These are all of the water and agriculture bills proposed in the 2021 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

HB21-1260 General Fund Transfer Implement State Water Plan (state stimulus bill) PASSED AMENDED

MEDIUM

HB21-1262 Money Support Agricultural Events Organization (state stimulus bill) PASSED VERY SIGNIFICANTLY AMENDED

MINOR+

HB21-1062 Deregulation Direct Sale Of Animal Shares KILLED BY BILL SPONSORS
HB21-1181 Agricultural Soil Health Program PASSED AMENDED
HB21-1242 Create Agricultural Drought And Climate Resilience Office PASSED AMENDED

MINOR

HB21-1043 Study Underground Water Storage Maximum Beneficial Use KILLED ON HOUSE CALENDAR AMENDED
HB21-1046 Water Share Right Mutual Ditch Corporation SIGNED INTO LAW SIGNIFICANTLY AMENDED
HB21-1268 Study Emerging Technologies For Water Management PASSED AMENDED

TECHNICAL

Senate

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

MEGA

SB21-034 Water Resource Financing Enterprise KILLED BY SENATE COMMITTEE

MAJOR

SB21-240 Watershed Restoration Grant Program Stimulus (state stimulus bill) PASSED AMENDED
SB21-248 Loan Program For Colorado Agriculture (state stimulus bill) CONFERENCE COMMITTEE AMENDED

MEDIUM

MINOR+

SB21-079 Deregulate Meat Sales Direct To Consumers SIGNED INTO LAW AMENDED
SB21-164 Uniform Easement Relocation Act KILLED BY BILL SPONSORS
SB21-189 Colorado Water Conservation Board Construction Fund Project PASSED
SB21-203 Funding For Colorado Proud (state stimulus bill) PASSED
SB21-234 General Fund Transfer Agriculture And Drought Resiliency (state stimulus bill) SIGNED INTO LAW AMENDED
SB21-235 Stimulus Funding Department Of Agriculture Efficiency Programs (state stimulus bill) SIGNED INTO LAW AMENDED

MINOR

TECHNICAL

HB21-1043 Study Underground Water Storage Maximum Beneficial Use (Sonnenberg (R)) [Holtorf (R)]

KILLED ON HOUSE CALENDAR

AMENDED: Minor

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: $155,000 to do study

Goal:

  • Study storing water underground 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 an institution of higher education to study ways to maximize use of water within Colorado by: storing water underground when surplus or excess water is available and minimize the amount that flows out of Colorado to downstream states without breaking any laws, pacts, water rights, prior appropriation system, or the state’s anti-speculation doctrine. Must also identify specific aquifers that are hydrologically and legally available for underground storage, sources of revenue to pay for that storage, and particular potential or existing storage projects. This should include the role various water entities could play in financing and implementing the projects and any regulatory or legislative changes needed. Areas with high water tables where increases in underground storage might result in damage must not be considered. Report due August 2022.

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.

Study to be paid for by money from water implementation cash fund.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: September 2023

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • We need more water storage to meet our state’s water plan to ensure we have enough water to keep up with growth in the state
  • We are sending water out of the state beyond what is legally required every year, so it makes sense to study ways to keep water we are entitled to here in Colorado

In Further Detail: 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:

Bottom Line:

  • 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 those plans goes forward, then there is no excess water to hold back in Colorado and entire point of this study is moot.
  • There are also multiple other similar studies that were either recently completed or on-going that deal with aspects of this, but in particular do deal with the South Platte River

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1043

HB21-1046 Water Share Right Mutual Ditch Corporation (Fields (D), Sonnenberg (R)) [Arndt (D), Catlin (R)]

SIGNED INTO LAW

AMENDED: Significant

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

  • Clarify rules around mutual ditch corporations, including that purchasing shares gives the right to beneficially use the company’s water, the right to divert that water through other physical works, that not using your water rights does not allow you to prevent others from using theirs, water may be provided at higher or lower amounts by request of shareholders (if enough water is available), that water can only be provided to shareholders, that rights may be reduced pro rata if demand exceeds supply, and that the company may operate in sections or delivery of water by rotation

Description:

Mutual ditch corporations are voluntary private entities that manage water, typically for irrigation purposes. People buy stock in the corporation, which gives them the right to use the water. The water is allocated by share.

The bill also states that all of these rules can be amended by the company’s articles of incorporation or bylaws.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • Water is a precious commodity in many parts of this state and as such, it can lead to shenanigans around usage. This merely clarifies that mutual ditch corporations operate according to their basic principle: ownership=water

Arguments Against: n/a

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1046

HB21-1062 Deregulation Direct Sale Of Animal Shares (Sonnenberg (R)) [D. Valdez]

*THIS BILL IS IDENTICAL TO SB079*

KILLED BY BILL SPONSORS

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

  • Allow people to sell animal meat without needing any USDA inspection if they raised and slaughtered it themselves and if they are selling directly to an end consumer who is notified the animal was not inspected
  • Allow purchase of animal shares (dibs on part of the meat) for livestock
  • Limit brand inspections for the purchase of shares of a live animal to just once before slaughter even if it has multiple people purchasing shares

Description:

Exempts sale of animal shares (dibs essentially on the meet) or animal meat from USDA inspection if the sale is direct to the consumer, that consumer is notified that the animal or meat was not inspected by the USDA, and the sale is only done in Colorado with no interstate commerce involved . For meat, rabbits and fish can be sold in this manner. The rest must be done in animal shares (so before the animal is killed): cattle, calves, sheep, poultry, bison, goats, and hogs. In both cases the animal must be raised by the person selling it. For meat, they must also have killed and butchered the animal themselves. For animal shares, they may use a commercial butcher. Ranchers who sell their meat or shares under this bill are not liable for inadequately cooked or prepared meat.

