These are all of the water and agriculture bills proposed in the 2020 session. Each bill has its own bill number, please use your browser search feature to find the bill you are interested in. Return to the Colorado home page to pick a different bill category.

None of the text is the opinion of Engage. Each bill's description, arguments for, and arguments against are our best effort at describing what each bill does, arguments for, and arguments against the bill. The long description is hidden by design, you can click on it to expand it if you want to read more detail about the bill. If you believe we are missing something, please contact us with your suggestion. Some of these bills have the notation that they have been sent to the chamber's "kill" committee. This means that the leadership has decided to send the bill to the State committee even though it does not belong there based on its subject matter. This committee, in both chambers, is stacked with members from "safe" districts and the idea is to kill the bill without forcing any less safe members to take a hard vote. It is possible for a bill to survive the kill committee, but it is very rare.

Prime sponsors are given after each bill, with Senate sponsors in () and House sponsors in []. They are color-coded by party.

Some bills will have text highlighted in pink or highlighted in orange or highlighted in yellow. Pink highlights mean House amendments to the original bill; orange mean Senate amendments; yellow highlights mean conference committee amendments. The bill will say under the header if it has been amended.

Each bill has been given a "magnitude" category: Mega, Major, Medium, Minor+, Minor, and Technical. This is a combination of the change the bill would create and the "controversy" level of the bill. Some minor bills that are extending current programs would be major changes if they were introducing something new, but the entire goal here is to allow you to better curate your time. Something uncontroversial likely to pass nearly unanimously that continues a past program may not be worth your time (and please remember, you can still read all of the minor bills!). Technical bills are here to round out the list. They are non-substantive changes.

House

Click on the House bill title to jump to its section:

MEGA

MAJOR

MEDIUM

HB20-1327 Water Diversions From Rio Grande Basin KILLED IN HOUSE COMMITTEE
HB20-1338 Operational Severance Tax Transfer To Agriculture Value-added KILLED BY BILL SPONSORS
HB20-1343 Egg-laying Hen Confinement Standards PASSED AMENDED

MINOR+

HB20-1157 Loaned Water For Instream Flows To Improve Environment SIGNED INTO LAW AMENDED
HB20-1164 Housing Authority Exemptions From Water Fees PASSED HOUSE COMMITTEE AMENDED
HB20-1403 Colorado Water Conservation Board Construction Fund Project PASSED AMENDED

MINOR

HB20-1037 Augmentation Of Instream Flows SIGNED INTO LAW AMENDED
HB20-1069 Add Water Well Inspectors Identify High-Risk Wells KILLED ON HOUSE CALENDAR
HB20-1072 Study Emerging Technologies For Water Management KILLED BY BILL SPONSORS
HB20-1094 Repeal Fee Cap On-site Wastewater Treatment System SIGNED INTO LAW AMENDED
HB20-1095 Local Governments Water Elements In Master Plans SIGNED INTO LAW AMENDED
HB20-1097 Connected Municipal Use No Change If Already Quantified KILLED BY BILL SPONSORS
HB20-1115 Sales Tax Exemption For Farm Fencing Material KILLED BY BILL SPONSORS
HB20-1117 Misbranding Nonmeat And Imported And Artificial Meat KILLED ON HOUSE CALENDAR
HB20-1159 State Engineer Confirm Existing Use Instream Flow SIGNED INTO LAW
HB20-1172 No Abandonment Of Water Rights For Efficiencies KILLED BY BILL SPONSORS
HB20-1213 Sunset Commodity Handler And Farm Products Acts PASSED AMENDED
HB20-1224 Agricultural Products Overweight Motor Vehicle KILLED BY BILL SPONSORS
HB20-1226 Food Safety And Quality Labeling KILLED BY BILL SPONSORS
HB20-1305 Crop And Livestock Contribution Tax Credit KILLED ON HOUSE CALENDAR
HB20-1344 Study Artificial Recharge Max Beneficial Use Water KILLED BY BILL SPONSORS

TECHNICAL

HB20-1037 Augmentation Of Instream Flows (Coram (R)) [Arndt (D))

AMENDED: Moderate

SIGNED INTO LAW

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal: Allow the state to use water rights it acquires for stream flow augmentation if the right was already so designated.

Description:

Clarifies that state water conservation board may must apply to the water court for the ability to augment stream flows to preserve or improve natural environment to a reasonable degree by using an acquired water right that had been previously quantified and changed to include augmentation use, without any further changes to the water right. This is subject to any terms and conditions that are necessary to prevent injury to the owners of water rights affected by this use and the state must demonstrate its plan will not injure other water users’ undecreed existing exchanges of water to the extent they have already been administratively approved for.

Additional Information:

Board can submit together with a water rights owner or by itself. Plan submitted to water court must also:

  • Use water for augmentation only and for which augmentation use has been judicially approved
  • Be subject to water rights for which historical use has been quantified

Augmentation water shall not be diverted within the specific stream reach by an exchange, plan for substitution, plan for augmentation, or other means that cause a reduction of the augmentation water added to the stream reach. It is subject to reasonable transit losses. If the plan requires making physical modifications to existing diversion structures, operator of plan must bear all reasonable construction costs and operational and maintenance costs.


Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

This is mostly clarifying that the state can use these rights to increase flows as the bill only allows this process if the right to augmentation has already been judicially approved, but also improve the process of these augmentation rights to ensure no injury occurs to other water rights holders.

Arguments Against:

This could damage the water rights of ranchers and growers and municipalities. Anytime you are keeping more water in the river, you are running the risk of consequences unforeseen at water court.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB20-1037

HB20-1069 Add Water Well Inspectors Identify High-Risk Wells (Sonnenberg (R), Coram (R)) [Saine (R), Titone (D)]

From the Water Resources Review Committee

AMENDED: Moderate

KILLED ON HOUSE CALENDAR

Appropriation: $143,789
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal: Increase inspections of wells, prioritizing high-risk ones.

Description:

Requires a minimum of four state water inspectors. At least one must be concerned with inspection in water division 1 (South Platte Basin) and at least one in water division 2 (Arkansas River Basin). There are seven water divisions in the state. State must also create rules by November 2020 for identifying high-risk wells that should be prioritized for inspection. These must be prioritized for inspection. Increases multiple well fees by $35.

Additional Information:

Increases fee from $100 to $135 for: new well permits, changing existing permits, modifying or replacing wells, and registering wells not previously in state records, and groundwater applications. From $60 to $95 for: replacing small wells and permit for some other well types.


Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

We are not following legislative intent when it comes to well inspection. Just having one inspector on the western slope and one on the eastern slope is not enough. Because we don’t have enough state well inspectors, people are shifting to less qualified inspectors who are passing cheap wells that do not last the usual 60 years for a well and that leads to poor wells that rust in the ground and into our groundwater, which endangers communities across the state. Divisions 1 and 2 account for most of the wells in the state, so it makes sense to prioritize them, and of course to prioritize high-risk wells. It is also funded at least in part by the fee increases.

