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SESSION HIGHLIGHTS, APR 11-15, 2016

Another Oil and Gas Bill Receives Support in House Committee

A bill to give county governments five year projections of wells to be drilled was heard in the House Local Government Committee this week. 

HB16-1430, sponsored by Rep. Steve Lebsock (D-Thornton), is yet another in a string of bills aimed at increasing the regulatory burden on the oil and gas industry; this time under the guise of “notice requirements.” 

This bill substitutes the wisdom of the legislature over the Governor’s Oil and Gas Task Force and the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) who each looked at this issue and determined there were other mechanisms already in place for counties to get information. 

The sole county supporting the bill was Adams County which is already engaged with every operator in the county on negotiating Memorandums of Understanding (MOU’s) directing their operations.  This bill, which opponents would call superfluous, got even heavier with bureaucratic red tape when Rep. Lebsock requested an “opt-in” provision for counties mandating that to get the information they would have to register with the state.  That means the COGCC will have to begin and maintain a county registry.  It is possible that local governments will not respond well to this amendment once they discover it adds to their need to bow to the state to get information from the industry. 

Regardless, the bill passed to the floor on a party line vote with the Democrats supporting and the Republicans opposing.  The business and agriculture communities again worked together to support the oil and gas industry by opposing this bill.  Opposition testimony expressed frustration with regulatory burdens being increased with no clear or practical improvement to the flow of information.  This position is reflective of a generally growing frustration with the many pieces of legislation to further regulate the many sectors of the economy, not just oil and gas.

SCFD Bill Sent to Governor’s Desk

The House of Representatives gave overwhelming and bipartisan approval to the proposal to renew the Denver metro area’s successful Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (SCFD) today. The proposal will now move to Governor John Hickenlooper (D) for his signature. 

The legislative effort is another necessary step toward placing the issue of renewing the SCFD, a critical funding source for arts, cultural and scientific organizations across the seven-county metro area, for an additional 12 years on the November 2016 ballot. The House voted 49 to 16 in favor of the measure.

“We are so pleased with the overwhelming support the proposal has received from the state legislature. The entire Denver metropolitan area benefits from their leadership on this issue,” said Dan Hopkins, chairman of the SCFD Board of Directors. “We look forward to seeing voters across the seven county region add their votes of support for this district in November.

The proposal asks state lawmakers to consider some of the most sweeping changes ever proposed to the nearly 30-year-old district. These changes include substantial shifts in the way district revenues are distributed which will result in increased funding to medium and small arts, culture and science organizations funded by the district. The tax itself, however, will not increase under the proposal.

For the investment of one penny on every $10 spent in the district, the diverse array of cultural organizations contribute more than $1.8 billion to the regional economy and employ more than 10,000 people. Citizen support for the more than 275 arts and culture organizations that receive district funds has resulted in world-class facilities and programs and unprecedented access.  More than 14 million people – 4 million of them kids – attend SCFD funded programs each year – many for free or reduced rates.

Denver Metro area voters created the Scientific & Cultural Facilities District in 1988 and approved a 1¢ on $10 sales and use tax to provide for the enlightenment, entertainment, and education of the public. Scientific and cultural facilities accomplish this through the production, presentation, exhibition, advancement or preservation of art, music, theater, dance, zoology, botany, natural history or cultural history.

The SCFD was renewed by regional voters in 1994 and 2004. In 2016 voters will again have the opportunity to approve this initiative, which supports 275 arts, science and cultural organizations so they can provide and expand access and programs for the public. Counties comprising the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District include Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Broomfield, Denver, Douglas (except for Castle Rock and Larkspur) and Jefferson.

“Ban the Box” Legislation Moves Forward

This week the House Judiciary Committee gave initial approval to a bill that would prevent employers from asking whether applicants have a criminal history.

“Ban the Box” is the name of the international campaign led by civil rights groups and advocates for ex-offenders. The campaign calls for removing the question and check box, “Have you been convicted by a court?” from employment applications.

Supporters call the bill a “responsible re-entry measure” and would give those who have a record more of an opportunity to explain it and persuade employers to hire them. The sponsor, Rep. Beth McCann (D-Denver), a former prosecutor, is serving her final year in the legislature and running for Denver District Attorney. She said the bill is about saving tax dollars and improving public safety.

“If we can give people who have records an opportunity to become productive citizens and gain employment and to have a future to look forward to, then we will reduce our crime rate.”

Opponents from the business community shared their concerns during the hearing, testifying to the fact that these laws make it harder for employers to talk about a criminal record at a time that is convenient for them. An owner may spend hours, days or even weeks going through the hiring process only to find a worker is unqualified, sometimes due to prohibitions by the Federal government, at the last minute.

Bill Permitting Hunters to Wear Pink, Now Law

While we the whole team may not be the most "likely to hunt," the members of CLS, Melanie Layton and Zoey DeWolf were happy to support sponsors Sen. Kerry Donovan (D-Vail), Rep. Daneya Esgar (D-Pueblo) and Rep. Yeulin Willett (R-Grand Junction) who passed a bill this week which adds bright “blaze” pink to fluorescent orange as a color safe to wear when hunting. Also pictured are: Gaspar Perricone, the Legislative Liaison for the Department of Natural Resources, Governor Hickenlooper and Sen. Donovan’s mother, Diana.

The person who really should be in the photo is Garin Vorthmann, who was at a board meeting at the time. She’s the only one among us to have pink camo in her closet.

Zoey DeWolf