Guv signs budget; local-control ghost bill makes racket; lots of bills pass

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]HE legislative session in Denver wraps in a week and you can tell as soon as you enter the capitol. The halls are crowded. Lobbyists huddle in bunches, hold each other’s elbows and look over their shoulders when they talk. And lawmakers pass bills fast and then hustle off to committee meetings that they pretend aren’t destined to stretch into the evening hours.

Guv signs budget

They did it, like they do every year, somehow. Lawmakers came together and hammered out a budget and delivered it to the governor. Today he signed it in a sort of intimate ceremony in executive chambers that included something like twenty lawmakers and a slew of capitol journalists. There’s a big painting of Colorado mountains behind a conference table. That’s where it happened.

In recession years, tax dollars fall and state lawmakers argue less, because there’s less to argue about. This year, like last year, lawmakers had some money to play with but the proposals they came up with seemed to generally please everyone. This year’s “long bill” includes more money for public safety, $144 million for flood and wildlife recovery and $100 million to make higher education in the state more affordable.



Background noise

Will there be a local control oil-and-gas bill? There’s a hundred reasons at least to bet against it. It wasn’t introduced yesterday and it wasn’t introduced today, despite the fact that people have been talking about it fairly openly since the beginning of last week. The ghost bill, non-material but noisy, would come courtesy of Majority Leader Dicky Lee Hullinghorst, from Boulder, and Aurora Democrat Sue Ryden. The Denver Business Journal ran a good background piece on it Tuesday, reporting that the drilling lobby is torn, tempted to back the bill for fear that any one of the many citizen initiatives aimed at reining in boom-time fracking would deliver stricter local regulatory control than would the bill. Republicans eager to protect the oil-and-gas industry, which finances so many of their election and issue campaigns, might be expected to encourage Hullinghurst and Ryden to just bring the bill and then seek to shape it how they want to shape it. They’d have leverage because Dems want to pass it and head off any election-year awkwardness that might result from the fact that left-leaning voters want more local control and left-leaning state leaders… don’t, at least not this year. But why would Republicans want to help Democrats untangle a political knot in an election year? They wouldn’t. Because, you know, this is the system we got.

Lots of significant bills passed today

These are all heading to the governor for signature:

Kids will at last get the legal representation they’re constitutionally obliged to receive but have been denied. HB 1032, sponsored by Rep. Daniel Kagan, D-Englewood, and Sen. Lucia Guzman, D-Denver, addresses a dramatic problem. According to the Juvenile Defender Coalition, 45 percent of young people appearing at detention hearings were not being represented. “Without an attorney present, kids and their parents may agree to a plea deal they don’t understand and suffer long-term consequences as a result,” said Kim Dvorchack executive director of the group, purposefully deciding against adding the word “obviously!” to her remarks.

Kids, parents, businesses celebrate. More-affordable child care to the rescue. HB 1317, sponsored by Rep. Crisanta Duran, D-Duran, Sen. Jeanne Nicholson, D-Black Hawk, and Rep. John Kefalas, D-Fort Collins, passed the Senate.

Stricter fines for oil-and-gas rules violators. HB 1356, sponsored by Rep. Mike Foote, D-Boulder, and Sen. Matt Jones, D-Boulder, grants the state’s Oil and Gas Conservation Commission more power to levy fines.

Not just yet

It passed the Senate and now has to make it through the House. SB 192, sponsored by Sen. Mary Hodge, D-Brighton, and Rep. KC Becker, D-Boulder, the bill targets the long-troubled Cotter Corporation uranium milling operation in Cañon City, the source of repeat spills and public health violations, demanding the corporation clean up ground water contamination that has rendered wells in the Lincoln Park area unusable. “Today after 30 years of contamination and indifference, the residents of Lincoln Park saw significant movement in their campaign for the Cotter Corporation to finally clean up its mess in Cañon City,” said Pete Maysmith, Conservation Colorado director.

The bill was amended in the Senate to exclude stricter licensing provisions for mill operators. Supporters hope to add some version of those provisions back into the bill in the House.


Big General Assembly government gets all up on the popcorn machine? Seriously? We were so eating that!