Eye on the Legislature

May 22, 2017

Today’s column continues with the actions taken by Governor Hickenlooper on legislation passed during the 2017 legislative session.

Senate Bill 17-087, postponed indefinitely on February 23rd, SB 087 would have modified sentencing of sex offenders by giving the courts discretion to choose between the indeterminate sentence or a determinate sentence for a term of incarceration, probation or parole. Under current Colorado law, sex offenders are given an indeterminate sentence with a maximum of the offender’s natural life.

House Bill 17-1035 was postponed on February 9th and would have broadened rights and protection of victims of unlawful sexual behavior or stalking when a victim seeks to vacate a residential lease “due to fear or imminent danger under the same conditions that current law provides to victims of domestic violence or abuse.”

Senate Bill 17-099 was postponed on February 16th. The bill had some rather unusual wording, and was pretty-much the annual appearance of a bill trying for a popular vote to become the binding method of selection for America’s President. Such a bill would abolish the Electoral College which now protects states’ rights in states with sparse population to have a say in who is elected President of the United States.

Senate Bill 17-037 was postponed on February 25th and would have required counties to collect data in counties with greater than 25 thousand active voters to measure the wait time to vote or receive a ballot, and the arrival rate of voters at each vote center and polling center (vote center) during each general election.

Senate Bill 17-150, postponed on February 16th, would have prohibited public officials from appointing, promoting, advancing or advocating for a relative within the state agency in which the public officials serve or control.

House Bill 17-1142 signed by Governor Hickenlooper on March 20th as a show of strength with regards to states’ rights for range allotment owners. Federal employees caught depriving a range allotment owner of any “property rights related to that allotment, including a denial of due process or a physical or regulatory taking without just compensation are deemed to be acting outside the scope of any federally delegated authority.” Therefore, a federal employee so acting will be outside the protection of any federal immunity from prosecution and the employee is subject to both a civil action and criminal punishment under the laws of Colorado. 

House Bill 17-1150, signed by the Governor on March 16th, HB 1150 prohibits courts from granting bail for stalking and domestic offenders awaiting sentencing or appeal if they have been convicted of stalking or a felony for which an act of domestic violence was the underlying factual basis. The bill also provides no bail will be allowed for persons convicted of a crime of possession of a weapon by a previous offender.

Senate Bill 17-100 was signed by the Governor on April 6th, and provides needed legal protections for volunteers and non-profits who perform land stewardship on public lands. Such volunteers provide invaluable stewardship activities with the ever on-going decline in funding for such activities from both federal and states sources.

House Bill 17-1134 was postponed on March 11th and would have created the Colorado Politician Accountability Act “addressing sanctuary jurisdictions being a matter of statewide concern and making findings about how sanctuary policies are contrary to federal law and state interests.” The threat by the new administration in Washington to withhold massive federal funding to sanctuary jurisdictions seems to have gotten the attention of Colorado legislators.

Senate Bill 17-117, postponed on May 5th, would have clarified the rights of a person with an absolute or conditional water right if registered with the Colorado Department of Agriculture to grow industrial hemp for commercial or research and development purposes. One of the major points in the legislative declaration is that SB 117 “confirms that a person with an absolute or conditional water right decreed for agricultural use can use that water for the growth or cultivation of industrial hemp if the water right holder is registered with the Colorado Department of Agriculture to grow industrial hemp for commercial or research and development purposes.” The legislative declaration also stated “Colorado’s Water Plan recognizes the beneficial use of water for agricultural production as one of Colorado’s core water values.”

Senate Bill 17-109,  signed by the Governor on March 20th, is another industrial hemp bill. The 2014 federal farm bill provides that farmers in states with industrial hemp legislation are allowed to grow and harvest hemp in conjunction with their departments of agriculture. SB 109 requires that the Commissioner of Agriculture create a working group to study the feasibility of including hemp products in animal feed.