The bill also limits the brand inspection of livestock sold in shares (again, dibs) to once, immediately before slaughter. Brand inspection is done to ensure proper ownership, that is to say that the animal in question is who the seller claims it is.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • Consumers have the ability to decide themselves if they want to purchase meat in this manner and the commercial plants are inspected by state regulators so they are safe. Frankly this is already happening now
  • Small-scale ranchers can avoid costly and burdensome regulation and provides full provenance for consumers who don’t know where the meat in the store comes from and may want to support local ranchers
  • We don’t need 10 different brand inspections for 10 different shares of the same animal

In Further Detail: This is about providing our small-scale ranchers and their consumers the ability to avoid costly and burdensome regulation. When we know for sure that a rancher has raised, killed, and butchered an animal themselves, many of the concerns we have about animal safety can be mitigated. That only applies to fish and rabbits. For the rest, these are done at commercial plans that are inspected by the state to ensure cleanliness and safety. They do not have the USDA stamp of approval, so they can’t be sold at retail, but they are inspected plants. Quite frankly, the processes this bill puts into law are basically being done right now all over the state and it isn’t totally clear that it is illegal. And the ultimate choice rests with the consumer: if they do not want to purchase non-USDA meat, then they don’t have to. They will be told in advance, so no one will buy the meat unknowingly. And they will know exactly where the meat came from, unlike if you buy it at the store. If it turns out that a rancher has dangerous or unclean facilities, that will come out into public knowledge and they are not immune from the consequences. Other states have similar laws in effect and it works just fine. When it comes to brand inspections, again the key point here is that before the animal is actually killed we establish proper chain of ownership and that the animal is in fact who the owners say it is. That is proper and necessary. What we don’t need is multiple inspections of the same animal for multiple share owners.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • This is a dangerous exemption to inspection and may make the public less safe
  • There is nothing special about ranchers that raise their own meat which makes them immune from the dangers of uninspected facilities

In Further Detail: This is dangerous to consumers when it comes to the meat slaughtered by the rancher. There is nothing special about individual ranchers that makes them immune to all of the dangers of raising livestock for human consumption. We rightly recognize that it is too dangerous to public safety to simply allow meat to be sold without any inspection at all of the facilities the animal lives in or that it is slaughtered in or that it is butchered in or that the meat is kept in. Consumers have no ability on their own to judge such things, especially since the bill does not invite or require them to see for themselves, but merely be told. So even though this is presented as a choice that consumers are free to reject, we don’t allow people to make that kind of choice all the time. We correctly regulate all sorts of items, recognizing that not only are people not equipped to decide this kind of thing for themselves, but that free choice must end at times when public safety is at risk. And public safety means protecting the public before harm occurs, not after. Note that the only products the bill permits to be handled in this matter are rabbits and fish.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1062

HB21-1181 Agricultural Soil Health Program (Simpson (R)) [McCormick (D), Will (R)]

PASSED

AMENDED: Moderate

Appropriation: $4,464
Fiscal Impact: Negligible each year

Goal:

  • Create a voluntary soil health program to encourage widespread adoption of soil health practices by agricultural producers, promote environmental benefits, and advance understanding of the environmental and economic benefits of soil health practices. Subject to available funds, the program can establish a grant program, a system for monitoring the benefits of soil health practices as demonstrated by implementation experiences or projects, a state soil health inventory and platform, and a soil health testing program. State can prioritize these possibilities.
  • Create an advisory commission to help develop the program and make recommendations on qualifications for grant money recipients. Commission must approve all grants, unless it delegates types of grants the state can make without permission. Members appointed by commissioner of agriculture

Description:

If a grant program is established it must make money available for demonstration projects, educational projects, implementation projects, and research projects to agricultural producers, Native American tribes, non-profits, academic or research institutions, state agencies, and ditch corporations. Consideration of most accurate and current scientific evidence on soil health and soil health practices must guide consideration of grants. Must establish a monitoring and oversight procedure to ensure funds are spent for intended purpose and ensure that recipients allow their projects to be used for outreach on soil health practices, including day-trips to the facility. This must be done while keeping confidential information private. State cannot disclose records or maps of private lands or information that allows for private landowners or producers to be identified. Before establishing any new program the state must give at least 45 days notice for written comments on its website.

State to report to legislature each year on the program. Can accept gifts, grants, or donations to run the program. Can apply for grants itself, including jointly with other organizations. Must report to legislature on the source of each gift, grant, or donation. Can collaborate with other organizations or people through signed agreements.

Commission to also solicit input from key stakeholders and underserved agricultural producers. It can also review and recommend soil health practices and evaluate the results and effectiveness of soil health activities.

Commission members are not compensated but can be reimbursed for expenses. Must meet at least quarterly. Must meet at least four times a year with the state water conservation board. Members must represent the different geographic areas and demographic diversity of the state and reflect the political diversity of the state to the greatest extent possible. Agricultural producers on the commission must reflect diversity of agricultural production in the state. Set for termination with sunset review in September 2031.

Additional Information:

Grant program can require grantees to work with a technical assistance organization if the grantee lacks the expertise to implement the program or interpret the results on their own. Grant program must ensure a minimum amount of use of grant funds for administrative or overhead expenses.

Soil health practices can include: maximizing soil cover, reducing soil disturbance, maximizing biodiversity, maintaining a continual live plant or root in the soil, and integrating livestock.

Environmental benefits include: improved air or water quality; improved soil health, including nutrient cycling, soil fertility, or drought resilience; reductions in agricultural inputs, carbon sequestration or climate change mitigation; increased biodiversity; and improved nutritional quality of agricultural products.

Report to legislature must include accounting of all money spent and received, description of activities undertaken, including number and type of grants, and a summary of the actions and recommendations of the advisory committee.

Commission agricultural diversity must include diversity in size, product, irrigation systems, dryland systems, and livestock production systems. Commission size is not directly mandated but must be at least 9 10 9 people. The following interests must be represented: an irrigated crop producer, a dryland crop producer, a rancher, an organic producer, a crop consultant, a representative of a Native American tribe, a representative with expertise in soil carbon storage and natural climate mitigation, two representatives who are members of the state association of conservation districts, and two representatives of the state conservation board, one of whom must be the chair of the commission. The commission must also have two water rights users, one of whom must be in a ditch corporation. Commission has four three ex-officio, non-voting members, representatives of: the state water conservation board, the Colorado Association of Conservation Districts, the federal natural resources conservation service, and Colorado State University. Commissioners are not to serve more than ten years on the committee.


