SESSION HIGHLIGHTS, FEB 8-12 , 2016
Liquor Battles Brew, Distillers Pursue Bill to Sell in Grocery Stores
Makers of hard liquor want their product to be options on the shelves of supermarket and convenience stores if Colorado's alcohol sales laws are changed.
It's a matter of fairness, a strategist for the Distilled Spirits Council told the Denver Post this week.
The trade group was at the capitol this week, lobbying members of the House and Senate to create legislation that would allow the sale of spirits anywhere full-strength beer and wine are sold. The bill would generally have no effect, except a coalition under the direction of Your Choice Colorado is collecting signatures for a November ballot measure that would permit sales of full-strength beer and wine — but not liquor — at grocery and convenience stores.
Your Choice Colorado started working toward a ballot question in November that could move beer and wine into more than just liquor stores; and said in January that it would not include liquor sales in its effort. The group said it was contented to see other organizations acknowledge it's time to modify Colorado's alcohol sales laws.
"We hope legislators and other industry leaders will look at new ideas through a fresh lens and find a way towards a compromise," Your Choice Colorado’s campaign manager, Georgie Aguirre-Sacasa, said in a statement. "But if they don't, we are planning to take this directly to the Colorado voters in November. Like other Colorado products who have grown because of exposure through grocery store sales, we can do the same thing for our Colorado craft brewers and winemakers."
Opponents of the proposed ballot measure, however said they would fight any effort to push alcohol sales beyond liquor stores.
"Our existing laws work well for 1,600-plus local liquor stores, more than 500 Colorado craft producers, and thousands of customers who benefit from that relationship," said Curtis Hubbard, a spokesman for the Keep Colorado Local group, a coalition of liquor store owners, craft brewers and distillers, and industry trade groups. "Expanding beer and wine sales to more than 1,500 grocery and convenience stores will have negative impacts on local businesses and public safety, and we expect voters will straight up reject the measure under the idea that 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it.' "
Bill Capping Private Student Loan Interest Fails
The Senate State, Veterans & Military Affairs Committee heard a bill by Senator Matt Jones (D-Louisville) that would have capped how much private lenders can charge in interest rates on student loans.
The bill would have placed a 2 percent cap above whatever the interest rate is being charged for federal student loans, which currently is about 4.3 percent.
“That’s the American dream, you work hard, you go to school, you get ahead,” Senator Jones shared with the committee. “Except for the middle class. All kids should have access to an education, and not subsidize big business, because that’s what happens with these private loans.”
Opponents, however, took a more pragmatic approach, pointing out the unintended consequences of such a measure and reminded the committee that the majority of student loans are done on a federal level, where the state does not have the authority to legislate. Placing restrictions on the few private lenders that offer student loans would discourage them from offering student loans altogether.
Senator Owen Hill (R-Colorado Springs) shared that close to 90% of student loans are done through the federal government and that the risk of fewer banks offering loans results in less competition. He continued that fewer loans would then be made to suit the individual needs of the student borrower.
“This is basically price fixing on a private operation,” Jenifer Waller, the Vice President of the Colorado Bankers Association, said. “We have additional risks that those federally subsidized loans do not have. If passed, it would result in simply fewer lenders getting into this market.”
The bill died on a party-line vote of 3-2 and was postponed indefinitely.
Manufactured Housing Bill Sees End in Senate
The Senate State, Veterans, and Military Affairs committee, chaired by Senator Ray Scott (R- Grand Junction), heard testimony on a bill that would make changes to the affordable housing landscape and manufactured home communities.
Senator John Kefalas (D-Fort Collins) hoped to add functions to the Division of Housing which would allow them to collect economic and demographic data on manufactured home communities. The bill, SB16-057, also inserted additional language into statute about dispute mediation.
President of Rocky Mountain Home Association, Tawny Peyton, said “I would like to thank Senator Kefalas in his interest to protect affordable housing. We need to preserve this type of housing in the state, but this bill doesn’t account for the numerous laws that the park owners, who are unsubsidized, already follow.”
The majority party sided with opponents of the bill who pointed out that much of the bill was statutorily redundant and very costly. The bill died on a party line vote, 3-2; and was postponed indefinitely.
Senate Committee Affirms SCFD Renewal Proposal
Bipartisan approval was given to the bill which would renew the Denver metro area’s successful Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (SCFD) on Friday of this week in the Senate Appropriations Committee.
The bill went to the Appropriations committee to account for the costs associated with a small change on the Department of Revenue’s tax collection forms.
The focus of the reauthorization proposal asks state lawmakers to consider changes to the nearly 30-year-old district. These changes include substantial shifts in the way district revenues are distributed which will result in increased capital to medium and small arts, culture and science organizations funded by the district. The tax itself will not increase under the proposal.
Denver Metro area voters created the SCFD 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 that make up the SCFD are Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Broomfield, Denver, Douglas (except for Castle Rock and Larkspur) and Jefferson.
The bill passed on a vote of 5-2 and now moves to the floor of the Senate and will likely be heard on second reading the week of February 22.