Eye on the Legislature

April 16, 2018  - April 23, 2018

April 16, 2018

With adjournment date less than one month away (May 9th), Colorado’s legislature is still introducing new legislation with many, many bills yet to have their first committee hearing, a sad statement on the powers that be who are responsible for “keepin things movin.”

House Bill 18-1301:  The Gold King Mine disaster and the more than a million gallons of mustard yellow waste water released into the Animas River got the attention of Colorado’s legislature on just how lax regulations really were in the state.

While the water now runs clear, water laden with acidic metals-laced muck still continues to drain into the headwaters of the Animas River, said to be among the West’s most contaminated watersheds.

HB 1301 is yet to have its first committee hearing. The bill makes substantial changes to the way mining operators must adopt and execute a reclamation plan for the land affected by mining operations. Here are some of the most significant changes required by the bill:

  • an annual report must be submitted to the Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety (the division) in the Department of National Resources describing the affected land and the surrounding area;
  • report must include changes over the preceding year regarding any disturbances to the prevailing hydrological balance;
  • report must also include changes over the preceding year regarding any disturbances to the quality and quantity of water in surface and groundwater systems;
  • a reclamation plan for a new or amended permit demonstrating by substantial evidence an end date for necessary water quality treatments to ensure compliance with applicable water quality standards;
  • the Mined Land Reclamation Board is able to approve a reclamation plan that lacks this end date demonstration only if the new or amended permit includes an environmental protection and reclamation plan adequate to ensure compliance with applicable water quality standards; and
  • requires all reclamation bonds include financial assurances in an amount sufficient to protect water resources, including costs for any necessary water quality protection, treatment, and monitoring costs. (Note:  Current law allowed for mining operators to submit an audited financial statement as proof that the operator had sufficient funds to perform reclamation in lieu of a bond or other financial assurance.)

   The questions comes to mind:  Does the state have the guts and expertise to enforce the requirements set forth in the bill should it pass as introduced? Or maybe the question should be, does the legislature have the gut to pass such a bill, and not allow for it to be watered down? Hopefully full blown photographs of the Animas River flowing bank-to-bank with the horrible mustard-yellow water will be prominently displayed when the bill is debated.

Sponsors of House Bill 1302: Representatives Dylan Roberts (D-Eagle, Routt) 866-2923 and Barbara McLachlan (D-Archuleta, Gunnison, Hinsdale, La Plata, Ouray, San Juan) 866-5683.) 866-2914, Jeni Arndt (D-Larimer) 866-2917. No sponsor as yet in the Senate.

House Bill 18-1311: Health insurance has fallen a tad bit into the shadows this legislative session, far behind all the sexual harassment “stuff” which seems to have made an awful lot of headlines.

Those concerned about what to some families approaches on par with the home mortgage, HB 1311concerns the method for setting rates for individual health insurance plans offered in the state.

The General Assembly declaration addresses various aspects of how rates are set in the various nine health insurance geographic rating regions of Colorado. These additional points are made in the legislative declaration:

  • Premiums in rural areas, especially in the eastern plains and the western slope areas of the state, are considerably higher than premiums in metropolitan areas, and the number of carriers and the diversity of plans they offer are very limited in those areas.
  • Because of the financial burden high-cost health insurance places on individuals in rural areas of the state, a considerable number of these cost-burdened individuals may not purchase health insurance in 2018, exacerbating the problems of few carriers, few plan options and high cost of health insurance in rural areas of the state, as well as increasing the number of uninsured individuals in those areas.
  • Current state law prohibits insurance carriers from establishing rates for health insurance plans or policies that are excessive, inadequate, or unfairly discriminatory.

   HB 1311 “prohibits the use of a policyholder’s geographic location within the state by health insurers when setting rates for health plans sold on the individual market, and establishes a single statewide geographic rating area for the state.” HB 1311 applies to health plans issued, renewed or amended after January 1, 2019.

Look for this one to be volatile, pit the city legislators against the rural legislators, and ultimately, be a stand-off, to the detriment of the citizens of Colorado.

Sponsors of House Bill 18-1311:  Representative Bob Rankin (D-Garfield, Moffat, Rio Blanco) 866-2949 and Millie Hamner (D-Delta, Gunnison, Lake, Pitkin, Summit) 866-2952. No sponsor as yet in the Senate.