Auto-Repeal: September 2031 for advisory committee

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • Healthy soils help all of us, from environmental concerns to economic concerns truly everyone can benefit
  • We therefore should be trying to drive adoption of healthy soil practices through a mixture of demonstration and direct monetary aid. All of that works best flowing from one program dedicated to the effort

In Further Detail: Healthy soils bring numerous benefits to our state. They can improve air and water quality, biological diversity, and even carbon sequestration which helps us fight climate change (ground and other plant matter capture and hold carbon). They can increase agriculture profitability through increased yields and resilience to extreme drought. In short, healthy soils benefit the state of Colorado in every conceivable way. So it behooves us to do all we can to encourage these practices in the state through a central program dedicated to the effort. No mandates, so producers who want to keep doing things as they have been can continue. But through a coordinated campaign and hopefully some money we can convince more and more producers to adopt these practices.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • There is no funding for this program—clearly the intent is to heavily utilize grants but that is a thin reed. At least some startup funds to get an initial grant program off the ground would help
  • This is too much to put on the plate of a voluntary advisory committee, grant approval should stay with state agencies

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1181

HB21-1242 Create Agricultural Drought And Climate Resilience Office (Donovan (D)) [McLachlan (D)]

PASSED

AMENDED: Minor

Appropriation: $101,333
Fiscal Impact: No immediate impact

Goal:

  • Create the Agricultural Drought and Climate Resilience Office to provide voluntary technical assistance, non-regulatory programs, and incentives to increase the ability of state agriculture to anticipate, prepare for, mitigate, adapt to, and respond to hazardous events, trends, or disturbances related to drought or climate. Commissioner of agriculture to appoint head of office
  • Create a cash fund to go along with the office to fund its activities. All unobligated money in the Agriculture Value-Added cash fund must be transferred into the new fund in July, and then The existing agriculture value-added fund is eligible for what is called tier 2 severance tax funds of up to $500,000 a year if available. State can also accept gifts, grants, and donations for the fund

Description:

Before creating the rules required to execute this bill, the state must consult with a stakeholder group which must include representatives of organizations of agricultural producers of the top ten agricultural commodities in the state.

Bill requires any grants to go to actual agricultural producers who get the majority of their income from agricultural work or work full-time in agriculture. Grants can pay no more than 5% of their award for administrative costs but can be used for mental health resources, conflict resolution assistance, and risk-management guidance.

Tier 2 severance tax funds only get taxes if there is money available (tier 1 gets the first chunk). If there isn’t enough to fund all of the programs, they get proportionately reduced. At the moment, 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). The low-income energy assistance program may get moved out if HB1185 is passed.

The Agriculture Value-Added cash fund helps support the state’s renewable energy and efficiency program by promoting development and implementation of these projects in the state’s agricultural sector. It used to get $500,000 of tier 2 severance money until 2016.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • This is a bit of a reorganization, bringing the existing renewable energy and efficiency program into this new office which with an expanded brief could house additional future agriculture related projects. Given the likelihood of increased droughts in our future, it is critically important to a critical industry in Colorado. The funding in this bill essentially resets us back to 2016. If we do nothing, the existing value-added fund will run out of money and the program will be basically dead. The potential removal of the low-income energy assistance program from these taxes should clear plenty of space and a similar bill last year that restored this funding met with no objections from the other programs at the same tier 2 funding level

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • Severance tax is a fading source of revenue for the state, there is actually not projected to be any tier 2 revenue available at all until at least 2024-25 and by then, we may have moved so rapidly away from fossil fuels sources that there still may not be any. We need to start finding new homes for these programs, not adding them to severance tax funding that may never come

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1242

HB21-1260 General Fund Transfer Implement State Water Plan (Donovan (D), Simpson (R)) [Garnett (D), Catlin (R)]

*State stimulus bill, 3% of stimulus funds spent in this bill*

PASSED

AMENDED: Moderate

Appropriation: $20 million
Fiscal Impact: None beyond appropriation

Goal:

Spend $20 million on the state’s water plan goals, both in grants in the water plan itself and in the basin account to assist critical water supply issues and interests.

Description:

Appropriates $15 million to the state’s water plan implementation grant program, of which up to 5% can be used for administrative expenses by the water board. All $15 million must be awarded in the next two years. Appropriates $5 million to the state’s water supply reserve fund to be used in the basin account, which are used to assist critical water supply issues and interests. This fund requires approval by one of the state’s nine basin roundtables (like the Arkansas, Colorado, etc). Lowers the matching fund requirement for the board's grant program from 50% to 25% and allows the board to ignore matching funds entirely in 2021 and 2022.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • 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. The problem is that we don’t spend enough money to make this plan happen. 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. Needless to say we usually spend much less every year. We have $800 million in state stimulus money to spend, thanks to better than expected tax revenues from last year, so it makes perfect sense to put a chunk toward our water plan. As the state continues to grow and our climate continues to worsen, it will be critical to our future. And don’t forget we still have billions of dollars of federal stimulus coming. This won’t be the only bite at the apple this year. It also makes sense to lower the matching fund requirement and give the board the ability to ignore it entirely in the next two years: we've got a lot of state and probably federal money coming into this program to spend

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • This is a proverbial drop-in the bucket. We not only don’t spend $100 million a year, we usually don’t spend more than $20 and sometimes much less than that. There is no great dedicated funding stream to our water plan, despite efforts in the legislature to create one. So something closer to $100 million for this year seems more appropriate, which would still leave $700 million left for the rest of our stimulus measures

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1260

HB21-1262 Money Support Agricultural Events Organization (Garcia (D), Sonnenberg (R)) [Lontine (D), Lynch (R)]

*State stimulus bill, 1% of stimulus funds spent in this bill*

PASSED

AMENDED: Significant

Appropriation: $32 million
Fiscal Impact: None beyond appropriation

Goal:

Give $3.5 $25 million to the National Western Stock Show, $3.5 $5 million million to the state fair, and spend $2 million on helping agricultural events, primarily state fairs, across the state affected by COVID.