Arguments Against:

This still won’t be enough inspectors to truly cover the state, we need a more comprehensive approach that addresses the full problem, including permitting and third-party inspectors. And while this is not much money each year, we are incredibly strapped when it comes to the state water fund.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB20-1069

HB20-1072 Study Emerging Technologies For Water Management (Sonnenberg (R), Bridges (D)) [Arndt (D), Saine (R)]

AMENDED: Minor

KILLED BY BILL SPONSORS

From Water Resources Review Committee

Appropriation: $20,000
Fiscal Impact: None beyond appropriation

Goal: Conduct feasibility studies and pilot deployments of new technologies to improve water management.

Description:

Authorizes and directs the University of Colorado, collaboration with the Colorado Water Institute at Colorado State University, to conduct feasibility studies and pilot deployments of these new technologies to improve water management in Colorado. $40,000 $20,000 appropriated from general fund contingent on University of Colorado receiving $40,000 in matching gifts, grants, and donations.

Additional Information:

Technologies that may be investigated include:

  • In-situ sensors to monitor surface and groundwater use
  • Direct or remote sensors to monitor water quality
  • Cellular and satellite telemetry systems allowing remote access to sensor data
  • Aerial observation platforms, including high-altitude balloons and unmanned aerial vehicles
  • Satellite-based remote sensing and water resource forecasting technologies
  • Blockchain-based documentation, communication, and authentication of data regarding water use, trading, and conservation

University of Colorado must report each year, including allowing testimony.


Auto-Repeal: July 2022

Arguments For:

This is designed to give a nudge forward into the future when it comes to water management. This could help improve the management and conservation of state water, a critical resource, and allow parties to water rights transactions to have more confidence in the underlying data. Some of these technologies are already being used in other places in the world, it is time to bring them to Colorado. While it is true that the Universities can study this on their own, providing the funding also helps us shape the program and require deadlines and reports.

Arguments Against:

We could instead not spend $40,000 $20,000 and let the two universities get grants on their own and study the issue, then get their results.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB20-1072

HB20-1094 Repeal Fee Cap On-site Wastewater Treatment System (Ginal (D), Coram (R)) [Catlin (R), Arndt (D)]

AMENDED: Moderate

SIGNED INTO LAW

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None at state level, negligible at local level

Goal: Remove the cap on the fee a local board of health can collect for on-site wastewater treatment system permits.

Description:

Current law puts a $1,000 cap of the fee a local board of health can collect for on-site wastewater treatment system permits. This bill removes the cap. On request, the local board of health must provide the permittee with information on how the fee was calculated.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

The idea behind this fee is to recover the actual indirect and direct costs associated with the permit. But that can be impossible if there is a cap on the maximum amount. The fee already has to just recover the costs, so having a cap is also unnecessary.

Arguments Against:

We have a cap to make sure the fee is not unreasonable. If the cap is too low right now, considering inflation since it was initially set, then raise it. But we need to have a reasonable cap to ensure that local governments are operating as efficiently as possible and not just counting on recouping all costs through a fee.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB20-1094

HB20-1095 Local Governments Water Elements In Master Plans (Bridges (D), Hansen (D)) [Arndt (D)]

AMENDED: Minor

SIGNED INTO LAW

Appropriation: $26,215
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal: Require local governments to include water conservation policies in their water plans and allow them to include goals in the state water plan.

Description:

Local governments have to create master plans for their land and water. For the water plan, the bill requires the water supply element of the plan to include water conservation policies and allows the local government to include goals specified by the state water plan and include policies contingent on obtaining approvals. These elements must be included at next amending of plan, but no later than July 2025.

Additional Information:

Contingent approvals can include subdivisions, planned unit developments, special use permits, and zoning changes.


Arguments For:

A local government is a part of the whole state and it ties their hands behind their backs if they cannot rely on the state water plan when it comes to local water conservation policies. You just cannot separate out water that way. So this bill fixes that, while ensuring that every local government has a water conservation plan in our thirsty state.

Arguments Against:

The state water plan is quite underfunded and it is possible local governments will rely on things that everyone knows are not happening anytime soon in order to evade conservation duties.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB20-1095

HB20-1097 Connected Municipal Use No Change If Already Quantified [Young (D), Arndt (D)]

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal: Allow water already a approved for use in either a domestic or municipal water supply system to also be used in an interconnected domestic or municipal system under some circumstances.

Description:

Allows water already approved for use in either a domestic or municipal water supply system to also be used in an interconnected domestic or municipal system if the water is part of a previously quantified water right that does not have to return to the natural stream and the owner of the water right has given written notice which has been approved by the state. If approved, the water right owner must give notice to everyone on the notification list for that right of the new plan. This is appealable to the water judge but must be within 35 days.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Basically if we can use treated water in one domestic or municipal area, we should be able to transfer that treated water to another one so long as the water doesn’t go back into the natural stream it came from and so long as this is not fundamentally changing the math on how much water people are using for their approved water rights.

Arguments Against: n/a

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB20-1097

HB20-1115 Sales Tax Exemption For Farm Fencing Material (Coram (R)) [Catlin (R), McLachlan (D)]

KILLED BY BILL SPONSORS

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: $0.8-$1.3 million full implementation lost tax revenue, unknown local

Goal: Exempt fencing materials used in a farm operation from sales tax.

Description:

Exempts fencing materials used in a farm operation from sales tax. Purchaser must file a declaration with the retailer to get the exemption. Fencing includes barbed and smooth wire, strainers, tensioners, fencing staples, “T” posts and wire clips, treated round posts, prefabricated welded fence panels, agricultural corral-type gates, electric fencing posts, solar panels for electric fences, ribbon, rope, and braided wire.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

Fencing is a necessity to produce the food we eat in this state, both grown and raised. We have a tradition of exemptions inputs into cost of production of food from sales tax because we recognize this is of vital importance to the state. Some retailers have already even been interpreting the already existing farm equipment exemption as including fencing, so we already have some agricultural producers getting this exemption.

Arguments Against:

Some people misinterpreting the law is not a reason to change the law to their misinterpretation. Of course we value agriculture in the state, but there has to be a limit somewhere to what we say is farm equipment and what is not, particularly when it comes to crops, which of course cannot move.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB20-1115

HB20-1117 Misbranding Nonmeat And Imported And Artificial Meat [Neville (R), Hooton (D)]

AMENDED: Very Significant

KILLED ON HOUSE CALENDAR

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal: Require non-animal meat to be labeled as lab-grown or artificially cultured. Require imported meat to be labeled as such.

