Senate State Affairs – 1:30 p.m.)

Thursday – March 25

HB 1250 – Water Conservation Board Construction Fund (Senate Ag – 1:30 p.m.)

State Revenues Bouncing Back?

For the first time in recent memory, the economic forecast that was released today had a more positive story to tell.  Due to corporate and individual income tax collections that came in higher than expected, the state budget is approximately $35.1 million ahead of where the General Assembly had originally planned for.

Governor Ritter’s economic team reported that although the news was positive, there would not be any attempts to reverse any of the cuts in the current fiscal year’s budget that ends in June, or reinstate any of the tax credits and exemptions that were removed earlier this year.  They also stressed that although it looks as if the economy may be starting to recover, it would be a long process.

The economic forecast being released today starts the process of debating next year’s budget.  Stay tuned for updates regarding the debate on the 2010 Long Bill, which is expected to be introduced in the next couple of weeks.

(Image: Thomas Hawk)

HB 1188 Amended to a Study

Today, the controversial right-to-trespass bill, HB 1188, was amended to become a study by the Colorado Water Congress. Senator Al White ran the amendment, which recognizes the need to study and potentially clarify the existing law concerning civil and criminal trespass by boaters on rivers and streams flowing through private property in Colorado.

The CWC is directed to study the issue, taking into account the “legal, economic, environmental and law enforcement issues related to boating through private property.”

The amended version of the bill has one more vote to go through in the Senate then it will be sent back to the House.  At that time, the House must decide whether to accept the Senate version of the bill.  If they do, the bill will be sent to the Governor.  If the House does not accept the updated version, the bill may be sent to a conference committee for additional debate.

Thank you to all of you who contacted your Senators.  This action today is a positive one and will allow for a broader dialog about the issue of floating through private property.

(Image: cramsay23)

HB 1188 Passes on to Full Senate

After more than 7 hours of public testimony and debate, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to send the controversial Right to Trespass bill, HB 1188, to the Senate Floor on a party line vote.  Amendment language was added to the bill that broadened the language to include all boaters, not just commercial outfitters.  The amendment also expanded the bill to affect more waterways – those that have been commercially ran at least once between the years 2000-2009.

Controversial language regarding portaging was removed from the bill but boaters will now be able to get away with incidental touch in order to continue to have forward progress on the river.  The right-to-float was also codified in the bill with the new amendment language.

The bill was passed 4-3 with Senators Renfroe, King and Lundberg voting in opposition.  Colorado Farm Bureau continues to OPPOSE HB 1188 as amended.

The room was packed with farmers and ranchers from all over Colorado who showed up to show their support for private property rights.  Testimony that was given by CFB members was extremely helpful in highlighting the problems with the proposal.

The bill will now move to the Senate floor for further debate.  Please watch the Pulse for more updates.

CFB would like to thank all the members who made the trip to Denver on such short notice. Without your help, the bill would have likely passed by a much greater margin.

Thank you to all who have sent in letters or made phone calls to your Senators.  Although the bill made it through tonight, your efforts have paid off and will continue to help us as we move the fight to the next level.

(Image: James the photographer)

Legislative Briefs…

House gives final approval to SB 52


The Colorado House of Representatives approved a bill aimed at providing certainty for water wells pumping in designated ground water basins.  CFB supported SB 52, which was sponsored by Senator Greg Brophy and Representative Kathleen Curry.  The bill clarifies legislative intent of the 1965 Ground Water Management Act creating designated groundwater basins, by providing that once final well permits are issued, the permits cannot be revoked if designated basin boundaries change.  The bill was passed unanimously out of the Senate but ran into opposition in the House over concerns that senior surface water rights would be harmed.  This is not the case because SB 52 focuses on the 8 designated ground water basins in Colorado, and does not affect any other water well in the State.

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Legislative Briefs…

SB 165 moves quickly through legislative process.

SB 165 specifies that no water well permit will be required for the use of nontributary/non-CBM water produced from oil & gas wells if that water is being used by oil & gas operators within the geologic basin where the groundwater is removed to facilitate or permit the mining of minerals.  Language was added in the House to specify that permitting determinations pursuant to this bill neither confer a water right nor preclude determination of a water right by the water court.

The bill also extends the well permitting and substitute water supply plan compliance deadlines established in HB09-1303 from March 31, 2010 to August 1, 2010 in order to give the State Engineer time to process all of the permits that are expected to be submitted.  Water well permit applications for current oil & gas wells must be submitted before April 30, 2010.  The bill has one more vote in the House before it goes back to the Senate for confirmation.

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Legislative Briefs…

Ag Land Valuation Bill Amended….Legislation that created a 13-member land assessment and classification task force for the purpose of studying the assessment and classification of agricultural land was heavily amended in the House State, Veterans & Military Affairs Committee on Tuesday.  HB 1293 now simply  creates a “task force” that will be made up of four members who are owners/lessees of agricultural property (participants must be actively involved in farming or ranching), 2 county commissioners (one from each side of the continental divide) and 2 county assessors (one from each side of the continental divide).

The Task Force will be chaired by the State Property Tax Administrator and will meet at least 4 times over the interim.  The Task Force is directed to submit a written report of its findings by October 15.  CFB was extremely concerned with the introduced version of the bill due to requirements that would have lead to specific legislation being introduced in 2011.  CFB worked closely with other agricultural organizations to get the appropriate representation on the task force.