Description:

Appropriate $3.5 $25 million to the National Western Stock Show and $3.5 $5 million to the Colorado State Fair. No strings on either money, but the stock show must report how it uses its $3.5 million.

Appropriate $2 million to a newly created Agricultural Events Relief Program. State is to either administer the program or contract with a third party to do so. Program is to provide relief payments to agricultural event organizations impacted by COVID. State to set eligibility requirements and determine size of payments, but must consider: type of events organization, impact of COVID on the events or business model, size of the organization, and the organization’s access to other COVID relief funding. State must prioritize local county fairs above all other organizations. State must report to legislature how money was allocated, including how much to each organization and organization types that received aid. Program repeals at the end of 2022.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: December 2022 for events relief

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • COVID canceled most of these events last year and most of them don’t have access to federal pandemic relief money. Just 1/3 of members of the International Association of Fairs and Expositions were eligible. These annual events are generally the primary source of income for these organizations and so they are understandably severely hurting and some may not survive without help. They drive a lot of economic activity for rural areas of the state and so local economies would suffer if there was no fair. The state fair also lost up to $1 million last year. The stock show didn’t happen at all this year and won’t be held again until 2022, which caused an enormous, $24 million hole, in their revenues. Given that these two events bring massive positive economic impact across the entire state and to Pueblo and Denver specifically, hundreds of millions of dollars all told, it is well worth the investment to give them some help. We have $800 million to spend in state stimulus money thanks to better than expected tax returns last year, this is just a tiny portion of it and well worth the investment

Arguments Against: n/a

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1262

HB21-1268 Study Emerging Technologies For Water Management (Hansen (D), Simpson (R)) [Titone (D), Will (R)]

PASSED

AMENDED: Minor

Appropriation: Conditional $40,000
Fiscal Impact: None beyond conditional appropriation

Goal:

Study new technologies for water management by using the University of Colorado and Colorado State University, with funding provided in a matching grant only if the two universities can come up with $40,000 each in gifts, grants, and donations themselves.

Description:

Authorizes and directs the University of Colorado, in collaboration with the Colorado Water Institute at Colorado State University, to conduct feasibility studies and pilot deployments of new technologies that have the potential to improve the monitoring, management, conservation, and trading of water in Colorado. $20,000 appropriated to each university contingent on both universities receiving $40,000 each in matching gifts, grants, and donations.

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 and Colorado State University must report each year, including allowing testimony.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: July 2023

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • 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:

Bottom Line:

  • We could instead not spend $80,000 and let the two universities get grants on their own and study the issue, then get their results

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1268

SB21-034 Water Resource Financing Enterprise (Coram (R))

KILLED BY SENATE COMMITTEE

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: $38 million annually

Goal:

  • With voter approval in the 2022 general election, 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:

Fees begin in fiscal year 2023-24.

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: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • We need a lot more money, up to $100 million a year, to fulfill our state water needs—which only grow as our population grows and as our droughts grow
  • This program will barely be noticed by most consumers: an average of $6.67 per resident per year increase in water bills
  • By setting this up as an enterprise, the revenue gained here will not come at the expense of other programs, because it will not trigger any TABOR refunds
  • Coloradans will have the ultimate say—the bill only puts this on the ballot

In Further Detail: 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. And Coloradans will have the ultimate say here, thanks to the initiative passed last year no enterprise of this size can go into law without voter approval. So if Coloradans want this, they can pass it. If they don’t, they won’t.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • 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 are no protections on fee adjustment, it is up to the whims of the board

In Further Detail: This is a tax, it is something everyone will have to pay who uses water. And it is a tax with a sliding rate for inflation and subject to adjustments made by the unelected governing board for “large” customers. The definition of large will be left up to the board and you can see the potential for political gaming of the system a mile away. Those games of course always leave out regular people.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-034

SB21-079 Deregulate Meat Sales Direct To Consumers (Sonnenberg (R)) [Pelton (R), D. Valdez]

SIGNED INTO LAW

AMENDED: Moderate

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

  • Allow people to sell animal meat without needing any USDA inspection if they raised and slaughtered it themselves and if they are selling directly to an end consumer who is notified the animal was not inspected
  • Allow purchase of animal shares (dibs on part of the meat) for livestock
  • Limit brand inspections for the purchase of shares of a live animal to just once before slaughter even if it has multiple people purchasing shares

Description:

Exempts sale of animal shares (dibs essentially on the meet) or animal meat from USDA inspection if the sale is direct to the consumer, that consumer is notified that the animal or meat was not inspected by the USDA, and the sale is only done in Colorado with no interstate commerce involved. For meat, rabbits and fish can be sold in this manner. The rest must be done in animal shares (so before the animal is killed): cattle, calves, sheep, poultrybison, goats, elk, and hogs. In both cases the animal must be raised by the person selling it. For meat, they must also have killed and butchered the animal themselves. For animal shares, they may use a commercial butcher and may have the meat processed to make value-added products such as sausage or jerky. Ranchers who sell their meat or shares under this bill are not liable for inadequately cooked or prepared meat.