House Bill 7-1147 was signed by the Governor on March 30th, and clarifies the purpose of community corrections programs which number nearly three dozen in Colorado. Such programs are of immense value to Colorado and “have shown improvement in public safety by reducing future crime through research-based policies, practices, programs and standards.” The community corrections programs provide assistance to those people transitioning from incarceration to the community through supported partnerships with local community corrections boards. Individualized conditions of community supervision are set by these programs, including services and support to assist people in addressing risks and needs. The community corrections programs are instrumental in reducing risks and needs and ensuring compliance with conditions of placement to achieve a successful discharge from community corrections supervision.

House Bill 17-1197signed on April 6th, excludes marijuana from the definition of farm products in the Colorado Farm Products Act (the Act), an act that was passed prior to Amendment 20, Amendment 64 and the subsequent regulatory legislation regarding medical and retail marijuana.

On first glance, that may seem like a “good thing,” but with that exemption, marijuana businesses are exempt from licensing and bonding requirements. Further explanation is provided by the legislative council fiscal note:  Businesses purchasing and storing agriculture products are required under the Act to be licensed and bonded by the Colorado Department of Agriculture, and are subject to enforcement action by the Colorado Department of Agriculture.

The definition of shared ownership requires further clarification from Colorado’s

regulatory agency. HB 1197 identifies medical marijuana cultivators and infused products manufacturers and marijuana establishments (dispensaries) as required to share common ownership. Marijuana cultivation facilities and retail marijuana infused products manufacturers and retail marijuana stores are not required to share ownership, and thus may be subject to the Colorado Farm Products Act.

Also adding to the monumental nightmare of regulation is that because marijuana is illegal under federal law, it may not be possible for marijuana businesses to comply with the Act’s bonding requirements because many banks and insurance companies are not willing to supply bonds or letters of credit to marijuana businesses.

Senate Bill 17-145, postponed on February 15th, would have required investor-owned utilities and cooperative electric associations to create distributed energy resources plans which are small-scale power sources that can be combined to diversify the electrical grid to protect it from disruptions.

Senate Bill 17-183, postponed indefinitely on April 20th, would have clarified that

an insurer is not required to reimburse a policyholder for an amount that exceeds actual damages caused during a collision covered by an uninsured motorist or under insured motorist (UM\ /UIM) coverage policy.

House Bill 17-1064, postponed on April 21st, would have created a new crime for the misuse of electronic images by juveniles if:  1) the juvenile distributes, displays, or publishes a nude or partially nude digital photo of himself or herself or another youth who is within four years of age; or 2) knowingly possesses a nude or partially nude digital photo of another youth who is within four years of age of the charged juvenile. Colorado’s current law subjects juveniles sending sexually explicit images of themselves or other juveniles to two crimes: 1) sexual exploitation of a child; or 2) criminal invasion of privacy.

 House Bill 17-1187 was postponed on March 21st, and would have referred a proposition to voters at the statewide election on November 7, 2017 that would change the computation of the excess state revenue cap for Fiscal Year 2017-18, and all subsequent years.

Under present TABOR, the cap is grown annually by changes in the state’s population and the Denver-Boulder-Greeley consumer price index. Passage of HB 1187 would have changed this cap to grow by the average rate of annual change in state personal income for the five previous calendar years. The Colorado Fiscal Institute stated, “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.”

Added to that statement was, “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.”

House Bill 17-241, signed on April 8th, provides for amendment and relocation of the Indian Arts and Crafts Sales Act to Part 2, Article 15 of Title 6 of the Colorado Revised Statutes. The General Assembly declared that the purpose of Part 2 is “to protect the public from false representation in the sale or offering for sale of authentic Indian and other arts and crafts.” For a change, there are some teeth in this one – “Any person who suffers financial injury or damages by reason of anything in Part 2 may sue in district court and may recover actual damages sustained by him or her and the cost of the suit, including attorney fees.”

House Bill 17-1273 was postponed indefinitely on April 24th. Passage and enactment would have required real estate developers to satisfactorily demonstrate that the proposed water supply and demand measurement will be adequate, and include that information with their application for a development permit. This was a complicated one and will most likely appear again in a future session.

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