Description:

States that food is misbranded if it described as meat or a particular cut of meat but is either not primarily derived from livestock or is derived from a process in which the cells were not grown within the physical body of living livestock and the label does not say “lab-grown” or “artificially cultured”. Requires that in order to avoid label of imported, meat must come from animals born, raised, and harvested exclusively in the United States.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

Lab-grown meat is here and growing. People deserve to know what they are consuming. If the label says meat, then the food better be meat. If the food is artificially created, then the label needs to say so. This is about letting people decide what they want to put into their own bodies, not about raising or destroying industries (but let’s also not forget the enormous energy required to run a lab, if we are tallying up environmental effects, and the numerous jobs that depend on the livestock industry). If people want lab-grown meat than that is fine, they can buy it. But people who don’t want it deserve the same consideration. As for the importation label, if an animal isn’t a US animal that the meat isn’t domestic.

Arguments Against:

This is fear-mongering over the future and an attempt to put the thumb on the scale in the favor of livestock owners. Lab created meat has enormous potential to solve numerous problems including the enormous environmental impact of raising animals like cows and the ethical issues of properly treating animals we are going to then slaughter. Fewer natural resources, no slaughter, no need for growth hormones. But putting lab-grown on the label is going to give a lot of people pause, no matter how safe the FDA has said the meat is.

This bill has been gutted and no longer warns people against artificial meat. People deserve to know what they are consuming. If the label says meat, then the food better be meat. If the food is artificially created, then the label needs to say so. This is about letting people decide what they want to put into their own bodies, not about raising or destroying industries (but let’s also not forget the enormous energy required to run a lab, if we are tallying up environmental effects, and the numerous jobs that depend on the livestock industry). If people want lab-grown meat than that is fine, they can buy it. But people who don’t want it deserve the same consideration.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB20-1117

HB20-1157 Loaned Water For Instream Flows To Improve Environment (Donovan (D)) [Roberts (D), Will (R)]

AMENDED: Minor

SIGNED INTO LAW

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal: Increase ability of state water conservation board to obtain loaned water to improve natural environment.

Description:

Allows state water conservation board to loan water from water rights holders for improving natural environment on a water flow right or for the natural environment on streams the board does not hold a water flow right upon. Expedited loans approved for this have a term of one year. Requires that notice for loan requests must be sent to registered entities within whose jurisdiction the water rights fall. For both the initial loan request and any appeals to a water judge, the burden of proof is on the board to demonstrate there is no harm done to any other water rights. Board must conduct a biological analysis on how much the water will improve the natural environment and must also give preference to loans of stored, rather than moving, water. Also increases the number of years within a 10 year period a loan can be exercised from 3 to 5 years and allows a loan to be renewed for up to 2 additional 10 year periods. Can only do three years in a row.

Additional Information:

For expedited loans that get renewed, the initial one-year period counts as the first year of the five year allowance for the renewal loan. Increases fee for loan request from $100 to $300. State engineer must provide notice for comment on the loan no more than 15 days after the initial notice for expedited loans and 60 days for renewable loans. Must approve or deny the loan 10 days after comment period is closed. Water rights loaned in this way are not excluded from concurrent or subsequent inclusion in a water conservation, demand management, compact compliance, or water banking program or plan.


Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

Keeping water in a stream helps our environment and the fishing industry. Low flows hurt everyone in the area: less groundwater, worse fishing and hunting conditions, and disruptions to the natural environment. This bill just tweaks our already existing program to allow water rights owners more flexibility, in particular since this program is onerous and hard to get into. Allowing this additional flexibility may make it more worth it for some water rights owners to participate. The program is already set-up to be difficult to do, there is a lot of oversight and checks to make sure keeping the water in stream won’t hurt others who rely on the water, and this bill makes it even tougher with a biological impact report and explicitly putting the burden of proof on the applicant.

Arguments Against:

Pulling the water out of the system to keep in in a stream can harm farmers who rely on the irrigation to keep their fields operable. Too much pulling of the water out the system could harm these producers in a long-term manner where it’s too late once we realize there is a problem. This bill may also cause problems with state drought contingency programs.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB20-1157

HB20-1159 State Engineer Confirm Existing Use Instream Flow (Donovan (D), Coram (R)) [Roberts (D), Catlin (R)]

SIGNED INTO LAW

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal: Allow those with previously unadjudicated water usage claims to be properly accounted for when the water conservation board seeks to appropriate water for in-stream use.

Description:

Directs the state engineer to confirm any previously unadjudicated claims for water usage made in context of an application from the water conservation board for an appropriation of water for instream flow purposes. Engineer’s decision is appealable. People are also free to seek confirmation from a water judge of their existing, previously unadjudicated, claim.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

When the conservation board attempts to keep water in-stream for preservation purposes, we must currently (and properly) consider if this will harm any existing water users. This is currently done by examining official water rights and there is no place in the process for someone who has not claimed any water rights but may be harmed except going to court. Instead of that costly route, this bill provides for some simple common sense of having the engineer check out the claim to see if it is valid.

Arguments Against: n/a

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB20-1159

HB20-1164 Housing Authority Exemptions From Water Fees (Zenzinger (D)) [Rich (R), Becker (D)]

AMENDED: Moderate

KILLED ON HOUSE CALENDAR

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: Will reduce revenue for some water conservation districts

Goal: Exempt housing authorities from tap and development fees from water conservation districts.

Description:

All property owned by government agencies inside a water conservation district is exempt from tax assessments and levies. This bill exempts housing authorities in water conservation districts from any tap or development fees from the district. Authorities may enter into agreements to pay part of a tap fee.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

There is a dispute over this between housing authorities, who feel their exemptions from taxes and levies should exempt them from this fee, while some water conservation districts have the opinion that it does not. This bill solves this in favor the housing authorities. We have some of the highest water infrastructure costs in the country (somewhat understandable) and this gets passed on in the form of one-time tap and development fees when a building is constructed. These can costs tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars for larger buildings and fees are frequently charged on per-building basis with no regard to energy efficiency or unit size. This obviously presents an enormous barrier for constructing affordable housing, which is what housing authorities are, in-part, doing. Given the tremendous housing challenges all over the state, this has the potential to remove a barrier to affordable housing construction.

Arguments Against:

This is unfair to the many housing authorities that do not get their water from water conservation districts but just regular water sources and have to pay tap fees. We should have a level playing field here, as affordable housing is important in a lot of places in the state.


The fee is high because the cost of water in Colorado is high. If we want to look into reforming how the fee is calculated that might be a worthy endeavor but exempting a building entirely is taking a big chunk of money. Water conservation districts are non-profits too and this bill is picking one non-profit over another.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB20-1164

HB20-1172 No Abandonment Of Water Rights For Efficiencies [Arndt (D)]

KILLED BY BILL SPONSORS

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal: Allow a pause for consideration of non-use of a water right for people who implement efficiency improvements.

