Wednesday marked the equinox, the official start of Spring for the Northern Hemisphere. I can't wait to wave goodbye to winter and welcome some warmer weather.
On Thursday I had an opportunity to connect with citizen lobbyists who were at the Capitol for the Sierra Club lobby day, and was even lobbied by a constituent! It was fun to spend some time with people who have so much passion around protecting our lands, water, air, and wildlife. I have great respect for the work Sierra Club does both in our state and at the national level.
I’m teaming up again with Representative Mike Weissman on HB19-1248, the Lobbyist Transparency Act. This bill would require lobbyists to inform the Colorado Secretary of State when they take on a new client or change their position on an issue, and would require heightened disclosure while the general assembly is in session. I believe transparency is essential in a healthy democracy. We will present in committee next week.
We made some adjustments to my media literacy bill, HB19-1110, to accomplish our goals with a smaller fiscal note (less funding). We have a number of things we’d like to accomplish this session and a limited budget, so we are focused on delivering as much as possible to our constituents with the resources we have. It forced me to think creatively about this bill to increase the likelihood that it will pass, and that’s a good thing!
Next week, I am hoping to see some movement with both of my bills regarding mental health. The first is HB19-1237, Licensing Behavioral Health Entities. This would reform and streamline mental health licensing and consolidate regulatory functions, with the goal of increasing access to mental health care.
I’ve also been working hard with my co-sponsor, Representative Tom Sullivan, to shore up our bill on behavioral health care coverage practices, and it could be in committee as soon as next week. We are trying to get things through the system as quickly as possible in anticipation of the long bill, funding decisions recommended by the Joint Budget Committee to the rest of the General Assembly. I hear it is quite a marathon. The ebb and flow of work at the Capitol is definitely interesting!
Please take a moment to mourn with me the death of my Zero Waste/Recycling bill. We’re not supposed to get too attached, because a lot can happen during the process. In this case, we were trying to incentivize recycling infrastructure, and were having issues with how, and by which organization, the program would be administered. But I’m not giving up. I will be meeting with stakeholders over the summer and really diving into the world of recycling, composting and waste reduction. We can do better, and I am committed to working on solutions to our waste issue.
There has been robust debate this month regarding Senate Bill 181, “Protect Public Welfare Oil and Gas Operation." It is true that we all have our bias as we look at any issue. But while I might lean one way, I always try to give the issue a fair hearing, and ask good questions. There have been many times where I felt something was an issue, but did not agree with the proposed solution. And even with what I perceive to be good policy, there might be room for improvement. So it was with that mindset that I have been listening to debate on this bill.
I believe it is important to state what this bill aims to accomplish. The bill would change the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission mandate from “fostering” oil and gas development to prioritizing protect health, safety and the environment, thus removing the Commission’s responsibility to encourage development. Local governments would also be given a more significant role in the siting and regulation of oil and gas development. The bill would grant them authority to issue impact fees and fines regarding surface use, noise, smell, traffic, and other nuisances. This would ensure a seat at the table for local communities.
I have heard frequently that Colorado voters already voted and disapproved of this measure on the November 2018 ballot. To clarify, SB19-181 is not Prop 112 and it does not address setbacks. Coloradans voted against Prop 112 which was a one-size-fits-all approach that mandated setbacks across the state. Instead, this bill allows optional and permissive land use authority for local governments that want to have more of a say in the siting of oil and gas operations.
During debate on the bill in the Energy & Environment committee some expressed concerns about how quickly the process is moving. Speaker Becker clarified that it will take four weeks to pass this bill. Legally, it takes only three days to pass a bill.
The oil and gas industry is important to our state, but it is our responsibility to protect people and address climate changes. I believe this bill strikes a good balance.
On Wednesday, March 27 at 6 PM, County Commissioner Dahlkemper and I will be at Tony Rigatoni’s in Morrison. This is an opportunity for you to learn more about my work at the Capitol, and to ask any questions you may have. I hope to see lots of you there!