Senate storm brews over pipelines, spray tans save prom, legislators become movie stars

Senate advances bill granting companies the right to use private land

Senators crossed party lines on a contentious bill that pits private-property rights against the kind of seizures companies and the government can make if they can argue they’re working for the common good.

Democratic Senator Cheri Jahn of Wheat Ridge said her bill, SB 93, was just meant to clarify what is already common practice.

Senator Kevin Lundberg, a Republican from Berthoud, said that eminent domain — the right to use private land for the public good even if the owner is against it — shouldn’t be so lightly granted to private companies.

“Here’s the way it ought to work: willing buyer, willing seller,” he said, asserting that eminent domain might allow companies to bully or cheat land owners.

“When one side has a big hammer and the other side has nothing, the determination of ‘just compensation’ means nothing,” he said.

Sen. Greg Brophy, R-Wray, agreed and proposed an amendment to limit the power Jahn’s bill might grant oil-and gas companies.

“Think about the power of eminent domain — somebody can come to you and just take from you the use of your property,” said Brophy. He added that eminent domain is generally a power of the government and that citizens have the right to vote out of office anyone who abuses that power.

“If we allow a private entity eminent domain, and they abuse the citizenry with that power, how do we hold them accountable?” he asked. “You can’t fire the CEO. You can’t fire the landman…”

Brophy recounted the story of a farming family who were bankrupted when the private company behind the E-470 tollway undercut them, getting their land on the cheap. He said his amendment would prevent this kind of thing from happening when pipelines are built. In it, if a company is found to have low-balled their bid by more than 30 percent, they are required to pay court fees and triple damages for the difference in the real and offered value for use of the land.

His amendment, Brophy argued, was the only way to keep companies in line and ensure they would offer land owners a fair price to use their property.

Jahn disagreed. She said Brophy’s amendment was too punitive and would create “new risks for children and the general public” by encouraging companies to build pipelines on public land like parks. She also said the amendment went way beyond the scope of her bill and should be rejected for not fitting under the measure’s title.

The Senate ultimately agreed with Jahn.

Democrat Matt Jones of Louisville noted that, when the bill was still in committee, county commissioners were lined up to strongly oppose it. Conservative Weld County commissioners and liberal commissioners from Boulder testified against it.

But the measure passed on a voice vote. Brophy asked for roll call for the record. After a flurry of “pass” votes on the Democratic side and a few unexpected “ayes” on the Republican, the measure got only 7 “nays” and will come up for a final vote tomorrow.
Don’t worry, spray tans will save prom
Representative Cheri Gerou fought hard in the House for an amendment to Rep. Cherylin Peniston’s bill prohibiting minors from using tanning beds. Gerou argued that, if teens are older than 16 and their parents sign off on it, they should be allowed.

Peniston held her ground, saying research shows that tanning companies don’t uphold parental consent laws very well.

Debate got heated. House members called for a specific sit or stand vote on the amendment, which lost.

Rep. Frank McNulty said rejecting Gerou’s amendment was a burn on bipartisanship.

“I know that had that amendment been adopted, I would have voted for the bill… but right now it appears we might have a bill that’s simply pushed through by the Democratic majority,” he said.

Peniston effectively suggest that everyone cool off. With spray tanning, she said, “young women like Rep. Gerou and me can still look pretty at prom in a safe way.”

HB 1054 passed second reading and will see a final vote tomorrow.

Legislators green-screened into famous movies to promote Colorado film industry

A massive set put together by the Colorado Film Commission dominated the lobby of the state capitol today as legislators and dignitaries got before the camera to quote famous movie lines and promote the state’s growing film industry.

A crew member told The Independent that the event will contribute to a short film promoting new industry incentives in Colorado. Those perks include a 20 percent cash rebate on production expenses.

We’ll keep an eye out for the CFC’s video starring all your favorite state legislators, but for now check out this behind the scenes clip of Aurora Representative Rhonda Fields standing in for Clark Gable in Gone With the Wind. 

Senate gives CSU Global the green light to offer four-year degrees

There was some debate yesterday about whether or not allowing Colorado State University’s online campus CSU Global to award full four-year degrees violated a contract they previously had with community colleges whose students would transfer in after two years.

Senator Nancy Todd, the bill’s sponsor said it wasn’t an issue, adding that the community colleges were neutral on her bill to let CSU Global grant four-year degrees. Senator Kevin Lundberg, a co-sponsor of the bill, disagreed. He said “neutral” was just another word for “steam rolled.”

Despite that concern, SB 114 passed third reading in the Senate today, though not without Lundberg requesting to have his sponsorship pulled from the measure. The bill will now go to the House.