Democrats carry pro-gun bill. Trucks booted off Independence Pass. House debates affordable housing.

The only Colorado gun bill you’ve never heard of


A bill to make it easier for folks to renew their concealed carry permits passed handily on second reading in the state Senate today.

“Right now, if you want to get a renewal on your concealed carry permit you have to go to the county of origin,” said Senator Tochtrop, a self proclaimed Second Amendment Democrat from Arvada who sponsored the bill.

That means someone who got their permit in Denver and later moved to Durango would face a 10 hour drive roundtrip just to comply with the law.

“Now with the Internet everyone has all the information on a person,” Tochtrop said. “And I would think the sheriff of the county you’re living in needs to know that you have a concealed carry. It’s a great bill.”

HB1166 also has a Democratic representative as co-sponsor — Edward Vigil of Pueblo and the San Luis Valley. Gun control was a losing measure for Vigil’s fellow southern Colorado Democrat Angela Giron of Pueblo who was recalled after last session’s measures.

The bill will get a final vote in the Senate this week.

House debates affordable housing 

HB 1017  is a Reagan-inspired tax credit to encourage the construction of affordable housing in a state where it is in high demand but accounts for just two percent of all new residential buildings.

The Joint Budget Committee currently estimates that the measure would cost the state about $40 million over the next decade. Given the price tag, debate about exactly where and how that money would be spent was at the center of the bill’s second reading.

Rep. Crisanta Duran of Denver noted that her measure had been amended to prioritize the victims of Colorado’s natural disasters — particularly floods, but also wildfires.

Rep. Tim Dore of Elizabeth said the language needed to be stronger and proposed a series of amendments. The first promised disaster victims 100 percent of the funds. Dore quickly substituted that amendment for one which promised disaster victims 50 percent of the monies.

Duran said Dore’s amendments were impractically rigid. She worried about what would happen if victims of natural disasters needed more than 50 percent of the funds this year. Duran was also concerned that the amendment could shut out other low-income folks next year when, fingers crossed, the state won’t be facing such extreme natural disasters.

Duran has the backing of Boulder Rep. KC Becker, who said prioritization and not a firm figure is the solution.

“The bill in its present form is the best way we have to benefit flood victims. For the flood victims in my community, let’s not play politics with this. Let’s just move it forward,” Becker said.

Unsurprisingly at the Capitol, politics were inextricable from the debate. Republicans said that consumer protections passed by Democrats in past sessions were at fault for making the construction of affordable housing too legally risky, which pushed up insurance rates.

“I’ve lived it, I’ve breathed it, and actually you can’t build owner-occupied, multi-family buildings because you can’t get insurance to do it,” said Rep. Cheri Gerou, who is an architect.

After much debate, and several more Dore amendments to further explore the insurance issue (they were tossed out for not fitting under the bill title), the measure finally passed on a voice vote without any specific earmarks for disaster victims.

The bill will see a final vote in the House this week.


No more super-long semis on Independence Pass

long truck

Independence Pass is the highest paved crossing of the Continental Divide in the nation. If you’ve ever driven it during a white-out, you’re likely on board with HB 1021.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Gail Schwartz of Snowmass, ramps up fines for large commercial vehicles — those over 35 feet — that cross the pass in violation of closures or warnings. Those fines are currently $500. The bill would allow the Department of Transportation to raise those fines to $2,000. The fine could jump to $2,500 with two points on the driver’s license if the truck causes a lane closure.

Sen. Larry Crowder of Alamosa — one of the last gassing-up towns east of the pass — opposed the bill, saying it was bad for business.

“I think what this does is send a message out to the trucking industry that Colorado is not in the market of doing business with them,” he said.

Schwartz said the bill is a basic safety measure. Because towing a truck out of the Rockies is never cheap, she said, most trucking companies didn’t have a problem with the bill. She remembered an instance when two semi-trucks got stuck nose to nose on Independence Pass, blocking all the lanes and racking up something like $15,000 in towing fees.

The measure passed second reading and will come up for a final vote in the Senate this week.


Empowering small loans for community development

The Senate moved forward a bill to further enable community development financial institutions (CDFI) to make loans to small business entrepreneurs, low-income home builders and buyers and people building or expanding community centers.

“A CDFI is a private sector financing entity… its primary mission is to advance community development and to serve low to moderate income areas that lack access to credit unions,” said Sen. John Kefalas of Fort Collins, SB 22‘s sponsor. The bill will also write the definition of CDFIs into state statute to help preserve and promote their mission.

Kefalas emphasized the vibrant roll CDFIs play in community development. In 2012 Colorado’s nine CDFIs supported the creation of 1,665 jobs, 119 new businesses and the building of more than 56,000 square feet of community space, he said. The institutions also financed the creation or preservation of more than 1,300 low-income homes in the state.

The bill would allow CDFIs to function more efficiently. For example, if a CDFI located in Fort Collins financed a multi-unit affordable housing project in Colorado Springs, the new law would make it possible for them to sell each unit individually without traveling all the way to Colorado Springs to process those sales.

Senator Gail Schwartz of Snowmass said the bill will help with rural development projects across the state because it allows for highly flexible, targeted and small-scale investments.

“They (CDFIs) are doing good work in our communities. They’re helping people and businesses access capital, develop affordable housing and … revitalizing  neighborhoods,” concluded Kefalas.

The measure passed second reading on a voice vote and will come up for a final vote in the Senate later this week.


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