Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

Big bills could stall as Colorado General Assembly heads to finish line

By Megan Schrader Published: May 4, 2013 0

With guns, civil unions, election reform and a revamped school funding process behind them this session, lawmakers are scrambling to pass a slew of other bills, including ones to regulate two extremely different industries.

Many of the bills that will be taken up in the final days of the legislative session deal with the regulation of oil and gas operations and legal adult-use marijuana businesses.

The Senate was working to ensure all of the bills still on the table make it to the governor's desk by midnight Wednesday - the end of the legislative session.

Even late-night work session Friday, some bills will die on the calendar.

But Senate President John Morse, D-Colorado Springs, said that won't be because of a lack of time.

'I just don't have the votes, ' Morse said of his bill that would make repeat drunken driving offenses a felony.

House Minority Leader Mark Waller, R-Colorado Springs, said he doesn't buy that.

'He should never have agreed to be the Senate sponsor if he was not going to bring this up for a vote, ' Waller said. 'I feel like I was not dealt with in good faith on this issue. '

HB1214 would create a felony for repeat violators of the state's drunken driving laws. Now, no matter how many DUIs a person receives it never reaches the status of a felony.

Morse said it's all a matter of votes and timing.

'I'm for it. I'm the sponsor of that bill, but I don't want to commit time trying to get this passed if we don't have the votes, ' he said. 'We'll just have to play it by ear and see what happens. '

Dead and mostly dead

Killed Friday in a 4-3 committee vote was a bill to turn the closed Fort Lyon Correctional Facility into a service center to help veterans and the chronically homeless. HB1261 received bipartisan support when it passed the House 49-13, but members of the Senate Appropriations Committee questioned whether the plan was feasible and cost-effective. The proposal remains on life-support, though, as an amendment to a wider corrections bill, The Denver Post reported.

Also in jeopardy is SB245 which would create the Colorado Firefighting Air Corps to procure planes to be used to fight wildfires in the state. The bill has been criticized for its price tag, unfunded by lawmakers, and now must pass the House.

Waller's proposed legal limit for driving while under the influence of marijuana could still be revived after being killed in committee. It's been both tacked onto another bill, and also reintroduced in an effort to ensure prosecution of those driving while high.

Morse said it was unclear if there were enough votes in the Senate to pass either iterations of that bill.

Oil and gas

Five bills are still working their way through the process that would regulate the oil and gas industry. Almost all of the bills have been significantly altered since they were first introduced in response to pressures from the governor's office and from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

HB1316 would require that the state's most active oil and gas field - the Greater Wattenberg area - be subjected to the same ground water monitoring and testing requirements as the rest of the state. The bill passed the House 34-29 on Thursday and is working its way through the Senate.

Cannabis

There are three marijuana bills pending still in the legislature.

HB1317 is the most troubled of the bills, but also the most crucial for lawmakers to pass if they want to have a say in how the recreational cannabis industry is structured and regulated.

Waller said HB1317 will 'fail under its own weight. '

But the bill's author, Rep. Dan Pabon, D-Denver, said there are enough votes in the Senate to pass the legislation.

SB283 is the companion bill filled with less weighty issues, only those that the joint select committee could agree upon unanimously.

And lastly, HB1318 puts two special marijuana taxes on the November ballot for voters to consider: a 10 percent sales tax and a 15 percent excise tax.

That bill has faced opposition both because the taxes are too high and because they're not high enough.

If either HB1317 or SB283 fail, it will be left up to the Department of Revenue to regulate the industry.

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Contact Megan Schrader:

719-286-0644

Twitter: @CapitolSchrader

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