Description:

Someone with a water right can pause the consideration of non-use that can result in them losing the right for several reasons. This bill adds implementation of efficiency improvements that result in a reduction of the amount of water diverted for the water right. Owner must submit written notice of the project to the state within one year of implementation and the pause can last for a maximum of 20 years.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

We want to encourage people to be more efficient with their water, that is obvious. But right now if you have a water right you might not want be more efficient because you risk losing that right. This bill allows people to experiment with water efficiency without losing their rights. The reason you need to provide that cushion is because the lower water use may not be permanent if the right’s holder finds that the efficiencies actually do not work for their needs and they need to go back to the larger usage we have already decided they have the right to use. Obviously we need to put a cap on this, so we can reallocate the water if necessary and thus the 20 year cap which does not appear for the other reasons you can pause non-usage consideration.

Arguments Against:

If someone has found ways to more effectively use their water, great. But we don’t need to hold their water right for 20 years while we decide if this can be permanent or not. That isn’t fair to everyone else who would like to use that water that the right’s holder is sitting on but not using.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB20-1172

HB20-1213 Sunset Commodity Handler And Farm Products Acts (Rodriguez (D), Sonnenberg (R)) [Young (D), Pelton (R)]

AMENDED: Moderate

PASSED

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal: Extend regulation of ranchers and farmers through 2031 2025 and implement most of the recommendations of the department of regulatory agencies’ sunset review report.

Description:

Extends regulation of ranchers and farmers through September 2031 2025. Requires state to create rules on financial assurance requirements, record maintenance, initial and renewal license requirements, requirements for credit sale contracts, requirements for warehouse operations, and the capacity of animal feeders. Requires all financial statements submitted to state be prepared by a certified public accountant. Increases the maximum bond amount farm products dealers must file from $200,000 to $1,000,000. Increases the time to take action against involving bond surety from 180 days to 548 days. Repeals the limitation that small-volume dealers cannot purchase $2,500 or more in a single transaction. Combines the Commodity Handler Act and Farm Products act into one section of law. Requires those that accept sales on credit to keep assets equal to 100% of the value of their open credit sales contracts (was 50%). Creates small-volume commodity handlers (less than $250,000 purchased and no commercial feeding of livestock) and exempts them from some financial statement requirements for licensure but they are not allowed to purchase on credit.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: September 2031 with sunset review

Arguments For:

From the department of regulatory agencies’ sunset review report: “The primary purpose of the Acts is to insulate producers (farmers and ranchers) from financial harm that could have devastating effects if farm products dealers or commodity handlers are unable to pay for farm products or commodities purchases from producers. To provide adequate protection to producers, the Commissioner administers a regulatory framework that includes licensing, a surety bond requirement, inspections and comprehensive financial examinations. This review revealed that the current regulatory framework is providing effective protections to Colorado producers, specifically financial protection; therefore, the General Assembly should continue the Acts.” All of the rule-making areas in the bill are areas where the state has not provided specific requirements to licensees, instead the state has relied on administrative guidance. Rules are better. For financial statements, right now the state is frequently receiving incomplete and inaccurate statements, so a professional hand is needed. The bond for farmers has not been increased since 1990 and the commodity bond amount is $1 million. Both should be $1 million to ensure adequate protection. For small-volume producers, they are already limited to an aggregate of $20,000 of purchases in a year. It is not necessary and an extra burden to also limit individual transactions.

Arguments Against: n/a

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB20-1213

HB20-1224 Agricultural Products Overweight Motor Vehicle (Sonnenberg (R)) [Holtorf (R)]

AMENDED: Very Significant

KILLED BY BILL SPONSORS

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: Negligible only next year

Goal: Allow agricultural loads going to place of storage or sale to get overweight permits for transport on the road. Create a three month permit for moving overweight load on the road.

Description:

Current law allows multiple different avenues to get a permit to move overweight loads on the road but only allows permits for single usage or annual usage. This bill adds agricultural loads if the vehicle is registered as a farm vehicle, the producer designates 100 days (which don’t have to be consecutive) for permit use, the vehicle is used to transport agricultural products from place of production to place of storage or sale, and the vehicle complies with rules governing distribution of the load on the vehicle’s axles. Permit costs $40 for general vehicles, $50 for quad axle groupings, and $50 for vehicles with trailers with 2 or 3 axle groupings. Bill creates a three-month permit which costs $125.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

We have an extremely long list of these allowed uses for permits, but none for agricultural producers moving their goods to storage or market. Given the large amount of agriculture produced in the state and the fact that these products can be heavy, it makes sense to add this usage. Since producers do not need an annual permit but also will probably need more than one day, it also makes sense to structure it as a 100 day permit. There are many people who need oversized load permits but not just for one day and certainly not for an entire year. These seasonal needs can be meet with the 3 month option the bill creates.

Arguments Against:

These fees are not proportional to the overweight fee for other usages, which is $400 for an annual fee at the lightest overweight loads. $110 would be a more appropriate fee. We also might as well allow single day permitting at the lower $15 plus $5 per axle rate.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB20-1224

HB20-1226 Food Safety And Quality Labeling [Cutter (D)]

AMENDED: Minor

KILLED ON HOUSE CALENDAR

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal: Encourage use of different food date labels to distinguish between products where it is dangerous to consume them after the date and products where the quality may be lower after the date.

Description:

Allows and encourages food products for sale in Colorado to use “Use by” or “Best if used by” date labels. Products with an elevated risk date, where there is a high level of risk associated with consuming the food after the date, use “Use by” while if the quality may deteriorate after the date “Best if used by” is used instead. Food product manufacturers that use these labels to indicate risk must use the ones in this bill by July 2023. Bill also gives authority to state to modify these requirements if necessary after an open public process with relevant stakeholders.

Additional Information:

Retailers may still sell food where the food quality date has passed by (“best if used by”). They may also donate a product that is not labeled in accordance with these rules. They have no legal requirements to ensure these labeling rules are followed. State must post explanation of the two labels on its website by July 2023.


Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

Discarded food is not only a drain on our economy, costing consumers and industry billions of dollars a year in waste, but it also releases greenhouse gases into the air from landfills where it rots. A key factor in this waste is consumer misinterpretation of labels leading to premature discarding of food. Distinguishing between foods that are actually dangerous past the use date and should be discarded and those that might merely decline in quality is important and should lead to less waste. The bill is voluntary so it does not force any manufacturers to do anything.

