Eye on the Legislature

May 23, 2016

The Wrap Up of the 2016 General Assembly begins today. Things are moving a little slow with the Governor's actions on legislation passed by the legislature, his being all so involved in presidential politics. Readers should recall that when then candidate-for-re-election John Hickenlooper was campaigning, he was asked on a number of occasions about being a potential Presidential nominee. Each time, Hickenlooper assured the citizens of Colorado that if re-elected Governor of Colorado, he would serve out his full term and would not be running for President. So much for assurances from politicians.

House Bill 16-1019: Signed by Governor Hickenlooper on March 22nd, HB 1019 is about increasing authority to use broadcast burning as a tool to promote watershed restoration. This piece of legislation has to be one of the most disturbing pieces of legislation this writer has seen come out of the Gold Dome in the years since the column began.

The broadness of the provisions and the lack of specificity is a dual blow to the citizens of Colorado.

Typically, when legislation amends the Colorado Revised Statutes by adding a new term, a specific definition of that term is included in the legislation. Not the case for HB 1019. The bill does include a definition for “wildfire risk mitigation” or “fuel mitigation treatments:” the preventive forest management projects or actions, which meet or exceed forest service standards or any other applicable state rules, that are designed to reduce the potential for unwanted impacts caused by wildfires, including the secondary treatment of woody fuels by lopping and scattering, piling, chipping, removing from the site, “BROADCAST BURNING, or prescribed burning . . .”

“Broadcast Burning” is defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture/Forest Service as “controlled application of fire to fuels, under specified environmental conditions that allow fire to be confined to a predetermined area, and produces the fire behavior and fire characteristics required to attain planned fire treatment and resource management objectives. The U.S. Forest Service conducts broadcast burns in an effort of reducing hazardous fuels and/or improve wildlife habitat and forest health. Certain criteria has to be met in order for a broadcast burn to take place, including smoke dispersal conditions, weather, adequate staffing and fuel moisture. There are all outlined in burn plan that is thoroughly reviewed before implementation.”

Now, After the Lower North Fork Fire in which three people were burned to death by a controlled burn that should never have been set, the portion of the Colorado State Forest Service (CSFS) reorganized and responsibility for controlled burns was moved into the Colorado Department of Public Safety. The fiscal impact analysis for HB 1019 states that the CSFS administers several projects and programs related to forest heath, wildfire risk mitigation and planning, and watershed restoration. Remember that new buzzword “RESTORATION.”

What HB1019 does is this: “Adds broadcast burning to the types of projects and methods for which the CSFS may award grants from the Healthy Forest and Vibrant Communities Cash Fund, and the Forest Restoration Program Cash Fund.”

Translation: A backdoor way for the CSFS to regain territory/control it lost in the reorganization that took place after the Lower North Fork Fire. MARK MY WORDS!!!

The bill was passed with the safety clause which means it went into effect upon the Governor's signature. The Act applies to conduct occurring on or after the effective date of this act – March 22nd.

House Bill 16-1053: Provisions in the bill authorize the Division of Oil and Public Safety in the Department of Labor and Employment to promulgate rules concerning the retail sale of hydrogen fuel for vehicles by January of 2017. Minimum design, construction, location, installation and operation standards will be established pursuant to the requirements in the National Fire Protection Association's national fire code.

HB 1053 was signed by the Governor on March 9th, and went into effect upon signature by the Governor as “necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health and safety.”

House Bill 16-1005: Rooftop participation collection will no longer be illegal with the Governor signing HB 1005 into law on May 12th. Long a sacred cow of the water-owing entities in the flat lands, the regulations In HB 1005 will now allow the “collection of participation from the roof of a home in up to two rain barrels with combined storage capacity of 110 gallons or less if the following condition are met:”

• the building is a single-family residence or a multi-family residence with up to four units;

• the precipitation collected is used for outdoor purposes on the residential property where the precipitation is collected, including irrigating lawns and gardens; and

• the precipitation must not be used for drinking water or indoor household purposes.

The effective date of HB 1005 is subject to petition, which means it takes effect following the expiration of the ninety-day period after final adjournment of the General Assembly (August 10, 2016) if a referendum petition is not filed against the act, item, section or part of this act. If a petition is filed within the period, approval by the people would be required in the November 2016 election.

Senate Bill 16-012: Residential property owners will be allowed to maintain their property tax classification for an indefinite period of time if the county assessor determines the property owner is making a good faith effort to rebuild an improvement destroyed by a natural disaster. Previously and under current law, a property owner could face a limit of up to four years to maintain its residential classification after the improvement has been destroyed, facing reclassification to vacant land which has a higher assessment rate. The Governor signed SB 012 on April 5th which included a safety clause.

Senate Bill 16-051: Judicial discretion will be increased under SB 051 for more leniency in sentences for crimes of violence. The requirement now in place under current law is that a person convicted of two or more separate crimes of violence arising out of the same incident, the court must require the person to serve the result sentences consecutively rather than concurrently. SB 051 removes that requirement, and was signed by the Governor on April 14th and is subject to petition for its effective date.

Senate Bill 16-013: Signed by the Governor on April 15th, SB 013 is a “clarifying” piece of legislation as to the Child Protection Ombudsman Board, providing that the board is advisory in nature, shifts certain policies and procedures from the board to the Ombudsman's Office, clarifies certain duties and the relationship between the Ombudsman's office and the Judicial Department and also specifies that the ombudsman cannot be subpoenaed by independent parties to testify in proceedings concerning allocation of parental responsibilities.

As background on this bill, the Office of the Child Protection Ombudsman was created in 2010 “to serve as an independent and neutral organization to investigate complaints and grievances about child protection services, make recommendations about system improvements, and serve as a resource for persons involved in the child welfare system.” Senate Bill 15-204 (effective January 1, 2016) transferred the Ombudsman's Office into the Judicial Department as an independent agency.

House Bill 16-1215: Addition legislation with the goal of reducing recidivism, HB 1215 redefined the purpose of parole as to:

HB 16-1215 redefines the purpose of parole as to:

• further all purposes of sentencing and improve public safety by reducing the incidence of crime and technical parole violations committed by people on parole;

• prepare, select, and assist people who, after serving a statutorily defined period of incarceration, will be transitioned and returned to the community;

• set individualized conditions of parole and to provide supervision services and support to assist people on parole in addressing identified risks and needs; and

• achieve a successful discharge from parole supervision for people on parole through compliance with the terms and conditions of release that address their risks and needs.

House Bill 16-1213: Missed in last week's coverage of all the bills postponed indefinitely legislation, HB 1213 was postponed indefinitely on March 28th and would have created a private civil right of action if a person, with malicious intent, intrudes upon another person without his or her consent through the use of a device to capture a photograph, sound recording, physical impression or digital image.” For creation of such a right, the intrusion must be unreasonably offensive or objectionable and the victim have had a reasonable expectation if privacy and suffer emotional distress as a result of the intrusion.

The reader's comments or questions are always welcome. E-mail me at doris@dorisbeaver.com.