The bill also limits the brand inspection of livestock sold in shares (again, dibs) to once, immediately before slaughter. Brand inspection is done to ensure proper ownership, that is to say that the animal in question is who the seller claims it is.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • Consumers have the ability to decide themselves if they want to purchase meat in this manner and the commercial plants are inspected by state regulators so they are safe. Frankly this is already happening now
  • Small-scale ranchers can avoid costly and burdensome regulation and provides full provenance for consumers who don’t know where the meat in the store comes from and may want to support local ranchers
  • We don’t need 10 different brand inspections for 10 different shares of the same animal

In Further Detail: This is about providing our small-scale ranchers and their consumers the ability to avoid costly and burdensome regulation. When we know for sure that a rancher has raised, killed, and butchered an animal themselves, many of the concerns we have about animal safety can be mitigated. That only applies to fish and rabbits. For the rest, these are done at commercial plans that are inspected by the state to ensure cleanliness and safety. They do not have the USDA stamp of approval, so they can’t be sold at retail, but they are inspected plants. Quite frankly, the processes this bill puts into law are basically being done right now all over the state and it isn’t totally clear that it is illegal. And the ultimate choice rests with the consumer: if they do not want to purchase non-USDA meat, then they don’t have to. They will be told in advance, so no one will buy the meat unknowingly. And they will know exactly where the meat came from, unlike if you buy it at the store. If it turns out that a rancher has dangerous or unclean facilities, that will come out into public knowledge and they are not immune from the consequences. Other states have similar laws in effect and it works just fine. When it comes to brand inspections, again the key point here is that before the animal is actually killed we establish proper chain of ownership and that the animal is in fact who the owners say it is. That is proper and necessary. What we don’t need is multiple inspections of the same animal for multiple share owners.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • This is a dangerous exemption to inspection and may make the public less safe
  • There is nothing special about ranchers that raise their own meat which makes them immune from the dangers of uninspected facilities

In Further Detail: This is dangerous to consumers when it comes to the meat slaughtered by the rancher. There is nothing special about individual ranchers that makes them immune to all of the dangers of raising livestock for human consumption. We rightly recognize that it is too dangerous to public safety to simply allow meat to be sold without any inspection at all of the facilities the animal lives in or that it is slaughtered in or that it is butchered in or that the meat is kept in. Consumers have no ability on their own to judge such things, especially since the bill does not invite or require them to see for themselves, but merely be told. So even though this is presented as a choice that consumers are free to reject, we don’t allow people to make that kind of choice all the time. We correctly regulate all sorts of items, recognizing that not only are people not equipped to decide this kind of thing for themselves, but that free choice must end at times when public safety is at risk. And public safety means protecting the public before harm occurs, not after. Note that the only products the bill permits to be handled in this matter are rabbitsand fish.

SB21-164 Uniform Easement Relocation Act (Gardner (R))

From the Colorado Commission on Uniform State Laws

KILLED BY BILL SPONSORS

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: Not yet released

Goal:

  • Codify into law the essence of a 2001 Colorado Supreme Court Decision on if a property owner can move certain types of easements on their property without the consent of the easement owner (short answer: they can under certain circumstances, most notably that the change doesn’t harm the easement owner in any way) via a Uniform State Law Commission act. Easements are parts of someone’s property that they do not own—someone else owns it for a specific reason—irrigation ditches, access roads, utility easements to run lines, conservation easements, etc.
  • Add state specific elements to the uniform act, including the concept that relocation without a court order or permission, as this act requires, is considered trespassing and subject to penalty
  • Improve the 2001 decision’s test for conditions to move an easement by adding more detail, including around safety, disruption during the move of the easement, and value to the easement holder while keeping the need to not lessen the usefulness of the easement, to not increase the burden on the easement owner to use or enjoy the easement, and to not harm the reason the easement exists in the first place
  • Keep the exemptions on moving certain kind of easements (conservation, utility, and what are called “negative” easements (which exist to stop someone from doing something on their property) in this manner. Also add that an easement cannot be moved if it would harm any of these three types of easements in the process or end-result

Description:

The bill allows a property owner to relocate an easement (that they of course do not own) on their property to a different part of the property without the easement owner’s consent, only if they secure a court order. This is done via a civil action that must include a summons and petition of the easement owner, anyone who holds any interest in either the easement or the property, anyone leasing land on the property, and any other owners of property who would be affected by the move (unless they are oil and gas easement holders without an easement for development).

The petition must give the reason for moving the easement, where it is going and how (including a timeline), how the move satisfies the legal requirements for doing it without permission (under this law), and that the property owner has made a reasonable effort to notify all utility, conservation, and negative easement holders on the property of the move.

The property owner moving the easement is responsible for all expenses involved, including mitigating disruption of access or use of the easement while it is being moved. Property owners are also responsible for any increase in maintenance expenses for the easement owner at the new location.

The ability for a property owner to use this process to move an easement without consent cannot be waived in any agreement.

Law applies retroactively to all easements in Colorado that qualify.

Additional Information:

The precise conditions for moving an easement in this manner are that such a move cannot:

  • Lessen the utility of the easement
  • Increase the burden on the easement holder in its reasonable use and enjoyment of the easement
  • Impair an affirmative, easement-related purpose for which the easement was created
  • Impair the safety of the easement holders or others entitled to use it (during the move as well)
  • Disrupt the use and enjoyment of the easement during the move unless the property owner substantially mitigates the duration and nature of the disruption
  • Impair the physical condition, use, or value of the easement or any improvements made to it
  • Impair the value of anyone who owns or leases part of the easement or the property

Court orders must state:

  • That the order satisfies this law
  • Identify the location of the easement and describe its new location in a legally sufficient manner
  • Describe any mitigation the property owner must make during the move
  • Describe in detail any plans and specifications of improvements necessary for the easement holder to use it in its new location
  • Specify any conditions on the property holder to relocate the easement and construct improvements
  • Include any provisions for payment of expenses by the property owner
  • Instructions for the property owner on any affidavit required after the move is complete

In addition to the expenses already mentioned, property owners are on the hook for all of the following:

  • Recording a certified copy of the court order in the land records of each jurisdiction where the easement is located
  • Expenses associated with improvements needed as specified by the court order
  • Mitigating disruption for the easement owner during the move
  • Obtaining any necessary government approvals or permits, any title work required and any title insurance required
  • Any experts necessary to review the planned move
  • Obtain any third-party consent required
  • If any improvements are made, recording an affidavit that the move is complete in the land records of each jurisdiction where the easement is located and sending the completion affidavit by certified mail to the easement holder and all other parties in the action (when it is actually done of course)

Relocation in this manner does not breach any contracts, trigger any contract clauses, does not change any easement priorities, and is not a new transfer or grant of land.


Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • The 2001 court decision in Roaring Fork Club v. St. Jude’s has guided Colorado law for nearly 20 years now on this subject but written laws are always better than court decisions and this law adds a lot more detail and improves the court decision
  • Beyond being the current law of Colorado thanks to that decision, this provides the proper balance of the interests of the property owner and the easement owner by removing the, in effect, veto power of the easement owner even when their interests aren’t being affected at all
  • Uniform state laws in legal matters make it easier to do business in Colorado for people coming from other states

In Further Detail: Court decisions are poor vehicles for governing on-going activity. The Supreme Court decision here is a good example. It is good enough obviously for the state to have operated under it for nearly 20 years now, but it lacked the detail of what precisely is required of a property owner to initiate a civil proceeding, what the courts must include in an order, and what exactly the property owner must do during and after such a move. Furthermore it required knowledge of state case law—whereas with a law written down in statute people just need to look it up. Just look at the change from the court case, where “significant” lessening of the utility of the easement was required to this law, which is just must be lessened, to see how detailed statutes (which of course can also be changed if necessary) are better. As to why the court decision was proper in the first place, before 2001 easement owners could simply refuse and that was the end of it. Even if the move would not affect them at all. That provided a significant hinderance to property owners who might wish to make changes to their property, including development (indeed the original 2001 case involved a golf course). So the status quo harmed property owner interests even in cases where the easement owner would not be affected. Finally, although this uniform law is pretty new (just approved last year) and not yet adopted elsewhere, it helps Colorado in the future to have the same laws governing this activity as other states. This provides encouragement to outside interests to bring their money and the resulting economic development to Colorado.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • This is a chance to reverse a bad decision that was actually the minority approach to easements in the country at the time
  • This sets too difficult a standard to determine, in terms of harm to the easement utility and value, and puts the burden on the easement owner to prove harm
  • No serious business is going to have too hard a time figuring out local laws: they have to do it all the time

In Further Detail: In 2001 the approach the court took was actually the minority view of states in the country. Most states, including a host of other western states, have either expressly or implicitly rejected it. The fact is that an easement is not your property and you are aware of that fact when you purchase the property the easement lies on. Moving someone else’s property without their permission is not right, no matter if you decide that it won’t affect the functioning of the easement. If an easement is getting in the way of a development and the easement owner doesn’t want to budge (in part, perhaps, because they don’t want a development there at all), that should be their right. And how precisely are we going to determine lessening of value of the utility? In some cases that might prove difficult, a road for instance could still get you from point A to point B but it might take a minute longer or be in a place that accumulates snow more easily. So instead of codifying this into law, we should be making a law reversing the order and restoring the approach of the state prior to 2001. As for the idea that we should be adopting uniform laws to aid development, any serious business deals with local laws all the time. They will not balk at having to figure out Colorado easement laws as opposed to those in Nebraska or Utah.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-164

SB21-189 Colorado Water Conservation Board Construction Fund Project (Donovan (D), Catlin (R)) [McCormick (D)]

PASSED

AMENDED: Technical

Appropriation: $1.25 million
Fiscal Impact: None beyond appropriation

Goal:

  • Authorizes the water conservation board to make a loan of up to $3 million to the Colorado Rio Grande Restoration Foundation for work on the San Luis Valley confined aquifer recovery project. This will involve purchasing a farm in the Valley along with water rights to reduce water usage from the aquifer (sit on the land and not pump water)
  • Spend $1.25 million from the board’s construction fund to four projects in the state. $500,000 to the Colorado Floodplain Map Modernization Program, $350,000 the Weather Modification Permitting Program to assist with cloud seeding program development, $300,000 to the board to use for technical assistance for applicants seeking federal grants, and $100,000 to satellite monitoring system maintenance (flood monitoring equipment, nothing to do with space)
  • Transfer $2 million from the board’s construction fund to the board’s litigation fund to replenish it
  • Reinstate annual transfers of up to $550,000 from the severance tax fund (based on available funds) to the Water Efficiency Grant Program cash fund, which is designed to award grants to support water conservation plans and promote water efficiency. This transfer was repealed last year and is set to auto-repeal in 2029

Description:

The severance tax fund transfer is a tier 2 transfer. Tier 2 severance tax funds only get taxes if there is money available (tier 1 gets the first chunk). If there isn’t enough to fund all of the programs, they get proportionately reduced. At the moment, 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). The low-income energy assistance program may get moved out if HB1185 is passed. Another bill in this session would add another $500,000 to tier 2 for a proposed drought and climate resistance office.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: July 2029 for the tier 2 severance transfer

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • 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. There isn’t much money to spend this year because of big budget cuts last year. For the tier 2 transfer, this only occurs if funds are available and much more money may be freed up if the low-income heating assistance program is removed

Arguments Against: n/a

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-189

SB21-203 Funding For Colorado Proud (Bridges (D), Simpson (R)) [D. Valdez (D), Pelton (R)]

*State stimulus bill, less than 1% of stimulus spent in this bill*

PASSED

Appropriation: $2.5 million
Fiscal Impact: None beyond appropriation

Goal:

Spend $2.5 million of the excess funds from last year’s better than expected budget on the Colorado Proud program to support the state’s agricultural products.