Arguments Against:

The bill is voluntary and therefore may fall short of its goals. It costs manufacturers money to change their labeling process, even if we allow them to sell everything with old labels on it first. That means they may not comply unless forced to. And food waste actually benefits these manufacturers economically because people have to buy more food. And even if we do get compliance, consumers may not understand the difference between the two labels and continue with the same behaviors as before.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB20-1226

HB20-1305 Crop And Livestock Contribution Tax Credit [Benavidez (D), Snyder (D)]

AMENDED: Minor

KILLED ON HOUSE CALENDAR

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: Negligible

Goal: Repeal a tax credit for C corporations worth 25% of the value of charitable crop or livestock contributions made in a single year, with a cap of $1,000 per corporation.

Description:

Repeal a tax credit for C corporations worth 25% of the value of charitable crop or livestock contributions made in a single year, with a cap of $1,000 per corporation.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

This credit has barely been used, so few taxpayers have claimed it that the department of revenue cannot report the exact number without compromising the confidentiality of the taxpayer’s information. This means we are not getting very much donated food from these companies and therefore this credit is not serving its purpose. As part of our goal to simplify our tax code, it needs to go.

Arguments Against:

Some use is more than no use and that means some food is getting donated. We should keep the credit and maybe make more agricultural producers aware of it.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB20-1305

HB20-1327 Water Diversions From Rio Grande Basin (Coram (R)) [D. Valdez (D), Will (R)]

KILLED IN HOUSE COMMITTEE

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal: Prohibit tapping the Rio Grande basin for water unless it is determined it will not damage various existing water needs in the basin by the state engineer.

Description:

Prohibits element of state government from approving a diversion of water from the Rio Grande basin unless the state engineer determines the diversion will not increase the costs or negatively affect the operation of the federal closed basin project, adversely affect any wildlife refuge or habitat in the basin, adversely affect the Great Sand Dunes park or preserve, or increase costs or negatively affect any state lands administered in the basin. State engineer must consider all findings from the Colorado water conservation board before making a decision.

Additional Information:

The federal closed basin project extracts groundwater from the San Luis Valley for multiple purposes, including providing irrigation water, helping the state meet its treaty requirements, and providing water for natural preserves.


Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

The Rio Grande basin is centered around the San Luis Valley, and the federal closed basin project already takes water out of the valley for other uses. This has left the farmers and ranchers with dwindling amounts of water to use and thus we need to ensure that we don’t take any additional water out unless it is not going to harm existing water uses. The aquifer that we are tapping to pump water out is so depleted that the state has ordered the valley to bring levels back up to pre 2000 levels or face a massive shutoff of farm wells in 2030. There are water rights in the valley that are basically non-existent, since they cannot draw from a dry creek or river. And the vultures are circling. There have been numerous efforts over the years to tap the aquifer for the Front Range and essentially destroy many of the farms in the valley. This bill would essentially make that impossible and protect the farmers of the valley.

Arguments Against:

Water is a matter of statewide interest and the San Luis Valley is already protected by water courts that must consider most of these same factors before allowing any water out of the basin. We can and should leave water rights in those courts as they have been, rather than legislate a de facto ban as this bill does. The fact is we need massive amounts of water to keep up with growth on the Front Range, the growth that is fueling our state economy. We should not close off avenues by law in this manner.


The closed basin project should be ended. It prevents ranchers and farmers in the valley from properly utilizing the water that enters it. It was supposed to not cause a drop of more than two feet in the water in wells at the edge of the project and yet this was exceeded by a half a foot almost instantly. We have already filled out contracted water debt this project is mainly supposed to support. Give the valley’s water back to its residents.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB20-1327

HB20-1338 Operational Severance Tax Transfer To Agriculture Value-added (Donovan (D)) [Arndt (D)]

KILLED BY BILL SPONSORS

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: Estimated increase of $280,000 to this fund next year with that amount reduced from other tier 2 funds

Goal: Reenact the annual transfer of $500,000 (or however much is available) from severance tax funds to the agriculture value-added cash fund, which is used by the state agricultural value-added development board for agricultural energy projects.

Description:

Reenacts the annual transfer of $500,000 (or however much is available) from severance tax funds to the agriculture value-added cash fund, which is used by the state agricultural value-added development board for agricultural energy projects. This transfer is only done after core funding requirements for severance taxes and reserve requirements are met. It also would exist alongside several other funds at the same priority level, so any lack of funding require proportional reduction in all of these programs (they are commonly called tier 2 programs). Transfer expires in 2029.

Additional Information:

Other tier 2 programs and their funding amounts are: water supply reserve fund ($10 million), soil conservation district grants ($450,000), water efficiency grant program ($550,000), species conservation trust fund ($5 million), low-income energy assistance ($13 million), interbasin compact committee ($745,067), forestry grants ($2.5 million), aquatic nuisance species ($4 million), abandoned mine reclamation ($127,000).


Auto-Repeal: September 2029

Arguments For:

This fund is what pays for the state’s Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (ACRE3) program to provide energy efficiency and renewable energy solutions at no cost to qualified agricultural producers. This fits into part of our battle against climate change. It used to be funded by severance taxes, as this bill restores, until 2016 when that was repealed. At that point $4.8 million in taxes had been put into the fund in 10 years. The fund still had money to operate, and now has $1.5 million, but the state is now telling us the fund is going to run dry after next year. If we lose this program we not only lose the ability to help reduce energy emissions, we also could hurt the ability for our agricultural producers to benefit from energy strategies that would make them more economically competitive. The other programs at the same priority level as this do not object to adding this transfer back in, even if it does affect their funding.

Arguments Against:

The Joint Budget Committee staff looked into this and does not believe severance tax revenue, which continues to dwindle, can support this renewed transfer. Our severance taxes just can longer support even the programs that are currently on the list and the other programs that get revenue at the same priority level would likely see their severance funds reduced as a result of adding this back into the mix because we don’t have enough tax revenue to fully support all of them. So if we want to continue this fund, we need to find another way to support it.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB1338

HB20-1343 Egg-laying Hen Confinement Standards (Donovan (D)) [Roberts (D)]

AMENDED: Minor

PASSED

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal: Restrict the enclosures that can be used for larger commercial egg-laying hen operations with a 1 square foot per usable floor space per hen restriction phasing into a cage-free housing system requirement.

Description:

Puts restrictions on enclosures for egg-laying hens in Colorado. By 2022 2023 they must have a minimum of 1 square foot of usable floor space per hen. This does not include perches or ramps but does include elevated level or near flat platforms. By 2024 2025 they must be in a cage-free housing system and have a minimum of 1 square foot of usable floor space per hen that includes access to vertical space (multi-leveled) or minimum of 1 ½ square foot of usable floor space if there are no vertical levels. Hens used in medical research, caged for veterinary purposes, transportation, at a state fair or county exhibition or 4-H program, for slaughter under state law, and for temporary periods not to exceed more than 6 hours in any 24 hour period or 24 hours total in any 30 day period are all exempt. Owners who have less than 3,000 hens or that sell fewer than 25 cases of 30 dozen eggs per week are also exempt. Violations of the law are subject to up to a $1,000 fine per violation, but no fine may be levied without a hearing. Owners must allow state commissioner of agriculture access to their facilities during normal business hours and their records. State may use a government or private inspector. Owners must obtain a certificate annually from the state that they are in compliance. Existing licensing fees must cover the added costs of this program.

