News

#Coleg Week 6: Concerning would-be fracktavist vandals, the death penalty, civil forfeiture, the tampon tax, PERA, broadband

Author: John Tomasic - February 13, 2017 - Updated: February 14, 2017

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The Capitol dome in April rides atop budget debate rumbling below. (Photo by John Tomasic/The Colorado Statesman)
The Capitol dome. (John Tomasic/The Colorado Statesman)

Lawmakers today embark on their sixth week of the session. Eleven weeks to go. What’s on the schedule at the gold dome this week? The “Most Accessed Bills” box on the General Assembly website offers a snapshot.

It includes Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg’s SB 35, a “fracktavist beware” bill that would hike penalties for tampering with oil and gas equipment. The Senate agriculture and energy committee will hear the bill on Thursday.

and

Sen. Andy Kerr’s SB 99, which would add Colorado to the list of National Popular Vote Agreement states. The bill will be heard Wednesday in the Senate’s State Affairs committee. Eleven states that control 165 electoral college votes have so far signed on. The agreement would take effect once it secures commitments from states that represent a majority of electoral votes — that’s 270 electoral college votes. So, at this point, the proposal needs to win over states that can deliver a total of 105 more electoral college votes. That’s not impossible. Imagine, presidential candidates would actually have to campaign again in more than four or five swing states.

Below find more select highlights from the legislative schedule, all of which of course subject to change day to day.

Monday

It’s broadband day in the Senate’s business, labor and technology committee.

Sen. Kerry Donovan, D-Vail, will be presenting her SB 42, which would repeal a law that prohibits local government’s from providing their own municipal internet without a vote of the people. The effect of the law has been that telecoms run campaigns against municipal broadband proposals and elections get expensive and the state’s spotty and slow internet service continues.

The committee is also hearing Donovan’s SB 81, which aims to provide further incentive for telecoms to provide broadband in mostly rural areas of the state that “lack effective competition.”

Sen. John Cooke, R-Greeley, will present his SB 06 to the Senate’s judiciary committee. The bill would lower the age required for a conceal-carry handgun license for allow active military personnel. Currently, the age limit for everyone is is 21.

The House finance committee will hear Rep. Susan Lontine’s HB 1127. The Denver Democrat’s bill would remove sales tax from feminine hygiene products. Proposals like this one, colloquially aimed at “lifting the tampon tax,” are being introduced around the country. The argument is that tampons are a medical necessity and treating medical necessities isn’t supposed to be subject to taxation. “This tax law is chauvinist!” goes a rallying cry. You might also hear something like this: “In Colorado, which perennially leads the pack nationwide in the number of women it elects to the Legislature, why would there be any remaining obviously chauvinist laws of any kind?”

Tuesday

Donovan is presenting her SB 22, an ambitious rural economic development bill to the Senate finance committee. It establishes a kind of emergency fund for jobs creation for towns hit by mine closings, oil-and-gas busts and so on.

Sen. Jack Tate, R-Centennial, will present his addition to this session’s Republican attempt to rework PERA, the state’s public employee retirement association. Tate’s SB 158, would modify the make up of the PERA board, replacing state and school division members with members appointed by the governor who are not PERA members or retirees and who have experience in finance.

A delegation from south east Colorado, including Sens. Larry Crowder, R-Alamosa, and Leroy Garcia, D-Pueblo, will present their SB 153, which would establish a railroad commission. Specifically: “The southwest chief and front range passenger rail commission,” which would “oversee the preservation and expansion of Amtrak southwest chief rail service in Colorado and facilitate the development and operation of a front range passenger rail system that provides passenger rail service in and along the interstate 25 corridor.”

Wednesday

Sen. Rachel Zenzinger, D-Arvada, will present her SB 102, to the Senate education committee. The Trump-era bill would prohibit schools from sharing information about student citizenship status and religious affiliation.

Senate Minority Leader Lucia Guzman will present her death penalty repeal bill, SB 95, to the upper chamber’s judiciary committee. Guzman will be leveraging all of her considerable legislative skills and the good will she has banked over the course of years to move this bill forward.

The Senate judiciary committee will take up broadly bi-partisan SB 136, a civil asset forfeiture reform bill that is the work of Sens. Tim Neville, R-Littleton, and Daniel Kagan, D-Cherry Hills Village. It’s a suddenly hot-button issue, given that President Trump joked with sheriffs in Texas that he would “destroy the career” of a state senator looking to reform asset forfeiture in the Lone Star state. Observers have since come to believe Trump had no idea what civil asset forfeiture entailed.

Another PERA reform bill will be heard in the House State Affairs committee. Rep. Justin Everett, R-Littleton, is the sponsor. It would give State Treasurer and longtime PERA critic Walker Stapleton full access to PERA records.

Also: Sen. Kerr’s national popular vote bill will be heard in Senate State Affairs. See introduction above.

Thursday

Denver Democratic Sen. Lois Court’s SB 27, which would hike penalties for texting and driving. The practice of fiddling with your phone behind the wheel is an inarguable killer. But laws meant to combat it seem relatively unenforceable. The conversation continues in the Senate finance committee.

Pueblo Democratic Sen. Leroy Garcia’s SB 105 come to the Senate agriculture and energy committee. Pueblo’s steep utility bills have made national news. SB 105 would force utilities to send rate-payers comprehensive bills that breakdown the charges line by line. Question: To what degree do you think an army of lobbyists is working to kill this bill: Peak activity? Mid-range? Low?

Rep. Lois Landgraf, a Fountain Republican, will bring her HB 1053 to the House judiciary committee. The bill seeks to protect electronic communications from warrantless snooping.

Also: Sonnenberg’s anti-fracktavist tampering with oil and gas equipment bill goes before the Senate agriculture and energy committee. See introduction above.

Friday

On which day we take it as it comes.

john@coloradostatesman.com

John Tomasic

John Tomasic

John Tomasic is a senior political reporter for The Colorado Statesman covering the Colorado Legislature.


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