Description:

Appropriates $2.5 million for the Colorado Proud program that promotes food and agricultural products grown, raised, or processed in Colorado.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • Agriculture is a backbone industry in this state, generating $47 billion in economic activity each year and supporting nearly 195,000 jobs. As we look to recover from the pandemic, investing in marketing our state agriculture will help it recover faster and grow back even better than before. We have $700 million (now $800 million) in excess money from last year’s budget (some already spent) thanks to better than expected tax revenues

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • What is in essence stimulus money is better spent in ways that achieve multiple goals: generate economic activity but also move toward some improvement we would like to make in general (several other bills using last year’s excess funds are doing that). We should spend money on agriculture to upgrade facilities, become more drought resistant, or become more energy and water efficient instead

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-203

SB21-234 General Fund Transfer Agriculture And Drought Resiliency (Jaquez Lewis (D), Sonnenberg (R)) [Cutter (D), Holtorf (R)]

*State stimulus bill, less than 1% of stimulus money spent in this bill*

SIGNED INTO LAW

AMENDED: Moderate

Appropriation: $3 million
Fiscal Impact: None beyond appropriation

Goal:

Spend $3 million of the state’s $800 million stimulus on a fund to improve the ability of the agriculture sector to anticipate, prepare for, mitigate, adapt to, or respond to drought.

Description:

Creates the Agriculture and Drought Resiliency Fund and appropriates $3 million to it. Money can be spent on activities that promote ability of state to anticipate, prepare for, mitigate, adapt to, or respond to anything related to drought or climate including: developing or facilitating a hay bank providing money for agricultural water projects including as matching funds for grants, providing financial or technical assistance with transporting hay or livestock feed from outside the state, supporting recovery of grazing lands following wildfire devastation, or providing technical assistance to help prepare and plan for future droughts. The fund repeals in September 2022, so money must be spent by then. Must give each conservation district in the state $15,000 from the appropriated money.

The department of agriculture is to coordinate with the department of natural resources, the state water conservation board, and the governor’s agricultural impact task force to identify most effective and efficient uses of the fund.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • Drought is increasingly becoming our normal. We were in drought in 2018, last year, and it is expected, this year. This has terrible impacts on our agriculture sector, which is a key state industry and a critical part of the state’s economy. Supporting ways for this industry to mitigate drought is essential as we head into an increasingly dry future. This spends just a small part of the $800 million we have to spend in state stimulus funds thanks to better than expected tax returns last year

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • Much of the allowed spending by the bill is not in fact one-time stimulative but more focused on ongoing mitigation. That is not how we should be spending this type of money (there is obviously nothing wrong with ongoing mitigation, just needs ongoing funding). Setting up a hay bank, perhaps. But what about infrastructure spending to increase drought-resistance of our agriculture sector?

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-234

SB21-235 Stimulus Funding Department Of Agriculture Efficiency Programs (Jaquez Lewis (D), Priola (R)) [Bernett (D), McCormick (D)]

*State stimulus bill, 1% of stimulus money spent in this bill*

SIGNED INTO LAW

AMENDED: Significant

Appropriation: $5 million
Fiscal Impact: None beyond appropriation

Goal:

Spend $3 million on the state’s existing renewable energy and efficiency program for agriculture, which promotes development and implementation of these projects in the state’s agricultural sector at no cost to qualified agricultural producers, and $2 million on conservation services a new soil health program which includes a health monitoring system, state inventory platform, health testing programs, and a grant program.

Description:

Appropriate $3 million to the state’s existing renewable energy and efficiency program in the department of agriculture and $2 million to the state’s conservation services division to administer voluntary soil health programs. These must be grants to implement soil health activities, a system for monitoring the environmental or economic benefits of soil health practices, a state soil health and inventory platform, and one or more soil health testing programs. State can keep up to 2% of the $2 million to cover administrative costs. At least $1 million of this must be expended in grants to conservation districts.

The energy and efficiency program is unchanged by the bill, it promotes development and implementation of these projects in the state’s agricultural sector at no cost to qualified agricultural producers.

Bill requires reporting on the $2 million program each year to the legislature, with an accounting of money received and spent and description of activities undertaken, including grants.

For the energy and efficiency program, the state must report to the legislature specific uses of this $3 million (the program gets other money from other sources too).

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: July 2023 for energy and efficiency program reporting

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • The energy efficiency program has been around for several years and is our principal tool to help the agriculture sector reduce energy emissions by providing state-of-the-art support, financial and technical assistance and education, and creating markets for agriculturally derived energy and fuel. It is a key part of our fight against climate change and an excellent use of stimulus money. Likewise, healthy soils bring numerous benefits to our state. They can improve air and water quality, biological diversity, and even carbon sequestration which helps us fight climate change (ground and other plant matter capture and hold carbon). They can increase agriculture profitability through increased yields and resilience to extreme drought. In short, healthy soils benefit the state of Colorado in every conceivable way. So it behooves us to do all we can to encourage these practices

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • The new program created for health soils is clearly not meant to be exactly one-time stimulus but a full-blown ongoing program. It also somewhat conflicts with HB1181, which creates a health soil program of its own, with much greater detail and an advisory commission. That bill has no money. Perhaps we’d be better off spending $2 million on that effort

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-235

SB21-240 Watershed Restoration Grant Program Stimulus (Danielson (D), Simpson (R)) [Kipp (D), Catlin (R)]

*State stimulus bill, 2% of overall stimulus funds spent in this bill*

PASSED

AMENDED: Moderate

Appropriation: $30 million
Fiscal Impact: None beyond appropriation

Goal:

Spend $15 $20 $30 million on restoring state watersheds after wildfires through an already existing grant program designed to do just that.