Additional Information:

Cage-free housing system is defined as an indoor or outdoor controlled environment where the hens are free to roam except for exterior walls or fencing. Any interior fencing must allow employees to walk through each contained or sub-divided area to provide care to the hens. There must be scratch areas, perches, nest boxes, and dust bathing areas. It includes multi-tiered aviaries, partially slatted systems, and single-level all-litter floor systems. It does not include battery cages, colony cages, enriched cages, enriched colony cages, modified cages, convertible cages, furnished cages, or similar cage systems. Hens include chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese, or guinea fowl kept for the purposes of commercial egg production.


Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

Egg laying hens are one of the most confined animals in agribusiness. On average in the United States they are given less space than a single sheet of letter-sized paper on which to live their lives. They cannot spread their wings and they cannot perform natural behaviors such as nesting or perching. They live lives of stress and cruelty. Multiple other states have taken steps along the same path as this bill including a very similar bill in Washington and ballot measures passed in California and Massachusetts. The state already has to inspect all of these facilities each year, so they will just need to be looking at the enclosures slightly differently under this bill. The bottom line is that we can treat these animals humanely even if they are eventually eaten. There is no reason to be cruel, especially since the economic case against these more open systems is not a gigantic one. Yes, some costs will go up and those will likely get passed on to us (those costs include more labor requirements, which does mean more jobs). But most of these costs will be one-time restructuring of enclosures. As for the worry about businesses leaving the state, laws like this are part of an accelerating world-wide trend. Just a few years ago there were no restrictions in the US at all on these cages. So the extent to which a business will easily be able to relocate to a state without these laws is going to get more difficult very quickly. And of course it is not at all simple for a big agricultural business to simply move all of its operations to another state. That is likely to be far more costly than simply complying with this bill. But again, the bottom line is that we should not be deliberately cruel to animals. Current housing structures inarguably are.

Arguments Against:

We shouldn’t romanticize the agricultural industry. We raise animals so we can eventually kill and eat them. This is true of hens as well. The types of enclosures this bill bans are, as the arguments for section notes, extremely common in the US. They are cheaper to operate (if slightly more expensive to build), no birds are underfoot, floor eggs are eliminated, eggs are cleaner, any aggression from the hens toward each other is reduced, more hens can be housed in a smaller space, and internal parasites are eliminated. Any increased operating costs are likely going to be passed on to consumers via higher prices, including the costs of converting enclosures over to the new requirements. There are also only six producers in Colorado large enough to qualify for this bill. A few of them may decide to move their operations to another state where these restrictions do not exist and are not likely to exist in the near future (like Kansas or Wyoming), hurting the state economy. More and more states may be jumping on this bandwagon, but the vast majority of states still do not have these laws and barring a federal law change, there are likely to be multiple hold-outs, providing an opportunity for those states to bring concentrated amounts of this industry into their states if companies flee states with tighter restrictions.


If only six producers in the state are affected, perhaps our thresholds for exclusion are too high. The basic argument is that this is deliberate cruelty to animals and it should not be done, so it really shouldn’t matter if you have 3,000 hens or 500 hens.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB1343

HB20-1344 Study Artificial Recharge Max Beneficial Use Water [Holtorf (R)]

KILLED BY BILL SPONSORS

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: Not yet released

Goal: Study recharging aquifers in the state with excess water we are currently delivering to other states beyond our contractual obligations.

Description:

Directs the water conservation board to partner with the state engineer and the Colorado water institute to study ways to maximize use of water within Colorado by: recharging aquifers when surplus or excess water is available and minimize the amount that flows out of Colorado to downstream states without breaking any laws or pacts. Must also identify specific aquifers that are hydrologically and legally available for artificial recharge, sources of revenue to pay for that recharging, and particular potential or existing artificial recharge projects. This should include the role various water entities could play in financing and implementing the projects and any regulatory or legislative changes needed. Report due by end of year.

Additional Information:

Water entities that could play a role include: raw water and drinking water suppliers, water authorities, water conservation districts, water conservancy districts, and groundwater management districts.


Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

Artificially recharging an aquifer (also known as aquifer storage recovery) involves spreading or impounding water on the land to increase the infiltration through the soil into the aquifer or injecting water directly into the aquifer through wells. This stores the water underground for later access when we need it. Increasing water storage is a critical element of our massive state water plan, which is designed to ensure we have enough water to keep up with our needs as the state continues to grow. Although we have water shortages in almost every part of the state during parts of most years, we also have large quantities of water flowing out of the state. This happens in excess of what is legally required by various federal laws and state compacts almost every year, specifically with the South Platte River and water going to Nebraska. We should therefore be able to legally use that excess water to recharge our own aquifers and river basins, which would allow us access to more water during times of water shortages. This is just a study to see how feasible this would be, what aquifers could use the excess water, and what regulatory and legislative changes would be required.

Arguments Against:

There are other ways to address this, particularly since we are basically talking about one river. Officials are already planning to build massive reservoirs northeast of Denver to hold more of that Platte River water in the state. If that plans goes forward, then there is no excess water to hold back in Colorado and entire point of this study is moot.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB1344

HB20-1403 Colorado Water Conservation Board Construction Fund Project (Donovan (D), Sonnenberg (R)) [Roberts (D), Catlin (R)]

AMENDED: Minor

PASSED

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: About $1 million returned to general fund, $26 million spent from water fund

Goal:

To appropriate funds from the water conservation construction fund for uses on various projects and authorize the fund to loan out money for specific projects.

Description:

Authorizes the water conservation board to loan out up to $23.23 million to the Pueblo conservancy district to bring levees up to federal emergency management standards, up to $17.25 million to the Tunnel Water Company to rehabilitate the Laramie-Poudre tunnel, and up to $90 million to the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District to provide cost-sharing funding for the Frying Pan-Arkansas project. These loans all carry interest due to the water board along with repayment.

Also authorizes $26.1 million of transfers from the fund to various water projects throughout the state and reduces existing appropriations from the general fund for development of a Colorado River demand management system ($866,742) and for water education from the construction fund ($150,000). Finally it transfers $10 million from the severance tax fund to the construction fund and $2 million from the construction fund to restore the litigation fund balance and $1 million to the Fish and Wildlife Resources fund.

The bill also removes a prohibition on recommending treated water distribution systems to the general assembly and extends the board’s water efficiency grant program through July 2030.