House Bill 18-1336:  To those counties counting on the local government retail marijuana impact grant program, take note. HB 1336 if passed, repeals the program administered by the Department of Local Affairs as of July 1, 2019. Effective July 1, 2018, the bill removes the ability of Marijuana Tax Cash Fund moneys to be used for the grant program.

As background, the program was created in 2015 through House Bill 15-1367 to “provide grants to eligible local government for documented marijuana impacts,” and was intended to fund “law enforcement activities, youth services and to mitigate other impacts on services provided by an eligible local government.” A total of $3 million has been appropriated since Fiscal Year 2015-16.

Counties can blame the Department of Local Affairs for the program being discontinued due to what it said was “minimal demand,” and the establishment of the new Gray and Black Market Enforcement Grant Program.

Sponsors of House Bill 18-1336: Representative Dave Young (D-Weld) 866-2929; and Senator Kent D. Lambert (R-El Paso) 866-4835.

April 23, 2018

With adjournment day in a little more than two weeks, the rush is on with many pieces of legislation still to be acted upon.

House Bill 18-1343:  During the 2016 legislative session, House Bill 16-1267 created the Colorado Veterans Service-to-Career Pilot Program in the Colorado Department of Labor (CDLE). The pilot program authorized nonprofit agencies to partner with workforce centers selected by the CDLE to provide eligible participants with skills, training, internships, work placement, career and professional counseling and other related support services. HB 1343 removes the January 5, 2019 repeal date of that program, effectively converting the pilot project into a permanent and ongoing program.

Other significant provisions of HB 1343:

  • expands eligibility for program services to include veterans, veterans’ spouses, persons actively serving in the U. S. Armed Forces, within six months of discharge, or a member of the National Guard or military reserves who has completed initial entry training;
  • adjusts the allowable administrative overhead for expenses incurred by the CDLE from seven to eight percent;
  • clarifies and defines terms; and
  • requires that the CDLE develop an evaluation methodology to measure program outcomes and effectiveness. 

Lead Sponsors of House Bill 18-1343: Representatives Pete Lee (D-El Paso) 866-2932 and Terri Carver (R-El Paso) 866-2191; and Senators Leroy M. Garcia (-Pueblo) 866-4878 and Don Coram, (R-Archuleta, Dolores, LaPlata, Montezuma, Montrose, Ouray, San Juan, San Miguel), 866-4884.

Senate Bill 18-205: Industrial Hemp continues to expand its position in the Colorado farm product market, and with that comes the need for additional regulations. SB 205 expands the definition of farm products to add unprocessed industrial hemp seeds and industrial hemp.

Additional regulations coming into play if SB 205 is passed and enacted:

  • unprocessed industrial hemp seeds will be subject to licensing under the               Commodity Handler Act; and
  • a dealer, small-volume dealer, or agent for industrial hemp stocks, leaves, clones and flowers will be subject to licensing under the Farm Products Act.

   The Commissioner of Agriculture is authorized by the bill to set fees sufficient to cover the direct and indirect costs of the Industrial Hemp Program, replacing the method under current law of registration fees being based on the size and use of the land area on which the industrial hemp operations are conducted.

Lead Sponsors of Senate Bill 18-205:  Senators Vicki Marble (R-Broomfield, Larimer, Weld) 866-4876 and Don Coram, (R-Archuleta, Dolores, LaPlata, Montezuma, Montrose, Ouray, San Juan, San Miguel), 866-4884; and Representatives Marcus Catlin (R-Delores, Montezuma, Montrose, San Miguel) 866-2055, and Barbara McLachlan (D-Archuleta, Gunnison, Hinsdale, La Plata, Ouray, San Juan) 866-2914.

Senate Bill 18-235:  Titled “The Creation of the Colorado Industrial Hemp Research and Development Authority,” SB 235 further supports the growing recognition of industrial hemp. The purpose of creating the Authority is to “develop, fund and promote educational, research and development programs and collaborative efforts concerning industrial hemp.”

The Authority is also directed to “apply for federal funding from the National Institution of Food and Agriculture in the United States Department of Agriculture for industrial hemp education, research and extension programs and projects.”