Description:

Appropriate $15 $20 $30 million to the state’s water conservation board construction fund which must be used by the watershed restoration program for grants to restore, mitigate, and protect water areas susceptible to flooding, erosion, and sediment deposit after wildfires. This can include repairing, replacing, maintaining, or installing water and/or debris control structures. Special consideration to be given to projects with potential to use federal funds with a state match. Board can use up to 5% of the money for administrative costs and up to 10% for technical engineering assistance. Must spend up to $500,000 by the end of the year for a statewide watershed analysis to investigate danger of these areas to wildfire impacts. Board must spend $10 million of the money on grants by July 2022 and whatever money is left by the end of 2022.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • Flooding follows wildfires, due to the damage done to the landscape and watersheds. In 2013, the massive floods in the state were made much worse by recent wildfires
  • With ever increasing fire danger in the state, mitigation work for these watersheds is more critical than ever
  • Given the massive costs associated with wildfires and floods, $15 million is a wise investment, even if it is not directly stimulative

In Further Detail: In the wake of wildfires, flooding is an enormous concern. In 2013 we were hit with a massive rainstorm that caused flooding all over the state, but in areas just damaged by wildfires the effects were worse, with eroded soils more prone to flooding and increased silt and debris carried by the water. The soil itself, damaged by the fire, almost repeals the water rather than absorb it. As we now approach nearly annual massive wildfires, with the worst fire season ever last year, the need for post-fire work to mitigate flooding is more acute than ever. This involves jump-starting the land’s healing process to return natural floodplains and vegetation to the landscape so when the next big rainstorm hits, the land is less likely to instantly flood. There are organizations all over the state already used to working with the state in this exact manner. Part of the work is also flat out fire mitigation in these watersheds to try to prevent the next massive wildfire. Given that wildfires and flooding cost our state hundreds of millions of dollars ($200 million for the 2020 fires, $2 billion for the 2013 floods), it is well worth the investment of $15 $30 million here, even if it is not directly stimulative.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • The goal of the state stimulus money should be either to address long term underfunded goals, like the state’s water plan, or things that are directly stimulative to our economy (if they also address long-term goals, like transportation work, even better). This does neither, so while it is certainly a worthy investment, it should be part of our general budgeting process and not the special stimulus program

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-240

SB21-248 Loan Program For Colorado Agriculture (Donovan (D), Simpson (R)) [McCormick (D), Holtorf (R)]

*State stimulus bill, 4% of total stimulus funds spent in this bill*

PASSED

AMENDED: Moderate

Appropriation: $30 million
Fiscal Impact: None beyond appropriation

Goal:

Create a loan program to provide infrastructure loans first to agriculture processing businesses and then to ranchers and farmers. Gives $30 million to the fund and requires the first $5 to $10 million to go to agriculture processing businesses and the next $10-$20 million to anyone eligible. After that, priority is to go to individual ranchers and farmers who have been in business for less than 10 years or are in traditionally underrepresented communities in agriculture.

Description:

Creates the Colorado Agricultural Future Loan Program to provide infrastructure loans to eligible state agriculture processing businesses and later on, ranchers and farmers. This can include for acquisition of property and equipment, paying costs associated with purchasing breeding livestock, value-added improvements to real or personal property on a farm or ranch, operating expenses, and conservation projects. Except that the first tranche of loans (see below) must be for agricultural processing only, which the bill defines as the transforming, packaging, sorting, or grading of livestock, livestock products, agricultural commodities, or plant products.

Appropriates $30 million to this loan program. State may use up to 1.5% to setup the program and 1% 1.5% to administer it. State can must contract with a non-profit organization to administer the program and cannot make any loan decisions itself. State must attempt to award between $5 and $10 million in loans by July 2022 (this is the processing only section) and between $10 and $20 million by the end of 2022.

To be eligible, businesses must: earn a majority of its revenue from agricultural processing and in the judgment of the state have the experience necessary to operate the business that must provide an economic benefit to the state or must be a rural school district that can demonstrate a relationship with one or more state agricultural producers that provides products to the school. Individual ranchers can also be eligible, they must be 18, residents of the state, own or operate a ranch, and in the judgment of the state have the experience necessary to operate the ranch and have access to the working capital, machinery, livestock, or land to operate the ranch.

After 2022 priority is to be given to loans to farmers and ranchers who have operated a farm or ranch for less than 10 years or represent a traditionally underserved or underrepresented population in state agriculture.

State is to construct rules for this loan program based on these requirements, including maximum amount of loans, loan terms and interest rates, and precise permissible uses of money. Program does not expire. State must report annually to the legislature on the program.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • We have a shortage of meat processing facilities in the state, which can send ranchers on lengthy trips out-of-state to get their meat processed in a timely manner
  • Agriculture is a $47 billion industry that employs nearly 200,000 people, so an investment in it helps a key state industry continue to grow
  • The loan program specifically focuses on people who may have trouble getting credit from traditional sources (after the processing component)
  • Because it is a loan program, we should get our money back and continue to be able to lend it out into the future to support the industry

In Further Detail: We actually have a shortage of meat processing facilities in the state, such that many ranchers must travel to other states in order to get their meat processed in a timely manner. This is a severe bottleneck that hinders the growth of the state’s agricultural industry. So this program first focuses exclusively on that area of the industry, then broadens out into in essence a wider infrastructure bank for agriculture. This is a $47 billion industry in the state that employs nearly 200,000 people, so it is a critical state industry and is important we continue to invest in its future. The loan program specifically focuses on those who may have trouble getting loans from private sources thanks to being in operation for shorter periods of time or being from underserved communities that no matter what the industry is generally have a harder time accessing capital. And because this is structured as a loan program, we should in essence have an always replenishing agricultural bank so we can continue to make these loans far into the future when COVID is well-behind us.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • This will in effect set-up a state sponsored bank with no set rules around its lending practices, not even a mandate to not lose its seed money. It may be small in scale compared to private sector lending but it surely will not be competing on an even playing field which may disadvantage existing lenders in the state who have to earn money, not simply not lose it

Bottom Line:

  • With this much money at stake, the structure of this is too vague. Do we want this program to actually grow its seed investment or should policies be adjusted to lower interest rates if this is occurring so as to stay at $30 million? There are no provisions requiring any sort of business plan to make money back on the loan. Loans are very different than grants, for grants we aren’t interested in a return but a loan needs to lead to activity that generates higher revenues in order to pay us back. So some of the allowed provisions, like simply covering expenses, may not cut it. How much risk exactly can we tolerate, which could mean devoting a section of the fund to lower-risk loans? Another similar stimulus bill that creates a bank for businesses has a provision directing the fund to attempt to not lose money. This bill does not. The last thing we want is to lose most of the money because we didn’t answer these questions up-front

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-248