Additional Information:

$26.1 million is appropriated as follows:

  • $10 million to the Frying Pan-Arkansas project
  • $7.5 million to assist in implementing the state water plan, including $3 million to facilitate development of additional water storage, $1.5 million for agricultural projects, $1.5 million for environmental and recreational projects, $1 million for grants to implement long-term strategies for conservation and draught planning, and $500,000 for grants for water education, outreach , and innovation efforts
  • $4 million for the continuation of watershed restoration programs
  • $1 million for training workshops on water loss control methodology and technical assistance on water management
  • $750,000 for support of various transfer methods as alternatives to permanent dry-up of agricultural lands
  • $500,000 for assistance to communities to revise and improve floodplain studies and maps
  • $500,000 to continue implementation of Arkansas River decision support system
  • $500,000 to continue to operate the Colorado Decision Support System
  • $380,000 to upgrade and maintain monitoring systems
  • $350,000 to assist with cloud seeding programs
  • $350,000 to support development of better ways to estimate water supply
  • $200,000 to acquire light detection and ranging data to develop accurate flood hazard, debris flow, and fluvial hazard mapping
  • $150,000 to support the Mesonet project at the Colorado Climate Center at CSU


Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Colorado's Water Plan leveraged and integrated the work accomplished by Colorado’s nine Basin Roundtables, the Interbasin Compact Committee, the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB), and partners and stakeholders statewide since 2005 to determine how to implement water supply planning solutions that meet Colorado’s future water needs while supporting healthy watersheds and the environment; robust recreation and tourism economies; vibrant and sustainable cities; and viable and productive agriculture. With the plan finalized in 2015, the Colorado water community has shifted to implementation of the measurable objectives and critical actions set forth in the plan to ensure that Colorado can meet its future water needs and continues to be a thriving state to work, play, and live. Utilizing loans in this manner both fulfills the board’s core purpose in improving the state of water in Colorado and also will eventually bring revenue into the fund through the interest earned on the loans. For recommending treatment systems, it is foolish to refuse to utilize experts in this field. We can overcome potential conflicts of interest with transparency, which the board already has as a public institution. It is also important to note that this spending is somewhat removed from our current budgetary crisis, no general funds are being used and in fact the bill gives some general fund money back.

Arguments Against:

Given that the state budget has already demonstrated the ability to reach into multiple funds across the government to claw back money for our current budget crisis, we should be taking more than just the roughly $1 million this bill does, so that we can offset a few cuts in other places. Yes water is critical to the future of our state, which is why we must continue to spend money in this area, but perhaps a few million less.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB1403

SB20-024 Require Public Input On Water Demand Management Program (Coram (R), Donovan (D)) [Arndt (D), Catlin (R)]

From the Water Resources Review Committee

KILLED BY BILL SPONSORS

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: Negligible

Goal: Involve the public in before adopting any significant changes to the state’s water resources demand management plan for the Colorado River.

Description:

Requires the state water conservation board and the water resources review committee to provide opportunities for public comment before adopting any final or significant change to the water resources demand management plan for the Colorado River. This must be in the form these entities use when there is initial adoption of the state water plan.

Board must submit first its scope and approach to the committee, then its plan to the committee and consider any feedback it receives and then do the same whenever there is a significant change to the plan. The committee is tasked with holding at least one public hearing on the plan in each geographic region associated with the Colorado River basin after each one of these steps.


Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

This management plan is Colorado’s part of a multi-state effort to conserve water in the Colorado River. This is a matter of vital importance to citizens that rely on that water, not only for drinking but also for agriculture and livestock. We therefore must ensure that the public has to chance to weigh in at each step of the process of generating this plan before making final decisions.

Arguments Against:

This is an area where expertise should rule the day. The public has had its chance and we are using too much water. All inviting public hearings is going to do is dredge up the same arguments from those that rely on water for their livelihood, those that want to see drastic reductions in water usage, and those who think this is a problem caused by other states overbuilding in drought and desert areas.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB20-024

SB20-025 Conservancy District Boards Art And Beautification Projects (Garcia (D)) [Buentello (D), Esgar (D)]

SIGNED INTO LAW

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal: Allow conservation boards to participate in water beautification projects and potentially offset some costs through federal income tax deductions.

Description:

Allows conservation boards to participate in artistic and beautification projects that improve aesthetics of waterways in their districts and consider this participation, and the development of parks and recreational facilities, a current expense of the district.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

The purview of these conservation boards is to help conserve land through the development of parks and recreational facilities. It makes sense to also allow them to participate in projects that help waterways by making them more aesthetically pleasing, which will help increase the draw of an area to the public and make it easier to hold public support for conservation. Allowing the districts to consider all of this activity a current expense allow them to offset some of the cost through federal income tax deductions.

Arguments Against:

Making the land look nicer is not a part of what these boards are supposed to be doing: protect land and property from water and help create parks and recreational facilities. That is it. Expanding the goal to include beautification is a stretch too far.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB20-025

SB20-048 Study Strengthening Water Anti-Speculation Law (Donovan (D), Coram (R)) [Roberts (D), Catlin (R)]

From the Water Resources Review Committee

PASSED

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal: Study how state water anti-speculation laws could be strengthened to prevent violations.

Description:

Creates a working group inside the department of natural resources to study our current anti-speculation water laws and how they could be strengthened. Report due by August 15, 2021.

Additional Information:

Group to consist of current or former employees of the department from the state engineer’s office and the water conservation board appointed by the executive director, one or more current employees of the attorney general’s office, one or more current or former employees of the judicial department appointed by the chief justice of the state Supreme Court, and other stakeholders as the executive director determines would be helpful to promote the working group goals.


Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

We are seeing some new types of water speculation that was not envisioned when the state constitution was written. We know it is happening and it affects a critical state resource. We need to pull together all of the people with a stake in this and come up with more modern solutions to preventing it. The bill directs the department of natural resources to include stakeholders who are helpful to promote the group, but leaves out the exact composition of the group because in the water community exact stakeholder groups end up becoming bloated and unworkable.

Arguments Against:

We know speculation is happening now and happening around the state so we need to bring solutions forward now, not convene a group to study the matter.


The stakeholder group is not totally defined and may end up excluding agriculture interests, who are the people most affected by speculation since they own over 80% of the water in the state, or conservation groups, who care deeply about this issue.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB20-048

SB20-115 Register Surplus Military Vehicle As Farm Vehicle (Crowder (R)) [Catlin (R)]

KILLED BY BILL SPONSORS

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal: Allow farmers or ranchers to register a surplus military vehicle as a farm vehicle in some circumstances.

