01-10-18 CFB: 2018 Colorado Legislative Preview

CFB: 2018 Colorado Legislative Preview

The second regular session of the 71st General Assembly will begin Wednesday, January 10th at 10 a.m. There are many issues facing Colorado farmers and ranchers, and the Colorado Farm Bureau stands ready to represent its members at the state Capitol.

CFB’s 2018 State Policy Priorities as set by the state Board of Directors are: Water, Property rights, Energy, Infrastructure, Wildlife, Animal Welfare, and Rural Business.

You can see a full description of these issues on the CFB website.

A busy session is expected this year. The Republicans hold the senate by a slim margin and Democrats solidly control the House. With elections on the horizon there will be no shortage of hot button issues that both parties will bring to the table. Those issues may include:

  • Rural broadband: One of the issues that leaders in both Chambers agree on is the need for rural broadband infrastructure.  Many different ideas and proposals are being discussed with respect to rural broadband build-out, including repurposing current funds generated by a current telecommunication provider surcharge and incentivizing local governments to create their own broadband networks. With tax dollars always at a premium, measures which require spending will face an uphill battle.  Further complicating the matter will be proposals to build a state-controlled broadband network in response to federal policy changes.
  • Reclaimed Water Uses: Discussion on expanding uses for reclaimed water has been ongoing for over a year. The interim Water Resources Review Committee forwarded two bills that would expand the approved uses for reclaimed water for hemp and marijuana production. Conversations have continued over expanding approved uses also to edible crops and toilet flushing.
  • Support for Young and Beginning Farmers and Ranchers: This summer, an interim committee convened to discuss challenges facing younger generations in agriculture. One bill was forwarded from the committee that would start an internship program.
  • Transportation Funding/ Transportation Ballot Initiatives: Transportation funding will again find its way to the forefront during this legislative session and leaders in both chambers have listed transportation funding as a top priority.  The state budget projections are higher than in recent years and legislators are looking for ways to use current revenues to create a steady source of funding for transportation.  At the same time, a group of stakeholders is pursuing a potential ballot initiative that would raise the sales tax and use that revenue to fund transportation.
  • Oil and Gas: Several measures are expected to be filed to further clamp down on the oil and gas industry in the wake of the Firestone accident. Additional measures relating to the siting of oil and gas wells, resource pooling and limiting mineral owner access may also make it to the floor for debate.  Ongoing discussions regarding upgrading the 811 “call before you dig” are also expected to bring forth multiple bill proposals.
  • Conservation Easements: Measures regarding conservation easements have been introduced during the last several years. With parts of the program up for sunset review, CFB staff expects to see several bills to amend and reauthorize the conservation easements program this year.
  • Reservoir Releases for Wildlife Mitigation: Northern Water is again proposing legislation for 2018 to address needs imposed for wildlife mitigation as part of getting approvals to move forward with the development of NISP.  Last year, SB17-282 was introduced late in the session, but the bill did not pass.  Northern has held multiple stakeholder meetings over the summer to discuss this issue and to come up with a compromise proposal for 2018 and a compromise bill is expected to be introduced early in the session.
  • General Business Issues: Issues impacting employers and businesses are again expected to be introduced this year.  Mandates such as paid family leave and retirement savings accounts will likely be addressed in legislation this year and Farm Bureau will participate in the debate to make sure the agricultural, rural voice is heard.

Stay tuned right here to Policy Watch for more information and up-to-date news on the Colorado Legislative Session.