Sparks fly in Senate wild fire debate; House tussles over totaled car titling
Car talk: House debates titling for totaled cars
Lemons, junkers and cars that have literally exploded are being sold with “clean” titles in Colorado. Lakewood Rep. Max Tyler — who, with his 1950’s pickup is something of a car man — has brought legislation to the House to keep car buyers from getting snookered.
Under current law, a car older than six years doesn’t have to be considered salvage if it’s totaled. HB 1299 would remove that time limit because, according to Tyler, people are driving older cars these days.
“Now 80 percent of our cars are over six years old. I think this is just a good consumer protection bill,” he said.
Tyler displayed a series of images of cars that had caught fire or otherwise wrecked that have been put up for auction with “clean” titles. Stacks of these images were presented in the House Transportation Committee, which encouraged the chamber to support Tyler’s bill unanimously.
Rep. Don Coram of Montrose opposed the bill, fearing that it might impact the value and insurance rates for older cars that are perfectly roadworthy but have cosmetic damage from keying or hail.
“I think this should be a case by case situation,” Coram argued, remembering a time he got in a fender bender in his old Ford Taurus. Just a few thousand dollar in damage rendered the car officially “totaled,” even though Coram repaired and continued to drive it for years.
The House gave initial approval to the measure which will come up for a final vote next week.
Senate urges planning commissions to broaden their horizons
Population growth in many of Colorado’s rural areas has put new pressures on the planning and zoning commissions that recommend how communities should be developed. Today, Sen. Gail Schwartz moved HB 1060 through a first hearing in the House. The bill would give 167 municipalities in Colorado the option to compensate planning and zoning commissioners for their work. Right now only communities that are “home rule,” those which are legally allowed to set up their own ordinances independent from the state, are allowed to pay commission members.
Schwartz said the bill would help communities attract a broader range of perspectives on planning commissions. Sitting through lengthy commission meetings may not be immediately attractive, or even practical, for folks who don’t work in development professionally.
“We’re not getting enough diversity — people outside of industry — to serve on these smaller planning and zoning commissions,” she said, worried that the lack of perspective could be skewing commissions towards industry, rather than community, friendly proposals.
Senator David Balmer of Centennial was concerned that adding a financial component to the planning commissions could encourage people to serve on them for the wrong reasons. He added that since planning commissioners are appointed and not elected, taxpayer money shouldn’t be used to pay them. Schwartz maintained that, in all likelihood, the payment would be relatively nominal — enough to cover volunteer commissioners’ travel costs, for example.
Sen. Lois Tochtrop of Thorton, whose husband serves on such a commission, supported Schwartz on that point. She added that in some more rural areas, folks often have to drive hours to make the meetings.
The Senate gave the bill initial approval on a voice vote. They’ll take a final look at the measure next week.
Senate gives final passage to water conservation bill
Snowmass Sen. Gail Schwartz’s bill to protect Western water-conscious farmers from losing their water rights when they implement efficiency measures passed the Senate today.
SB 23 would create a voluntary program for farmers in western Colorado to use less river water by upgrading irrigation systems such as earthen ditches without getting rolled by Colorado’s current ‘use-it-or-lose-it’ approach to water rights.
Sen. Lois Tochtrop of Thornton worried that the bill might disturb the delicate balance of Colorado’s maze of water laws.
“I do have concerns that this may be the proverbial camel’s nose under the tent,” she said, implying that when it comes to farmers divvying up scarce water resources, if you give them an inch, they may take a mile.
Ultimately, though, the bill passed handily in the Senate with only a few Republicans going on record against it. The measure now moves to the House.
Sparks fly, but don’t ignite, as Senate reviews controversial House bill to curtail agricultural burns
A touchy bill that was called a “war on rural Colorado” in the House moved through the Senate today.
Sparks flew in response to Dillon Rep. Mille Hamner’s bill to give county commissioners the authority to prohibit controlled burns on farms when there’s a red flag fire danger. The measure, HB 1007, is being sponsored in the Senate by Republican Sen. Larry Crowder of rural Alamosa.
Though the bill was contentious in the House, Crowder, who is a farmer on Colorado’s parched southern plains, told his colleagues he doesn’t think it’s too much to ask people not to torch their fields during hot windy summers. He remembered when a neighbor lost control of their agricultural burn and the flames weren’t put down until they licked the edge of the city of Alamosa.
Other rural senators weren’t so keen on the bill, which they said was insulting to farmers who are well aware of when it is and isn’t safe to do a controlled burn on their land.
“If you want to go ahead and punch the ag community in the gut just one more time, go ahead and pass this bill,” said Berthoud Sen. Kevin Lundberg.
Sen. Greg Brophy of Wray said the bill would go too far in limiting a farmer’s flexibility. He said controlled burns are choreographed with planting and irrigation cycles, and that no farmer would be so reckless as to risk their entire inheritance and livelihood on a poorly-timed blaze.
“The system we have right now works as well as it possibly can,” Brophy concluded.
Sen. Ellen Roberts of Durango disagreed, saying her own Cortez fire chief told her how grave a concern these burns are in his area and how important Crowder’s bill would be to them. She added that as a representative of the southern plains, Crowder is in the best position to know just how severe the current drought really is.
“When it starts raining again down south, then we can change it back,” Crowder said.
The Senate gave the bill initial approval on a voice vote and will consider final passage next week.
[Camel photo by Ross Thomson, wrecked cars as projected on the House floor by Rep. Tyler.]
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