Eye on the Legislature

March 20, 2017

House Bill 17-1070:  Drones are the latest in technology for almost unlimited uses, or so it seems. Colorado’s General Assembly recognizes this and acknowledges that “although emergency-response operations are steadily improving, newer technologies, including unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) are becoming available to further decrease response times and save lives and property from future catastrophic disasters.”

The General Assembly’s legislative declaration in HB 1070 states:

  1. Substantial investment in firefighting and other emergency-response technology has been made in response to recent devastating fires and floods;
  2. The “Federal Aviation Administration Extension, Safety and Security Act of 2016” was enacted which requires the administrator of the federal aviation administration to enter into agreements with other federal agencies to “continue the expeditious authorization of safe unmanned aircraft system operations in support of firefighting operations.”;
  3. “. . . UAS technology continues to improve rapidly, and increasingly UAS are able to perform a variety of missions with greater operational flexibility and at a lower cost than comparable manned aircraft.”;

   The General Assembly further found that the use of UAS by public safety organizations will create opportunities and jobs, and that the state should “support the integration of UAS as a matter of economic development to develop the workforce, especially in rural areas where disasters sometimes occur.” Promotion of UAS is consistent with the objectives of the “Colorado Career Advancement Act” and the work force development program set forth therein.

The amended version of HB 1070 requires the Center of Excellence for Advanced Technology and Aerial Firefighting in the Department of Public Safety to conduct a study on the use of unmanned aircraft systems within state and local government firefighting operations.

Also created by HB 1070 is a UAS pilot program and authorizes the Department of Labor and Employment to provide resources for the training and development of eligible pilot program members.

BUT, and it is a big but, “Both the study and pilot project are conditional upon receipt of sufficient gifts, grants and donations.” Dedicated funding is scarce these days as the state faces the potential monumental decline in Medicaid funding.

Sponsors of House Bill 17-1070:  Representative James D. Wilson (R-Chaffee, Custer, Fremont Park) 866-2747. No sponsor as yet in the Senate.

House Bill 17-1187:  Legislators continue to try and find a way around the Taxpayers Bill of Rights (TABOR) to not refund excess state revenues to the citizens of Colorado.

If passed and enacted, HB 1187 would refer a proposition to voters at the statewide election on November 7, 2017 – a proposition that if approved would change the computation of the excess state revenues cap for Fiscal Year 2017-18 and all subsequent fiscal years.

Under current TABOR, the cap is grown annually by changes in the state’s population and the Denver-Boulder-Greeley consumer price index. This cap would change if the proposition proposed by HB 1187 passes in November, and would grow by the average rate of annual change in state personal income for the five previous calendar years.

In a news release from the Colorado Fiscal Institute (CFI), the CFI endorsed the proposals set forth in HB 1187, stating, “This is a much more accurate indicator of the economy and would allow us to more appropriately invest in our communities when our economy is growing.”

The CFI also stated, “The current formula [in TABOR] limits what the legislature can invest and save based on inflation and population. This method, which is linked to what consumers buy instead of what government invests in, is a terrible way to limit revenue.”

The CFI noted:  “The Constitution formula of TABOR ‘. . . determines how much money the legislature has to spend on our public investments such as schools, road and colleges.’”

Staunch supporters of TABOR have a little different take on what it does:  “. . . limits the amount of revenue that the state is permitted to retain and spend or save each year,” and “no new taxes without approval of the people.”

Lead Sponsors of House Bill 17-1187:  Representative Don Thurlow (R-Mesa) 866-3068. No sponsor as yet in the Senate.

HOUSE Bill 17-1191:    Some would say Colorado is pretty much a rural state, and those citizens living in “rural Colorado” are usually quite frank about being ignored in the overall scheme of services – health care, transportation, internet services such as broad band.

HB 1191 “may” begin a solution to some of those complaints. If passed and enacted, HB 1191 requires the Colorado Legislative Council Staff to “prepare demographic notes for legislation that outline the potential disparate effects of a bill on various populations with the state by race, gender, disability, age, geography, income or other relevant characteristics for which data are available.”

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, President of the Senate and the minority leaders of each chamber will (or may) request up to five bills each for which demographic notes will be prepared. The Director of Research of Legislative Council Staff has the discretion to have additional demographic notes prepared.

Requesting legislative leadership must meet and discuss with Legislative Council Staff whether or not a demographic note is feasible for a particular bill. State agencies are responsible for providing information to Legislative Council Staff for the demographic notes in the form and within the deadlines specified by Legislative Council Staff.

Sponsors of House Bill 17-1191:  Representative K.C. Becker (D-Boulder, Clear Creek, Gilpin, Grand, Jackson) 866-2578. No sponsor as yet in the Senate.

NOTE TO READER:  While no Senator has signed on to sponsor HB 1191, seventeen of Representative Becker’s fellow legislators are listed as co-sponsors of HB 1191.

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