Sponsors of Senate Bill 18-235: Senator Don Coram, (R-Archuleta, Dolores, LaPlata, Montezuma, Montrose, Ouray, San Juan, San Miguel), 866-4884; and Representative Jeni James Arndt (D-Larimer) 866-2917.

House Bill 18-1341: It is “somewhat” encouraging to read the content of HB 1341 as it shows recognition of the legislators sponsoring it that not all students graduating Colorado’s high schools are cut out to sit at a computer in some office somewhere in the state or the world.

HB 1341, titled “Creation of the Colorado State Apprenticeship Resource Directory,” requires the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE) to establish the Colorado State Apprenticeship Resource Directory with detailed information about apprentice programs in the state.

The provisions of the bill are lengthy but worthwhile as informative for those who are uninformed about the industries in Colorado. The deadline for the CDLE to create the Colorado State Apprenticeship Resource Directory is on or before January 1, 2019, and must be updated at least annually. Information for the Directory is to be submitted by the Apprenticeship programs as indicated:  

  • Program name and United States Department of Labor Registration number;
  • Program contact information, including primary mailing address, phone number, email address, and website address, if any;
  • A brief description of the industry for which the program provides workforce training;
  • A statement describing the professional license, certification, or other qualification an enrollee would receive upon successful completion of the program;
  • The total number of months required or allowed to complete the program, the total number of program hours an enrollee must complete, and, of the total hours an enrollee must complete, a breakdown into on-the-job work hours and other training hours;
  • The total number of individuals enrolled in the program in the previous year and the number of program enrollees who completed the program in each of the five previous years.
  • The average annual tuition charged to individual enrollees in the previous year and the anticipated enrollee tuition for the current year;
  • The percentage of enrollees who completed the program in the previous year that are currently working in the industry for which the program provides workforce training and, if known, the percentage for each year the program has been offered;
  • The average current annual, monthly, weekly, or hourly compensation of enrollees who completed the program; and
  • A brief description of the application process, selection criteria, and required or preferred prerequisites for enrollment.

   Provisions in the bill also require the CDLE to promote public awareness of the Directory, with the minimum efforts being to prominently post the Directory on the CDLE’s website, notify workforce development boards, identify and inform the appropriate contact persons at Colorado education institutions, and inform relevant private industry and business associations of the availability of the Directory.

Sponsors of House Bill 18-1341:  Representatives Jessie Danielson (D-Jefferson) 866-5522, and Phil Covarrubias (R-Adams, Arapaho) 866-2912. No sponsor as yet in the Senate.

Senate Bill 18-226:  This piece of legislation can only be described as “one for the books,” and only the exact language from the bill can  say it stronger. Titled “A Prohibition on Colorado’s Involvement in a State-Level Climate Collaboration that Attempts to Reduce Carbon Dioxide Emissions,” the bill adds to the Colorado Revised Statutes, Section 1, 24-20-111:

  • (4)(a) The Governor shall not enter Colorado into or involve Colorado with a state-level climate collaboration. If, as of the effective date of this subsection (4) the Governor has already entered Colorado with a state-level climate collaboration, the Governor shall withdraw Colorado from and cease all Executive Branch activities in connection with the state-level climate collaboration.

   State-level climate collaboration is defined in the bill as meaning (I) “organization or alliance of states that attempts to reduce carbon dioxide emissions or to otherwise promote the goals of the Paris Agreement within the United Nations framework convention on climate change dealing with greenhouse gas emissions mitigation, adaptation, and finance; and (II) Includes the United States Climate Alliance, Western Climate Initiative, Inc., Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and any analogous or successor organization or alliance.

As perhaps a statement on this piece of legislation (and many others), it is interesting to note just a little more than two weeks before adjournment date, twenty-six (26) Senate bills do not as of this date, have sponsors in the House of Representatives. Maybe voters should be questioning just what has happened this session with legislation moving through the process for action.. 

Sponsors of Senate Bill 18-226:  Senators Kevin Lundberg (R-Larimer) 866- 4853, and John Cooke (R-Weld) 866-4451. No sponsor as yet in the House of Representatives.

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