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.
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.
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.
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.
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!!!!
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
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%.