So many meetings, too little time

It was another busy week at the State Capitol in Denver. Too many meetings, and not enough time.

Last Friday was the deadline to introduce the fourth and fifth of the five bills that we are allowed to introduce as legislators. Anything beyond five requires permission from leadership. But, as the chairman of the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee in the Senate, I get permission to carry additional bills, also known as “late bills,” for the departments that my committee oversees. This always adds several additional bills. Then there are those bills that don’t count towards the five bill limit; this includes bills that come out of legislative interim committees like the Interim Water Committee, or the Legislative Audit Committee, both which I serve on. In addition, bills that are the result of Sunset Reviews don’t count and this year we had eight Sunset Reviews of regulatory programs in the Department of Agriculture. I will be carrying two of these bills. So, much of my week was spent trying to get bills finalized for introduction. Fortunately, several of my additional bills have also had their introduction deadlines waived and I have another week or two to get them introduced.

When bills originate in the House, and I agree to be the prime sponsor in the Senate, they don’t count towards my bill limit. Sometimes I have asked a House member who hasn’t hit their bill limit to start a bill there. But more often I have House members come to me to be the Senate sponsor on bills they are starting. If the issue appears to have merit, I will spend the time to try to figure out if the bill will fix the problem they are trying to address and if I want to be the sponsor. Sometimes, however, because of deadlines there isn’t enough time to do the work necessary to reach the level of comfort that I would like. In those cases I either decline to be the sponsor, or sign on with the understanding that the bill may need to be amended.

The reason I have gone to this much detail on the topic of bill numbers is because I often get asked how I end up with 20-30 bills ever year, despite the “limit” of five bills. Hope this explanation helped.

Both of the bills I mentioned in last week’s column passed out of Senate committees unanimously last Thursday. The bill to merge Pueblo Community College (PCC) and San Juan Basin Technical College was well received in the Education Committee. San Juan Basin President Shannon South and Dr. Garvin of PCC sat side by side and explained to the committee what the benefits of the merger would be to the citizens of southwest Colorado. They did an excellent job, and I thank them for taking the time to testify.

Senate Bill 80, the bill to allow limited precipitation collection from residential rooftops, passed with no opposition. I had worked with Kevin Rein, the assistant state water engineer, on an amendment that helped clarify the bill. His testimony on the bill and the amendment was very helpful. Tying the exemption to the well permit that a person has or would be entitled to does limit the application of the bill but also quieted the opposition. Another bill that will look at precipitation collection in developments has been introduced in the House (as House Bill 1129).

On the fun side I went to the National Western Stock Show Junior Livestock Sale and along with Rep. Randy Baumgardner purchased a steer from a girl in Brighton with money we had raised from the Senators and Representatives at the Capitol. The bids were down as a result of the economy and it was nice that we could help at least one of our Colorado youth.