Description:

Allows farmers or ranchers to register a surplus military vehicle as a farm vehicle if it is only used commercially to transport to market or a place of storage raw agricultural products created by the farmer or rancher or used to transport commodities and livestock purchased by the farmer or rancher.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

Army vehicles can be bought more cheaply than the commercial version. There is even an online auction marketplace. There are also heavy duty trucks available that can be very useful for those living in rural areas. A bill last year made it so these vehicles could officially not be registered for on-road use. This bill would allow limited exceptions for these heavy-duty transport farm vehicles.

Arguments Against:

These vehicles are not deemed road-worthy by the federal government and lack VIN identification, meaning we cannot see the history of the vehicle. Because of this, we cannot guarantee they are safe and they do not belong on the roads.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB20-115

SB20-132 Surplus Military Vehicle Farm And Emergency Vehicle (Sonnenberg (R)) [Holtorf (D)]

KILLED ON HOUSE CALENDAR

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal: Allow surplus military vehicles adapted for agriculture to be used in the same manner as tractors on the road.

Description:

Allows surplus military vehicles that have adapted or used for agriculture to be used in the same way as tractors on roads. Also allows surplus military vehicles to be designated as an authorized emergency vehicle, which allows them to drive on the road without being registered. Surplus military vehicles are self-propelled vehicles that are purchased for non-military use but were commonly used by the US armed forces to transmit people on highway and was actually built by the US military. Humvees are excluded.

Additional Information: n/a

Arguments For:

Army vehicles can be bought more cheaply than the commercial version. There is even an online auction marketplace. There are also heavy duty trucks available that can be very useful for those living in rural areas and obviously for farmers. A bill last year made these vehicles officially an off-highway vehicle and they cannot be registered for on-road use. This bill would allow them to use these vehicles just like tractors with the same rights (and lack of rights) on the road as tractors. Some emergency services also use these vehicles in rural areas.

Arguments Against:

We don’t allow these vehicles to be registered because they do not have VIN numbers and therefore cannot be assured to be safe (we have no ability to tie any history to the vehicle). Even in this limited form we should not let them on the road.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB20-132

SB20-153 Water Resource Financing Enterprise (Coram (R))

KILLED BY BILL SPONSORS

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: $38 million annually

Goal: Create a TABOR exempt water resources financing enterprise which collects a small fee on drinking water used by residents and spends the money on financing water projects in the state.

Description:

Creates the Water Resources Financing Enterprise which collects fees from drinking water customers to provide water resources financing to providers (including by issuing loans, bonds, and grants). This is exempt for TABOR restrictions. These fees are to be collected by drinking water suppliers, which can keep 3.3% of the fee. Fee is set at $0.25 per thousand gallons of drinking water delivered per month after the first 4,000 (so you only start to get charged after 4,000 gallons and it resets every month). Can be adjusted for inflation.  Governed by board of directors consisting of the boards of the state Water Resources and Power Development Authority and the Water Conservation Board. 2/3 majority required to act. Must meet at least quarterly. Board can adjust fee in either direction for large non-residential customers and for customers with suppliers whose pricing tiers start at a level higher than 4,000 gallons per month. Money can only be used for provision of raw water, drinking water, water treatment, or wastewater treatment or for feasibility studies. Bill sets multiple factors for board to consider when deciding on providing financing, including: water provider’s ability to pay, whether it is subject to non-compliance or increased requirements relating to water quality, whether the proposed usage aligns with the state water plan, and the geographic and demographic characteristics of its customers. Board must report its activity to the legislature each year.

Additional Information:

Non-voting members of the Water Conservation Board do not get to vote on this board either. Drinking water is defined as piped and metered water that has been subject to treatment. Water providers, which can receive money from the commission, can supply raw water, drinking water, or wastewater treatment. Suppliers are not liable for a customer’s failure to pay the fee. Feasibility studies can include: consulting, planning, permitting, and construction of infrastructure and water conservation projects and related recreational, hydroelectric, and flood control facilities. Cannot include maintenance and operation.

Bonds can be issued for repayment exclusively from the revenues and receipts of a project financed by the bond. They can require additional security from the facility taking out the bond. Board has pretty much unlimited control over they bond types, interest, maturity, conversion, etc. They may be sold at public or private sale at the price and in manner board determines. Bonds are in no way liability of the state. Each bond must state that payments only comes from enterprise funds, that the state is not obligated to pay, and that faith and credit of the state is not behind the bonds.


Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

We are way behind in addressing our state’s water needs. To fully implement our state water plan by 2050 the estimate is that we need to spend $100 million a year to reach the $3 billion required to fill the funding gap we have identified. Suppliers of raw water, drinking water, and wastewater treatment services are a part of that plan and have substantial, unmet, financing needs. It is therefore a matter of public interest for all of us to create an enterprise fund that can leverage money into the larger sums we need. The way this bill constructs the fee that funds all of this ensures that it affects people who are using the most water the most, while allowing for some consideration of non-residential users. This is a chance to make a real investment in our water needs, with $37 million of estimated revenue annually that we can mostly direct right to our water plan without triggering refunds to taxpayers which would result in cuts to areas like education or health care. With the proper leveraging of that $37 million we should be able to at least come close to the $100 million in annual spending we need to ensure that we have enough water in Colorado in 2050 for our citizen’s needs. All for about $6.67 per resident per year.

Arguments Against:

While it is dressed up into a fee to avoid TABOR, this is in fact a water tax. It takes $38 million out of citizen’s pockets each year and puts it into the government’s pockets to spend on water projects. There is no disputing that we need to spend money on water projects, but the point of TABOR is to require the voters to approve any such increase. We are all going to be paying for this without consenting to it, a violation of the spirit of TABOR. This is also part of a larger trend of skirting TABOR by creating these enterprise funds and we need stop it in its tracks. Instead we need to make the hard cuts in government that are required so we can spend our resources better on the basics of government services.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB20-153

SB20-155 Keep Presumption Noninjury Well On Divided Land (Sonnenberg (R)) [Pelton (R)]

PASSED

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal: Keep presumption that well use for domestic purposes will not injure anyone else’s water rights when a property containing one of these wells is subdivided.

Description:

Currently a well that is exempt from the state engineer’s administration and used for domestic purposes is afforded a presumption that the use of the well will not cause injury to anyone else’s water rights or wells (this can be challenged). But if the property where the well is located is subdivided, it loses that presumption. This bill changes the law so that the well keeps the presumption even if the property is subdivided and the well is used only for the parcel of land it remains on in the manner required by law.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

This is just common-sense. If we are OK with the well when it is part of a larger piece of property, we should be fine with it when it is part of a smaller piece of property. Note that the only requirement is the well is being used for domestic purposes, so any land use change isn’t likely to increase the amount of water if the property gets smaller and the domestic purpose requirement is still valid.

Arguments Against:

Subdivision generally accompanies changes in how the property is being used. Since the property use may change, the presumption should as well.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB20-115