Right-to-Float Bill Update…HB 1188 has still not been assigned to a committee in the Colorado Senate for debate.  This indicates that our efforts in reaching out to our Senators and expressing our opposition is working!  KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK! Please continue to contact your Senators and encourage a NO vote on HB 1188.

We can’t let up now!

HB 1188 has huge implications to private property rights in Colorado and we must send the message that private property rights matter in Colorado.  Efforts in Utah paid off this week when the Utah House of Representatives defeated similar legislation.  Let’s match the efforts in Utah and defeat HB 1188!!!

Legislative Briefs…Week In Review

CFB Opposed Water Bills Are Tabled – Two water bills that Farm Bureau opposed were pulled off the table by sponsor Sen. Mary Hodge (D-Brighton) on Thursday.  SB 67 aimed to exempt some public school wells from having to augment their water usage.  FB policy supports the prior appropriations doctrine and as concerned with the potential impacts to senior water rights.   Senator Hodge also pulled SB 78 from further discussion.  This bill dealt with “reusable effluent”.  CFB was concerned with impacts to downstream water rights and opposed the bill.

CCI Introduces Bill Regarding Ag Land Property Tax Clarification – A CCI-backed bill has been introduced in the House to create a task force to study the assessment and classification of agricultural and residential land.  HB 1293 is sponsored by Rep. Tom Massey (R-Poncha Springs) and has been assigned to the House Local Government Committee.  CFB is very concerned with the bill.

Rafting Bill Passes 2nd Reading – HB 1188 was approved on a voice vote on the House floor today.  Opponents, lead by Representative Sonnenberg, made a valiant effort to defeat the bill.  Many amendments were offered to provide some restrictions to the ability to portage on private land, all of which were adamantly opposed to by the rafting community and the sponsor, Rep. Curry.  This bill is a very dangerous bill that levies a huge blow to private property rights.  The bill has one more vote in the House before moving onto the Senate.  Please call your state Senators Representatives and ask them to protect private property rights and vote NO on HB 1188.

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Legislative Briefs…

Right to Float Goes to the Floor, Tax Bills Pass, and Wind Bill Becomes a Study…

HB 1188 – “Clarify River Outfitter Navigation Right”, Introduced by Rep. Kathleen Curry, (I – Gunnison), passed the House Judiciary Committee on Monday, Feb. 8, after a solid six hour hearing. The Colorado Farm Bureau is vigorously opposed to HB 1188.

This bill is not a “Right to Float” but indeed a “Right to Trespass”. This bill will be heard on the House Floor tomorrow morning for its 2nd reading. All CFB members are encouraged to contact their Representative and ask for a NO vote to help us in this fight to protect our property rights.

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SB-24 Rulemaking Update

The Colorado Wildlife Commission met on July 9 to finalize the rules for the implementation to the game damage regulations stemming from the passage of SB09-24.  The Commission voted unanimously to approve the draft regulation changes proposed by staff that included changing the access fee provision from $100 to $500 and the statutory provisions regarding the timeline for distribution of game damage prevention materials (15 days for temporary, 45 days for permanent).

Unfortunately, some key provisions found in SB09-24 were not included in the final regulations.  These provisions included the requirement that the Division respond to a landowner making an inquiry related to game damage within two business days after receiving the inquiry as well as the language stating that within five business days after receiving a request for game damage prevention materials, the Division shall consult with the landowner to discuss the sufficient and appropriate materials to prevent or mitigate the game damage.  Colorado Farm Bureau and the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association submitted a joint letter requesting that these issues be included in the final regulations in order to prevent as much confusion as possible.  Although these provisions were not included in the final regulation, Division staff and legal counsel was quick to point out that they still had to abide by the statutory language and that these provisions would be highlighted in administrative procedure manuals for staff as well as in a game damage guidebook that is being developed for the public.

Colorado Farm Bureau encourages members to be diligent in knowing the process for game damage complaints.  Please let us know your experiences in game damage issues.  We want to make sure that the intent of SB09-24 is followed through the initial inquiry stage all the way to the final distribution of prevention materials.

Initial Process for Game Damage Issues

–          DOW must respond to inquiries and requests for game damage prevention materials within 2 business days

–          After the initial inquiry, the DOW has 5 business days to consult with a landowner on the appropriate type of game damage prevention materials to mitigate the problem

–          Once an agreement is reached, the DOW must provide temporary materials within 15 days, unless a different time period is agreed to by the landowner and the Division.

–          If permanent game damage prevention materials are warranted, the Division has 45 days to provide such materials to the landowner.

–          State law now stipulates that the Division is liable for any damages that occur if the materials are not provided by the date agreed upon by the landowner and the Division.

–          State law also clarifies that a landowner is not precluded from applying for a game damage claim if the materials provided by the DOW fail to prevent game damage.

–          State law also clarifies that a landowner is eligible to request game damage prevention materials or file a game damage claim even if they charge up to $500 for an access fee (including if they received a landowner voucher) to their private property.

For more information about the Division of Wildlife game damage program and for more information regarding how to file a game damage claim, please go to www.wildlife.co.us.  State statute regarding game damage can be found in C.R.S. 33-3-101 through 33-3-204 at http://www.michie.com/colorado/lpext.dll?f=templates&fn=main-h.htm&cp

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